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The annual renaming of this blog has taken place. Sleisha Cuppax Fundaes (w)Only is now the easily-acronymised Givvup Only Are There. Also, the tagline has been changed to “Country are the new pseud.”

The next post will be another annual ritual (at least, I plan to make it an annual ritual): the next year in preview.

Lebensraum

My flatmate has moved out and I now have the entire flat to myself. This means that I now have an empty bedroom to play with. What exactly to do with this is an interesting problem. A number of alternatives have emerged:

  1. My father has suggested supplementing my salary by going into the flesh love hotel trade, and renting the spare room out by the hour to young and amorous couples. This would incur investment on a new bed, and some manner of decoration, but would eventually pay for itself.
    The question is how long the payback period would actually be. When I was in Shanghai in spring 2006, my utter lack of Mandarin meant I ended up checking in at the Motel 186 on Zhoujiazui Road instead of the one on Dalian Road. The Zhoujiazui Road Motel 186 was very much in the love hotel category. The biggest customer segment was university students who would take a room for an afternoon.
    The problem is that university students pinch their pennies. So two or three couples would take a single room. If Bangalore customers are as bottom-of-pyramid as Shanghai customers, the internal rate of return would be far too low. Better to put the money into a fixed deposit instead of buying the bed.
  2. More practically, I could just shift furniture so that one room becomes a bedroom and the other becomes a study. This sounds good, but it would make carrying the laptop to bed more difficult. Right now all I have to do is remove the USB cables for the printer, the hard disk, and the mouse, and pull it two feet to the bed. So this must be considered carefully.
  3. I could convert it into a storeroom, except that I don’t have anything to store.
  4. Religion. Old time religion. Construct an altar in the empty room in which I can sacrifice small furry animals and infants. I would have to give my maid a salary hike to deal with the extra mess, though.
  5. Or, I could go with the nuclear option. If I sell all my mutual funds, and take on an insane level of debt through personal loans, I could generate enough cash to fill the room with playpen balls.

Word Power Made Easy

Junta like Jabberwock and Hurree Babu have cornered the market on reviewing good books. It’s futile to compete on their terms. No, I shall instead target an untapped niche – one I have already established some expertise in, what with abusing Ravi Subramanian and Chetan Bhagat – and review bad books. And the particular bad book we shall focus on today is that thing called LOVE (yes, that is how the capital letters are used in the title) by Tuhin Sinha.

There isn’t any one thing wrong with ttlC. It’s more of a museum of all the different forms of bad writing. Almost every rule of good writing is violated, but rarely to excess. The one rule which is violated to excess is: Thou Shalt Not Use Big Words, Unless Thou Art PG Wodehouse and Canst Pull It Off.

One Night @ The Call Center was like a steaming pile of manure. If God Was a Banker was like an 80s movie, but with lecherous and evil bankers instead of lecherous and evil generic industrialists. Tarbela Damned, Pakistan Tamed was like a collection of Indian National Interest blogposts converted to fiction by throwing in sex, paan and Irish whiskey. that thing called LOVE, however, is like the Barron’s GRE Word List with stupid people. The back-cover blurb itself says it all:

Mayank thus lives in disillusionment, aspiring, with diminishing hope, to fall in love with Utopian earnestness and with his ‘perfect woman’. … That Mayank’s relationship with Revathi unfolds during the course of one Mumbai monsoon, the first that an anticipating Mayank, experiences of the city, only makes this Utopia an even more surreal experience. Will Mayank’s romance ever strike a balance between Chimera and Actuality?

but there are equally unmitigated bits in the book itself:

There was universal talk that marriages were not holding. India was passing through a phase of massive changes in all spheres and there was no way it could have possibly remained immune to western societal influences. The urban Indian populace had begun to show the same symptoms of dysfunction that was once the domain of the prurient west.

and

Mayank … almost instantly thought that there could be either love or longing in a married woman’s life. If there were both, it reeked of a fluid situation in one’s marriage.

and

The Ganapati festivities, being innately imbued in the culture of the city; the residents, irrespective of the different regions of their origin, celebrated the festival with rare, infectious bonhomie.

And this just scratches the surface. The only other thing that manages to come close to the obsession with vocabulary is the obsession with brand placement. So characters never have coffee, they have Costa Rica Tarrazu at Mocha. They go out for dinner at Pop Tates1 and Tendulkars, and make sure that the ‘funkier of their apparels belong to accepted, up market brands like Provogue and Tuscan Verve’. On average, there’s one brand name dropped every chapter.

Also, all the characters are idiots. They do things like buy Pomeranians because they feel lonely2. There are onlookers who do nothing but watch people pray for an hour. And all the characters have a touching faith in some form of astrology or the other.

But even after this, it’s impossible to hate the book. Even when Tuhin Sinha abuses Punjews and Goregaon types for not speaking correct Hindi3. Or when he keeps quoting ghazals4. Hate is aroused only by the condescending attitude Chetan Bhagat takes towards his readers in One Night @ The Call Center. Tuhin Sinha takes the whole thing so seriously, that at worst you’ll end up mocking the book, doubled over in helpless laughter (which is what the girlfriend and me did when we read it, much to the consternation of the Barista staff).

If you don’t want to make the effort of actually buying the book, Tuhin Sinha’s website provides equally excellent opportunities for unintended humour, especially the About the Author and Author Speak sections. Still, I recommend buying the book, because, let’s face it, no other book will give you as many big words for only a hundred rupees.

1: To be fair, the Chicken Africano at Pop Tate’s are hajaar strong.
2: And this isn’t even a Gujew character.
3: Because we all know that only UP-Hindi is authentic. Pah!
4: The ghazal is the most despicable form of literature known to man. Along with the destruction of North Indian temples and the introduction of the purdah system, the introduction of the ghazal is one of the major wounds inflicted upon Indian culture by Moslem invasions.

Nationalising Rivers

This is brilliant… not:

With several hydro-power projects stuck due to disputes among states over water-sharing and related issues, the Ministry for Water Resources plans to bring some rivers under Central ambit by identifying them as “national rivers” to tap their potential for hydro-power and irrigation.

Speaking to The Indian Express today, Union Minister for Water Resources Saifuddin Soz said: “The country has failed to properly harness the hydro-power and irrigation potential of several rivers due to inter-state disputes. Even conservation of rivers has fallen victim to ownership. For better conservation, better utilisation of irrigation and hydro-power potential and to maintain better flow across states, I plan to get some rivers adopted as national rivers.”

(Indian Express)

Oh joy. So the solution to a tragedy-of-the-commons problem is… to enforce the commons status of the resource in question through the force of law. And instead of removing the scope for disputes, to give the Central government the power to resolve disputes, stakeholders be damned.

Hey, I have an idea! Why don’t we try this for telecom spectrum? Oh, wait…

Infy Public School

Raiders Lost the Arc, the idiotically titled and idiotically written Outlook cover story on how IT is ruining Bangalore, has been debunked and fisked enough elsewhere on the blogosphere (Churumuri rebuts CNR Rao hereNitin points out what the Outlook story missed here). Sugata Srinivasraju doesn’t ever blame IT junta for ruining infrastructure himself, but he conveniently forgets that infrastructure is the government’s responsibility, not the IT industry’s. When developers try to make infrastructure their own responsibility, as in the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor, the government has gone after them with a hatchet.

However, it’s undeniable that there is an influx of immigrants into Bangalore (me included), and that this is leading to new cultural forms (which still does not translate to a destruction of the old culture and values of the city).  But there’s something interesting about this wave of migration.

Uptil now, whenever there’s been internal migration in India, the migrants have alsways carried their culture along with them and ghettoised themselves. So Gujrati Jains and Marwaris used to set up their own schools and colleges wherever they went. Mumbai has DG Ruparel College and lots of other Gujew colleges (which are mocked regularly in JAM), and even more Gujrati dominated schools. Even Bangalore has a Gujrati medium school near City Market. Other communities don’t migrate as prodigiously as the Gujratis and Marwaris, but they still cluster. So you have Bongs coalescing in Chittaranjan Park in Delhi, Punjews sending their kids to DAV schools all across UP, and Tams setting up Sangam associations in Delhi and Mumbai. And this is before they extend the ghettoization by marrying somebody from the homelands.

But the IT migration to Bangalore (and Pune and other hotspots) is different. The migrants are united by profession, not by community. And while within the overall migrant community they’ll still form sub-clusters based on language and community affiliations, the ghettoisation is not as extreme as it was when Marwari traders flocked to Chikpet and created their own temples and schools there.

So what I’m eagerly waiting to see is what happens when the IT professionals’ kids go to school – and where they go to school. If migrants’ kids and ‘old-Bangaloreans” kids grow up together, the clash of cultures is probably not going to be as acute.

This could of course go all pear shaped if:

  1. New schools don’t come up fast enough to cater to the Bengalooru baby boomlet – this worries me the most.
  2. New schools which do come up price themselves out of reach of the old middle class. Even so, if they do, they’ll price themselves out of reach of a substantial number of IT workers as well, so cultural intermingling would still happen, just in old, cheap schools instead of new, expensive ones. I somewhat doubt this will happen. This is India. People will find the money to educate their kids.
  3. Cultural factors mean schools end up as IT/ non-IT kids ghettos also. I greatly doubt this will happen. Schools compete for students, just as students compete for schools. If the kid is smart, the school isn’t going to care about the parents (at least at the post Class-10 level). And if the school is really good, the parents aren’t going to care much about who the other parents are.

How this plays out is going to be interesting.

Carless in Kodihalli

Manipal Motors doesn’t have a free slot for Palio servicing until December 20. Bah. Rocinante hasn’t been running properly since the middle of November, and I’m now into my fourth week of taking autos to work (and everywhere else for that matter).

This comes with the following disadvantages:

  1. Before 0830, autos refuse to go to MG Road because they don’t get fares back. After 0830, autos refuse to go to MG Road because the traffic is too heavy and they waste time.
  2. Autos are not fun at the best of times. Being stuck in Bangalore traffic for forty minutes in a vibrating and noisy auto while inhaling fumes from traffic all around you is even worse.
  3. I can no longer listen to RJ Malavika in the mornings. I suspect this is making it more difficult for me to face the trials and tribulations of work.
  4. Without a car, I can no longer go to the gym in the early morning. Work prevents me from going to the gym afterwards. Lack of gymming causes huge guilt while passing Nike/ Reebok/ Adidas outlets (and there’s one of each on 100 ft. Road). No gymming also means no outlet for work-induced stress.

In summary, not having a car means I face additional stress in the form of auto-rides, and that I no longer have outlets for stress (gym and Radio Indigo). And this will go on until 2008.

Death are there.

Bharatnatyam

I realise that the cost of doing one particular thing is that you can’t do another thing. And honestly, I loved computer symposiums and quizzing, and would regret never having done them in favour of something else. But I really wish I had learnt Bharatnatyam at some point in life.

This is not because of any newfound love of dance. It’s more because while I was researching fundaes for last month’s quiz, I realised that Bharatnatyam is not so much a dance form as a language which uses gestures, facial expressions, and body movements as its basic units. Compare this with Sanskrit, where the basic unit is a sound (or phoneme); Mandarin, where the basic unit is a character (or lexeme), and English, where there are really no atomic units – meaning is concentrated at the level of the word or even phrase thanks to English borrowing from other languages so relentlessly.

And right now I find that so totally cool. The whole idea that I can communicate a message without having to rely on words (spoken or written) is mindblowing. It’s a conceptual leap similar to understanding – grokking really – how for loops or function calls work for the first time.

Of course, the problem is that even if someone had pitched Bharatnatyam to me as a language instead of a dance back in school, I probably wouldn’t have been all that enthused. My fascination with languages didn’t really get ignited until after probably first or second year in college, where I learnt the joy of C++ and object oriented programming.

This is kind of tragic, considering learning Bharatnatyam is a tough ask now. It’s a three year commitment at least, and I have no idea if I’ll even be in the same city six months from now. As for other languages, my Mandarin lessons have been on hiatus for the past two months thanks to preoccupation with work and quizzes.

Sigh. Such are the things I miss out on.

Subverting Propaganda

Filthy undergrads (and even filthier schoolchildren) cannot recall a time before cable television. They do not recall a time when television consisted of Doordarshan only. When commercials came before programming, not between it. When news was not sensational. When there was only one channel. And when that channel was a mouthpiece for the Congress (I).

And yet, Doordarshan being a propaganda outlet could not prevent some brave filmmakers from striking a blow for liberty and inserting subtle yet trenchant criticism of the ruling dynasty into their work. The most famous of these – yet utterly unappreciated as pro-freedom, anti-Nehruvianism work – is the animated short film ‘एक चिडिया अनेक चिडिया’, which brilliantly wove anti-Congress messages into a propaganda film commissioned by the ruling Nehru dynasty.

When you see this film for the first time, it comes across as a typical piece of propaganda – designed to impose the values of the ruling Allahbadi elites upon the rest of the country in the guise of ‘national integration’. However, when you examine it closer, you discover that the whole short is a brutal attack on Indira Gandhi. I shall now explain this below.

The first thing that points us to the anti-Indira message of the short film is the UP accented Hindi of the voice actors. It is clearly a parallel to the forty-five year long domination of national politics by a small group of UP Brahmins.

This established, it becomes clear that the ‘Didi’ introduced at the very beginning of the film is Indira Gandhi. The choice of symbols is startling – presenting Indira Gandhi as a Big Sister is a parallel to Orwell’s Big Brother, who presided over an equally totalitarian state.

After this, the parallels fall into place. At 2:30, we see the Big Sister figure telling a story about a hunter trying to capture birds. With this segment, Vijaya Mule invokes Indira Gandhi’s insane invocations of the ‘foreign hand’. The mice depicted at the end of the story are a metaphor for the Soviet military assistance provided to Nehru-dynasty India – poor, badly designed hardware, only capable of irritating superior American ordnance, but still good enough to win the 1971 war.

The most powerful indictment of the Indira regime, however, comes in the last segment of the film, beginning at 04:52. We see how the children led by the Big Sister plot to steal mangoes from somebody’s private property. This is an analogy to how Indira Gandhi led the Congress to nationalize banks in 1969, and use the spoils to reward party functionaries with cheap and easy credit. Tellingly, we see that there are no Sikhs receiving mangoes. Even more tellingly, we see that while it is the younger brother who gathers the mangoes, it is the Big Sister who distributes them – and that there is no audit or control to measure who receives how much – referring to the culture of corruption established by Indira Gandhi, which allowed her to grab the vast majority of bribes and extortion.

It is difficult enough to spread an anti-dynasty message on state-owned television. Doing this in the guise of state propaganda is even more remarkable. Vijaya Mule and her team need to be applauded.

A Little Dickens

Quote of the (last) Month:

Libertarians are not beyond hope (and some are even cute), but they need to be Re-Educated.
I’d start with some Dickens novels, personally.

(seen on Facebook)

We Pompous Libertarians (TM) often believe that (welfare) statists are out of touch with reality.

When they go on to attack libertarianism as twenty-first century public policy, on the basis of nineteenth-century fiction, they do nothing to alter this belief.

Further detachment from reality is shown in the claim that some libertarians are cute. Actually, all libertarians are cute. Of course, the cutest libertarian of us all is Rahul Raguram.