Wagah Border

Ok this post is approximately one month late. Truth is that I’d thought this up almost a month back – in fact more than a month back, as I got my ass roasted by the hot concrete galleries while waiting for the flag-down ceremony to begin at the Wagah Border. My mind had then gone back to the old IITM chant “start the f***ing show”, but given that I couldn’t actually utter those words, I’d thought up this blog post instead. I had constructed each and every sentence of how I was going to write this. It was a maze of thoughts. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten most of it until I’d gotten back to Delhi two days later – which was when I had access to the net.

I attempted to write this post back when I was in Delhi, but couldn’t get beyond a paragraph. What I had written would never measure up to what I’d constructed in my head on that day at the Wagah, and I kept scrapping it. But then, there’s a story to be told, so I think it’s time I tell the story, “in my own words”.

Ok so now that I’ve gotten beyond two paragraphs, the rest of this should flow, hopefully. It was a hot and crowded afternoon. There were three stalls, and one had been kept closed. People were piled into the other two stalls – one for ladies and one for men. It was as hot as a Punjabi summer afternoon could get. The concrete benches were all heated up, and there were the military men who were exhorting people to sit down and get their asses roasted.

And there was the master of ceremonies. One man in plain clothes with a mic. Periodically he’d surface and shout slogans, which the over-enthusiastic crowd would complete. He would drag young women out of their stands and make them run around the place with the National Flag, which they enthusiastically did. He would wave his hands as if his repressed dream was to be a band conductor, and people would tone up or tone down their cheers.

And the people! It was incredible. I had never known that the Indian mango man could be so enthusiastic. There seemed to be something special in the air as everyone shouted and cheered, and danced and swung, as the patriotic songs blared and the master of ceremonies waved his hands around. People seemed to be remembering their mis-spent youths and trying to re-live it in the name of patriotism. It was like going back to one of those wonderful inter-school cul-fests. The kind of enthu seen at the Wagah Border would put the Saarang Pro-shows to shame.

Sadly, it had no effect on me. I stood by myself, in one corner, bored, and observing the people. Maybe it was a good thing that I was bored, since I managed to get my thoughts in order – though I was to subsequently forget them. Music was blaring, people were shouting, but it didn’t seem to make any sense to me. We were there to witness a military parade, which I thought was a fairly solemn occasion. And here you had people who were “letting go” like nobody’s business. Maybe I’ve become too cynical. Maybe a certain libertarian-leaning group that I’m part of is having too much of an influence on me.

I was a reluctant visitor to the border. I didn’t want to go. The reason I was at Amritsar was to see the Golden Temple and thulp the food that I’d heard so much about. Wagah wasn’t part of my plans. My mother, however, had other ideas. For some reason, she had happened to really enjoy the border parade when she had visited there six years back along with my father. And she wanted me to “experience this experience”. While we were driving back, however, she admitted that the show wasn’t as spectacular as it was six years ago.

In the beginning of the post, I had mentioned ot you that I’d wanted to chant an IITM chant. Once the “show” started, another favourite IITM chant came to my head. “STOP the f***ing show”. It was drab and boring. Say what you want, but I somehow don’t find the idea of a bunch of armymen marching and performing drills exciting. And it can be consumed in small doses only. To their credit, the show at Wagah wasn’t too long – it lasted only for about half an hour or so.

However, given the conditions (crowd, weather, etc.) it didn’t turn out to be a pleasant experience. The idea of going to the border to watch the ceremonies was so not worth it. Only a couple of days earlier, I had read about the Hillsborough tragedy, and given the way the crowd was pushing and jostling and continued to pour in after the stands were full brought up thoughts of an encore. At one point, I even left  my prized spot in one of the stands in order to go to the relative safety of the ground outside the stands. I only went back in after they opened the third stand (which had been closed till half an hour before the show) and could find a relatively peaceful spot to stand there.

I don’t think I’ve documented all that I’d thought of when I stood there in that relatively peaceful spot in that third stand. I’ll probably make a separate post out of all that if I do manage to remember it sometime.

It’s been a year, almost

A couple of hours back, I renewed my account. It’s been a year since I purchased the noenthuda.com domain, and it definitely feels like it’s been much longer. This blog, however, is yet to celebrate its first birthday – it will do so on the 22nd, on the same day when there will be a Total Solar Eclipse in Central India. We’ll have more elaborate birthday celebrations then. Actually, if you have any good ideas as to how to celebrate the first birthday of noenthuda.com , please mail in.

So it was on the 7th of July last year that I registered noenthuda.com. It took about 15 days after that to decide on my host (I settled on totalchoicehosting), figure out how to organize the site, etc. As you might have noticed, the homepage (noenthuda.com) redirects to this blog (noenthuda.com/blog). The main reason behind this is that I’ve been too lazy to figure out what to do with my main site. I don’t really fancy turning this into a professional site – LinkedIn are there for that. All my writing is here on this blog, so no separate place needed for that.

There is another blog attached to this, called Twisted Shout. You can see a link to this from the right hand column of this site. You might notice that the site is defunct. The last post on that was several months ago. I had been using that site for discussing stuff such as the Petromax Theory, the Goalkeeper Theory and other similarly strong fundaes. Aadisht and Kodhi, my co-authors on that blog, had also planned to script our sitcom “rash driving” on that. Again, there was only a single episode of that and then NED happened.

Some of you might also know that NED is also the name of a quiz team, featuring Kodhi, Aadisht and me. It’s a subset of the erstwhile Sumo Yet So Far, which also featured Swami. It’s been a while since NED quizzed together, the last occasion being the QFI Open quiz in Chennai last summer. Our next collective performance will be at the Landmark Quiz in Chennai next month. Maybe I could have a section of the site dedicated to our quiz team. Maybe I’ll do that once our CV expands.

Then there are the NED talks, which I had announced a few weeks back. These talks will be held as planned, in October this year in Bangalore. I hope to make this a day-long event, in an auditorium. So basically it will be a series of lectures. We are looking for speakers, and listeners. We will also have 1-2 open house sessions so taht everyone can put CP (class participation).

I hereby call for speakers for the inaugural NED talks. The date is not fixed but it will be on some Sunday this October in Bangalore. You will have to give a talk in less than 18 minutes on any topic that remotely relates to NED. For example, I plan to speak on the Studs and Fighters Theory, and how it might impact NED. So if you are interested in speaking, write a short write up on yourself, and what you want to talk about and send it to me at skthewimp AT yahoo DOT com. I think we will need a total of TEN speakers.

In other news, I’ve got proper net access now in Bangalore (BSNL Broadband). So immense peace are there. Normal services should resume shortly.

Arranged Scissors 9 – Cost Benefit Analysis

Neha, also known as MotherJane, writes in her blog:

…I do not believe in love. Partners offer solutions to everyday issues like running a house, satisfying needs and filling in the blanks. However they come at a cost – often too high to bother. Still we go ahead and do the trade – its just what we do. In our lives friends become the people we talk and listen to, partners become people we are forced to talk and listen to, so that we can have everything else they offer. If you think about it, your relationship is already transactional. If calling it love makes easier on your conscience, I won’t hold you back.

I was trying to figure out how it all fits in with the arranged scissors process. And every time the answer came out that the Arranged Scissors process is fairly irrational.Mainly because of the short time for decision. A few basic checks are made, obvious misfits are checked for, and things get “done”.

The biggest cost of getting married (which Neha doesn’t mention) is the opportunity cost of the option of getting married to any of the other women in this world apart from your wife. Divorce is messy and expensive (in more ways than one), and hence once you have hitched yourself to someone, this opportunity cost immediately kicks in.

Later in her post, Neha talks about the “friends-with-benefits” model, but the problem with that is that it doesn’t help propagate your genes. It is tough to raise kids in that kind of an environment, and considering that the purpose of life is to procreate (this is the general case; i konw you may be an exception so don’t shout at me for this) the friends-with-benefits model is not stable. The reason the world has settled down into a model of bilateral commitment is to optimize the costs and benefits of propagating genes.

So if you want to propagate your genes (again, I’m not sure if you want to. If you don’t, I’d recommend you to settle down with the FWB model – but then it’s easier to find one stable counterparty rather than several FWBs, so you’d rather get married) you need to get into a bilateral commitment deal. And these deals are mutually exclusive so you need to realize that when you get into one, you will be foregoing the option of getting into any other.

There are several other costs and benefits when it comes to the marriage thing – there will be lifestyle changes, you get “tied down”, you need to take on responsibility, share duties and all that, but in my humble  (and unmarried) opinion, the biggest cost is the opportunity cost.

I say this quite often (and this reminds me, I have a paper to write – which I’ve postponed for nine months now) but I think outside of the financial world, option value is generally underrated (even in finance options are more often than not undervalued since the most common pricing formula ignores fat tails). And in settling for a Common Minimum Programme in the arranged marriage market, people severely underestimate the value of the option value of the rest of the world.

So the next time you want to propose to someone, or want to answer “the question” in the affirmative, make sure you do the following:

  • Make a list of all the people in the world belonging to the opposite sex (gays feel free to generalize this)
  • Evaluate the option of marrying them. Your job will be quite easy because with respect to most people, either you don’t want to marry them or you know that the chance of them marrying you is so infinitesimally small that the option value is negligible
  • I’m sure there will be a number of peopl ewho you prefer to the person you are proposing to/saying yes to. If you think there is a nonzero chance of them saying yes to you, ask them. Rejection is cheaper than a lifetime of guilt
  • Once all the options have been evaluated, and an additional buffer term added to account for all the people you don’t know yet, you know the full value of the opportunity cost. Then add up the other costs and benefits, and then make your decision.

Typically to know the other costs and benefits of the person that you are currently evaluating, you need to know them rather well. Yes, you can draw a sample and estimate the population based on that, but the cost of a type 1 error (error of commission) is very high. So make sure you collect enough data. To collect enough data, make sure you give yourself enough time.

Ok now I don’t know the point of this post. I don’t even konw if it fits into the arranged scissors series, but I think I’ll let it stay. Changing the title is too messy. I think I wrote this to put fundaes about opportunity cost. Maybe I had something else in mind when I thought up this post, but then subsequently forgot the contents and remembered only the outline. In any case, I’ll stop here. Before that I’ll tell you for one last time that you need to keep track of option value, and opportunity cost.