Vantage point

Friday, June 30, 2006

Lovely Chaps

The Indian team is very considerate. They are batting like this in the first session because they don't want the fans to feel they missed anything watching Germany-Argentina.

The score as I post this - 13/2 in 16 overs.

Joke's on Joka

I have been getting a lot of hits referred from IIMCal alumni bulletin boards. Since I don't have a password to those boards, I couldn't see what exactly had been written there. But I assumed it was the IIPM thing so didn't think much of it. But their number increased a lot today. Why would that be suddenly relevant I wondered.

So I checked the referral entry in detail, and the page they are visiting is Sarika's "hottest chicks in mica" post. Looks like someone from IIMC is pulling a fast one over his insti-mates using that post.

Heh. Nice touch. In Indian business schools' circles, using the phrase "hottest chicks in MICA" is a sureshot way of making a prank succeed. Much like a virus writer used "Anna Kournikova Nude Pics" to spread his creation around.

Update: Turns out joke's NOT on Joka. The link was posted by a reader who mails in response -

This one is regarding your post "Joke's on Joka"

We have a nice couple of swans on campus that resides in one of our many lakes. About an year ago, I took a pic of them together and posted it on our board with the title "Cutest couple on campus".

Yesterday, when I saw your post on chicks, I posted that on the IIMC board (with an introduction) as a follow-up to my earlier post. That's where you are getting the hits from.

It's not because someone inside IIMC pulled a smart one. Its because some of us still like the slow and sweet things in life :)

What Makes A Great Writer?

What makes a great writer?

We all have thoughts floating in our head. Feelings, sentiments, emotions, theories, observations.... all of them floating in our mind. Some obvious to the mind's eye. Others not so obvious. Because some of them are abstract, unsaid, and exist more as an essence than as solid thoughts. A great writer is able to summon all these thoughts, coax and pry them out of the hidden and uncharted recesses of his mind, cajole them into taking a tangible shape, and then express them on paper in the form of words. Express them as words so lucidly and soulfully, that their essence is not lost even when what he writes is translated.

Milan Kundera is one such great writer.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Focusing On The Wrong Glitz

I was watching a special program on NDTV today which focused on the farmer suicides in Vidarbha. Apparently the Prime Minister is now planning to visit Vidarbha. The story talked of a phenomenon called "Suicide Tourism", where VIPs keep visiting the region, making sympathy calls to families of the latest suicide victims.

I could almost predict what would follow next. Sure enough, Sreenivasan Jain headed to the glitzier parts of Nagpur, wondering aloud how Nagpur was booming when the farmers in Vidarbha were committing suicides. He interviewed a few youngsters in a CCD outlet, and left with a very condescending comment - "Well, i hope we've at least made you think."

I really wish the media would understand that the people partying in the hotels of Nagpur, and drinking 80-rupee-coffees are spending their own money. Not just their own money, but their own hard-earned money. It would make more sense for such a story to take the camera crew and show the many times glitzier lives lead by our politicians. That glitz, paid for by unscrupulous means, is more causally linked to the suffering of India's poor, than the glitz in the malls of Nagpur.

It would also make sense to calculate how much of the taxpayer's money has been wasted in all these VIP visits. The helicopter fuel, the security, and other expenses linked to these "suicide tourists" could easily have helped provide relief to dozens of farmers contemplating suicides.

The Hottest Chicks in MICA

A pigeon started making a nest on the phone shelf in my hostel in MICA. We deferentially removed the phone. :-P

Here's a close-up

Innocence Drowned

You can smell it, feel it all around you in Bombay as it pervades the minds of the people around you, every time it starts raining hard. The naked fear that something is about to give, maybe another 15 km deep cloud.

I wonder how many years it will take for the monsoons to get their innocence back in this city.

Made in India

Do all eggs come with an "INDIA" stamp on them nowadays because of the bird flu scare, or just those which are supplied to my grocer?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Relevance of History

History does not matter to me. It's how you play on that day that counts.
- Sourav Ganguly in December 2004 in an interview just before the tour of Australia, which ended in an unexpected 1-1 draw with India dominating most of the series.

History shows that over four-and-half runs on the final day has never been done.
- Rahul Dravid yesterday

I did not think anything could bug me more than the way India shut shop at just 4 down with 16 overs to go. But I was wrong. Dravid's comments after the match bugged me way way more.

My instant reaction - And how about getting 120 off 16 overs to win a test with 3 specialist batsmen still left? Has that never been done either?

The Indian captain did not agree with his West Indian counterpart Brian Lara's assertion that the home side held the psychological advantage over India.

"I am not sure if that is true. Going into tea, it was our team which was sniffing a victory," Dravid said.

Too bad everyone apart from Sehwag and Laxman had a blocked nose, eh?

"[T]he wicket was good and it wouldn't have been easy to get us out twice," Dravid said.

Why shut shop then? Even with the most conservative estimate, didn't you shut shop one wicket too early?

Oh, what's the use further dissecting his comments or getting pissed at his self-satisfactory grin at the end of the match?

I wrote a post last year about how the greatest sportsmen are their own biggest supporters. I included in this list the name of Rahul Dravid, a man who showed the intense desire to win test matches even against unsurmountable odds.

Rahul Dravid, the man who started the aggressive counter-attack at Eden Gardens against McGrath, Gillespie, and his tormentor Warne, and played a pivotal role in defying history and winning a test after following on.

Rahul Dravid, the man who guided his team to a win at Adelaide again defying history by beating a team which piled up 500-plus runs in the first innings.

A man who defied history not once, but twice, against the best team in the world, now tells us he doesn't want to challenge history against the World's No. 8 test team?

Someone please invent a self-belief transplant procedure quickly.

The 'To Listen' Movie

Today I struck the first movie off my "To Listen" list. What's a "To Listen" list of movies? Movies which I have seen many times, but never listened to. If like me, you too were a teenager growing up in the pre-internet period of the 90s, then you too would have many such movies on your list.

Remember those days when Star Movies was not censoring the movies with adult content, but merely telecasting them after midnight? You would gather a few textbooks and announce to the world that you were planning to burn the midnight oil in the living room. Then after midnight, when everyone else was asleep, you would switch on Star Movies, mute it, and wait for that red octagon to appear. A red octagon meant the movie contained nudity, and some love(!) scenes. You would then wait for the action to come on, one eye firmly on the door lest a parent or a sibling walk in.

The Hot Spot was a perennial favourite, and I watched it at least thrice, not once being able to figure out the story, nor bothering to find out. I didn't know who Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Connelly were, and I only had a faint recollection of the name Dennis Hopper, probably due to Speed. Though the movie made you wait for over an hour before showing you any real action, it was worth the wait. Enough said.

So today I watched AND listened to The Hot Spot, and found the movie to be quite entertaining. Set in a scorching Texan town, it is the story of a suave bank robber, an adulterous scheming wife, a blackmailer, and a clean scrubbed all-American girl. There's a lot of intrigue, drama, a bit of violence, and of course t&a. A mild Blue Velvet hangover for the director Dennis Hopper is evident in a few aspects of the movie. The plot flows effortlessly, though the ending disappoints a bit. I felt there was scope for one more twist which would have made it really delectable. I actually thought I detected a few hints of the twist that never came, with a glaring hint in the final t&a moment. Who knows, maybe Hopper had it in mind, but changed the script later on.

Decent effort by Don Johnson who just had to be suave and violent. Connelly looks HOT, fully deserving the upper case, and it makes you realise how her looks have deteriorated of late. However he Texan accent seems laboured. Madsen steals the show though, in literally every way possible.

So The Hot Spot is off the list. Next up - No Way Out.

What is "really" wrong with reservations?

This is the first post on this blog by my good friend and guest contributor Sunil Joshi

In this whole debate about reservations, I feel that the really important issue has somehow been lost. It irked me enough to get off my bum and put my thoughts to paper. So here is my first contribution to Vantage Point as a guest blogger.

In this ensuing debate over reservations, I feel that two completely different issues are being mixed up. And the difference is one of greatest importance!

The question of reservations really has two aspects to it:

1. Whether reservations are "effective" means to achieve social equality?

2. Whether it is "morally" right to "enforce" reservations in educational institutes owned and run by private individuals/corporations?

Though one could debate on the first issue and put forth arguments on both sides based on empirical evidence, and a lot of debate has already taken place on this issue; it is the second issue that is really of utmost importance.

I think it is morally incorrect to enforce these kind of rules on private schools/colleges!

In India, the providers of education are looked upon as some kind of "altruists" who are living just to serve mankind! All of us, living a comfortable life earning more than decent salaries, conveniently forget that the teacher working for the small private school also has mouths to feed at home; that he really is selling a service which he would like to sell at the highest price possible! Is there something wrong with that? Similarly, why should the Molly's and the AB's (Two of the best Profs from back in IIML... ) continue to teach you if you are not willing to pay them the price of their service! If they are really good, then dont they deserve more?

I really look at owners of schools/colleges as "businessmen" running a business where they invest "their own hard earned" money to build infrastructure, hire and retain top teachers, create high quality course material; in effect creating a "service" for the consumption of their customers: Students. The way I see it, they have a right to sell their service to whosoever they want!

Will this result in all "seats" being cornered by the rich? Not at all!!

Today, education is a scarce commodity because of artificial barriers of entry. And that is precisely why there is all this talk about "distributing" a limited number of seats across the various sections of society. One only needs to think of the situation a few decades ago, when everything was a "scarce" resource meant to be "distributed". We soon found out in most cases that nothing was naturally scarce; not cars, not TVs, not telephones, not the internet.. all these were scarce only because of barriers to trade in these products/services. I remember that before 1990, telecommunications was called as a "public good" and hence government had strict controls to ensure that private players do not profit off something which is supposed to be a "public good"! What happened? There were 5 year waiting lines for telephone connections! Poor people got access to technology and its benefits only when people were allowed to make "profits" by selling a "product/service"!

Similarly, the problem of scarcity in education is because of the supply being restricted by restricting people who want to make a "profit" selling this service! What is really required in India is for government to stand back and let as many colleges/schools sell their services, in "whatever form", to students. There will be as much supply as there is demand.

True, since there are no free lunches, the supply will only be at a price which allows the suppliers to remain in the business. Now what if this price (where supply matches demand) is a little too high for the really poor? Well, the only way to tackle that is to give money (in the form of vouchers) in the hands of the poor and allow them to choose! It is a much better way to ensure that everyone can afford cheap and quality education! Allow supply to flourish and help the economically challenged by directly putting the choice in their hands!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dravid May Achieve The Impossible

Dravid may achieve the impossible, something which none of his predecessors managed to do. Manage to make me start taking interest in football.


I hate Dravid. I officially hate Dravid.

I am so utterly disgusted with this shameful display of cowardice and utter lack of self-belief by this man whom the press bizarrely calls potentially the best Indian captain of all time, that I don't even have the patience to write a detailed post blasting holes into the last 3 hours of the test, which may well have been played in the Twillight Zone instead of St. Kitts.

An hour or so after lunch, until Dravid came to the crease, I was composing in my mind a post ridiculing Lara for his decision to bat again, and his weird declaration. I even had a perfect punchline in mind as an explanation for Lara's actions - The West Indies have not lost a test match for a long time now, and so withdrawl symptoms have set it.

Instead what I saw was the Indian team proving to us that it has become addicted to not grabbing wins which are there for the taking.

Virender Sehwag is the only man in this team who actually thinks about winning test matches. All the remaining players, especially our esteemed captain, are too pussy-scared of losing to even believe themselves capable of a test win unless it is literally thrust into their hands by the opposition.

A decade back, Prabhakar and Mongia were handed suspensions for not trying hard enough to win a match. In my opinion, this farce deserves a much harsher punishment. But of course, we know that no action will be taken against the man who has been appointed captain until the end of the World Cup. That the deadline is demarcated by the World Cup, an ODI tournament, shows how little value the board or the team management attaches to test matches. The Australians and the Englishmen use The Ashes as reference points in their calendars. We use glorified one day tournaments.

And even after this match, which seems to have been scripted by the looniest of dopeheads, Greg Chappell will hold forth about how we need to pick 5 bowlers to win test matches.

No Mr. Chappell, it's not the paucity of bowlers that is holding your team back. It's the paucity of balls.

More Equal Than Others

In this great socialist country of ours, some people are more equal than others, in the eyes of the state. If you have money and clout, you can shit over people and get away with it. literally.

I recently learnt of a case where a"big man"'s son is using his clout to eat into the private property of two old women. More despicable than the man's attempts to ride roughshod over the two ladies has been the administration's response.

However one hopes that with the use of RTI, and with the help of Praja, the ladies will get justice.

Read all about it by clicking on the links below -
Mumbai Mirror Report
Dina's blog post
Angelo's blog post(Do read Yazad's comment which sets the record straight regarding Praja's efforts in this case)

Boring Day Ahead?

Normally when you tune in to a preview show before the day's play, you want it to get over in a hurry, and the cricket to start at once.

But when you have an almost-sure boring day's cricket ahead, and when you have have one of the best talking heads, Ian Chappell on the expert's panel, you want the discussion to go on all day. Chappell is as crisp as they get. He has cricketing genius oozing out of his ears, he is articulate, and he does not hesitate to speak his mind. He put the whole controversy about Jerling's umpiring to rest in a clear-cut manner that was difficult to argue with.

Today promises to be a boring day, thanks to the over-cautiousness of Brian Lara. As Rohit said to me today, maybe the West Indians have gotten so used to losing that even a draw seems like a victory to them.

But let us not write off the day so soon. Remember that on the 4th day in Mumbai a couple of months ago, everyone was blasting Flintoff for not asking his batsmen to score fast, and leaving too short a time to bowl India out. India however obediently folded up with almost 3 hours to go.

Women Entrepreneurs

You would be amazed at the dearth of material there is out there on women who run their own enterprises. This is illustrated by the fact that most of the information is about Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the founder of Biocon. The other category of information is about women who have inherited their family run business or parts of it. What is really lacking is stories of first generation women entrepreneurs, or even those who broke out of the mould of their fathers' businesses and did something on their own.

Intrepid has a detailed and well-structured post about women entrepreneurs.

Good News From Bihar

Bihar has the uncanny ability to churn out the most pessimistic as well as the most optimistic stories. Over the last few days we have been hearing of Lalu's brother-in-law throwing tantrums at the Patna Railway Station to get a train change platforms for their sake. We have also read of a drunk JD(U) MLA creating a ruckus at a five star hotel.

Today CNN-IBN carried the story of a village in Bihar that churns out women footballers with contemptuous regularity. The village currently has 7 women who have represented India in football. What is remarkable is that they have no corporate or institutional backing. The villagers raise money for their gear and other requirements. Their family members encourage them to take up football and provide them every support, including picking them up after night practice.

Great to hear about such support for women footballers from a group of people that many consider India's most backward - Bihari villagers.

Will link to the story once it is up on the CNN-IBN site.

My Nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.....

... has to be the guy/team that came up with the idea of torrents. Life is so peaceful with torrents around.

Mud Wrestling Pigs

A close friend quoted to me today his version of a very pithy and relevant adage - Don't mud wrestle with a pig. You'll get muck all over you and the pig enjoys it!


Could someone please find out what Brian Lara was high on when he decided to bat again yesterday? His decision may go down in history as one of the worst ever made by a captain. Especially if India escape with 8 or 9 wickets down.

But then, India may just help him redeem himself by folding up before tea. Remember Mumbai? :(

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Shourie and Thapar

Karan Thapar has been the target of the ire of a lot of pro-reservationists as he has attempted to grill Arjun Singh, Kamal Nath and P Chidambaram about their belief in reservations. I am not a great admirer of Karan Thapar as a writer, but as an interviewer, I think he does a decent enough job, by Indian standards. But assuming that he is an anti-reservationist just because he grilled the aforementioned people is the same as betraying the fact that you don't quite understand the name of his show - 'Devil's Advocate'.

So I wonder what supporters of reservation felt when he grilled Arun Shourie with the same aggression.

I think Arun Shourie articulated the opposition to reservations very well. My favourite part was this -

Karan Thapar: So you neither accept the logic in terms of morality or in terms of efficacy?

Arun Shourie: Yes.

Karan Thapar: On both grounds, you think reservations are wrong?

Arun Shourie: Absolutely.

Karan Thapar: Arun Shourie, since you are implacably opposed to reservations for the Scheduled Castes, what is your preferred way of tackling the discrimination they have suffered for centuries?

Arun Shourie: Firstly, I am not against reservations only for the Scheduled Castes, but for everybody. Second point is yes, if they have suffered that kind of discrimination and we have got good records of this kind of thing happening in the South, for instance in many parts of Tamil Nadu, then the best way is social reform and these great reformers who have made an enormous difference to India in the last 200 years as testified to by the Christian missionaries themselves.

Karan Thapar: Is there a second way beyond social reforms?

Arun Shourie: Yes, there is. Second is economic growth and modernisation.

Karan Thapar: Third?

Arun Shourie: Third is to find out what is the real reason for the poor performance of the child. For instance, he cannot retain what he learns in class because of poor nutrition, give him four free meals a day.

Karan Thapar: Individual attention?

Arun Shourie: Yes, absolutely.

Karan Thapar: Is there a fourth?

Arun Shourie: Yes. There are many things. He doesn’t have a place to study, make free dormitories. He needs free textbooks, he needs training and education.

Do read the whole interview.

Friday, June 23, 2006

More on Rand

Sumedha has written a superb post on Ayn Rand, and there is a pretty interesting and informed discussion happening in its comments section.

Update: Oops, the post is over a year old. nevertheless, it is still superb and the discussion is too.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More on Sena and Walls

Reproducing here my comment on my namesake's blog

The Shiv Sena's rise was mainly because of the paucity of jobs under the license-permit-quota raj. When young men from small town or rural Maharashtra went to Bombay they found that in many places, they were being passed up for appointment in favour of other communities. often the person appointed would belong to the same community as the person taking the decision. So jobs like clerks, secretaries, ban tellers etc, which did not involve a high level of merit which can be cited as grounds for selection, were seen as being distributed on a parochial basis.

The Sena rose and gained prominence mainly because of this issue.

Post-91 though, white collar jobs are not an issue, so it doesn't rouse passions any more. But to get an idea of how the support to the Sena was more a reaction than an initiative, recall the incident from a couple of years back when the Sena thrashed up folks who had come to apply for small jobs on the railway stations in Central Railway. Apparently the Railways issued an advertisement about the jobs only in papers in UP and Bihar. No ads in papers in Maharashtra. Naturally when word about this got out, folks were pissed and the Sena just spearheaded the angst.

Sena does control trade unions, but it was a by-product of their muscle power.

80s onwards, support for the Sena widened amongst Hindus in Bombay because of communal tensions, and it peaked during the babri riots where most people, not just marathis, feel that the Sena "protected" them from the fury of the Muslim mobs. It is this wall that i mainly refer to. the hindu-muslim war in times of riots.

By the way, the opposition to migrants, at least after the jobs thing has lost relevance, is limited to illegal immigrants and slum dwellers. Thackeray said in an interview that he and his party have no problems with people who come to Bombay, buy or rent a house legitimately, and get a job on their own merit rather than through a parochial "sifaarish". Most Bombayites share that view.

That Bombay is bursting at its seams is undeniable. But the solution to the issue is a lot more complex than the Sena, or most Bombayites believe.

The way the Sena is viewed as the wall-protector by many marathis and hindus, the fundamentalists are also viewed as wall-protectors by the Muslims in times of conflicts. Inter-community conflicts, i.e riots can be a very tricky situation and when you live under the risk of being discriminated against, be it while refusing you a job, or being killed because you belong to a particular community, it is only natural to feel sympathetic about your protectors.

The fall-out of that is obviously the fact that these wall-protectors will not limit themselves to just protecting walls. They will start banning Valentine's Day, and destroying private property to protest some cartoons in a land far away.

The way to eliminate their rise to prominence is to improve the rule of law. Why should you have to depend on the Shivsena or the SIMI to protect you during riots?

Beef With Holy Cows

There are so many holy cows in our country. At times I think more than there are people, which is no mean chievement for a country as populated as ours.

P.S - No, I do not mean cows of the bovine variety. This was a metaphor. I am sick of holy cows. Bring me some corned beef on toast.


I had written a long review of the play Filth which I watched last week. The play is based on Harry Gibson's(harry-gibson-henrik-ibsen-harry-gibson-henrik-ibsen-harry-gibson-henrik-ibsen-harry-gibson-henrik-ibsen-....sorry) adaptation of Irvine Welsh's book by the same name. Sadly the review got lost in the confusion of browser malfunctions and machine restarts.

Superb play. Brilliant performance by Rajiv Ravindranathan, who pulls off the intense one-man show by tapping into some huge reserves of energy. The show was oignant, hilarious, cynical... in other words, a lot like Welsh's big ticket 'Trainspotting'. Only this time it was about a debauch of a cop.

Do watch it if you get the opportunity. And if you write a review, remember to keep saying the document.

More Black Coffee

My old pal Hirak has made a post in response to my 'Ayn Rand as Black Coffee' post.

He seems to have misunderstood the import of what I was saying. Not his fault. Admittedly, lucidity in thought as it would be satisfactory to a third person, is not a trait that my writing displays consistently. But one day I'll get there. :)

Anyway, to clarify, I am not exactly an Ayn Rand fanatic. And I would be the last person to defend the way she lived her life. The only person to live one's life in congruence with one's philosophy (right or wrong) in my opinion has been Gandhi. But frankly, I don't see how the way she lived her life can discredit what she wrote. That's an ad hominem.

I completely agree with Hirak when he says that "Ayn Rand's philosophy is eventually mythical and full of too many big IFs and relying on too many conditions/assumptions for it to really work". He is speaking about the utilitarian value of Rand's ideas. Of course the world is not black and white.

The whole idea behind my "black coffee" post was that from a moral point of view, there is nothing wrong with Rand's philosophy. That if we did live in an ideal world where it would be possible to live by the ideals she propounds, I would like that world. The whole point behind the "black coffee" post was, that would you like to live in Rand's ideal world?

For instance, my beef with communism is not that it fails on utilitarian grounds. That of course it does. But in my opinion, it fails on moral grounds too. I would hate to live in Marx's ideal world, Lenin's ideal world, Mao's ideal world, Gandhi's ideal world or Hitler's ideal world(duh!). But I would love to live in Rand's ideal world.

So Hirak, ask yourself that question. Hypothetically, would you love living in Rand's ideal world? If yes, then there is nothing wrong with her ideas at their core, at the moral level. The problems are in the implementation.

If not, then I can completely understand your coffe love being offended by comparison with Ayn Rand. But if yes, then you are no different than me.

I am not an objectivist. Nor was I one even at 18 actually. But the core of her philosophy, that of the paramount position occupied by the individual and the sanctity of individual rights and freedom in the moral scheme of things, is what is identical to my first principles. And that is my black coffee. If it is unpalatable, it is because of the IFs thrown in by the real world, and possibly by my own inability to live life completely in congruence with my philosophy.

If there are any moral objections that Hirak has to Rand's philosophy, objections arising from his first principles, I would love to hear them. But if the objections are on a utilitarian ground, then he is preaching to the converted.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ayn Rand as Black Coffee

Today I read somene who wrote he found Ayn Rand's writings to be too fanatical.

Ayn Rand's philosophy can be thought of as very potent and strong black coffee. Some may like the black coffee shot and find it refreshing. Others may find it to be unpalatable in isolation and add milk, cream, hot water, sugar etc to turn it into what is the ideal brew for them. But they should remember that the essence of the brew is still the black coffee. It is primarily the black coffee that gives the brew its taste, its character and its desirability.

So while evaluating what Rand says, ask yourself if you find it illogical. If so, show how it is illogical. See if it strikes you as morally wrong and/or violating your first principles. If so, then maybe coffee isn't the right drink for you.

But don't criticize her philosophy as too strong or too fanatical. That is not a criticism of her philosophy. It is mainly a reflection of your readiness for stomaching it in a completely logical manner. Reach out for some millk, cream or sugar. And realize that it is your need to make it palatable that is making you add those things to the coffee, and not some flaw in the coffee that needs correction..

Monday, June 19, 2006

40 Years for Shiv Sena

The Shiv Sena completed 40 years of its existence recently. People outside the state have a very simplistic idea of what the Shiv Sena is. A group of zealots commanded by a dictator who use might to enforce their definition of right. Infighting has recently taken the wind out of their sails, and their relevance has largely dminished. But people who lived in and around Bombay during the turbulent 70s, 80s and 90s will have a much more nuanced understanding of the Sena. To me, the reality and the relevance of the existence of the Shiv Sena, especially during the 80s and 90s, is best captured by citing Jessep's speech from A Few Good Men.

You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

The Sena just filled a vacuum. Most of the educated Maharashtrian middle class doesn't like the Sena. But most of us also shudder to think of an alternative scenario in the 80s and 90s without the Sena's existence.

Sena's problem was the growth trajectory. An army is useful during times of conflict, but put it in charge during peace times and you have a cauldron of nitroglycerin in your kitchen. The last decade or so has been a time of relative peace, and it is peace time that has discredited and vilified the Sena in the eyes of its most ardent supporters.

Most people, including me, think that Shiv Sena will disintegrate and wither away after Thackeray dies. The process of decay has already started.

But remember, the Shiv Sena filled a vacuum. Nature abhors vacuum. As long as the vacuum remains, it will be filled to ensure relative stability. What name fills the it is irrelevant.

A Useful Lesson

Folks supporting reservations should learn a lesson from Veerappa Moily, head of the Committee in charge of implementing the 27% quotas in higher education. He has cited the example of the FIFA World Cup where there are geographical quotas used for selecting the 32 participating teams. Now such an analogy is much more worthy of consideration and debate as opposed to some bizarre analogies which we have heard, citing Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni as examples for justifying reservations.

In response to what Moily said, I won't even bring up counter-points like "Oh but a World Cup with the top 32 teams would have been even better" or "The same countries from the lesser continents fill up moist of the 'quota' slots". I won't bring up these counter-points because they are irrelevant.

FIFA owns the World Cup and it can do whatever it wants. No one forced FIFA to adopt the quotas. They took the decision impacting something which they own. The government decision forces quotas even on colleges they neither own nor aid. And that is just wrong.

P.S - One possible benefit of advancing obviously weak analogies like the Sehwag-Dhoni one could be that the respondents would obviously attack your analogy calling it wrong. Then you can keep defending the analogy till you go blue in the face, and the actual issue at hand is forgotten by every one.


Shashi Tharoor nominated for UN Secy Gen. Big whooppee. Who cares? All the Sec-Gen needs to do is look good in suits and not be scared of air travel. They may well have nominated Shashi Kapoor, and it wouldn't make an iota of a difference. UN's suit budget would have gone up though.
Again, a fatwah has been issued against singing Vande Mataram. Again, a debate has erupted in the blogosphere. Surprisingly, I am not in the debate! What is my take on the issue? I say change the song to Test Match Mataram.
Vajpayee now says that his party should learn something from the Communists. Why not? They already seem to have learnt so much from the Congress, what with splinter parties, rebels, and pampered baba-log.
I caught a bit of the USA-Italy match. Woof! Ample roughness. See, this is what happens when you play in your country, a game where tackling people is the thing to do.... and for some reason you call it football. I bet those Americans were shocked that they were carded for such minor offences even though OJ Simpson got away with murder.


In most parts of India, the word for 'government' is sarkar.

In most parts of India, servants refer to their masters as sarkar.

A possible indicator of cultural reasons for widespread acceptance for policy that centers heavily around state-control and also for the absence of a political party whose ideology would be a small and unobtrusive government?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Carribean Heartbreak

Why must every tour of the West Indies by the Indian team come with a truckload of heart-breaks?
Superb superb bowling towards the death by Munaf. Amazing sang froid. With better umpiring and catching, he might have ended up with 3 wickets in his last 3 overs. This man is test-ready. Hope that Pathan gets his mojo back soon. What an opening combo that would be on helpful tracks.
Bad bad catching by the Indian team. Especially Kaif and Yuvraj who are otherwise brilliant fielders. They are just not used to close in catching. Especially Kaif who stands up too early and invariably misses ankle-height catches.
With some 4 overs to go and 4 wickets to be taken, Dravid dropped a fairly regulation slip catch off Munaf. Can you imagine what the media and crowd reaction would have been if it had been Ganguly who had dropped the catch as a captain?
Amazing match for Sehwag. A blistering and masterful 180, and 4 crucial wickets. He is probably the most under-rated bowler around.
I hate rain. Seriously, I hate rain!
As the ever erudite Crime Master Gogo often said, haath ko aaya, moonh na lagaa :(

A Narrow Escape

I just learnt today that Sarika and I had a narrow escape from possible death some days back.

Two Sundays back, we had gone to Tamnak Thai in Dadar. Having finished the meal we stepped out of the restaurant and were thinking of taking a cab. But I felt like having mango-ice-cream-with-fresh-mango at Natural's next door, so we headed there. As soon as we stepped into the ice cream shop we heard a loud crash. Something came crashing down....there was a lot of brown wood. I am not sure what it was but it crashed all over the front of Tamnak Thai and hit a man in the head. He was lying there unconscious. People came and helped him, and he came to in a few minutes. Sarika and I felt very lucky that we had escaped being hit on the head by a matter of a few seconds.

I learnt from today's DNA that the man died.

By the way we are pretty sure that what came crashing down wasn't Tamnak Thai's signboard. It took two of its alphabets along with it, but it came from a floor way above. And the sound of the impact made it very obvious that whatever crashed came from a great height, and not just 10 feet.

My condolences to Nilima Mishra and hats off for her decision to donate her husband's eyes and kidneys.


Ever since I got an invite for Google Analytics a few days back, I have been analysing data about my blog with great interest.

Almost a third of my visitors are direct visitors. That means they enter my URL in the browser and land up here. A third are through blogger references. Amit, Rashmi, Desipundit and Greatbong make up the bulk of blogger references, accounting for about 20% of the total traffic. Kiruba, Sidin, and my biggest fan send about a percent each.

But the most interesting are the google searches. A third of my visits come from google searches. And the sort of google searches where I am on the front page are bizarre. Two biggest google-search referrers are "IIPM" and "The Great Khali".

But here are some other google searches where Vantage Point features on the front page -

Seinfeld Helmets
French girl students
15 park avenue ending
che guevara bin laden
che guevara terrorist murderer
swades review
pathetic captaincy
misal pav
pune vadapav
mandal vitims
mandal dalits
vidarbha highway

These were the interesting ones over the last week or so.

Monday, June 12, 2006

More on the Individual

Via Abi, I came to know of this news article. The Andhra Pradesh government tried sub-dividing the SC quota to ensure that the benefits are not cornered by the "creamy layer" among SCs.

This move, coupled with the MBC movement in several states, underlines the need to place the individual of the community at the centre of any affirmative action move. An AA plan designed with a focus on the individual will not have these 'blunt knife'
problems that a quota-based plan is bound to have.

As these problems of "minorities within minorities" and "untouchables within untouchables" crop up, I am reminded of what Ayn Rand said - The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.

More on Misal

The misal post evoked a couple of passionate responses.

Dushyant, my junior from COEP, writes in -

I spent four years in Pune desperately searching for Misal. The locals pointed me to several misal 'treasures' in the old town, Kothrud and a few Canteens (VIT/SYMBI). However, all these trips resulted in disappointment and eyes shot red due to traffic and a speeding bike. I have no fear in claiming that "Punyachi Misal" is possibly a Mis-Led expression.

I am sure you will regard my upcoming statement with disdain and full of prejudice but I do hope you keep an open mind.

If you ever make it to Nashik, please head over to "Shyamsunder" located in the Satpur (Industrial Area) of Nashik. There, you will notice, that a layer of poha (usually from last night) will make the bed in the rectangular steel container. Then comes the base misal, which is pure matki and none of peas nonsense. The base is hot but not terribly spicy. Of course, thin lightly salted farsaan comes in next. Two smaller compartments of the dish are likely to contain chopped onions and "Dahi". A Papad will then be delicately balanced on the misal mound and will surprisingly remain there as the waiter manhandles your plate.

The deal clincher, of course, is the hot piping Tarri. A good dose of trans and saturated fat, a chemical suspension of red chili powder and curry, is handed to you in a container with very well designed spout. You pour in the Tarri and then you begin with the pav. I cannot recall a single time where I did not run out of Tarri before I ran out of base Misal.

Throw in a wintry morning, a rainy afternoon or a post badminton breakfast and what you have is culinary heaven unparalleled.

It makes me want to take the nxt bus to Nashik!

Arun Simha has a couple of recommendations too -

You ought to definitely try the Misal, Piyush and other delights at 'Sapre & Sons', Aarey Road, Goregaon West. It is a 5-10 minute walk from Goregoan Rlwy stn. If you're travelling by road, Aarey Road is a street that goes perpendicular to S. V. Road, a km after you pass Filmistan Studios, heading north. [Ask anyone for Sapre or A. B. Goregoankar school. It is right beside the school. Every self-respecting old time Goregaonkar knows Sapre.]

And while you're there, don't forget to pack a box of kaju barfi. No, not the diamond shaped-silver foiled atrocity on the noble cashew. This is in the form of yellow cubes and is a long-forgotten traditional Marathi fare. Divine.

Wise words from the wise man, and shall be acted upon.

The Daily SomeAchaar - Kashmir Ejected From AAM

Kashmir has been excluded from the famous international body "And Afters Movement" according to a press release.

The 'And Afters Movement' is an umbrella organisation of provinces which say they get the short end of the stick because their name comes after an "and" in their country's or province's name. The movement includes provinces like Tobago, Montenegro, Barbuda, Nicobar, Nagar Haveli, and many others.

The organisation's charter says that provinces whose names come after the "and" suffer because of neglect. They are neglected by their own governments, by international organisations, and by sports bodies. The organisation demands that the order of the names should be switched every 25 years to ensure fairness and equality.

The organisation has funded several studies which show that the development, standard of living, and public health is less than 25% in the "and after" provinces, as opposed to what they call the "headlining provinces".

AAM has been lobbying heavily in Germany to influence the three-letter short forms of countries displayed on the screen during the World Cup 06 matches. Their demands to denote Trinidad & Tobago as "TNT" instead of "TRI" were refused after AOL Time Warner threatened to sue FIFA for copyright violations. Their demands to denote Serbia and Montenegro as "S&M" were rejected on the grounds that children watching the match might get exposed to ideas beyond their pale.

AAM has had only one notable success in 15 years of its existence. Its hectic lobbying got the writers of the TV show Seinfeld to make last minute changes to its episode 'The Hot Tub'. The marathon runner Jean-Paul, who hails from trinidad & Tobago was referred to as a "Trinidadian and Tobagan" instead of just "Tinidadian" as the show originally intended.

Kashmir has been kicked out of the body after hectic campaigning by the province of 'Jammu' which said that even though the name 'Kashmir' appeared after an 'and', it still gets the benefits enjoyed by headlining provinces. People from the state are referred to as Kashmiri, and Kashmir gets a bulk of the funding allocations.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Serious Health Issues

What are the serious health issues in India?

The most serious health issue seems to be film stars smoking on the screen.

The second most serious health issue seems to be film stars endorsing soft drinks.

All other health issues have been solved, or so it would seem, judging by Ramadoss' priorities. After all, Ramadoss has already told us that he disagrees with the UN report which says that India is a major area of concern due to the spread of AIDS.

Don't be surprised if Ramadoss' suggestion to fight AIDS turns out to be banning adulterous and promiscuous characters in film and TV scripts. I would have written a "someachaar" spoof on this, but under this UPA government, nothing is outside the realm of practicality and logic.

Misal Pav

Just like bhel in Mumbai and bhel in Pune are two different animals, and vadapav in mumbai and vadapav in Pune are two different animals, it has also been seen that misals in the two cities have little in common as well.

In Pune the misal is matki-based, i.e sprouts-based. The farsaan also tends to be crunchier in Pune. In Mumbai the misal is white-peas-based. Now imagine yourself with a piece of pav. If you want to scoop up misal, the matki-based one will form a much more compact, and broadbased alliance with the pav than a white-peas-based one. The matki stays on the pav, grips it, lends it character through osmosis of the gravy. The farsaan pieces attach themselves to the pav, and yet maintain a semblence of their crunchiness. When it is white-peas, the spherical things tend to roll off the pav and you have to make extra efforts to keep the morsel intact. The farsaan too in general tends to be slightly softer, maybe due to the humidity in the air. It becomes totally soggy, and might as well be wet besan.

Hwoever, much like the Mumbai vadapav, the Mumbai misalpav also scores in the pav department. The pav is so much softer, juicier, and yet crisper. So just like the ideal vadapav, the ideal misalpav would have misal from Pune and pav from Mumbai.

Fortunately, unlike the vadapav, where such a combination is a topic for fantasies, such a combination does exist for the misalpav. There is a small shack right outside the station at Santacruz West where you get Puneri misal with Bombay pav. Dee-vaa-een.

The most interesting misalpav I had in Pune was at the VIT canteen. This bloke would fill up the matki usal, then plunge his hand into a box of farsaan, take out a massive handful, and deposit it on top of the matki. Then he would eye the mound of farsaan philosophically, contemplate the meaning of life, and then again reach into the box and pile up more farsaan. It is the most farsaan-rich misal you have ever seen. The dish literally challenges gravity and succeeds. And if you are the types who enjoys the farsaan component of the misal more, it is the best sample around, if you will pardon the pun.

Update: Kunal informs me that the VIT misal does not even use matki. It just has sambhar topped with a mountain of farsaan. And chopped onions of course.

Indian Politics

If a man is charged with murder, fraud, corruption, embezzlement, rioting, in other words, all crimes that harm someone else, his political career is not considered over at all. In fact, all these are often treated as pre-requisites to enter politics. Such a man is in fact actively courted by political parties. Look at Narayan Rane.

However, if a man injects himself with some illegal drugs, goofs up and has an overdose, harming only himself, his political career is considered to be finished. The political party associated with him distances itself from him.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lara Crosses The Line

Whether Daren Ganga crossed the boundary line or not is inconclusive, but Brian Lara definitely crossed the line.

If Daren Ganga himself said to Dhoni, 'I'm not really sure if I stepped on it', that's the end of the discussion isn't it? If the fielder is not sure, the benefit of the doubt goes to the batsman. However Lara seemed to be acting like a spoilt brat, hell bent on Dhoni accepting that he was out, by taking Ganga's word.

Firstly, getting hot under the collar and pressurizing the batsman to walk is crossing the line, especially when even the TV replays seem inconclusive. Batsmen walk voluntarily if they want, and that too when the point of doubt is connected to them. i.e if there is doubt about whether a batsman nicked it or whether it was a bumped shot. But when the point of doubt is 50 meters away from the batsman, expecting him to walk without the umpires giving him out, is bizarre. Insisting on it, and arguing for it, especially in the bullying manner that Lara did, is just wrong and is definitely dissent. Lara should be booked under dissent for acting like the biggest authority on the ground, even when the fielder himself was unsure.

By the way, the first 4 balls of the over had been 1,6,6,6. If this ball would have been adjudged a six, Dhoni would have become only the third man after Kapil Dev and Shahid Afridi to hit 4 consecutive sixes in a test match. It would also have meant that the first 5 balls of the over would have cost 25 runs. With Dhoni certain to go for a big swing off the last ball, a six or at least a four was very realistically possible.

Nowe even a 4 off the last ball would have made it the most expensive over in test history. The previous record is 28 runs, which were scored by a certain Brian Charles Lara against South Africa's Robin Peterson. Knowing how particular Lara is about records, one wonders whether the bizarre aggression with which he bullied everyone around had anything to do with the fact that he saw this record being snatched away from him?

The Indian team did not make a big issue of it. It does not look like the 6 runs will make too big an impact on a match where realistically only a draw or an Indian win looks likely. But let us assume that Gayle and Lara show their magic and go for the total. And with 9 wickets down and needing 6 runs to win off the last ball, with Lara batting on, let us say, 194, he goes for a six, and a similar situation unfolds.

Will Lara take the fielder's word for it and walk off?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Pathetic Captaincy!!

Posting this immediately after the last ball of the Antigua test. I am very pissed off right now, so I might be a bit harsher on Dravid than he deserves, but this is just pathetic captaincy. A test win has been allowed to slip by due to his tactical inadequacy.

Firstly, it was obvious to everyone that Fidel Edwards made a conscious decision to stay away from Kumble's end, and was OK handling VRV Singh and Sreesanth. With this obvious discomfort against spin, Sehwag should have been tried from the other end. Placing 7-8 slips might be OK for someone with McGrath's accuracy and bounce. But no one else, certainly not Indian pacers. Yet the third-last over was given to Sreesanth and this ridiculously optimistic but foolhardy 7-slip field was placed.

The absolute howler was giving the last over to Sreesanth. Sreesanth does not handle pressure well. In fact I have never seen a bowler who is so obviously affected by pressure. The fact has been amply evident in one-dayers. Even in the first innings when the Windies were on a rampage, at one point Sreesanth got so nervous that he pulled up twice, back to back. His nervousness was there for all to see. In this over too his nerves let him down. You could see him sweating, trembling, and gesturing to himself to calm down. It was pitiful and as I was expecting, he pulled up once even in the last over.

Ideally, the ball should have been given to the experienced Sehwag. Even if Dravid wanted a faster bowler, he should have chosen the calmest of the lot, Munaf Patel. But he let his judgement be clouded by an earlier spell by Sreesanth where he dismissed Lara and Sarwan. Paying absolutely no attention to his proclivity to transform into a bundle of nerves. What was needed was a fast bowler who targeted the stumps most of the times, with probably a bouncer thrown in as a surprise.

What was on display however was the worst final-over in the history of the game. Even Collymore, one of the worst No. 11s in the world, is not bad enough to be dismissed off any of the balls. Wide, wayward, with just 1 ball in the trajectory of the stumps.

Yes, tomorrow with some perspective, I may feel more charitable towards Dravid, considering that the team fought back from the brink. But as of this moment, I am furious at such an obvious error of judgement.

What pisses me off even more is that Dravid has a wide smile on his face. No stabbing pain of having missed a test win. He has the "we tried our best but it didn't come off" satisfied attitude, and not the hungry disappointment that you would expect from an ambitious captain of a team with supposedly world-beating aspirations.

To People Who Equate Shiv Sena With Maharashtrians....

... are you dumb??? No seriously, are you complete morons???

P.S - That I am reading Maximum City these days and I made this post is not just a coincidence.

Damien and Dhoni

Millions of you guessed it right. We did indeed go for the Mumbai Premiere of 'The Omen', today being 6/6/6. The movie itself was very boring. Not a patch on the original.

Of course, around the same time that the Ambassador examined Damien's scalp, saw the three sixes and decided to take matters into his own hands and put an end to Damien's savagery, the mobile phone match update told me that Brian Lara saw Dhoni go 6,6,6, decided to take matters into his own hands and put an end to Dhoni's savagery.

I wish we had stayed home and watched the 4th day's play of the Antigua test instead.

P.S. - The post about Lara crossing the line(pardon the obvious pun) is sitting safely on my comp at home. My ISP has conked off since 2 days and I am making this post from a crowded, noisy and sweaty net cafe.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Another Quiz Question!

Seems like today's a day for quiz questions on my blog.

Sarika and I are going for the Mumbai premiere of a movie(courtesy her employer getting us invitations). The premiere is at midnight tonight. Name the movie. Try not to google. Think carefully.

OK, here's a clue. The movie is a remake.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A Quiz Question

A simple one actually.

Connect Rahul Mahajan and Sahil Zaroo to Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega.

Answer: Mia Wallace almost died after snorting some heroin which she confused for cocaine. Rahul Mahajan almost died after snorting some heroin which he confused for cocaine. Vega and Zaroo being the 'suppliers' in both cases.

P.S - Oh, for the uninitiated, Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega are characters from the film Pulp Fiction. BJP leaders meanwhile are wishing Mahajan and Zaroo were film characters too.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Semi-Review of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

Have been reading Suketu Mehta's Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found since yesterday. Have reached page 150 and am so far less than impressed with the book.

There are no new insights, nothing incisive, nothing warm, nothing revealing about Bombay. At least until now, the book appears no different than a paraphrasing of selected articles from Bombay newspapers.

Plus there are several aspects of the author's writing style that are jarring. There is too much of a self-satisfied-townie-gujju tone in the narrative, which unless it is a deliberate effect which will later be transformed as the book progresses, is very irritating. He seems to be making an effort to be the self-satisfied-townie-gujju-turned-Bombayite-with-perspective, but it is not working. There are still many unnecessary snobbish touches. For instance, how does it enhance my reading experience if I am told that Thackeray pronounces menace as menaas?

Plus the observations and colcusions have all been noted before.

So I hope the book gets real good real soon, or else I am abandoning it and taking up Shantaram.

A Tag!!

Ermm... I have been tagged. And it is rude to not respond to tags. It is unlucky too, I am told. Didn't you hear about the Romanian blogger who refused to respond to a tag because it seemed too girlie, and was then hit by a charging rhinoceros? Or the blogger from Kodarma who was tagged, didn't respond, and was gifted 'The Collected Works Of Karan Johar' by his girl friend?


So respond I must.

I am thinking about - whom to tag at the end of this post. mwahahahaha
I said - order only half a rice
I want to - have hot piping onion bhajiyaas on the top of Sinhagad while it rains all around me
I wish - Pune had a world class business school
I miss - the bullseye whenever I throw darts at it.
I hear -, not there
I wonder - how, I wonder why, yesterday you told me bout the blue blue sky, And all that I can see, is just a peela nimbu ka ped
I regret - picking Sanskrit instead of German in Class 8. Ruined my chances of scoring with that hot babe in the Munich Olympic Village.
I am - hoping I'll still be alive after Sarika reads what I wrote about the babe in Munich.
I dance - to anything but Punjabi music.
I sing - when I want to be beaten up.
I cry - for help when I fall down cliffs when I am mountaineering.
I am not always - arguing. Really!! Prove it if you think I am. Go on, prove it. Without any logical fallacies.
I make with my hands - That's not grammatically correct!
I write - blog posts.
I confuse - when I can't convince.
I need - what every guy needs. ;-)
I should try - to go an entire day without talking!
I finish - any amount of seafood. ANY amount. That's a challenge!

Ah ha. Now I get to tag people. *Rubbing hands in glee*

I tag -

Satyen - who is holidaying in Iceland right now, but needs the impetus of a tag to write blog posts
Amit - who makes millions of posts everyday, so one more shouldn't bother him
Chandrahas - because I feel like shocking the readers of The Middle Stage
Chetan - to see how long his answers will be
Sarika - because I need to divert her mind away from the Munich babe
Dhammo - because he always tags me
Sumeet - because he is the only friend of mine who stands a realistic chance of scoring with a babe in Munich

If anyone wants to voluntarily respond to this tag, be my guest.

Why 5 Bowlers?

I am not a big fan of the 5-bowler theory for the Indian test team right now.

The reason is very simple. A 5-bowler strategy will be perfect for a team that isn't able to win test matches. Is the current Indian team unable to win test matches? Yes. So what is my problem?

Let me elucidate. By a team which isn't able to win test matches, I mean a team which ends up drawing a lot of matches that it should win. As of now the Indian team is not doing that. The Indian team is actually losing a lot of matches that it should at least draw. When a team is losing a lot of matches it should at least be drawing, the problem is more with the batsmen than with the bowlers.

People keep repeating the fact that you need 20 wickets to win a test. Well, duh. But it is also true that you need to get a first innings lead more often than not if you want to win the test... at least save it. India has not been able to bat long enough to get a first innings lead.

With Tendulkar injured, and the middle order in patchy form, persisting with the 5-bowler strategy would be very dangerous.

Even more dangerous at a ground like Antigua which has traditionally been a draw-friendly pitch. Teams rack up huge totals, Lara scores triple and quadruple centuries, and there are never any results. If the Indian batting collapses even on a pitch like this, it is a sureshot recipe for disaster.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Superb Post!

In what is one of the best written blog posts I have read in weeks, Confused responds to Vinod Mehta's article.

Isn't it ironic how the best-articulated as well as the worst-articulated pieces about this issue have both been by Mehtas? Pratap Bhanu being the former and Vinod being the latter.

Vinod Mehta, apart from indulging in the usual middle-class-bashing also makes a glaring factual error. He claims the middle class was opposed to the Right to Information Act!

Anyway, read Confused's post. Some exceptional excerpts -

Those who think that our Socialist era failed the rich live in a fool’s paradise. No system of governance ever fails the rich. Did it stop the Ambanis and Tata’s and the Wadias from playing their little game? It never stopped wealth accumulation but only stopped wealth creation. It failed the poor, and that is why no party not even the Communists can afford to go back on the reforms.
For example, during the NDA rule, there was lot of talk about farmer suicides. Fine, NDA is gone, have they stopped? Why not? Is it because the kind of agriculture we practise in India is unsustainable. It really is, you just have to look at the US agriculture scene to understand that.
Let me say it clear-the Indian voter is among the most stupid, parochial and bigoted voter in the world. Can someone explain to me with this kind of smart voter, how do people like Narendra modi and Laloo Yadav get elected, how do parties like DMK win elections on the promise of providing free T.V sets, how have people with murder and rape charges managed to enter our parliament and legislatures?
Perhaps, Mr Mehta should read a few blogs!

Loved the last line. Yes Mehta should read a few blogs. And you all must read confused's blog.

Why The Individual Is So Important

Elaborating a bit on my last post, where I spoke about the need to focus on individuals of the community rather than the entire community.

One argument I have often heard extended by supporters of reservations is this - Upper castes make up only around 15% of the population. Yet they corner almost 75% of college seats, jobs, when there is no reservation. In an ideal world, the components of communities in the workforce, or in colleges would be roughly proportional to their population. Since it is not, their caste would be an inhibiting factor. To correct this, we need reservations.

The problem I have with this argument is that it equates correlation with causation. While correlation is a good starting point for an argument, a causative link needs to be established as well. Without that, the logic extended is very hazy and not at all convincing.

Establishing a causative link will need a focus on the individual. Off the top of my head I can think of a few causal linkages between caste and lower representation in higher education. A student of the lower caste is more likely to be from a poor family and can not afford to join coaching classes which give richer students an edge. A student of the lower caste is more likely to spend a lot of time working, and earning money to support his family, and has to devote less time to studies. A student of the lower caste is likely to be discriminated against in a selection procedure that has an interview. A student of the lower caste is more likely to be from a poor family and can not pay capitation fees. A student of the lower caste is more likely to be from a poor family and can not afford to pay even the basic fees and can not afford to give up working to go to college full time.

All these are causes which can impede an individual from competing on an equal footing with a well off member of the upper caste.

So the affirmative action which will work, and which will be viewed as fair will be that which works towards removing these impediments for the individual. Or judging the individual taking into account these impediments.

For instance, take 2 students. Student A from a well off upper caste family. His parents earn enough, so he can study full time. He can join a coaching class. Thus he is better prepared for the entrance exam into a college. He scores, let us say, 90 marks. Student B is from a poor lower caste family. He works in a restaurant during the day, can not join a coaching class, and can study only half the time that Student A can. He scores 80 marks.

Now in my subjective opinion, both these students would do equally well in college if they have roughly the same amount of time to study. So Student B's 80 will be as valuable as Student A's 90 in my opinion.

An affirmative action proposal which would give weightage to these causes and seek to address them would be palatable to all. Make the weightages objective.

Unfortunately, I see many people offering correlation-equals-causation type arguments. Many people will say that if there are well off OBCs who are still not able to compete with upper castes in objective selection procedures, then it shows that caste is still an impeding factor. No causal explanation is forwarded about how exactly is caste an impeding factor for these 'creamy layer' OBCs.

So if there is Student C whose father works in the same place as Student A, who goes to the same coaching class, gets roughly the same time to study.... in other words he is identical to Student A except for the caste... and he gets 80 marks, the conclusion should be that he has been beaten fair and square. Caste has played no part in it.

But somehow many dogmatic reservation supporters draw the opposite conclusion. They say that if many students have access to the same resources and yet do badly in an objective selection process, it shows that caste is still impeding them. No causal link given here.

The measures proposed by Yogendra Yadav and Satish Deshpande have been applauded universally because they focus on the individual, and what impedes the individual. They have been applauded because the measures would help Student B who did badly because of certain causes but not Student C.

However the government's decision has been to implement numerical quotas, and without any creamy layer clause. This decision gives Student C the edge over not just Student A, but also over Student B. And even if not all OBCs are as well off as Student C, considering that there are 3.4 seats for every 1000 OBCs, there are definitely enough Student Cs to corner an overwhelmingly vast proportion of the reserved seats.

And that will be enough to satisfy the pro-reservationists who focus only on communities and not on individuals. As long as the proportion of students in higher education matches that of their population, they will be happy. That most students who were actually held back due to caste-related causes will continue to be held back, is a fact that will not be paid due attention. After all 27% students will be OBC, won't they? The pie chart looks diverse enough.

Note - These couple of posts are just to explore the arguments put forth for reservations and affirmative action. I am trying to differentiate the "good argument" from the "bad argument". It does not mean I support government-enforced affirmative action in private institutions. I do not.

Remember the Individual

How can supporters of affirmative action make it work better? How can they make it a fair and effective idea?

By remembering that society or community is after all made up of individuals. So through affirmative action, they are trying to help, not the "community" but "individuals belonging to the community". A lot of actions like reservations, quotas etc have failed in their objective because the focus is more on the community per se, rather than individuals of the community.

The problem with focusing on helping entire communities is that there is no accounting for how dispersed the reach of the help has been. As a result it may be argued that the OBC 'community' has benefitted from the reservations in state-level colleges in the states of Southern India. Because an xyz number of OBC students have obtained higher education. But it can not be stated with certainty that a large number of OBC individuals who were disadvantaged by their caste have been able to benefit and get higher education.


Reproducing here a mail that Alok Kumar Singh, a senior of mine from IIML posted on the alumni group -

I went through the website of Ministry For Human Resource Development -

Following are some useful numbers:
Total # of SC / ST candidates registered in graduate & higher education -
408966 (as per MHRD website)
Therfore, # of OBC candidates that might get registered in graduate & higher education if the reservation policy works as effectively as it does for SC / STs ~ 378672 (# of SC/ST multipliied by 25% divided by 27%)
Total # of SC / STs in the age group 18-24 yrs - 112718000 (as per MHRD website)
Therfore, # of OBCs in the age group 18-24 yrs ~ 104368518 (by the same logic)

Arjun Singh can influence lives of approximately 3.4 OBCs for every thousand wanting to avail themselves of the reservation (if reservation works as it should). He also doesn't commit to not letting the creamy layer benefit from reservation as in the interview below:

"Karan Thapar: It could be possible that the creamy layer is excluded from reservations for OBCs in higher education?
Arjun Singh: It could be, but I don't know whether it would happen actually."

Some inferences:
1) Most of the reservation will benefit creamy layer (3.4 per 1000 at 100% occupancy)
2) It will take at least 5 years to ramp up the capacity to ensure non-reserved category seats are not impacted.
3) Reservations haven't worked well enough in past - 2/3 of seats in Delhi Univ reserved for SC / STs go vacant. In a capacity deprived scenario, it is criminal to let another 16% of existing seats potentially go vacant (that's 2/3 of 25% required for OBCs).