Contributed by Pavan Srinath
Cross-posted on Catalyst, with more detailed analysis.
* Time for some wonkish gyaan. People normally tend to describe any superlinear growth as “exponential”. However, that is incorrect. Exponential growth is one that follows a particular formula, like this one.
Here, we see that the growth in toilets in a particular time period is proportional to the number of toilets at the beginning of the time period. So the growth of toilets can be described by the following equation, which as you can see represents exponential growth.
For each major political party, this graph shows the number of seats they won (red) and the number of seats they came second in (blue) in the recently concluded Karnataka Urban Local Body Elections. The horizontal black line is the number of seats the Congress WON. Notice that the number of seats the Congress won exceeds the number of seats the BJP or the JDS won or came second in. Based on this, it is very likely that the Congress will do very well in the forthcoming Assembly Elections
Last night, Pinky and I had this long conversation discussing aunts and uncles and why certain aunts and uncles were “cooler” or “more modern” compared to other aunts or uncles. I put forward my theory that in every family there is one particular generation with a large generation gap, and while in families like mine or Pinky’s this large gap occurred at our generation, these “cooler” aunts’ and uncles’ families had the large gap one generation earlier. Of course, this didn’t go far in explaining why the gap was so large in that generation in the first place.
Then Pinky came up with this hypothesis backed by data that was hard to refute, and the rest of the conversation simply went in both of us trying to confirm the hypotheses. Most of these “cool” aunts and uncles, Pinky pointed out, had spent most of their growing up years in Bangalore, and this set them apart from the more traditional relatives, who spent at least a part of their teens outside the city. The correlation was impeccable, and in an effort to avoid the oldest mistake in statistics, we sought to identify reasons that might explain this difference.
While some of the more “traditional” relatives had grown up in villages, we discovered that a large number of them had actually gone to high school/college in rather large but second-tier towns of Karnataka (this includes Mysore). So the rural-urban angle was out. Of course Bangalore was so much larger than these other towns so size alone might have been enough to account for the difference, but the rather large gap in worldviews between those that grew up in Bangalore, and those that grew up in Mysore (which, then, wasn’t so much smaller), and the rather small gap between the Mysoreans and those that grew up in small towns (like Shimoga or Bhadravati) meant that this big-city hypothesis was unfounded.
We then started talking about the kind of advantages that Bangalore (specifically) offered over other towns of Karnataka, and the real reason was soon staring us in the face. Compared to any other town in Karnataka (then, and now), Bangalore was significantly more cosmopolitan. I’ve spoken on this blog before about Bangalore having been two cities (I’ve put the LJ link rather than the NED link so that you can enjoy the comments) but the important thing was that after independence and the Britishers’ flight, the two cities got combined into one big heterogeneous city.
Relatives growing up in Mysore or Shimoga typically went to college with people from large similar backgrounds. Everyone there spoke Kannada, and the dominance of Brahmins in those towns was so overwhelming that these relatives could get through their college lives hanging out solely with other people from largely similar family backgrounds. This meant there was no new “cultural education” that college offered, and the same world views that had been prevalent in these peoples’ homes while they were growing up persisted.
It was rather different for people who grew up in Bangalore. Firstly, people from East Bangalore didn’t speak Kannada (at least, not particularly fluently), which meant English was the lingua franca. More importantly, there was greater religious, casteist and cultural diversity in the classroom, which made it so much more likely for people to interact and make friends with classmates from backgrounds rather different from one’s own. Back in those days of extreme cultural conservatism, this simple exposure to other cultures was invaluable in changing one’s world view and making one more liberal.
It is in the teens that one’s cultural norms are shaped, and exposure to different cultures at that age is critical to formation of one’s world-view. In our generation, this difference has probably played out in the kind of schools one goes to. However, the distinction in conservatism (based on school/college/ area) isn’t so stark as to come up with a unified theory like the one we’ve come up here. Sticking on to the previous generation, what other reasons can you think of that makes certain aunts and uncles “cooler” than others?
So all business newspapers report that LK Advani had issued a “warning” to Yeddyurappa a while back that he was getting too corrupt. Nevertheless, several BJP “party workers” in Karnataka have been coming out in defence of Yeddy, saying he’s innocent and that he’s still their leader. Some of them have refused to accept the leadership of DV Sadananda Gowda. And some of the leaders themselves are quite silent on the issue, preferring to say that the “law will take its own course”.
This points to a larger problem that is afflicting Indian politics nowadays which is the “personality cult”. First of all, we have several parties (too many to name here) where the only ideology is “absolute loyalty to a certain party leader”. Even in parties that don’t fall under this definition (the BJP for instance), we seem to have several “local leaders” who carry significant weight, and local units of parties that are more loyal to their leaders than to the parties. In fact, if you were to objectively look at it, as a voter there seems to be no escape at all from this cult.
This has several disturbing consequences. One stems from the belief that “loyalty should be rewarded”. Given the loyalty that so many of our “leaders” get from “party workers” it is not surprising that the “leaders”, upon assuming power, accord to these workers plum rent-seeking posts, which will keep them happy. This can result in positive feedback – once a leader has shown that he will “reward” loyalists, more people clamour to get close to him, and they too must get rewarded. And so it goes.
Another fallout of this personality cult is a dramatic increase in security, with not inconsiderable cost to the public. Given t he power that some of our “leaders” wield, the payoffs of bumping off an opposing leader are quite strong, both in terms of electoral politics and otherwise. Parties which have been built on “personal loyalty” as an “ideology”, upon losing their leaders, will suddenly have no “natural centre” and will tend to fragment. Hence, it is in the interest of all politicians to provide themselves “security”, which comes at the cost of the general public (cue traffic jams whenever there is “VIP movement” in some city, or the fact that our generally under-staffed police force has to spend so much of its effort in “VIP security” rather than other more important policing duties).
Then, we seem to be moving to a situation where parties are bereft of ideologies, and are simply collections of random leaders (who have lots of “followers”) thrown together. I’ll probably address this in detail in another post, but if you come to think of it there is very little to choose between different political parties now in terms of ideology. Yes, the BJP might have the nominal ideology of building a Ram Temple, but take that out and there is little to separate it from the Congress. The regional parties are even worse. The only difference you could probably see there is in terms of the dominant caste or lobby backing each party.
Again, it needs to be pointed out that multipolar politics in India is very young – it’s existed for little more than twenty years. Still, the future of Indian politics is worrisome, and I don’t know how we’ll get out of the rut we’re in.
I’m married to a Bharadwaj. To put it another way, I’ve “bailed out” a Bharadwaj. Let me explain.
There is a concept of “gotras” among “Caste Hindus”. Each person is supposed to have a paternal ancestral line to a rishi, and that rishi’s name is your gotra. For example, I’m supposed to be a descendant of the sage Haritsa (such an obscure rishi he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page). And so my gotra is “haritsa”. Knowledge of your own gotra is important when you go to a temple to get “archane” (where you pay 10 rupees, give some vital stats and get sugar candy in return) done. It is also important when you are going to get married.
So Hindus have a weird way of defining cousins, especially for the purpose of marriage. Only male ancestry matters, and male brotherhood also. If you examine this further, everyone who has the same gotra as you (and hence are related to you by a paternal line) are your cousins. Sisters and mothers don’t particularly matter in this definition of cousins, hence the widespread incest, especially in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There is one important exception of course – your mother’s sister’s siblings are also your cousins, though no one bothers keeping track of such relationships over more than a generation.
Like in any other good religion, Hinduism doesn’t allow you to marry your cousins. And due to the weird definition of cousin, you effectively can’t marry someone from your gotra. That is supposed to be incestuous. If you have any doubts about this, please travel to Haryana and ask any of the khap panchayats there.
So among Brahmins (due to lack of sufficient data points, I’ll restrict my discourse to Brahmins), the most “popular” gotra is Bharadwaja. It is either the Rishi Bharadwaja himself, or some of his descendants, or all of them collectively, who did a “Genghiz Khan”. Rather, one should say that Genghiz Khan did a Rishi Bharadwaja. Because of this, Bharadwajas constitute a really large proportion of Brahmins. I’m not sure of exact statistics here, but they are easily the largest Brahmin Gotra.
So now, “rules” dictate that you should marry within your caste, but outside of your gotra. And this puts the Bharadwajas at a great disadvantage, for so many other Brahmins are Bharadwajas, that the sample space from which to look for a spouse is severely restricted indeed. I know of a cousin (mother’s father’s sister’s son’s daughter) who is a Bharadwaja, and who spent a really long time in the arranged marriage market. As I told you, restricted sample space. That way, people like me who belong to obscure gotras should consider ourselves lucky, I guess.
So if you are a Brahmin, and not a Bharadwaja, please help out a needy fellow-Brahmin, who may otherwise have to spend a really long time in the marriage market (arranged or otherwise) only because one of their ancestors happened to be particularly prolific. And this is one thing in which I can proudly claim to lead by example.
PS: The proportion of Bharadwajs among Brahmins might be overstated due to the sheer number of them who put the name of their Gotra as their surname. I don’t think putting gotra as surname is common among any other Brahmin gotra.
Ok the second word in the title doesn’t refer to B-school slang. It means “global” in the true sense of the word, and has nothing to do with what my father used to call as “bulldology” (derived from the kannada word “bullDe” which essentially means “globe” (in the B-school sense) )
Ok so the story goes back to 2003, when I headed my way north all the way to Delhi, to intern at IBM Research. I would be staying at the IIT Delhi hostels during the course of my visit. I traveled by Rajdhani express, and had rotis and dal makhni through the journey. And in the mornings I’d get a flask of hot water along with “chai saamagri” (tea bag, sugar, milk powder, etc.)
That was when it hit me that for the next two months I’d be in chOmland, devoid of access to South Indian food, and good filter coffee. I remember getting paneer-fatigue within two weeks of my stay in Delhi. I would salivate at the very thought of going to the nearby “hotel Karnataka” and eating “meals” for a then princely sum of Rupees Fifty. The primary reason I got bugged with my internship was that I wasn’t getting my kind of food, and coffee.
Two years later, I would travel to London, for yet another internship, this time at an investment bank. The day I landed in London, I headed out for lunch with a few friends. Picked up a sandwich, and then it hit me how far away from home I’d come. Sandwich, for lunch! And I was the types who used to say stuff like “bread is for dogs”.
I remember going to this Sri Lankan store in Eastham every two weeks, carrying back “pirated” (smuggled, actually) packets of MTR Ready to Eat food, and frozen chapatis. And every evening I would microwave chapatis and some chOm dal or sabzis. The same chom food that I had so despised two years earlier was “home food” now. Of course every time I went to Eastham I’d also go to this “Madras Restaurant” and thulp madrasi masala dosa.
I don’t know where the knee-bend/point of inflexion happened but on my recent trip to New York, I didn’t have Indian food at all. The rationale being that there are certain kinds of food available in New York that are not easily available in India, so I shouldn’t miss the opportunity of eating them.
So I ate at Turkish, Greek, Ethiopian, Italian, Thai, Israeli, Korean restaurants, quite enjoyed the food, never asked a waiter “does this dish contain meat” (the reason for my vegetarianism is more because I get grossed out by meat, rather than any religious or cultural reason) (and I didn’t feel much when I set aside what looked like an octopus from my salad and continued eating the rest of the salad), never craved sambar, and generally had a good time.
My wife may not be the happiest when she reads this but frankly when I returned I didn’t exactly crave home-cooked Indian food. Of course the Rasam last night was wonderful, but it was now for me just yet another culinary item, just like coconut milk curry, or hummus or the ethiopian dals or pizza.
I seem to have truly gone global (again no pun intended)