Ah, the Sweet Smell of Validation

Two years ago, when wondering why there are so few small cars in China, I hypothesized:

Chinese banks are not particularly customer focused, and are reluctant to give car loans to anybody whose income level is not high enough to make a midsize car affordable. Chinese banks would have little or no experience with consumer finance, and without competition from foreign banks, they would have no incentive to create consumer finance products either. That makes life difficult for anybody who wants to upgrade from a motorcycle to a small car.

And this year, Andy Mukherjee writes:

The problem of financial underdevelopment isn’t restricted to home loans. Since credit checks are perfunctory, cards come with low spending limits and have lukewarm acceptance. Auto finance is still in its infancy. A survey conducted in April last year by consulting firm KPMG LLP and Taylor Nelson Sofres Plc, a market researcher, showed that while 25 percent of car buyers in China had access to finance, few actually opted for it.

A warm fuzzy feeling pervades. This still doesn’t prove that the lack of small cars in Qingdao is because there are no auto finance companies there, but it strengthens my hypothesis. Such joy. Such joy.

Political Incorrectness Gone Wild

Apparently, Bombay colleges are appealing to their students to refrain from making ethnic jokes, what with the inflamed situation:

Several colleges — probably the city’s most multicultural hubs — have informally cautioned students to go easy on community remarks, which would otherwise mean nothing more than harmless jokes and jibes. 

“The students are very young and have no malice. Since we have a huge mix of students, it is important to be careful,” said MB Madlani, principal of Raheja College, Santacruz. “Teachers have informally talked about the issue and our students have responded maturely.” 

(Hindustan Times)

This is all well and good. Especially because this appears to be a sensible discussion of risks rather than a blanket ban, which is quite surprising for Indian education. But what to make of this quote?

Sociologist Nandini Sardesai said the caution is demographically defined. “Colleges in areas like Parel, Shivaji Park and Dadar should be more cautious. India, including Mumbai, has a tendency to be communal at every level, be it religious or regional.”

I am enraged. How dare this so-called sociologist draw these invidious distinctions between the various regions of Mumbai? Where does this Colaba-prancing, Marine Drive-promenading, Cathedral-types socialite get off claiming that Goregaon types1 are more prone to violence than she is? This is regionalism of the worst sort. Someone should advise her to avoid unnecessary remarks.

1:For the benefit of new readers, IIM-B racism splits Maharashtrians into Cathedral Types (those who live in Bombay south of Mumbai Central), and Goregaon types (everyone else).

How Not to Design an Airport

Ramesh Ramanathan is fuming about Bangalore’s new airport being underdesigned and underconnected (via Ajay Shah’s excellent roundup on infrastructure). As is happening far too often these days, Skimpy beat me to blogging about the main topic. However, that just gives me more stuff to discuss. In fact, I’ll make the whole post an outsider-layperson-dummy’s guide to the Bangalore airport, infrastructure design, infrastructure financing, and maybe even special check-in counters. So. Yeah. Let’s do this shit. In Q&A.

Continue reading “How Not to Design an Airport”

Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice

Amit has blogged about the Saudi Arabian ban on red roses here:

The decision has been taken by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which sounds like something right out of Kafka.

There’s also a CNN story on this, which contains these priceless quotes:

Ahmed Al-Omran, a university student in Riyadh, told CNN that the government decision will give the international media another reason to make fun of the Saudis “but I think that we got used to that by now.”

Because of the ban on red roses, a black market has flowered ahead of Valentine’s Day. Roses that normally go for five Saudi riyal ($1.30) fetch up to 30 riyal ($8) on February 14, the Saudi Gazette said.

“Sometimes we deliver the bouquets in the middle of the night or early morning, to avoid suspicion,” one florist told the paper.

Anyway. As evil organisations which nevertheless have really cool names go, the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (according to Wikipedia, a more accurate translation is Committee for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) is right up there on both counts, scoring high on both evil activities and cool names.

Kodhi and me have concluded that the reason the name is so cool is that it contains not only the base objective (i.e., Promotion of Virtue) but also the negation of the opposite (i.e., Prevention of Vice). You could similarly make a fixed deposit sound cool by calling it an Instrument for the Encouragement of Savings and Discouragement of Consumption; or mobile phone silent mode sound cool by calling it the Mode for Preservation of Sanity and Reduction of Stress. We have also decided that our sitcom must contain either an organisation named on this principle, or constant Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice references.

The MPVPV also scores high on the being evil front. In addition to banning all things red, it has also banned cats and dogs, as pets are a Western influence and thus nothing to do with Islam:

“One bad habit spreading among our youths is the acquisition of dogs and showing them off in the streets and malls,” wrote Aleetha al-Jihani in a letter to Al-Madina newspaper. “There’s no doubt that such a matter makes one shudder.”

“Then what’s the point of dragging a dog behind you?” he added. “This is blind emulation of the infidels.”

It also beats up Catholic priests, junta who put daaru, and women found talking to men.

However, it’s greatest hit ever was in 2004, when it stopped firefighters from pulling girls out of a burning school building because – wait for this – they were not in burkhas and pulling them out would have incited lust in the firefighters. 14 girls died. The ‘BBC’ says:

According to the al-Eqtisadiah daily, firemen confronted police after they tried to keep the girls inside because they were not wearing the headscarves and abayas (black robes) required by the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islam.

One witness said he saw three policemen “beating young girls to prevent them from leaving the school because they were not wearing the abaya”.

The Saudi Gazette quoted witnesses as saying that the police – known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice – had stopped men who tried to help the girls and warned “it is a sinful to approach them”.

Depressing as it is that in India we have to deal with nutjobs like the Hindu Makkal Katchi and Syed Imam Bukahri, we can at least take solace in the fact that we don’t have a Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Holding Saudi Arabia as a benchmark is slightly unambitious, but it’s a start.

Linkbunch Are Strong!

I’ve been looking for a Firefox extension that let’s me bookmark a collection of links into one bundle, which I can then open any time later – like a session manager which saves multiple sessions instead of just the latest one. This is useful for when you’re planning to blog about something which links to lots of pages, but the blogging can’t be done in one go.

Udupendra recommended LinkWad, which was horribly unusable, and added an unwanted toolbar to Firefox.

But last night I discovered Linkbunch (from aalaap’s twitter, which I reached via Volupturo’s twitter). It’s still in beta, so it doesn’t have all the features which would make it truly awesome, but it’s already pretty damn cool. What it does, is create a single web page with a short URL that contains a bunch of links. You can install a Firefox extension which lets you add all your current open tabs to this page. Sweet! Two clicks, and the collection of links you’ve got open is filed away for retrieval on any net-connected PC.

Stuff I’d like to see as features are added:

  • The extension sitting in the status bar instead of the menu bar, or a keyboard shortcut – it’d make bookmarking easier.
  • A faster way to find the linkbunches you’ve created – right now I’m saving them in Google Notebook, which makes things cumbersome. How about a meta-linkbunch that links to all your linkbunches?
  • del.icio.us style social linkbunching.

H5N1 and Raj Thackeray

This has all the makings of another headless-chicken-gate:

Without naming Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), the Shiv Sena on Friday made a scathing attack, calling them “bird flu affected poultry, that has no market value”.

Referring to the recent trouble in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra by MNS, the editorial in ‘Samana’, the Sena mouthpiece said, “in an attempt to project as crusaders of Mumbai, these boys behaved in a manner that is nothing but a desperate attempt to get free publicity”.

(link)

Also, the Shiv Sena as the voice of (relative) reason? Who would have thought the day would come?

Harbhajan Under the Hindi Jackboot

Nobody has noticed the most sinister aspect of the whole Harbhajan-Symonds-Monkey-Maa Ki controversy.

Why would Harbhajan say ‘तेरी मां की’ (terii maa kii) at all? As a true son of Punjab, manly and virile, he should have said ‘ਤੇਰੀ ਮਾਂ ਦੀ!’ (terii maa dii).

I can only conclude that in the Indian cricket team too, the jackboot of Hindi imperialism has come crushing down on regional languages, so that now poor Bhajji is no longer allowed to even swear in his mother tongue.

Punjab, my Punjab! How long will we endure the oppression of the Allahbadis? The time has come to throw off their yoke.