India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Step into the new India Uncut

(Update [March 3]: I am now providing full RSS feeds on all the sections of the new site, as well as a combined one across the site. More details here. In brief, the feed for the India Uncut Blog is (Bloglines users, click here.) And the combined feed for the site is (Bloglines.)

After much delay, let me finally invite you to the new India Uncut!

I first discussed the blueprint of this site with MadMan, who has designed and programmed it, in March last year. Immense procrastination ensued, largely on my part, but we finally got round to working on it a couple of months ago. A brief introduction to each of its sections follows below, taken from my detailed note on how this site came to be and what it contains, "About India Uncut."

1] The India Uncut Blog: This will be, for all practical purposes, a continuation of the original India Uncut, with fewer links posts, and more comment and personal blogging. I continue to be its sole author.

2] Linkastic: This is a filter blog, whose purpose is to save you time by bringing you some of the most interesting stuff to read on the internet, across a range of categories. The idea: if you come here three times every day, you will find many new things to read every time. If even one of them interests you, your visit is worthwhile.

This will be a group blog, and besides myself, its contributors are Gautam, MadMan, Prabhu and Sanjeev Naik. I intend to expand the list to around eight to ten people. (Update [March 3]: Yazad Jal, Patrix, Ravages, Arzan Sam Wadia and Gaurav Mishra have also joined.)

3] Rave Out: In this blog, the contributors write short, succinct pieces on books or films or albums, focussing only on what they love. Life is too short to write negative things about stuff we don’t like, and there’ll be none of that here. Only the most joyous, uplifting, enlightening, thought-provoking, sexy works of art will be written about here, purely for the pleasure of being able to share something one feels passionate about.

The contributors, besides me, are Arun Simha, Chandrahas Choudhury, Falstaff, Jai Arjun Singh, KM, Nilanjana S Roy, PrufrockTwo and Sonia Faleiro. This list will also expand a bit. (Update (March 3): Amitava Kumar has joined up.)

4] Workoutable: Quizzing is one of my passions, though I’m not particularly good at it. I believe, as do many many fellow quizzers on at least the Mumbai and Pune circuits, that a good quiz question isn’t just about knowledge, but about problem-solving. Even if you don’t know the answer to a particular question, you should have a chance of working it out from clues given in the question. Every day we shall feature a question of that sort in this section. Its contributors include many stalwarts from the Mumbai and Pune quizzing circuits, and once a group of regulars firms up, I shall post the names here.

5] Extrowords: I enjoy making crosswords, and will be doing daily crosswords—barring Sundays—in this section. They will be themed crosswords, with themed words highlighted in each puzzle, and will be generally easy to solve. You need Java for this section, and if you don’t already have it on your computer, you can download it here. The first installment of Extrowords is themed around Indian bloggers, so go solve it!

Phew. The Blogspot version of India Uncut had a hard-to-achieve Pagerank of 7, which will no doubt take some time to reach on the new site. Also, I have no idea how this will impact my top position on the Blogstreet charts. But I'm excited, and I hope you like this development. If you're reading this on your RSS feed, please do visit the new site and check it out. Do add me to your blogroll or update the existing link -- I need to prepare a blogroll for my site as well, which is one of the pendings tasks I have. This site will be in Beta for a while, and we'll still be adding stuff to it.

Feel free to write in with your feedback, immense joy will come!
amit varma, 9:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Reason vs Rationalisation

A shorter version of this piece was published today as the second installment of my column, Thinking it Through, in Mint. The first is here.

Often when I argue with friends, or on the internet, I am dismayed by how intransigent some people are. No matter how many facts I throw before them, or how solid my reasoning is, I simply cannot convince them of my point of view. No doubt they feel the same about me. "He refuses to listen to reason," they think, even as I bemoan how unreasonable they are.

This is not a phenomenon peculiar to me: we live in deeply polarised times, and around half the world believes that the other half ignores reason altogether. Well, it is my belief that we overestimate reason to begin with. The Scottish Philosopher David Hume once described reason as “the slave of the passions,” and I believe that much of the time when we feel we are being reasonable, we are actually rationalising conclusions we have already arrived at, positions that we already hold.

An excellent illustration of how our mind does this comes from neuroscience. In the 1960s, neuroscientists Michael Gazzaniga and Roger Sperry carried out a series of experiments on patients with split-brain epilepsy. A common treatment for such patients used to be to sever the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. This effectively splits the brain into two: rational thought is carried out by the left hemisphere, but the two halves of the brain stop being aware of the happenings the other half.

Describing the experiments in his book, “The Blank Slate,” Steven Pinker wrote of how “the left hemisphere constantly weaves a coherent but false account of the behaviour chosen without its knowledge by the right.” One example: the experimenters would flash the word “walk” in the visual field of the right hemisphere. The patient would get up and start walking. But when asked why he did so, his left brain, which would be unaware of what the right brain had seen, and would effectively be doing the replying, gave answers such as “to get a coke.” The remarkable thing is that the patients actually believed their explanation, even though the conscious mind arrived at it after the unconscious mind prompted the body to start walking.

Pinker called the conscious mind “a spin doctor, not the commander in chief,” while Gazzaniga referred to the left brain as “the interpreter.” In his book, “Phantoms in the Brain,” VS Ramachandran wrote, “[t]he left hemisphere’s job is to create a belief system or model and to fold new experiences into that belief system. If confronted with some new information that doesn’t fit the model, it relies on Freudian defence mechanisms to deny, repress or confabulate – anything to preserve the status quo.”

In other words, the left brain’s job to to make sense of the world and build a coherent worldview. This isn’t easy. The world is full of complicated phenomena, and the most intelligent among us would not be able to make sense of it all if we tried to place each disparate event in its proper perspective. We would be perpetually bewildered.

To deal with this, our brains evolved to seek patterns in everything. Michael Shermer, in his book “How We believe,” wrote: “Those who were best at finding patterns (standing upwind of game animals is bad for the hunt, cow manure is good for the crops) left behind the most offspring.” Of course, while we are especially good at seeking patterns in everything, not all patterns are meaningful, and many simply come from confusing correlation with causation. Thus, a cricketer who makes a century when he happens to have a red handkerchief in his pocket may carry that handkerchief with him for the rest of his career.

Indeed, this explains religion. For much of our existence, science hasn’t been around (or able) to answer the big questions of the day. We’d have gone mad thinking about it all if we didn’t have religion to give us ready-made patterns that explained everything. Similarly, in the modern world, we have all kinds of belief systems that help make sense of the world around us, and provide us with cognitive shortcuts to think about the world.

When these belief systems are attacked, it is natural for us to not want to have to rethink them. As an economist would say, that would be inefficient, wasting too much time and energy. Thus, various kinds of defence mechanisms originate for this purpose, such as the confirmation bias, which is a tendency to consider only evidence that fits our existing beliefs. A believer in astrology would do this, for example, by considering all correct predictions by an astrologer to be proof of its validity, while ignoring the ones that turn out false.

And indeed, this is why most arguments, especially about politics and economics, are so frustrating. If both sides have firm beliefs, they stand little chance of convincing the other person, for most reasoned argument in such cases is rationalisation couched as reason. The next time you get into one of those arguments, and witness one of them, you will actually be able to observe this happening. The delight of it all is that the people involved will not be aware of this process, and will honestly believe themselves to be open-minded individuals who are, well, thinking it through. But that is mostly self-deception.
amit varma, 9:06 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Bajrang Dal in Bangkok?

Or so it would seem. Joy.

And to think that's where so many middle-aged, pot-bellied Indians go for some action. "Bangkok? Oh, there's a conference there, darling. You'll get bored."

(Link via email from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 11:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Coming to Climax?

No, I'm not making any untoward suggestion to you, dear reader, but merely proposing a geographical expedition. You see, there are eight cities in the US named Climax: in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Alabama and Pennsylvania also have Intercourse, and I wonder if the road to Climax leads through there.

Now you know why we have so many Indians applying for the H1B visa every year. Land of opportunity my foot!

(Link via email from Arjun Narayan, who blogs on it here.)
amit varma, 7:10 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Is it a horse or a bike?

Indian cinema never ceases to amaze me. Watch this:

Can they do that in Hollywood? Huh? Huh?

(Link via email from Naveen Mandava.)
amit varma, 11:26 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Part of the problem, part of the solution

Nanubhai Desai relates at the Indian Economy Blog how he went to a lunch meeting with a bunch of Indian MPs, and someone asked them:
To what extent is bad governance retarding growth and poverty reduction? And what specific steps do you think Parliament can take to change that over the coming years?
At this point Sachin Pilot asked for the mike and said:
We are part of the problem… and hopefully, we can be part of the solution.
Bang on about the diagnosis, but I'm not sure I share Pilot's optimism about the treatment. Even if a handful of politicians are sincere and want change, there is little chance of parliament coming together to reform a system from which they benefit. As long as their main incentives are money or power, Indian politicians will not reform our system of governance.

Or do you think that there is a chance that some of the younger politicians, who come from political families and were born to money and power, are driven differently? We shall see.
amit varma, 11:11 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

On new trends in writing

In an article in the Guardian titled "Subcontinental shift," Kathleen McCaul examines a new trend of Indian writers who are choosing to write while remaining in India, instead of going abroad. As far as I'm concerned, vocation matters more than location.

Having got that smartass copywriter line out of the way, let me point you to the most delightful headline ever: "Man in contention for romantic novel prize."

The horror!
amit varma, 3:45 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

On learning English

No power on earth can stop me from clicking furiously on headlines that say: "Learn to speak English in 10 days flat!" This particular story is about "Jacob Nettikkadan, a 68-year-old philologist," who claims to have perfected an especially fast way of teaching English. The gentleman is quoted as saying:
In 10 days, the learner gets 10 times more knowledge in the language because the method of constructing 1,877 types of sentences in English is through 1,877 usages of verb - one type of sentence based on one usage of verb.
Joy. If that's the kind of English they learn...
amit varma, 3:27 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A Valentine's Day story

I can't help but share this romantic tale with you:
Surendra (25) and Poonam (23) Gupta seemed like just another newly-wed couple going on their honeymoon when they boarded the train to Goa on February 5.

However, two days later, while Surendra, a product executive with a pharma company, was found in an unconscious state in Goa, Poonam was found in a similar condition at Kalyan station.

Now, a week after the incident, both are accusing the other of trickery.
Have a good day, and don't do anything silly!
amit varma, 3:21 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Good girls do what they are told"

What is most chilling about this story is that it happened repeatedly, across America, to people just like you and me. It show just how authority can exert such a powerful influence, and can suppress conscience and empathy.

That, of course, was quite what the famous Milgram experiment also demonstrated.
amit varma, 3:07 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Valentine's Day and Indian culture

The lines below are from a street-play I saw today, which was a parody of cultural protectionism. They were spoken by a character who was a member of the Bajrang Dal protesting Valentine's Day:
We will protest with all our might. We will do anything it takes to stop young couples in a behaviour that is against Indian culture.

Even exchanging cards at a young age is against Indian culture because it pollutes young minds.
Ok, ok, I lied. It wasn't from a parody: this is real.

How can you parody something that is so ridiculous to begin with?

Also, young people these days are more likely to exchange business cards than greeting cards. Pah.

(Link via email from Shrek.)
amit varma, 12:44 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Vote for me in the Indibloggies!

Great joy comes in informing you that India Uncut has been nominated for Best IndiBlog in this year's Indibloggies. I won this award last year, all thanks to the kindness of my readers, but the competition this time promises to be tougher.

If you feel India Uncut has given you a few moments of pleasure in the last year, and that it deserves this award, please feel free to vote for me. Immense hard work goes into giving you many things to read everyday, and I assure you that the sacrifices I have made for India Uncut include no cows.

Some other nominees in other categories I'd highly recommend:

Best Group/Community IndiBlog: The Indian Economy Blog by various contributors, including me.

Best Humanities IndiBlog: The Middle Stage by Chandrahas Choudhury.

Best New IndiBlog: Kalachakra by Shruti Rajagopalan.

Blogs like Digital Inspiration (Science/Technology) and Trivial Matters (Photoblog and Travel) are also well worth your time, and I hope they win in their respective categories.

Do express your preferences by voting here. It will take five minutes, and no, you do not need to have a blog to vote, that field is optional. I think you're allowed one vote per email ID.

Update: Debashish, the administrator of the Indibloggies, updates:
If you don’t get an email after registration or after completing the survey, please check your spam folder, many Gmail users have reported this. I am not sure why this happens coz the mails are being sent from indibloggies mail ID only.
Also, do read the top of that post for his update about a repoll for the Science and Technology category.

Don't let all this scare you away, I need your vote!
amit varma, 12:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The old lady on the moon...

... has been explained.

Separate rumours exist that the moon isn't made of cheese and that Armstrong and Aldrin actually went there, and not to Nevada. Should I believe those?
amit varma, 12:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Low taxes and free trade

Immense amusement -- and some consternation -- arises when I read this on Cato @ Liberty:
In a move that is both remarkable and disturbing, the European Commission plans to file a complaint - and threaten protectionist trade barriers - because attractive Swiss tax policies are supposedly a violation of a free-trade accord. The bureaucrats in Brussels are not arguing that Switzerland is imposing barriers against EU products. Instead, the Commission actually is taking the position that low taxes are attracting businesses that might otherwise operate in high-tax nations.
And this is wrong? You'd imagine people would learn from this, and figure out that low taxes draws more investment, driving up employment and productivity, which is good for the economy and the people, probably doing more good than the tax revenue sacrificed ever could. But no, if some countries are more attractive to investors than others, these gentlemen would like them all to be equally unattractive. Go figure.

(Link via email from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 11:35 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, February 12, 2007

Google in 1997

Who would have thunk?

Ten years later, I can imagine someone (maybe me!) writing a post titled, "____ in 2007."

What's that ____?

(Link via Stephen Dubner at the Freakonomics blog.)
amit varma, 2:56 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How we think about caste

Sify has a report on the various people who could be the next president of India -- they name Amitabh Bachchan as a candidate! -- and I found the following line, about Sushil Kumar Shinde, to be somewhat odd:
From the Congress camp, Shinde has emerged as a frontrunner as a Dalit candidate but the appointment of a Dalit Chief Justice has now reduced his chances a wee bit.
It's like someone is handing out rations. Ideally, Shinde's caste should not even matter, only his competence should. And yet, in this era of identity politics, it is crucial. Pity.

(Link via email from BV Harish Kumar.)
amit varma, 2:35 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

From idealism springs horror

Adam Gopnik, reviewing David A Bell's "The First Total War," writes in the New Yorker:
Before the modern period, wars were just part of life, like taxes and sickness. Every country fought them and was expected to fight them—they were a necessary sign of aristocratic virtue among the officers who led them—but they were fought largely along established lines, and among soldiers who were, like Renaissance mercenaries, more devoted to the profession than to any cause. [...]

Into this often bloody but still limited and cautious warfare came, alas, the intellectuals. The French philosophes of the Enlightenment began to see war not as one of those things which happen but as one of those things which must be forbidden. [...] Of course, once the philosophes had dreamed of an end to war, the fact that war hadn’t ended could mean only that someone was keeping it from ending. The vexing remnant of the old-fashioned had to be swept away. Through the one-last-time exertions of total war, total peace would arrive at last.

And so, Bell argues—using a reverse spin familiar to all readers of Foucault and company—from the germ of Enlightenment idealism springs modern horror. Instead of limited battles, we have entire nations swept up together in ideological or nationalist crusades: the long line of misery that led to “the war to end all wars,” “the decisive ideological struggle of our time,” and so on, each designed to use maximum violence to end violence in the world, with predictable results. Wars to end all wars give way to wars that never end.
Indeed, there is nothing more horrible than a dream of utopia. And Bell's book and Gopnik's article aren't just about history -- idealism and war are inevitable bedmates in our times as well, no matter which side you look at. No?
amit varma, 1:41 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Children and horoscopes

I've long believed that most people who have kids are not fit to be parents. That might be part of the explanation for why we humans are so screwed up. My belief finds support in a report in today's DNA that says:
More and more couples are exploiting Caesarean sections to manipulate the horoscope of the baby.
It is regrettable that the parents of these couples did not practice birth control more vigorously. Most of us, frankly, are better off flushed down or bled away*.

(Some earlier posts on astrology etc: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.)

*Apologies for the imagery. News reports about blind superstition don't generally put me in such a foul mood, but there are babies involved here, who could be adversely affected by this nonsense. Pah!

Update (February13): Reader Aboli Salvi writes in:
Oh, this is nothing. A chart was actually published and made available to all sometime in the 1980's. The chart very accurately predicts the baby's sex based on the day he/she was conceived. That way, parents who wanted babies born under particular zodiac sign and those who wanted only baby boys could make sure they were conceived on a particular day,month and time. My mother has such a chart and when I checked my birth pretty accurately predicted a girl:) this is not a new concept at all...but it has been mostly misused by parents wanting "boys" :| such a pity :(
Aboli sends an example of one such chart used in China. Hell and damnation.
amit varma, 1:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Rakhi Sawant's Valentine's Day message

Hindustan Times asks Rakhi Sawant if she has a Valentine's Day message for her boyfriend, Abhishek. Her message:
Don't object to whatever I wear, small or big.

What I find charming about Rakhi -- and people who watched Bigg Boss regularly will surely agree with me -- is that at any given point of time, she says what's on her mind with complete honesty. WYSIWYG. A few months ago I would have imagined her saying the quoted words above for effect, but it now seems to me that she is being entirely candid about what she would really have told Abhishek. Her answer to the next question in the interview is another indication of that candour. Who among us could be so open in public?

We're a society of voyeurs, of course, which ensures that Rakhi will get much more than 15 minutes of fame, with her life and her thoughts an open book. I'm not sure that's good for her, but the tabloids love it, and so it goes.

(Some posts on Bigg Boss: 1, 2, 3, 4. And on the Mika/Rakhi episode: 1, 2, 3, 4.)
amit varma, 12:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A surge of Indianness?

Indiatimes reports:
The Republic Day that just went by has had a greater impact on Akshay Kumar than any previous ‘flag’ day ever has. Reason? He feels he’s grown closer to his Indian roots than ever before. And the feelings of idealism and ‘Indianness’ are surging within him like a new source of adrenalin.
I can imagine Akshay going to the gym and bench-pressing a flag. Or doing the bicep curl with a mango (our national fruit), loving his country more with every flex. Joy.

(Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33.)
amit varma, 12:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Pink in Pink Floyd

"Chef Jitendra Kumar is a huge Pink Floyd fan," reports DNA. Kumar is the executive chef of Taj Lands End, where Roger Waters will stay when he comes here for his Mumbai concert, and he has plans. DNA reports:
“On the three nights Roger Waters is staying with us I am going to have three different themes,” says Chef Jitendra. And each theme is going to be based on Pink Floyd’s popular numbers.

The first night sees the room based on the band’s name itself — everything’s going to be pink. “I am getting pink chocolates in the shape of CDs done; I’ve imported all kinds of berries that are pink or close so they can be used in the fruit sushi that I am making; also to drop in a little cocktail that I am whipping up,” says a very excited Chef. Want more? He’s dehydrating rose petals, getting organic chocolates (Callebaut) and laying out little chocolate Florentines.
Immense laughter erupts. Just as hamburgers got their name from Hamburg and not the use of ham, the naming of Pink Floyd has little to do with the colour pink. A quizzing nugget you learn in standard one is that the band was named after blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, and their Wikipedia page reveals that it might also have been named after the cats of Waters's one-time room-mate, Mick Steadman. Either way, the colour had nothing to do with it.

Fun comes just thinking of Waters entering his pink room. All you need is Boy George popping out from below the bed saying, "Surprise!" One nice little party that will be.
amit varma, 11:14 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Launch of the new India Uncut delayed...

... by two or three days. I know I'd promised to launch it today, and the site is more or less ready, but some final polishing is being done, and then I want to send it to friends for a day or two of testing. It should be up on Wednesday or Thursday. Sorry for the delay!

amit varma, 11:08 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Love, or a British passport?

This could have been a nice love story if not for this bit towards the end of the piece:
Subhiya's father has accused Ashwani of marrying his daughter only to obtain a British passport. Is this true, I ask him. He replies "Yes" just as Subhiya interrupts.
Sigh. Some would argue, of course, that a British passport lasts forever, unlike love. That is a cynical view, but I am more cynical: nothing lasts forever.

Even cold November rain.

(Link via email from Arjun Swarup.)
amit varma, 12:34 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Karnataka and Quebec

Andrew Coulson is dismayed by the impending crackdown in Karnataka on English-language schools, and points to Quebec as a cautionary tale of having an "English-hostile language law." He writes:
[T]hat’s a lesson that Kannada activists could learn from… Canada. In a fascinating 2004 study of interprovincial migration, geographer Kao-Lee Liaw showed that non-Francophones were five times more likely to emigrate to another province if they lived in Quebec than if they lived in Ontario. And there’s no end in sight. A new report from the Association for Canadian Studies finds that, in 2006, Quebec incurred its single largest net population loss since 2000.

Given that attracting and retaining skilled immigrants is an important ingredient to sustained economic growth, the effects of this non-Francophone exodus are inevitable. Quebec’s economy consistently lags those of Ontario, Canada, and the United States. In fact, Quebec's per capita income ranks 54th in North America—behind all but two U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.
Indeed, Karnataka's status as the IT state of India could be threatened if the local supply of English speakers dries up. But while the economic implications of these new anti-English policies may be scary, the primary issue here is one of choice.

Coulson feels that parents should be empowered to choose the kind of education that their children should get, and that schools should be allowed to compete freely to meet the demands of those parents. I couldn't agree more. If I was a parent, I'd be mighty pissed if the state tried to dictate what kind of education my child could or could not avail of. Wouldn't you?

Also read: Coulson's excellent study, "How Markets Affect Quality" (pdf link), which was a useful source for my WSJA Op-Ed, "Why India needs school vouchers."
amit varma, 11:59 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The greatest dad ever

He fathered "at least 100,000 daughters and countless sons," and now he is dead. RIP, Galtee Merci, in Cow Heaven.

Immense sadness lactates.

(Link via email from Ravikiran Rao.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81.)
amit varma, 11:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The return of Karamchand

"Shut up, Kitty."

"Yes boss!"

It's an excellent sign of the memorableness of a character if, almost two decades after we last saw him, we can remember his little idiosyncracies: the carrot-eating, the terse questioning, the affectionate faux-contempt towards the goofy sidekick. Karamchand was back on air today, and I think it will do well because of Karamchand -- the character, that is.

The key to a popular detective series is to create a memorable character who entertains you, and who you enjoy reading about. Holmes, Poirot, Feluda were successful characters because once you were familiar with them, you looked forward to just being with them, regardless of plot. Indeed, plot was of negligible consequence. If you read Alexander McCall Smith's exceptionally popular Mma Ramotswe series, you will note that the plots there are amateurish, but the characters are immensely entertaining. That's the key to its popularity.

I use the term "character" loosely, of course -- in much detective fiction, such as Agatha Christie's work, the main detectives are caricatures and not well-rounded characters with an interior life. And yet, they are entertaining caricatures, which is why it works.

And so it is with Karamchand. Pankaj Kapur's character may never show the compassion or curiosity about the human condition that, say, Commissaire Maigret shows, but as long as he chews that carrot and tells Kitty to shut up, the TRPs will come in.

(I'd accidentally put this post up on Chandrahas's blog, The Middle Stage, pressing the wrong button on my dashboard. Apologies to both his readers and mine!)
amit varma, 11:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Will you still love me?"

It's a common question for young people in love, when one of them says: "If I had an accident, say if I was disfigured badly, or lost an arm, would you still love me?" Or even: "Would you still marry me?"

Well, here's one story:
Marine Sergeant Ty Ziegel already had his life planned out, he would marry his girlfriend Renee Kline upon returning from his second tour of duty in Iraq. But one fateful day a suicide bomber hit his truck, tearing apart his body and making him among the 20,000 soldiers that have been wounded in Iraq. He was blind in one eye, had a shattered skull, and most of his skin was burned off. Renee lived with Ty at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas for a year and a half, sharing Ty's every hope and fear. Their relationship became stronger than ever, and Ty and Renee moved back to their hometown in Illinois in July 2006, and got married in shortly thereafter.
To understand what this means, see the pictures. The first two are of the couple before he went to war. And then...

What would you do if you were the guy? What would you do if you were the girl?

(Link via email from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 12:37 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Behold ye angels

Steven Moffat is a giant. From Coupling:
Do you know what arses are Patrick? Arses are the human races' favourite thing. We like them on each other. We like them on magazine covers. We even like them on babies. When we're alone we like to scratch them. When there's a fire, we like to warm them and who among us hasn't, in a lonely moment, reached back for a discreet fondle? We love our arses.

When God gave us our arses he had to stick them around the back just so that we wouldn't sit and stare at them all day. 'Cos when God made the arse he didn't say, 'hey it's not your basic hinge, lets knock off early.' He said, 'behold ye angels I have created the arse. Throughout the ages to come, man and woman shall grab hold of these and shout my name.' [Link.]
Indeed, the arse is divine, even if God herself does not actually exist. Reach back, put your hand in through the belt of your trouser/shorts/skirt/salwar/churidar/whatever, and caress your arse. Does it not feel nice?

Boisterous Buttoxication bounds!

(Link and quote via email from Aadisht and Gaurav.)
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Friday, February 09, 2007

Immense hunger comes...

... after reading the menu here.

Needless to say, immense debt would be incurred if I were to partake of the listed repast. Scandalous sighs scurrilously scamper.

(Link via email from Le Chef himself.)
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Biggest ever waste of a cow's time

Milk beer.

(Link via email from Gautam John, who got it via Udhay.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80.)
amit varma, 7:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Is this the end of reforms?

TVR Shenoy thinks that might well be the case. One reason:
In the eyes of a true Congressman, Priyanka Vadra's infants probably carry greater weight than the unfortunate man who was catapulted into the prime ministership.
The tragic thing is this: Shenoy may not even be exaggerating to make a point. Those infants are our future. Genuflect now!

(Link via email from Ravikiran.)
amit varma, 5:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sting operations reach Pakistan

A year ago, while travelling through Pakistan, I'd quoted KJM Varma, then PTI's man in Islamabad, as saying about Pakistan:
Where is the investigative journalism, the sting operations? Pakistan needs a Tehelka.
Well, BD now informs that Pakistan does, indeed, have its Tehelka. He has the details here.
amit varma, 4:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Chill out, girls

Even Elle Macpherson has a hard time getting a date.

I suppose there's a fine line between being attractive and being so attractive that it's intimidating. Given that different men have different perceptions of both, it can't be easy being a woman.

I remember, in my early days in college, I used to give a wide berth to the women I found most beautiful because I assumed that I wasn't even close to being in their league. Now they're all fat cows with 13 children each. And me, women faint out of desire when I pass by.

Admittedly, though, it could be the body odour.

(Link via email from MadMan.)
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Sluts v Studs

Jessica Hagy is on form at Indexed:

You do realise, of course, that natural selection is to blame for this?

(Link via email from Tipsy Toes.)
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The US in Iraq

Check out the videos below of the US army in Iraq. The first is taken from inside a Humvee in Baghdad, which is being driven fast, without regard for local traffic, in order to minimise the risk of attack. The second is of a bunch of US soldiers playing around with Iraqi kids, making them run behind their vehicle for a bottle of water. No wonder they're making friends, no?

(Both links via Misprint.)
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Islam and Reformation

After 9/11. it became common for commentators to recline wisely on their armchairs and say, "Ah, but what Islam needs is a reformation." Deeper details were rarely forthcoming, and many nuances went quite unexplored.

Well, Fareed Zakaria, in the latest installment of his column in Newsweek, says that the reformation has begun and "it's been marked by calumny, hatred and bloody violence." Do read the full piece, "The Road to Reformation," it's quite excellent.
amit varma, 12:16 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

More insights on dowry from Aadisht Khanna

Continuing his series on dowry, which I'd mentioned here, the boy comes up with some more counter-intuitive insights on dowry in Indian society. This is like a desi Freakonomics emerging. Good stuff.

Update: Nilu has some things to say.
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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Time to hit the gym?

How many men do you know who could have been in the video below? Be honest now.

(Link via theothernilu.)
amit varma, 10:18 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Dating and courtship

In an article titled "Dating is Competitive Manipulation," Violent Acres writes:
The truth is women love to compete with other women. Women want to win men over. They want to be chosen by a man who could have any girl he wants. No woman of caliber wants to win a man by default. She wants her man to be a prize, a good catch, someone she can be proud of. When you tell a woman that her significant other is handsome or intelligent, she’ll likely beam with self satisfaction. In complimenting her man, you’ve complimented her. You have told her, in so many words, that she is capable of attracting a quality mate. The women who rail against this usually have a low self esteem and thus avoid competition because they fear they’ll always fail….or they’re ugly. You pick. [Emphasis in original.]
So all you naive men who sweetly thought that just being charming and sensitive will land you a good mate (ha!), wisen up: the trick to getting a beautiful woman by your side is to first get another beautiful woman by your side, so that the woman you're really targetting feels that there's a challenge in landing you. That's all there is to it.

Being older than the lady in question helps. Here's an abstract to a paper, "Courtship As A Waiting Game," by Ted Bergstrom and Mark Bagnoli:
In most times and places, women on average marry men who are older than themselves. We propose a partial explanation for this difference and for why it is diminishing. In a society where the economic roles of males are more varied and specialized than the roles of females, it may be that the relative desirability of females as marriage partners becomes evident at an earlier age for females than it does for males. We study an equilibrium model in which the males who regard their prospects as unusually good choose to wait until their economic success is revealed before choosing a bride. In equilibrium, the most desirable young females choose successful older males. Young males who do not believe that time will not treat them kindly will offer to marry at a young age. Although they are aware that young males available for marriage are no bargain, the less desirable young females will be offered no better option than the lottery presented by marrying a young male. We show the existence of equilibrium for models of this type and explore the properties of equilibrium.
Going by this theory, it would seem that couples who marry young have low self-esteem, and I'm not too sure I'd agree with that. Some young people tend to be more romantic than others, and love and marriage happen. Or am I rationalising?

Anyway, to go back to Violent Acres, do check out her post on confusing sexual identity with self worth. Common enough these days, I guess. (In the case of men, replace "sexual identity" with "financial status.") Pity.

(First two links via email from Naveen Mandava.)
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New Orleans: Then and Now

This picture says it all.

(Link via email from Petu.)
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Common Man vs Gundagardi

Normally, except in films, it's a no-contest: Gundagardi wins hands down, or up, or whatever. But sometimes Common Man fights back.

That what a blogger named Hawkeye is doing in Bangalore. His wife protested against a milkman overcharging her for milk. The milkman:
... turned extremely abusive and verbally assaulted her. He insulted her, threatened her with physical and sexual harm and physically intimidated her. A crowd gathered but nary a person came to her rescue and to restrain the milkman.
But rather than let the matter rest, Hawkeye and his wife took it up with the cops, consumer forums and the company the milkman represented. They met with both intimidation and indifference, but to their immense credit, are continuing with their battle. Hawkeye has a full series of posts on this, and I recommend you read the rest from him: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. His posts also have useful links to resources for those who might find themselves in similar situations.

(Link via email from MadMan. Abi also posted on it on DP.)
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Where's the Freedom Party?

My weekly column for Mint, Thinking It Through, kicked off today. It will appear every Thursday. Here's the first installment.

It's frustrating being a libertarian in India. Libertarians, broadly, believe that every person should be have the freedom to do whatever they want with their person or property as long as they do not infringe on the similar freedoms of others. Surely this would seem a good way for people to live: respecting each other's individuality, and not trying to dictate anyone else's behaviour.

Naturally, libertarians believe in both social and economic freedoms. They believe that what two consenting adults do inside closed doors should not be the state's business. Equally, they believe the state should not interefere when two consenting parties trade with each other, for what is this but an extension of that personal freedom. And yet, despite having gained political freedom 60 years ago, personal and economic freedoms are routinely denied in India. Even worse, there is no political party in the country that speaks up for freedom in all its forms.

Consider our Left parties. They speak up for personal freedoms (though often as a matter of convenience), such as for free speech and against censorship, but, bound by dogma, they oppose economic freedom. They do not understand that when two people trade with each other, they do so because they both benefit, and that allowing people to trade freely creates prosperity better than government handouts can. They do not see the good that our limited reforms of the last 15 years have done. They point to the existence of poverty as evidence that the reforms have failed, not admitting that the reforms have not been carried out in the areas that affect our poor the most.

The Left claims to speak for the poor, but most of the policies it supports, such as the labour laws and the minimum wage, harm poor people the most. It does not accept that poverty is a result of inadequate employment and insufficient productivity, and that unleashing private enterprise, by removing all the barriers to it that still exist, would solve these problems. It opposes foreign investment, as if anything but employment and prosperity could result from it. It views economics as a zero-sum game, and assumes that the only way to enrich the poor is to steal from the rich.

Then consider the Right. The religious right routinely tramples on personal freedoms in the name of religion and tradition and suchlike. It takes offence at any criticism, and is an enemy of free speech. The extreme elements of it, which are more common than we acknowledge, and even won a state election resoundingly not long ago, treat an entire minority as subhuman. And yes, inspired by nationalistic fervour, they often oppose economic freedoms as well.

But why blame the political parties? Politics is all about demand and supply: our politicians do not value freedom because our people do not demand it. There are a variety of different reasons for why this is so.

When it comes to economic freedoms, it so happens that many of the great truths of economics are deeply unintuitive. The fact that markets aren't zero-sum, for example, or that the spontaneous order of millions of individuals working separately towards their self-interest can produce and distribute goods far more efficiently than central planning can. Also, most of us have grown up in a socialist framework, and instinctively look to our mai-baap state for solutions. We look to the government to provide jobs, to lift people out of poverty, to provide free education to all, and so on. "What does a poor man care about freedom?" an IAS officer friend recently asked me. "All he wants is food." And indeed, the connection between economic freedom and jobs and food on the plate is not one that is immediately obvious.

When it comes to personal freedoms, we are so used to living in a country where they are denied to us that we don't even notice their absence. As a matter of routine, films are censored, books are banned, and our personal and sexual preferences are restricted. Free expression is endangered in this country, and whether it's MF Hussain painting a Hindu goddess nude or an Orkut forum about Shivaji or a comedian making fun of Mahatma Gandhi, our default reaction is to ask that it be stopped. How can free speech thrive in a country where giving offence is treated as a crime?

Am I hopeful for things changing? Yes and no. Yes, because as the cause and effect of economic freedom becomes clearer, people will see through socialist rhetoric and realise that only free enterprise can provide jobs, lift our living standards, and raise this country out of poverty. On the other hand, such a clear-cut utilitarian case is harder to make for personal freedoms, and political parties, in any case, thrive on catering to special interest groups. They are, thus, generally likelier to restrict freedom even further instead of removing existing restrictions.

Immense sighs emerge. Perhaps I should simply have been a Communist or a Fascist.
amit varma, 10:47 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New operating system, same old Microsoft Paint

Here's the Onion on Windows Vista.

I haven't tried out Vista, but imagine if our bodies had Windows XP. We'd be vastly overweight, unable to digest most things we ate, and we'd keep freezing and needing to be killed so we could be born again.

Boy, I love evolution!
amit varma, 11:22 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Rules of Manhood

Thing is, you shouldn't need to spell these out. It's understood. It's in the genes and stuff.

And no, the chicas will never get it. Especially No. 27. Heh.

(Link via email from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 10:12 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Air India is an aircraft carrier...

... and DTH is a company. Anant Rangaswami learns some new things courtesy Derek O'Brien. Joy.
amit varma, 7:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Getting complacent

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha warns in Mint that there is a danger that our economic growth rate will make us complacent, and blind us to the necessity of future reforms. He writes:
India is perhaps in the initial stages of a long boom that could extend over several decades. Other countries in the region have gone down the same road—and eventually emerged out of mass poverty at the end of it. Japan maintained an average growth rate of 8% between 1950 and 1980; most of the East Asian countries grew even faster between 1960 and 1995; China has been scorching the turf at 10% a year since 1994.

The danger is that this sudden growth acceleration could lead to complacency on the policy front. Economic growth has moved up a couple of notches higher without any significant economic reforms since 2004.In other words, the extra growth we have seen may be treated like an unexpected cheque in the mailbox—you get it without really trying too hard. On the other hand, the most dramatic reforms in India have always been pushed through during economic distress, be it the macroeconomic crisis of 1991 or the severe slowdown in the last years of the NDA government.
Indeed, the fact that our growth rate is so healthy could actually work against us in the long run, by allowing our political leaders, most of whom are reflexively socialist, to drag their feet on reforms.

Also in mint, my buddy Shruti Rajagopalan makes her debut with an excellent article on Singur, "Reverse Robin Hood land reform." Do read about how Jawaharlal Nehru "sold the rights of farmers in Singur decades ago in exchange for votes."

(All articles in Mint require a one-time free registration, but it's worth it: their opinion pages, in particular, justify the effort. My weekly column begins tomorrow, by the way!)
amit varma, 2:10 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"That kallu will win"

I have to leave shortly to meet a friend at the Bombay Baking Company. I promise you, I did not fix the venue after reading this post. It was the friend's suggestion that we meet there.
amit varma, 1:59 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Back to melas?

Remember blog melas? I put up five of them (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) before the practice suddenly stopped, and now Kusum Rohra has revived the meme, compiling what she calls a "Loony Mela."

That's the best kind, I assure you.
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Massaged by snakes


(Link via email from Gautam John.)
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The hot strange college chicks contest

Via Saket, I find out about something called "India's Hottest College Chick Contest." Immense confusion comes regarding whether the girls taking part in this have too little self esteem or too much. Most of the pictures are self-taken with a cellphone camera, and after skimming through the gallery, I have two urgent questions:

1. Which of these is Ritu?

2. Who thinks making faces like this and this and this and this is hot? Who? I want to do something terrible to that person, like pull his/her nails out or make him/her watch Sanjay Gupta films or suchlike.

The horror!
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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

That's No. 1 in this list: "11 Most Important Philosophical Quotations."

The pronunciation guide at the end is most disturbing, though. Neechya? Which woman would take a man named Neechya seriously, whip or no whip?

(Link via email from Ravikiran Rao, for obvious reasons.)
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A P/E ratio for grooms?

Aadisht Khanna has begun a series of posts on dowry, and in the first of them, in which he recounts two instances of dowry being offered and turned down, he recounts:
The second rumour is about this guy who joined my employer in the same batch of campus recruitment as me. The story goes that somebody with all the right caste and astrological details and what not offered their daughter and fifteen megarupees of dowry. The guy’s parents practically laughed in their faces at this low offer.

This is astounding. If we take only the guy’s pre-tax annual salary, fifteen megarupees is a valuation at a P/E ratio of approximately 19. And this was rejected. It looks like the market for grooms is as stretched as the market for securities these days.
When Aadisht discussed this series of posts with me recently, I warned him that some people would inevitably think that by writing about dowry in this manner, he was endorsing the practice. Actually, needless to say, he is merely examining what dowry reveals about the changing world around us from an economist's perspective, without making value judgements. It promises to be a fascinating series, and I'm keeping my eye on his blog.
amit varma, 8:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Robert Conquest v the Soviet Union

Both were born in 1917. We know who survived.

I especially enjoyed the phrase in that article, "a United Front against bullshit." Sometimes the bullshit seems overwhelming, but freedom does come through occasionally. After all, Conquest outlasted the Soviets, didn't he?

(Link via Arts and Letters Daily.)
amit varma, 4:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Amitava Kumar on Bihar and the future of India

Amitava Kumar, in the course of an interview, says:
[I]n some respects, Bihar really is the nadir of civilisation. And therefore it is the future that awaits the rest of India.
Read the rest of the interview, it's short but sharp, with excellent bits on writing, perceptions of superiority, and the village in Indian literature, about which he says:
More popular than the pathologising of the village, particularly in metropolitan fiction, is a misleading romance about the village. It’s all folkloric, with no sense, really, that people are shitting in the fields or dying of cholera. Or dying to get away and become a badly-paid security guard in a Delhi suburb.
Exactly. By the by, Amitava's book, "Home Products," should be out soon, so watch out for it.
amit varma, 3:27 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"I want to be eaten now"

That was just one of many priceless quotes at a blog meet that took place on Saturday evening in Bandra, hosted by Melody and Sakshi, who took turns at being voluptuous and charming, and can unquestionably be described as A-list hosts after this spectacular event. Many bloggers turned up expecting an evening of sober chat on serious subjects, but I am afraid to report that they were disappointed. Immense horseplay took part all around, with people saying things like, "Press na, press harder." Instantly I felt ten years younger. At times, I even felt 20 years younger, and wanted to babble.

Indeed, raucous revelry rampaged rhinocerously, so much so that we were kicked out from the indoor part of the restaurant into the outdoor part, where we had more space to do mischief. At a recent party I'd been to, Gaurav had done a lap dance for Vulturo, and this time, it was an all-girl affair. Melody gave Sakshi a joyous lap dance, partly for the benefit of my cellphone video recorder, but I shall refrain from posting it here so as not to scandalise my family audiences. (Pranaam, maasaji.) I also have many pictures of girls doing naughty things to other girls, with guys sitting around dopily wishing they weren't so very boring. Here's a relatively tame one:

Ya, ya, don't you wish they were looking at you like that? Anyway, the high point of the evening came shortly after Rishi arrived, when everyone got together and sang "Happy Birthday Cthulhu." Rarely has such happiness exploded. Shortly after that, Bombay Addict asked Rishi why he was learning German, and Rishi barked, "For world domination! Remember Hitler?" Bombay Addict's eyes almost popped out into his beer. The poor fellow had never met Rishi before, and thought he was serious. Joy.

Later, when a non-blogger (who may or may not be a non-blogger) was being teased by Sakshi for being a non-blogger (who knows the truth), young Vulturo took it all seriously and announced, "Non-bloggers are people too." Who would have thunk?

Shortly after this, when Vulturo was being teased by the girls for being voluptuous -- a meme I must confess I started -- it had to be pointed out that voluptuous men are people too. Melody rechristened him Volupturo, so if Desi Pundit never links to her again, you know why.

What else? As I am posting this somewhat late, everything that could have been reported about the event has already been blogged about. Do read the reports by Sakshi, Melody, Ideasmith, Nandan and Bombay Addict, some of whom have pictures and links to other reports, as well as a list of attendees.

Also on the weekend, I attended a BQC quiz in Bandra, got many negatives for my team with great adventurism, and ensured that it came last. A full report of events is here.
amit varma, 3:08 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Best chair ever

You won't need any other furniture. Just this:

(Link via email from Naveen, who got it via Spluch.)
amit varma, 11:27 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, February 05, 2007

Salami Ishq

Through my last ten minutes on the treadmill today, I could think of nothing but the cold cuts in my freezer. Immense hunger comes!

Update (february 6): Do read Jeremy Clarkson on exercising and food. Heh.

(Link via email from Rajeev.)
amit varma, 7:30 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |


Best first line ever of a political report:
Dharmesh Vyas of the Congress, who was caught spitting on camera during a meeting to discuss a fine on spitting in the city, has won from BMC’s ward number 81 (Teachers Colony, Santacruz) with a margin of 1,600 votes.
Go here to read the article and see the photo. Joy.
amit varma, 3:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

James and Bond

Those are the names of Raj Thackeray's dogs, it seems.

Harmless enough. Given the influences that seem to drive the Shiv Sena and their offshoots -- like Raj's party, MNS -- it could easily have been something like Adolf and Hitler.
amit varma, 3:21 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Giving bread

You have a piece of bread. You have eaten well, and are full. You wish to give the bread away to a hungry man. There are ten hungry men in front of you. How do you decide who the recipient of the bread should be?

Here's Tim Harford's answer.

And here's what Tyler Cowen has to say.
amit varma, 3:10 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Let there be snot light

Why would anyone want to insert a live wire of 220V through his nose, bring it out through his mouth and light a bulb?

And also, why would the same man plan to take it further, thus:
I will lift two table fans with my eyelids and then connect wires through my nose and my mouth and light up a bulb.
Answer: to get into the Limca Book of Records. Indeed, the second instance -- the extended trick -- is an attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, where criteria for inclusion seem to be stricter.

I'm overflowing with pride at the achievements of my countrymen. Someone please attach a bulb to me, or it will be wasted.

(Link via email from Prabhu.)
amit varma, 2:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Ah, Communist compassion!

The Commie government of West Bengal has outlawed man-pulled rickshaws on the grounds that they are "inhuman." Hmm. Starving because you don't have work, it would seem, is not inhuman at all.

It's quite simple: the men who choose to pull rickshaws do so because it is the best option open to them. They are not trapped in a slave trade. By taking away that choice of profession from them, the government is condemning them to something worse, something that they themselves clearly feel is more inhuman.

In an analysis of this move, the Economist quotes an affected rickshaw-puller as saying: "I may not like it, you may not like it, but I have children to feed."

Indeed, if the government does want all these people to shift from this profession, there is one way of doing that: of allowing private enterprise to flourish, and enabling industrial growth, so that better jobs spring up for all these rickshaw pullers. That doesn't require spending a paisa of taxpayers' money, or making compassionate noises: it simply means removing the many restrictions on economic freedom that this ranking reflects.

Afterthought: at least it isn't BPO workers they're 'rescuing'!

(Economist link via Shruti Rajagopalan.)
amit varma, 10:39 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Violence and youth

An important cause for rising violence throughout the world, writes Christopher Caldwell in the Financial Times, might be demographics: there are more and more young people in the world, and young people tend to be more violent. Islam, he points out, might just be a red herring.

And from close to home, here's a stunning illustration.

(Links via email from Gautam John.)
amit varma, 10:25 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Never, ever try to ride a cow

Silly boy.

Next the fellow will want to know why we don't milk horses.

(Link via email from thenative.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79.)
amit varma, 12:05 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

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