The Theory – Practice Gap

March 31, 2007

This is an example of why libertarians get thulped for being impractical:

If betting was legal, and as a punter you could choose from a) an HDFC subsidiary offering betting facilities, b) a Taj Group company and c) some shady outlet like the ones you can choose from now, you’d obviously choose one of the more legit ones. Being public companies, and part of bigger brands, they would be far less prone to fix matches. That would reduce bookie-led match-fixing.

It will work, in theory. Also, in theory, banks and NBFCs will drive loansharks out of business. The problem is that theory requires that there are no barriers to customers. Real life will have barriers in plenty.

Let’s look at the real real world first. Suppose we do get an enlightened government which legalises betting. Even so, the Income Tax Department and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act are going to play spoilsport. The IT Department is going to monitor all transactions made with legitimate bookies. Punters will be required to submit their PAN details with every bet they make.

This is not an issue for a software sarariman who is going to put a thousand rupees down. But if you’re a big-time punter betting ten megarupees of black money then a legitimate bookie is out of bounds for you. The big money will continue to be placed with underworld bookies, and because it’s big money, the underworld will continue to fix matches.

This is where my own inner libertarian pops up and says, bah, get rid of the regulation and the problem is solved. Money being laundered is actually a good thing as it will then find its way into legitimate uses.

Unfortunately, even in an idealised real world with no regulation or monitoring, there will still be barriers to customers, especially if the bookmaker is an HDFC subsidiary that is accountable to shareholders and can’t take too many chances. Just as HDFC won’t give anybody a loan beyond a certain limit, HDFC’s bookmaking subsidiary won’t allow anybody to place a bet beyond a certain limit. The bigtime punters will still be excluded, not by regulation but by the bookmakers’ own risk appetite. And so the biggest bets will still remain underground, and the incentive for the mafia to fix matches will still remain.

Two points before I end this post:

  1. Even so, betting should still be legalised, if only for the benefit of the small ticket punters who’re betting a day’s worth of salary. And once legit bookies are successful enough with small time punters, they’ll be able to create risk management systems robust enough to deal with the big betters.
  2. I’m sure Skimpy will respond to this by saying something to the effect that hedge funds will have enough risk appetite to serve big punters and so I’m worrying needlessly. I actually hope he does.

Finally Cricket is Entertaining

March 19, 2007

At the peremptory request and desire of Spunky that I take more photographs of desserts, I went to IndiJoe this evening to eat and photograph a Chocolate Avalanche. IndiJoe had big screens up on every wall playing the India-Bermuda match, so I saw a cricket match after what must have been four or five years. And I have only one comment: why the faak hasn’t Bermuda been playing international cricket until now?

Let’s face it. All sports are boring, but cricket is especially so. It’s five entire days (one if you’re lucky) of people hitting a ball and chasing it. You have to ask yourself what the point of it all is. Why not just give the ball a rest? You’ll probably get more exercise with forty minutes of cardio at the gym, and the gym will have more cute women also.

But along comes Bermuda and suddenly cricket is entertaining. When the people running after the ball and fat roly-poly black men, cricket is no longer a Harold Pinter play with deathly boring pauses and silences but slapstick in the best traditions of Hong Kong kung fu movies. What this sport has always needed is blacker and fatter men and finally it has got it. Clearly the next thing on the agenda is to throw out all the white people and institute carb-heavy diets for everyone left.

Must Stop Head From Exploding

March 19, 2007

When it comes to choosing between brands, I have two rules:

  1. Never buy anything made by an Indian state-owned enterprise (on a global scale, I make exceptions for Tsingtao and Absolut)
  2. Always buy anything endorsed by Preity Zinta

So when Preity Zinta starts plugging for BSNL, you can understand my dilemma [video link here]. Clearly, one rule or the other will have to be violated to resolve this dilemma and preserve my sanity. And considering I am a diehard Airtel loyalist, it will have to be Rule 2.

So Preity is out. I shall probably replace her with Vidya Balan, even if certain philistines think she doesn’t have enough facial expressions. To which I respond: the ones she does have are so nice. Is this chap looking for quantity or quality?

Pissing Off Everybody

March 18, 2007

Human Rights Watch has a report out which says that discrimination against Dalits is equivalent to apartheid. This is patently stupid, since apartheid was institutionalised by the South African state, whereas at least legally, the Indian state is constitutionally bound to discriminate for Dalits. (The fact that is fucks the implementation up is a separate matter altogether.) Anyway, I foresee a lot of people getting offended by this, especially the Hindutva types. But check out what HRW wrote in the press release:

“International scrutiny is growing and with it the condemnation of abuses resulting from the caste system and the government’s failure to protect Dalits,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “India needs to mobilize the entire government and make good on its paper commitments to end caste abuses. Otherwise, it risks pariah status for its homegrown brand of apartheid.” (emphasis mine)

This is fucking hilarious, in the context of this:

Though our Acts prohibits the derogatory usage of the words such as `pariah’, the people in media still continues to use it in a casual manner. They must learn some lessons from countries like America where the Blacks were called once as `nigger’. Now they use `African Americans’ to identify Black people. This kind of insensitivity should not be tolerated. I request everybody to share my pain and come forward to feel like a `pariah’.

This rocks. HRW will piss off both the Hindutva loonies and the Dalit loonies. If the Dalit Panthers attack HRW for being politically incorrect and insulting Dalit sentiments I will weep tears of delight.

HRW is not the only organisation which manages to piss off two usually antagonistic sets of people. Camlin does it too. Charu Kesi is outraged that their permanent marker ad glorifies regressive behaviour:

Yes, really permanent. Widowhood, breaking of bangles, erasing of sindoor… the works. In the last scene, the poor man comes back to life, else what would have been the next shot in the ad, I wonder – sati? Even “worse”, what if the poor man does not come back to life, and the bindi does not got erased? What a blow to Indian culture that would have been…

but the Rational Fool thinks that it mocks orthodox Hindus:

I wonder if the lawyer from Indore, who recently sued the former Indian cricketer Ravi Sastri for hurting the sentiments of the Hindu faithfuls by extolling the virtues of eating biltong, had noticed the Camlin ad!

This rocks too. I have visions of angry feminists attacking the Camlin HQ from the front side and RSS workers attacking from the back side, charging their way through cubicle space until they eventually read the CEO’s cabin and pulverize him between the two of them. It will be like Unhygenix and Fulliautomatix setting aside their differences when it comes to the big punch-up in the last few pages of an Asterix book.

Of course, when it comes to pissing off people who are usually at odds, the Chinese were way ahead in the game.

Size Does Matter

March 17, 2007

To my great delight, I discovered today that Fresh and Fresh on 100 Ft. Road stocks not only Kabuli pomegranates but also North Indian carrots. The carrot season will end in a couple of weeks, so this was a particularly nick-of-time discovery. The past three months I’ve been unable to find North Indian carrots anywhere in Bangalore- supermarket or traditional.

The question is not about the taste of the carrot (though the Fresh and Fresh attendant claimed that North Indian carrots are better for making both gajrela and sambhar), but of shape.

South Indian carrots are too short. You can chop them up and cook them with beans, and they taste great, but they just can’t live up to the expectations I have from carrots. I grew up in Delhi. The pleasure of washing a carrot, and chewing it raw in the winter sun is not to be understated. And this is where the long, thin, and tapering shape of North Indian carrots comes in useful. The short and squat South Indian varieties are over in two bites.

For more insights into the significance of the size and shape of carrots, read this post by theothernilu, and this xkcd strip.

And You Thought He Made This Stuff Up

March 16, 2007

Terry Pratchett:

Some people say that writing dwarf songs is not hard to do, as long as you can remember how to spell “Gold,” but this is a little bit cynical. Many dwarf songs* are on the lines of “Gold, gold, gold” but it’s all in the inflection–dwarfs have thousands of words for gold, but will use any of them in an emergency, such as when they see some gold that doesn’t belong to them.

*All right–all dwarf songs. Except for the one about Hiho.


What I really want to know: why is it that every single Chinese New Year song is about money? I just heard one that went “qian ah qian ah qian ah qian ah qian ah qian ah qian” (translated: “money, money, money, money, money, money, money ah..”, set to a tune)… for thirty minutes.

My New NGO

March 16, 2007

I am starting an NGO called the Kansa Society. Its aim is to promote the slaughter of irritating kids. I will be the Chairman Emeritus and Kodhi will be the President. But Jabberwock and Nilu are welcome to join.

Where Dowry Comes From

March 15, 2007

Over at this post by Skimpy, there’s a discussion in the comment threads going on about where dowry comes from. In the post itself, Skimpy makes this point:

then a friend told me that in Gultland dowry is mostly in kind (land, gold, etc) and they’re all in the bride’s name. so if her husband ditches her, he won’t have any of the dowry money, so he won’t ditch her arbitly! gults are smarter than i thought they are (good performance in entrance exams (which gults are extremely adept at) doesn’t necessarily mean one is smart).

This ties in with what Ravikiran wrote over email:

BTW, the simple analysis of this is to treat a dowry as an inheritance. In a society where inherited wealth is important, it is more difficult to defy your parents, not less. Your error is to treat the woman as the losing party in this transaction. It might look so now, but when she gets integrated into her husband’s family, she is also the beneficiary of the dowry her parents have given her husband.

But in the comments on Skimpy’s post, A Rod disagrees and says that dowry is the price of social status:

When a marriage is arranged what the women and their families look for is just 1 thing: social status. In order to buy the highest possible social status they pay as much as they can afford. It’s cause its a pure business transaction that dowry comes in as the price of social status.
That is why you will find a direct correlation between dowry and perceived social status but no direct correlation between dowry and cost of maintaining the wife.

And finally, Gaurav writes in and says:

In Maharashtra for instance, dowry is amost completely non-existent among middle class and upper middle class Brahmin families. But it used to exist 2 generations back. The ‘streedhan’ tradition existed even then, and ‘hunda’, i.e the marathi word for dowry was interchangeable with it.
Now in Maharashtra, dowry cases are restricted to the poorer families, if at all. Dowry, when it is rarely taken, is taken by families which are in debt, or facing some sort of financial hardship, and they treat that money as a bailout. There were cases of dowry and bride-burning in the 70s and 80s on which books have been written or movies and even tv shows made, and in all these cases, it was shown, realistically enough, that the dpwry was used by a middle class family to get a higher status of living, like a new flat, or a scooter, or something.
Today with the boom touching the middle class, dowry is not such an important source of liquidity, since the husband himself earns enough to buy these things.

All very fascinating stuff, and which will lead into my next post on why and when dowry is a good thing.

Request For Help

March 11, 2007

Back in December (to be specific, the last weekend of the Blossom’s book sale) there was this group that had set up sheets outside Mota Arcade on Brigade Road and were inviting people to express their thoughts by painting or writing on the sheets. They were also handing out bookmarks that talked about the lack of public spaces in Bangalore for artistic expression. The bookmark had the URL of their blog, but I’ve lost both the URL and the bookmark.

Does anybody know who these guys are, or what the blog address is? Please help. In the immortal words of Sushil Manohar Dogra, I will be very grateful for this act of kindness.

I’m Back

March 11, 2007

Did you miss me?

If you did, apologies. I’ve been horribly busy at work the past three weeks what with risk audits and pending files and whatnot and in mild depression about the Cartel breaking up. Things seem to be under control and blogging should resume this week, with the dowry series being wrapped up by Friday.

If you didn’t, bah, balls to you.