Monday, January 23, 2012

The Rushdie Fiasco

If the Indian and Rajasthan Government publicly admitted that it cannot provide security to Salman Rushdie, assuming here that the threats were real, it has failed in its duty to enforce the law. Keeping this in mind, does the government have the moral authority to enforce the ban on Satanic Verses, and punish the four authors who have read excerpts from it at the Jaipur Literary Festival?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sunset In The City

DSCF7317 - Sunset In The City by sigill
DSCF7317 - Sunset In The City, a photo by sigill on Flickr.
One day on the way back from office, I saw the sun set behind the fly-over. On weekdays, I usually don't carry my camera, as I have a massive laptop bag to carry.
The same weekend, I came back to the spot, and clicked this shot as the sun was setting.
This shot creates the stark contrast between the ugliness of concrete Delhi against the beautiful sunshine. What is ironic is that the spread-out uniform orange colouration of the sky is the result of the evening delhi smoke.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Hindu in this article today observed that
The Empowered Committee, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, A.S. Anand, was looking into all aspects regarding the safety of the dam
which makes me wonder, what do retired judges know about civil engineering?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Yippie!!! Android is open again, at least for the moment.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) is contemplating relaxing the definition of creamy layer to include those with an annual income of less than 12 lakhs. Good for them. Who cares if the rich fill up all the reservations. After-all, the poor are unworthy of government favors, aren't they? The poor are incompetent, which is why they have remained poor. They don't deserve OBC quota at all. Sure the government is throwing them a few crumbs, but poor mongrels should be grateful and should not whine like rabid dogs. The country would be much better off eradicating the poor. Well, we should probably set up a ministry for eradication of stray dogs and poor people, as we know, we have fallen much behind on our plans on this. There should be a single ministry for both the tasks, as the strategies to be followed in both the tasks are not quite different.

M N Rao, of NCBC says that
affirmative action revolves around 'social discrimination' and economic advancement alone cannot determine social advancement.
Well, I think he erred a little in calculating the full meaning of this path-breaking hypothesis. I would suggest removing the income criteria on the ability to use OBC reservations. After all, don't our OBC industrialists and politicians need the reservations. They are socially backward as well, and they shall always remain so. Of course, we should never come up with a credible measure of measuring backwardness. But we have firmly established that income and social backwardness are not related. Perhaps we are a little wrong in that. We should probably amend the creamy layer rule and ONLY ALLOW people with income MORE THAN 1 crore a year to avail themselves of the OBC quota.

Well, its not surprising. At least it is consistent with the other views that this government seems to subscribe to: that a person in an urban area can live at Rs. 32 per day, and that BCCI and the F1 organizers should be exempt from tax. I must say that the government has very sound and consistent policies that don't conflict with each other.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

/usr/games/fortune is a wonderful program. My $HOME/.profile file executes "/usr/games/fortune -a". Every time I open a terminal, it gives displays a nice little fortune. What it displayed this morning was especially interesting:

Although written many years ago, Lady Chatterley's Lover has just been
reissued by the Grove Press, and this pictorial account of the
day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is full of considerable
interest to outdoor minded readers, as it contains many passages on
pheasant-raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin,
and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper.
Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous
material in order to discover and savour those sidelights on the
management of a midland shooting estate, and in this reviewer's opinion
the book cannot take the place of J. R. Miller's "Practical Gamekeeping."
-- Ed Zern, "Field and Stream" (Nov. 1959)

Must have data packages for fortune:
fortunes-off : Offensive fortunes
fortune-spam : fortunes taken from SPAM messages

Monday, October 17, 2011

Commenting on one of the pics of a spider that I clicked, a dear friend asked what is it with me and with certain kinds of arthropods. Another dear friend commented that I am a bug, which is not far off the target. However, I think that arthropods, in-spite of their strong limbs and ability to fly, need some backing from me.
Photographing arthropods is fun. It is a very good pastime, and one can spend the entire day searching for insects, creeping up to them slowly, photographing them till Swift Tuttle hits Earth and never get bored. Part of the challenge lies in the fact that peering into a small display, one never realizes if one has nailed the insect or not, or is the insect's bottom in focus rather than the lovely eyes of the lady (which proves that eyes need not resemble a lake to be pretty, thereby shattering the box in which certain poets find themselves confined). Another part of the challenge is to creep up to them without disturbing them. Some insects are easier to creep up to, some are more difficult.
That being said, photographing insects is somewhat easier than other forms of photography. One doesn't have to think much about composition much; with such an interesting subject, any way a photo is clicked, it will always be appealing. Of course, masters in this art wouldn't agree with me, but I'm sure my readers will. They will also agree that the masters like Thomas Shahan get astounding results, and my results are nothing more than average in comparison to them, but nevertheless, the results I get are interesting enough. Photographing insects is also easier since they are much easier to find, there is more variety of insects on this planet than there are mammals or birds. Insects are much easier to approach than birds or other mammals, which makes insect photography an ideal candidate for amateurs like me. I would choose to leave the tigers and snow leopards to the pros.
The ubiquity of insects makes photographing them a real good pastime. The other day, I was waiting for a friend at the Hauz Khas metro station. My friend turned up half an hour late. I used the time to photograph a bug that was crawling on the granite wall at the sides of the staircase. The time waiting for him was well spent.
On a different note, macro photography enables me to look at things differently. a five millimeter spider can have eight legs, and four simple eyes. A dragonfly can have a pair of beautiful helmet-like compound eyes and a few simple eyes as well. A damselfly looks like a perfect Hollywood alien. The body of an ant is not smooth as it looks, but is full of hair. A mosquito has a very complex anatomy. Watching a bee grip a flower, and carry pollen in its pollen sack is exhilarating. In one week in my garden at home, I could spot five species of honeybees and bumble bees, one of them having blue bands. I spotted a species that looked like a bee but didn't have a sting, and later found out that the species is called a hoverfly. I educated myself about dragonflies, and spotted at least 6 different species of dragonflies (although I couldn't photograph all of them). I learnt about a species called a leafhopper. I found five kinds of caterpillars in my garden, and a greater number of species of butterfly.
Macro photography of insects really opens one's eyes to how beautiful nature can be, and how complex and beautiful each species is, even the tiniest ones. When one sees a cockroach creep out of the drain, it fills one with disgust. However, views can change, as my view changed after this photograph.
It is no wonder that Darwin was fascinated with beetles. If you still aren't convinced, I'll direct you to the master's photostream. If you still aren't convinced, you should watch these videos:

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Could Empson be pulling a practical joke on the entire literary theory community when he wrote his famed Seven Types of Ambiguity? Could it be that he wanted to be a bit of Benjamin Franklin himself?

Sopat Ali

Sopat Ali, 2011

Sopat Ali is the best mechanic in Shillong, and perhaps the best mechanic in the whole of Meghalaya. He can take a Premiere Padmini apart down to the last screw, and put it back together without the help of a manual. My dad's 31 year old Padmini is still going strong thanks to Sopat Ali.

Sopat is about seventy-five now, but hardly looks more than sixty. Sopat tells my father many stories, some of which my father told me yesterday which I will recount in this post.

Sopat Ali's father was a bartender in Pinewood Hotel when the British were still in India, but in his lifetime, he never tasted a drop of alcohol. His father would bring empty bottles of liquor home. Sopat and his brothers would collect the lees in those bottles, mix them all together, sell the concoction and buy chana-choor with that money.

When the British left, they gifted his father a considerable amount of land. Sopat's brothers are all well established today. However, Sopat lives in a ramshackle wood-cabin. Sopat was employed as a foreman in the French Motor Works Company. When the company went bankrupt, Sopat was left unemployed. If Sopat had, then, opened his own garage, he would have been a rich man now, but Sopat was not very street-smart.

Sopat has been associated with our family since 1958. My uncle owned a Dodge bus, a Fiat taxi and a personal Chevrolet car. Sopat was always the man to turn to if anything went wrong.

Sopat is a very innovative person. The best masons and mechanics are always very innovative. If he had a better education, I have no doubt he would have been the pride of any research laboratory in India.

Once, Sopat was driving Dhiren Dutta, a lawyer and a family friend, from Itanagar to Shillong in his Standard 10 car. There was a puncture, and the spare wasn't in good shape. Sopat unscrewed the tyre, took the tube out, filled the tyre with twigs, leaves, branches and any other vegetation he could find, and then screwed it back. He drove the car with the same tyre for fourteen more kilometers till he could find a place where the tube could be repaired.

Another time, the same Standard 10 ran out of Mobil oil in the highway, and a garage was nowhere to be found. Sopat bought a small amount of mustard oil, and used it instead of Mobil oil till he reached the next garage.

Sopat was driving the same Standard 10 to Silchar once. He hit a pot-hole and badly damaged the engine oil pump. Sopat quickly realized that the pump will not be able to push Mobil oil into the engine, and decided to drown the engine in Mobil oil. Luckily, he was carrying a large supply of engine oil; he poured four litres of mobil oil into the engine. This work-around was enough to allow the car to be driven to a workshop in Silchar. The mechanic in Silchar was amazed at the ingenuity of the man.

The governor of Assam had a Buick 12 cylinder car which broke down once, and was taken to the French Motor Works at Assam. The mechanics there tried to fix it in vain. Finally, Sopat was summoned from Shillong at midnight. Sopat quickly spotted that the wiring of the twelve cylinders was incorrect, and fixed it. Sopat was given a baksheesh of one thousand rupees for fixing it. The sum was a big amount in the 1960s.

A couple of years ago, one of dad's friends was frustrated with his Maruti Omni. He had taken it to the workshop multiple times. The mechanics at the workshop changed various components, but still, it would not start. He told Sopat about his problems. Sopat tried to switch the engine on and immediately realized that the problem was a broken and blocked oil filter. He took out the oil filter out and discarded it. The engine responded. Dad's friend drove the car to the Maruti workshop to replace the oil filter. The mechanics at the workshop started telling him that the car would not start because there was no oil filter. Of course, he didn't buy their cock and bull story, and told them that the engine started because the oil filter was taken out, and the real problem was a blocked oil filter which the mechanics at the workshop could not figure out.

Sopat is a very honest man, honest and simple. He has simple desires. Now and then a cheap shirt, now and then a shoe. He is totally loyal to my father, and would leave everything aside to come to my father's aid if anything went wrong with his car. Sopat Ali reminds me of the poem by Henry Wotton called The Character of a Happy Life.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I wake up in the middle of the night, thirsty. I drink water. It doesn't quench my thirst. I drink more, and more, and more. But the thirst refuses to be quenched, like a wildfire refusing to be doused by the gallons of water dropped over it by a helicopter.
It finally dawns on me: I'm thirsty for real, but I'm drinking water in my dreams. I sigh, relieved. I decide to wake up, take pick up the bottle, and quench my thirst for real this time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mr. Ashish Gupta wrote an article titled "Why I don't support Anna Hazare" today. The original article can be found here.
Here is my response to him:

Mr. Gupta,

I beg to differ with most of what you have written in your article "Why I don't support Anna Hazare" in the 28th August 2011 issue of the Hindu.

You write:
> If Parliament is not reflecting and acting as per the interest
> of voters, we need to elect candidates and parties which will
> meet our aspirations and directions.
While you are partially correct, there is a theoretical flaw in any sort of government. If a constituency chooses a candidate, he belongs their elected representative, and he has the sole authority to speak for his electorate. After he is chosen, the candidate may choose not to voice the opinion of his electorate, rather voice his own opinions, which are different from that of an electorate. As of now, there is no system of check to ensure that what he voices are the opinions of his electorate, until the next elections.
Another problem in a country like India is that unless we achieve greater education levels (not literacy) people will always be swayed by demagogues.
And what about poverty levels and cash for votes?
And what about booth capturing.
While what you write sounds very spic and span, there are many other factors which are not taken into consideration by the theory of elected representation. (I'm not saying democracy is wrong, I'm only saying that democracy should have more checks.)

> We cannot destroy the Parliamentary system,
> just as we cannot destroy the judiciary, the rule of law,
> the bureaucracy and a free press.
No one asked for the parliamentary system to be destroyed. If the parliamentary system is not working, as clearly it is not, then it needs to be amended. Every once in a while, in a democracy, people do protest against their own parliament. Henry David Thoreau and Gandhi saw the people's rights to protest against their administrators as an essential component. Why, weren't there protests in France against their own government - the very country which started the idea of democracy? Didn't Martin Luther King protest?

> He also says the electorate do not know how to elect,
> that elections are a sham and that Parliament does
> not represent people.
I will agree with him. Illiteracy. Lack of education. Poverty. Cash for votes. Booth Capture. What else would you expect. I myself don't vote, because I can't find a single party that should have my vote. I am waiting for the day the null vote is implemented, and I'll start voting from that day.

> An imperfect democracy is far better than a perfect dictatorship.
Really? Nothing could be more divorced from the truth. A government is a means to keep the people happy, meet their aspirations, strive for their prosperity. The form of the government is second to the objectives. That being said, I'm not supporting dictatorship. I'm just saying that I will support any form of government that gives better results, be it a democracy, or a meritocracy or any other form. Democracy itself can be implemented differently. I'm all for the results, not the form of government.

> The claim of Anna and half a dozen people that they
> represent the Indian public is nothing but dictatorial.
How so? Millions of people expressed their solidarity with the movement, without any force. Millions of people attended his rallies, that too, without being bought, without any sort of monetary gains. Just look at the rallies BJP or Congress organize, you won't find half the number of people there, and the people who are there are there because they have been given a bottle of liquor or five hundred rupees. Yet, they are entitled to say that they represent the Indian public, but not Anna and his team. Is it because that they have won elections by getting 30% of the votes of people, (assuming 40% don't vote, and the other 30% is divided amongst 6 other parties, 30% is a winning margin).
Wasn't there a referendum in one constituency which showed that 85% of the people favour Anna. Why doesn't the government order a formal referendum organized by the EC then?
Of course, Mr. Sibal said that since 15% of the people didn't support Anna, he was was not a legitimate speaker for the people. Ironical.

> For many, it is a picnic, fun and getting a chance to be on national TV.
How wrong can you be?

> Some of these issues are recognised as desirable in the
> Directive Principles of our Constitution and have been
> dormant since 1950.
By design, they are "directive principles". The governments are free to disregard them, which they have done. It is our constitution baba. In 1950s people wrote a set of rules called the constitution. At that time they didn't know that it would not work. After 60 years, we have seen that it is not working. So what do we need to do, as a logical step? Figure out why it is not working, and write a new set of rules or modify the existing set of rules. But we are not going to do that. Because the constitution is a holy book like the bible or Koran, and modifying it would be blasphemy.
Of course, there are amendments once in a while. Drops of water in a ocean.

> What will happen when someone goes on a fast unto
> death at Jantar Mantar asking “total independence” for
> Kashmir and someone else sits on a similar fast demanding
> abolition of the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir?
The government didn't bow because of Anna's fast, but because of the immense support his movement had. In the hypothetical situation you cite, the government will not bother a dime. Look at Irom Sharmila Devi. Look at the fast by Baba Ramdev. In one case, the government hasn't bothered in 11 years. And in the second, they broke it up. Why? Because they lacked the scale of support Anna had. Irom had support in her state, and nowhere else in the country. Baba Ramdev had support from only a small section of his followers.
As far as the Kashmir issue is concerned, personally, I would support their independence. After-all, Mountbatten and Jinnah wanted Kashmir to go to Pakistan, as logically, it should have since it had an almost total Muslim population, which, by the principles of partition, should have gone to Pakistan. Hari Singh, at that time wanted to retain his independence, and didn't want to join with either India and Pakistan. It is only when Pakistan sent Pashtun tribals to conquer it, and Hari Singh, unwillingly agreed to the Indian presence in Kashmir, did this entire mess of a place unfold.

> Will the Jan Lokpal bill stop all corruption?
No one claims that it will stop all corruption, but even if it stops a large majority of them, it is worth a try. I think we are looking ahead at questions we are not prepared to answer till the bill is enforced.

> They are not going to complain to anyone.
You are assuming things.

> I believe a major part of the bribe given to government
> servants is in this category and a smaller part is where
> government servants harass and demand bribe.
You are talking about your personal experience as a government service, and they may or may not be the larger trend. I don't think you have established statistics here to claim anything in a national newspaper.

> Do not NGOs and private enterprises indulge in corruption?
Yes, but let us take one step at a time. Clean the government first, the funding agency first. I also have my opinions about where the corruption in NGOs start, but I'll not go into that, because I don't have established statistics to support my beliefs, so I'll keep them personal and not put them through in a public forum.

> Corruption has to be attacked with systemic changes,
> using information technology, reducing discretionary powers,
> reducing personal interface with government servants, and such measures.
Some of what you are saying is true. However, IT will not solve the problem.

> Dictatorial methods of agitation saying that
> “this is the bill, pass it or else” will not do.
Again, its not a dictatorial method. It is because that the bill is the will of the people, that Anna is able to make such statements. If the will of the people was not with him, and Anna made such a statement, the government wouldn't have given a dime about him. They would have treated him the way they treated Irom Sharmila Devi or Baba Ramdev.

> and he should now give Parliament and the government
> time to come up with their solution and keep up the
> awareness campaign till the next election.
Let the thieves draft the next anti-felony law. Hilarious.

> He should contest the next election with his
> followers or force the political parties to adopt his
> solution in their manifesto and then canvass for them.
Talk realistically.

Before concluding this harangue, I feel I must point you to read Gandhi's and Henry David Thoreau's views on the constitution, democracy and civil disobedience. Sometimes, the laws of the country and the constitution themselves become a problem, not the remedy. Yesterday, I saw the movie "V for Vendetta". I would highly recommend that movie. Nations can be wrong. Constitutions can be inadequate (I'm not saying that our constitution was written with malicious intent, I'm just saying that people writing a new constitution in 1950, for a newly independent nation, for a future which changed so soon, couldn't possibly have the foresight to write something which would be relevant in its entirety 60 years later. They would have had to be God to do that.).

Thanks and regards,
Rajbir Bhattacharjee

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I haven't had the time to think and write something, however, I have been constantly reminded that my blog hasn't seen much activity recently. What post can I write without having a clear idea of what I am going to write? I had been to Shimla recently, and I clicked some interesting shots of doors and windows. This post is dedicated to portals.

Peeping through the windows of the dramatics society. I bet it must be grand inside.

The State Bank of India is fortified against robbery as a bank should be.

Shimla is Changing.

Rows of colourful windows. There is a skating rink inside this.

Is this a playschool? I was half tempted to enhance the colours on this photo in gimp to make the teddy bears more colourful, but I stayed away from any modification as I wanted the original colour of the bricks and the wood of the window to remain unchanged.

If one saw this balcony, one would think it is in Chandni Chowk, except that the moss would give it away. Somehow, this balcony didn't belong here.

How did the glass break?

Again, this looks like a Calcutta building, but it is Shimla.

I loved the broken wall.

And finally, the doors to reach the Lord are closed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The first bob dylan song I loved was motorpsycho nitemare. I fell in love with him ever since. Here is the song for you.
Delhi has been rocking since the last two weeks; the rains along the comfortable temperatures and not-so-comfortable traffic jams it brings, is not the only contributor. The Kanwars have played the major role in making Delhi more animated and my journeys interesting. Every morning, on my way to office, I while my time watching the Kanwars, clad in saffron shorts and tees, walk, carrying their burden on their shoulders. Every evening, I'm greeted by trucks carrying loads of excited Kanwars returning from their pilgrimage, packed into trucks which are equipped with huge boom speakers and generators to power them, dancing all the way. The music they play is also interesting; one might even feel that the ecstatic Kanwars have created mini discos with lively music within the confines of each truck. However, if one listens carefully, one will notice that the music being played are Bhajans sung to the tune of Punjabi Dance music or romantic bollywood numbers. I may be an atheist, but this kind of music almost convinces me that God is omnipresent (thank God, it falls just short of convincing me).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

While watching astronauts perform space walks, and repair the hubble telescope, I was wondering if astronauts still get excited about visiting other foreign countries? Strangely, of all the interviews of astronauts I have read, I never heard the interviewer ask this question. If it was me, this would be the first question I'd ask.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Some people, behind my back, complain that I try to be different and obnoxious at the same time.
Maybe it is true, but its not going to help them, because I love being obnoxious. Its just that I don't care if they like me, but I love it if they hate me.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

This post is for Sh@s, someone whose blog I love to read. She complained that there are no updates on this blog, so this is for her, and I'll try to key a few random thoughts in while I still have access to a friend's computer.

Joan Baez, performing at Camp Casey, before singing her Where have all the people gone's and Diamonds and Rust's joked: "I get these brilliant ideas and then they fade from my mind, plus I can’t read any more."

It is much the same with me. I do get these ideas that seem brilliant when I get them, sometimes I follow them, mull over them, and then they don't seem so good. At other times, I just forget about them.

My problem isn't that I can't read though. My problem, is that I don't own a laptop, or a smartphone, and any post that I make has to be made during office hours from my office desktop, which is pretty limiting. Yes, I am a software engineer.

I take pictures with my camera, and don't find enough time to gimp them when I'm in office.

I subscribe to about thirty blogs, and just about manage to read them all on google reader.

Delhi is killing. I leave home at 7:30 in the morning, more often than not, the newspaper wouldn't have arrived by then. The days when the newspapers arrive, I have a not-so-boring time in the pot-tee. I remember my dad multitasking a lot in the pot-tee - he'd always go to the pot-tee with a radio in one hand, and his shaving equipment clutched in the other, and always managed to listen to the morning news and do his shaving - and we didn't have a western toilet then. That is what I call skill.

I try to avoid the evening traffic and leave office after 8. I reach home only by 9:30, and have just enough time to make myself a raita or some khichri for dinner. I'd love to get back to my music, and have been planning that for a long time. I'd love to get back to my work-outs - which have taken a back-seat since I shifted to Delhi - and have to find some way of doing that.

I love Delhi, I hate Delhi.

At this point, I can only hope that this hasn't sounded like rant. That was not my intention. Sh@s, I just want to tell you that, I want to write, but things don't always work out the way I want. Delhi is killing. After nine years in South India, it is difficult to get used to Delhi. :)

P.S. - @Sh@s, I'm writing this post on the last day of my vacation which I spent partly in Bangalore and partly in Vellore. Isn't it ironic?

Monday, June 06, 2011

Not In The Defence of Baba Ramdev

Baba Ramdev has been the object of ridicule, and has been blasted by both by politicians, and some sections of the society. I will not write this in post in his defence - while I do not subscribe to the allegations made by the congress, I myself do not agree with many of the thing the Baba says, or does - like dressing up as a woman to escape the cops - Mahatma Gandhi was never scared of the policemen when he started a civil disobedience movement. However, many of the allegations against Baba Ramdev don't apply to him alone, but various other authorities as well, but the only one targeted by everyone is the ridiculous baba.

The baba is a school dropout. Mr. Digvijay Singh and Mr. Kapil Sibal have been keen to point this out. Many journalists have also highlighted this issue; a report in one of the national dailies expressed the view that decisions like the Lokpal are best left to constitutional experts rather than uneducated babas who believe that allopathy can be rendered useless by yoga. But then aren't most of our elected MLAs and MPs - the so called guardians of our constitution - illeterate? Mr. Digvijay Singh himself is not highly educated, and while Mr. Kapil Sibal is educated enough, he behaves like a complete idiot.

The Baba's views on homosexuality has been the target of many write-ups, and while I don't subscribe to the Baba's views on homosexuality, I'd like to point out that the successive governments have done nothing to abolish to the sodomy law - and while the Delhi high court has decreed that the law is unconstitutional, it is still to be erased from paper.

Mr. Digvijay Singh has alleged that the Baba himself is corrupt and a fraud, and has a lot of black money and should be investigated - but this is a red herring - and is ridiculous as it comes from Mr. Digvijay Singh against whom there are many allegations of corruptions. In fact, the congress government has no moral authority to issue such a statement.

On the issue of black money, it is ironical that the congress government has shown little interest in pursuing the matter in-spite of repeated reprimands by the Supreme Court of India. In fact, the Swiss government is itself quite perplexed as to why it has not yet been approached by the Indian government to sign a DTAA, which is the first step in the direction of getting the money back to India.

All that the congress government has done by first sending a group of ministers to talk to the Baba to conduct under the table deals, and when they failed, to use force against the baba is to dig its own grave. They have not only trivialized the issue of such national importance but also given the right-wing saffronists an upper hand.

It will be interesting days ahead.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It is a cruel joke that a natural calamity or a disaster often stamps into people's minds what their teachers in school couldn't. A few years ago, the vocabulary of the world was enriched by a word: tsunami. In the last few years, many people became aware of a small island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Norwegian Sea.

An island famous for its volcanoes, it lives up to its name even today, as it reliably forces all international airline companies to shut shop every now and then, and shows man his true worth - that in front of nature, his best inventions are mere toys.

Iceland is an island formed completely out of volcanoes - the magma spewing from the Earth cooled and formed this rocky island of pristine beauty. Much of the early Earth must have looked like the Iceland of today. Over time, a thin layer of volcanic ash settled over the island. The rocks cracking with the expansion and contraction, together with the volcanic ash formed a thin crust of soil - a layer of cream on a tough cupcake. This thin crust caressed the plants growing in some areas of the island, and those places started to look like little replicas of paradise on Earth.

Some Vikings on one of their raiding tours would have noticed this uninhabited paradise, and sometime in 800AD, a few vikings started making this place their home. Here, they herded their cattle, and from here they raided richer lands like England. But life was never going to be easy on these islands. Windy, and with only a thin layer of soil which was rapidly leeched out of its fertility by the growing plants, they Vikings could never flourish here as they did in Mother Norway. But the were tough people, they survived. They survived the black death, they survived a smallpox epidemic which killed a third of their population, they survived the eruption of Laki Volcano which killed a fourth of their population and half their livestock.

From the middle ages, this raiding and herding community reinvented itself, and started supplying cod and crabs to most of Europe. Cod being a lucrative business, it had to take head on many bigger contenders like Britain - sometimes even having to skirmish them.

Iceland progressed from livestock to cod fishing, and then to becoming an banking success story. The per-capita income of the country, one of the banking capitals of Europe, touched some of the highest in the world, and this trend continued till the economic crash a couple of years ago. Thousands of Icelanders lost their jobs, and the country is now in turmoil. Never before has Iceland shook the world more than now - first with their banking system collapsing magnifying the effects of the depression, and then a series of volcanic eruptions bringing international airline transport to a standstill.

Although Iceland is seeing tough times now, they have battled greater crises than the current economic one it faces. Iceland's population has increased since the 1900s, with an annual growth of population varying from 10 to 20% per year; thanks to the cookies brought about by being a hub of European banking, they could manage to increase their population without having the natural resources to support them, and importing whatever was necessary. Iceland needs to revisit its history to draw lessons how their forefathers - the mighty and tough vikings - battled even harder wars against nature.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chandni Chowk. Chitli Kabar bazaar. A fresh lassi followed by sights of a man selling posters of Osama with something written in Arabic - I too taken aback to even photograph this thing.
Sights in chronological order
- Cow hoofs for sale (Wonder who eats them)
- Goat brains
- Caravan of two elephants and two camels on the road

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stuck between a British boss, three hours spent in commute, vi, cscope, BBC Radio 3 online, and a desire to start (again) playing the Tabla and work out, I find no time to blog, and I think I truly, truly, more than ever before, need The Great Automatic Grammatizator. My motive is to throw bloggers like Guy Kawasaki out of business.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama's Plot To Take My Nobel Away

It is well known that I truly deserve the Nobel Prize. And yet, it was snatched away from me and given to Barak Obama. I think its a plot against me. I can only say this, I don't see one reason why Barak Obama should get the Nobel Prize (apart from talking a lot). I can give two solid reasons why I am a truly deserving candidate for the nobel prize:
1. I am a vegetarian
2. I don't smoke and provide revenue to tobacco companies

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Smoking Ban

About six months ago, I was with friends, dining at a the Blue Spice at Koramangala. It was after the smoking ban had come into effect. However, people continued to smoke in that restaurant - I was especially annoyed as people were smoking in the table next to me. I summoned the manager of the hotel, and pointed out to him that smoking in restaurants are not allowed, he shamelessly told me, in not the exact words I am going to use, that people will smoke in his restaurant and I can fuck off.
While the smoking ban in most cities in India remains unenforced, data has come in from countries in Europe about just how effective a properly enforced smoking ban can be. Research points out that in countries in which smoking was banned in public places including bars, the number of heart attacks reduced by 17% in the first year of enforcement of the ban alone, and after three years, the number of heart attacks had reduced by 36%. Yes, we are talking about actual number of heart attacks, not *risk* of heart attacks as most studies of effects of tobacco suggest. The research also suggests that it was not just smokers who became more healthy, the number of heart attacks went down among non-smokers as well. This is proof of the effects of second hand smoke, and adds concrete to the argument of a mandatory smoking ban. Of course, the tobacco lobby will rubbish this, tomorrow.
It is about time that India's smoking ban was enforced, and the provisions were changed so as to make it more effective. Some of the things that I would do if I were to write this law are
1. Make the owner of a restaurant/head of an establishment responsible for ensuring that smoking is not allowed in the restaurant/establishment
2. If there is proof of smoking in the restaurant/establishment, the person responsible for ensuring compliance to the law should face both an imprisonment and fine (without fail)
3. Allow police to act against such a person and take him into custody based on an FIR
4. Allow photographic evidence in courts to prove that the ban was not enforced in the establishment/restaurant.
Right now, the smoking ban appears like a law without teeth. The most that the authorities will do is to enforce a fine on the smoker. I think the onus has to be passed from the smokers to the owners, and a fine is not enough to enforce the law. For owners of restaurants, the fine is a paltry sum to pay compared to the business loss they might have by not allowing smoking (hookah bars will close down, and Mochas will see half the business they usually do). A provision for imprisonment, in my opinion, will give this law sufficient teeth to be enforced.

Economy Vs. Environment

I always suspected that economy-for-profit can never be a good thing for the planet, or almost always, as current economic models (ones that completely neglect the human factor) usually fail when humans bend the system.
This report from treehugger talks about the carbon emissions in the US going down by 9% in the last two years because of the depression, in-spite of no significant deliberate action taken to reduce it.
I know this doesn't prove my suspicion. It is not even an example of my suspicion. But it is an example of the negation of the relation I suspect applies here ("a good economy is bad for the planet" negates to "a bad economy is good for the planet").
This just makes me a little bit more convinced about my suspicion.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hard Times: Coketown Woes

The following is copy of the Gene Hashmi's (Greenpeace) email appeal:

In October 2007, Al Gore accepted his Nobel Prize with the words: "I can't understand why there aren't rings of young people blocking bulldozers and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants."

At precisely the same moment, six Greenpeace activists -- one of them six weeks pregnant at the time -- entered a highly-secure coal-power plant and defaced one of its chimneys. Retribution was swift. We were arrested and sent to jail and, nearly two years later, the incredulous charges against us are yet to be dropped. Our case, unreported by the media, drags on in court.

My daughter Johanna was four years old when I went to jail for that crime. She's six years old now. In these two years, instead of shutting down coal-power plants, our government has been building more of them.

The unfair part is, the people building these coal-power plants won't be around when climate catastrophe finally hits us. They won't be running from refugee camp to refugee camp. They won't be escaping hunger and drought and famine and disease, but Johanna will.

It's for her sake, and for the sake of all children, that ordinary citizens like you and me must go beyond empty talk, and take direct action against climate change.

Why direct action? Because patient petitioning through the "proper channels" isn't working. Our Prime Minister has ignored over 50,000 people like you who have asked him for a Renewable Energy Law. He talked of climate change in his Independence Day speech, but has shown no sign that he intends to match his words with deeds.

It was to make climate change his No.1 priority that six of us went to jail. This is our story. I hope when you read it, you too will be inspired to act, and succeed where we failed.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Shakespearean Mahabharata with Peter Brook

While I give credit to Peter Brook for managing the difficult task of compressing the essentials of the Mahabharata into a five hour movie, the movie-drama left me desiring a lot more. For a Westerner to make a play out of the Mahabharata was always going to be difficult, and though Brook undoubtedly put in a lot of effort into it, it was far from perfect.

Peter Brook's idea of starring international artists impressed me. Brook's idea was to give the impression that he was not telling the story of just a couple of kingdoms of India, but the story of the entire world. Indeed, the anthropological distribution of India must have been a lot diverse before the 400-800 year span during which the Mahabharata was composed. India must have had a lot of different tribes - Huns, Sakas, Kushanas etc., each with different a physique and a different facial feature. However, having an international cast does have its challenges - some of which Brook made no attempts at overcoming. The least he could have done was to give his actors a short course on Sanskrit pronounciation. In fact, the pronounciation of Indian names was so bad, that at one point of the play, that even the person who wrote the official sub-titles for the DVD wasn't able to understand it - the actor was uttering Bramha's name, while the sub-title read Rama.

We can forgive Peter Brook on the grounds that the primary spectators he was targetting were all Westerners, more used to Brook's Shakespearean productions. Indeed, it hardly seemed like an Indian tale, rather like an attempt at creating a Shakespearean drama. Soliloquis, short and long, filled the play. Amba's apparition to Bhishma reminded one of the Apparition of his father seen by Hamlet. At times, the costume was reminiscent of the Greek tragedies. And indeed, in crafting Karna's character, Brook may have attempted a half-hearted Shakespearan tragedy. While all of the above may be pardonable, what, in my view is unpardonable, was that Brook tried to so much make a Shakespearean play out of the Mahabharata that he even inserted Shakespeare like crude humour into his play. This is something I find completely unjustifiable - Shakespeare had to insert crude humour into his plays for the benefit of the groundlings of the Globe and Blackfrairs, but Brook's receivers are likely to be more educated.

There is some fresh breath in this play, that is a welcome break from the stale air of most of the Indian productions of Mahabharata. The costumes are more simple, less gaudy and more realistic. Most of the battle was dramatized without resort to the bitter-tasting computer graphics. Karna's tragedy is very well highlighted - something many reproductions of the Mahabharata failed to do (especially CR's Mahabharata).

While it is common for directors to take liberty with Shakespeare's plays, whether pardonable or not, hacking and hewing what Shakespeare wrote, bending the plot a little here and there, cutting a few lines there, a scene here, a soliloquy there; such twisting and turning of an epic like the Mahabharata may not be acceptable and may be seen as a cardinal sin. After all, aren't you trying to tell an ancient tale to a Western audience who has never heard it? And if this is the case, then is it not your duty to be factually correct? I was shocked to see that in his play it was Vyasa, and not Vidura (in fact Vidura hadn't been introduced at all - obviously, Brook didn't want to confuse his Western audience with too many characters, and made do with whatever characters he already had), and this is unforgivable.

Another shortcoming of this play was that it failed to depict that the Mahabharata was not just a war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, but it was a war in which the entire Indian nation took part - right from Afghanistan (Gandhara) to Manipur and Burma. I feel that depicting this aspect was very important, as this was something that could have touched a chord in the hearts of the Western audience Brook was targeting, since his audience would have experienced something similar during the first and second world wars. In fact, this book wouldn't be called the Mahabharata (or Great India) if the entire Indian sub-continent hadn't taken part in it. Mahabharata not only tells (allegorically) the political history of India, but also tells the social and economic history, and while Brook covered a part of the political history, covering the socio-economic history in a five hour production was near impossible and he can't be blamed for not covering it.

I liked the way the play ended profoundly referring to the final illusion. Most Indian productions would have saffronized this, but not being trained earlier, allowed Brook to interpret this in a broader sense.
You have known neither paradise nor hell. Here there is no happiness, no punishment, no family, no enemies. Rise in tranquility. This is the last illusion.

Brook's exploitation of the Rabindra Sangeet style of music is also interesting and adds a charm to the production.

There weren't many Indian actors in the production - in fact only one who had a major role - Mallika Sarabhai played Draupadi. Her performance was marked with a couple of brilliant scenes, but the rest of it was mediocre. There were good performances from the characters of Krishna, Duryodhana, Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Gandhari, and Karna (aided by fluent soliloquies, the best of all).

At the end, I'd like to say that it was not a bad attempt, but Brook's Shakespearean legacy let him down. He could have done a lot better, had he not tried to invent a Shakeaspearan drama out of the Mahabharata.

Monday, July 13, 2009

This little froggy took a big leap,
This little froggy took a small,
This little froggy leaped sideways,
And this little froggy not at all,
And this little froggy went,
hippity, hippity, hippity hop, all the way home.

In Bengali, the word for mushroom translates literally to Frog's Umbrella. I remember reading books as a child, with pictures of a frog under a mushroom. The pity is that my children may only see frogs in their alphabet books, as most species of frogs are now critically endangered, and many totally extinct.

In 2007, David Attenborough, shooting for the BBC series "Life in Cold Blood" in 2007, visited the last breeding site of the very beautiful and once abundant golden frog in Panama. Fighting time, the scientists studying the golden frog for years waited for the shooting to complete, before removing the last of the golden frogs from the wild and transporting them to a special facility.

A story that appeared in the National Geographic Magazine in April 2009 really moved me. I will paste verbatim an extract from it which made me really sad:
A slender man with a camper's stubble and a soft demeanor squats at the side of pond number 100, bordered by stoic rock walls and edged with pink mountain heather and tangled grasses. Vance Vredenburg is a biologist at San Francisco State University, and he's been studying the mountain yellow-legged frog for 13 years, slumming in a tent on the mountainside for weeks at a time as he monitors 80 different study lakes. Today, mosquito net balled up around his neck, he contemplates ten dead frogs, stiff-legged, white bellies going soft in the sun.

"It wasn't long ago when you walked along the bank of this pond," he recalls, "a frog leapt at every other step. You'd see hundreds of them alive and well, soaking in the sun in a writhing mass." But in 2005, when the biologist hiked up to his camp anticipating another season of long-term studies, "there were dead frogs everywhere. Frogs I'd been working with for years, that I'd tagged and followed through their lives, all dead. I sat down on the ground and cried."

The rest of the article can be read here.

While man has been partially responsible for this mass extinction of amphibians, which are the most ancient of all back-boned animals, by destroying their habitat, the major contribution to this extinction comes from a fungal infection. The fungus called Chytridiomycosis infects the skin of the frogs, hindering their breathing, and choking them to death (frogs breathe through their skins). The fungus is so potent that it has spread to all continents; more than 170 species have already been wiped out by this fungus; more than 1900 species are on the verge of extinction due to this fungus.

The virus first appeared in the African clawed frogs, which have developed a resistance to the fungus due to the presence of anti-biotic producing pro-biotic bacteria in their skin. In the last few decades, the African clawed frog was transported all over the world in large numbers, which could be one of the reasons for this amphibian epidemic. As most frogs around the world had never been exposed to the fungus, thereby having developed no genetic resistance to the fungus, they quickly succumbed to the fungus. Another theory suggests that the fungus suddenly increased in virulence, which the frogs were unable to cope up with. However, the former argument sounds stronger. Carrying species from one continent to another in jet planes has never been a good idea, and we have seen many times in the past the environmental ramifications of such alien introductions.

Government policies worldwide has helped this mass extinction of the amphibians. A few years ago, there was a massive plan to introduce fish into the pristine fish-less upstream waters of rivers. Trouts were introduced into these fish-less waters by dropping from airplanes (incidentally, many of these missed their mark, leaving fish rotting in the forests). This spelt doom for the frogs. Tadpoles are the primary food of trouts, and these tadpoles in these previously fish-less waters had no reason to develop defenses against fishes, and were consequently quickly eaten.

Some conservationist groups are trying to combat the virus (which, in some areas is spreading as quickly as 25 miles a month), by collecting frogs from the wild, and treating them with anti-fungal medicines. Other efforts are aimed at using the bacteria that protects the African clawed frog against the virus in combating the epidemic, but such research may take a while.

Indeed, the future does seem bleak for these amphibians, which are the oldest land-dwelling vertebrates. These amphibians, which saw the dinosaurs come and go, are facing the worst winter of their existence on the planet, and may not see another spring.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Since everybody is discussing homosexuality these days - reports of gay penguins exercising their right to adopt children and article 377 pottied, flushed and disinfected in everybody's mouth and in everybody's morning newspaper - why should I be left out. After all, I have a metabolic requirement to be cool too - and my blog needs to be more happenning (that, incidentally, was the word a friend used to describe what I was not when I told him that I spend most of my leisure hours at home pressing 'j' on google-reader instead of 'partying'. Well, that wasn't quite the word he used; the word he quite used used was 'socializing').

A few years ago, the news that the first homosexual tigers were observed in the wild, made it to the front page of the Times of India, and it seemed to have a sort of an appeal to wannabe post doctorates of the sort who ran an experiment on fifty or so couples feeding the husbands different diets on different weeks, and feeding the wives the resulting cum, and doing a regression line analysis plotting the taste of food of the men on the X-axis, and the taste of food (oopsie!) of the females on the Y-axis. (You may not believe me, and might like to check on this yourself, but it was a research project conducted by some university somewhere).

Tigers are mostly solitary creatures, and the chances of one of them finding a fuck may be small given their current population - thanks to project tiger and Chinese medicines - providing me enough justification to undermine the hullabaloo over Columbus' discovery of gay tigers.

A more recent non-human homosexual observation was made on a gay penguin couple. (Oopsie! Apologies. Blame that on an unconscious grammatical error, without any ill feeling towards the observer. The Corrected sentence should read something like, "Human observation of non-human homosexuals, aka gay penguins). BTW, just in case you are wondering if this has anything to do with 8mm films, they didn't go through the American Board of Film Certification to get themselves 13X rated. What made it even more interesting that the gay penguin couple adopted and raised a penguin chick.

Jokes aside, what is extraordinary about this incident is that these gay penguins shouldn't have had any difficulty in finding a mate of the other sex who was ready to copulate with them. Why, then, did they choose to remain gay?

I haven't been able to find the answer to this question, and I doubt if scientists have. But is this the only question to be answered? There are a couple more. Is homosexuality a product of the mind - a mere matter of taste (acquired or otherwise), or does it have a deeper genetic root? And if it does have a, either partial or total, genetic root, is it a wide-spread phenomena that happened throughout the history of higher animals to a certain percentage of the population, or was it always a stray phenomena arising out of genetic aberrations, which were to be soon eliminated out by natural selection?

Perhaps a clue might lie in this question. Is homosexuality totally meaningless in creatures in which fertilization is external, rather than internal? Have the plants, frogs or coral polyps found any parallels of the homosexuality which has been observed in us mammals, which we are yet to observe, recognize or understand?

Monday, June 08, 2009

When I made my decision to become a vegetarian more than twelve years ago, little did I know the environmental effects of my personal decision. At that time, the decision to turn a vegetarian was solely guided by my reluctance to cause pain to other animals for my food. Today, I realize that the decision I then made goes beyond what I could have imagined at that stage.

To produce one kilogram of potatoes, a hundred litres of water is needed; to produce one kilogram of rice, four thousand litres; and to produce one kilogram of meat, thirteen thousand litres of water is required. The choice to turn a vegetarian helps the environment at a time where the world's fresh water reserves are running low. In most places, ground water, which is non-renewable, has already been over-exploited, mainly for agricultural use. Major rivers have been diverted for mega irrigation projects to the extent that one out of ten rivers of the world no longer flow to the sea. The state of the once vast Aral sea, now reduced greatly in size manifest what we have done with our fresh-water reserves.

With every extra cow grown, we put extra pressure on our atmosphere; the production and transport of huge quantities of livestock is something that the atmosphere can no longer bear. 95% of the world's soya bean produce is used to feed livestock. 50% of the world's agriculture trade is redirected towards livestock feed. The Cornell website gives us these shocking statistics that govern production of meat:

Animal protein production requires more than eight times as much fossil-fuel energy than production of plant protein while yielding animal protein that is only 1.4 times more nutritious for humans than the comparable amount of plant protein, according to the Cornell ecologist's analysis.

Tracking food animal production from the feed trough to the dinner table, Pimentel found broiler chickens to be the most efficient use of fossil energy, and beef, the least. Chicken meat production consumes energy in a 4:1 ratio to protein output; beef cattle production requires an energy input to protein output ratio of 54:1. (Lamb meat production is nearly as inefficient at 50:1, according to the ecologist's analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. Other ratios range from 13:1 for turkey meat and 14:1 for milk protein to 17:1 for pork and 26:1 for eggs.)

Animal agriculture is a leading consumer of water resources in the United States, Pimentel noted. Grain-fed beef production takes 100,000 liters of water for every kilogram of food. Raising broiler chickens takes 3,500 liters of water to make a kilogram of meat. In comparison, soybean production uses 2,000 liters for kilogram of food produced; rice, 1,912; wheat, 900; and potatoes, 500 liters. "Water shortages already are severe in the Western and Southern United States and the situation is quickly becoming worse because of a rapidly growing U.S. population that requires more water for all of its needs, especially agriculture," Pimentel observed.

Livestock are directly or indirectly responsible for much of the soil erosion in the United States, the ecologist determined. On lands where feed grain is produced, soil loss averages 13 tons per hectare per year. Pasture lands are eroding at a slower pace, at an average of 6 tons per hectare per year. But erosion may exceed 100 tons on severely overgrazed pastures, and 54 percent of U.S. pasture land is being overgrazed.

"More than half the U.S. grain and nearly 40 percent of world grain is being fed to livestock rather than being consumed directly by humans," Pimentel said. "Although grain production is increasing in total, the per capita supply has been decreasing for more than a decade. Clearly, there is reason for concern in the future."

One billion people around the world today go hungry. The earth has enough land to produce crops to feed all these one billion hungry people if others reduce their consumption of meat.

Every-day more and more forest land is cleared to make way for agriculture, the produce of which is invariably redirected towards livestock-feed, production of oil, or bio-fuels. Only a few decades ago, Borneo was covered primarily by a diverse and rich rain-forest which should have been protected as a world heritage site and a biosphere reserve. Instead, 90% of Borneo's forests have been wiped out to make way for palm plantations to feed the growing demand for palm oil. It is unimaginable that we can turn a blind-eye to this and still live with a clear conscience.

Fish accounts as a staple food for one out of five people in the world. However, we have managed to over-exploit this very important resource. Seventy-five percent of the world's fishing grounds are over-exploited, thanks to modern fishing trawlers; fish nets that span hundreds of kilometres sweeping catching fish and other non-target species indiscriminately, the latter are then thrown back into the ocean, dead; and satellite assistance for location of shoals. Most of the large fish species have become extinct as the long time they take to grow into adults does not give them a time to regenerate in the presence of these titanic trawlers.

Consider this. The plate on your table will be tasty. After-all, it contains the blood and flesh of so many humans who cannot afford to eat meat or grains, or drink safe water.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Modern economy believes that the construction and utilization of abstract forms of assets has a stabilizing effect on the economy, and such abstract entities, like money, shares, futures trading etc., have, over the years, been continuously invented and encouraged. The mechanism works very well, and hides most of the complexities that one would have to otherwise consider. It is much like the application of mathematics to physics or engineering. A simpler allegory would be the driving of a car - the driver knows how to operate the pedals, the steering wheel and the gear shaft, and the complex machinery below the bonnet takes care of the rest. It allows the driver to travel at 90 mph. Such speed, however, does not come without certain making certain compromises. If the car were to break down in the middle of a desert, or were it to crash into a static or dynamic object of considerable rigidity, the results could be cataclysmic. The more complex the machinery gets, the greater the number of points of failure, the lesser the idea the driver has on how to go about fixing the problem, and the more stranded in the middle of the desert he is. The faster he goes, the more devastating the crash is. Since the end of the nineteenth century, the world has witnessed numerous failures and crashes of this incredible economic automotive.

The source of all economies is the exploitation of the bountiful resources that mother Earth provides. There was a time when men were hunters or gatherers. Every man was a self sufficient entity who could complete all the tasks necessary for his survival. The survival closure - which we shall define as the quorum of the group which would ensure the survival of each member of the group - was the individual, or the, at max, the family. Once man formed communities, and each member of the community specialized in a certain trade, an individual could no longer survive by himself. The survival closure now grew to include the entire community. Of course, this made the community very efficient in the exploitation of the natural resources, so that all members of the community had plenty. The flip side to such communities was that it facilitated the spread of diseases, and the fabric of relationship between members of the community grew in complexity and crime and law were born.

Soon communities learned to trade articles - or rather barter them. Until now, man's only dealing was with physical entities. Nothing abstract, had, so far, been invented. Rich men were measured by the numbers of goat and the amount of stocked grain he held. The only arguably abstract notion was the idea of ownership itself. The number of people in the survival closure grew further to include a number of trading communities.

The earliest forms of currency were clams and other natural objects. The introduction of currency resulted in an interesting possibility. An individual or a community could now be rich on the basis of abstract items as opposed to physical items. Although this paved the way for better exploitation of resources, comparable pricing of tradable items, improved lifestyle and more leisure time to devote to activities other than those necessitated by survival, this invention had its own drawbacks. A rich community with no physical assets could easily starve to death; the price associated with food could change. Welcome inflation and speculation.

There was still one hurdle in the way explosive growth. There was no way one could become a millionaire. The act of storing a million clams could prove to be a rather arduous task. The problem was solved with the introduction of money, and subsequent concepts of debts, securities, loans, banks, shares, bonds, etc. Soon there was a big diversion in the way people lived. Tribal chiefs were replaced by emperors, plundering looting and colonization came into vogue, the tribal battles were replaced by organized wars between organized armies of countries. Slavery boomed. A class of people got richer and richer, and another class became poorer and poorer. The list of the unfortunate consequences just keeps growing.

However, without these abstract concepts of economy, man wouldn't have made a lot of the welcome progress he has made - especially scientific progress. Health care improvements have resulted in an increase of the life expectancy and a decline of infant mortality, resulting in a rise of the human population, which cascaded to the over exploitation of the once bountiful Earth, so much so, that today, the entire Resistance of life on this planet is threatened by global warming and a nuclear war.

All said and done, the old, so called, savage way to live by hunting and gathering, or the bartering ways of the red Indian economy wasn't so bad after all.

Of course, man cannot now go back to his ancient bartering ways - entropy can only increase, not decrease - but it would be interesting if bada babu got paid a cow for his services and chota babu a goat - goodbye inflation and economic depression. Lacking the skills, the babus would find it rather difficult to carry home and milk their salaries. Not that we would need the babus once the complex machinery of modern economy was exterminated.

However, since this is not possible, let us learn to live with the modern economy and its abstractions as it is by saying, as a prayer one hundred Hail Andersens and one hundred Hail Lehmanns.