Two States stealing ideas from my life

Don’t ask my why I’m reading a Chetan Bhagat book. Anyway a while back I was reading the first few pages of “Two States” when I started screaming and my eyes nearly popped out. Here in these pages was an incident that was straight out of my life at IIMB (the book is set in IIMA, btw). The first thing I did, after I screamed of course, was to check the date of publication. 2009. 5 years after that incident had taken place in my life. There is a small chance it might have actually been based on me.

So in the book, the microeconomics professor is explaining utility functions and indifference curves. And he calls upon an economics graduate from Delhi University to explain the concept to the class. The student tries to give a qualitative explanation but no one understands. That is where the similarity ends. In the book, the professor ends up writing some greek alphabets on the board while the student (female) bursts into tears at the end of the class, humiliated. And the hero goes on to console her and all such.

So as I mentioned, this event closely mirrors something that happened to me. First term of B-school, check. Microeconomics, check. Indifference curves, check. Economics grad from DU asked to explain, check. Student giving qualitative explanation, check. Class not understanding head or tail of it, check.

In our class, though, something different happened. The hero had no intentions of waiting till the end of the class and consoling the DU Eco-grad (in this case, male). Up pops his arm, and he screams  “saar, saar, saar”. When the saar doesn’t respond he shouts “saar I can explain this in English”. The DU Eco-grad is at the blackboard repeating his line, which he had probably mugged up, which enabled him to top university.

Saar finally gives hero a chance to go to the blackboard. Hero puts on collar mic. Looks at the curves on the blackboard and carefully marks off points, which he decides to professorially name as A, A’ (pronounced A prime) and A” (A double prime). Class starts giving up. Hero adds more points. B and B prime. Class gives up further. Then A and A’ move to B and B’. Something probably makes sense. Soon the proof is obvious to most of the class (mostly engineers). Hero hasn’t completed the proof yet when he hears a loud thumping of desks. Math wins. It is unknown if the DU Eco-grad cried at the end of class.

My apologies if I’ve told this story earlier on this blog, but I’m not one to let go of a bragging opportunity. And I still think it was that incident in my class, Section C of IIMB, on the twenty second of July 2004 that inspired the similar scene in Bhagat’s book. No, that’s not the part I’m bragging about.

Pashchimavaahini – Part Deux

I’ve twice written here about Pashchimavaahini – that part of the river Kaveri near Seringapatnam where it flows west. I had once written about it immediately following my first visit there. And I had written about it once again last year when I had disccussed the economics of the place. So over the weekeend I had to go there again, for the second time in two and a half years. In order to do the ritual that is associated with the place – which is to immerse ashes of the dead.

A few pertinent observations from the trip:

  • The place has lost the economics of the food. They probably didn’t want “casual travelers” to come and eat there, or maybe they overestimated their own monopoly power, but the lunch is priced at Rs 70 now. Quality has also dropped – sambar was watery and vada not fried properly. (I’d recommend you to read the death markets post I’ve linked to above before reading on).
  • To put this pricing in perspective, I must mention Kamat Upachar, a restaurant between Channapatna and Maddur. They have a breakfast buffet for the same price! And the buffet includes a choice of juices, bread, idli, vada and dosa, and you can eat as much as you want.
  • This time the shastri we engaged was peaceful. We included an “all-inclusive” price and told him we’ll give only small change as daana
  • I told the shastri to do the minimum possible rituals and told him that I’m doing these things becasue they “need to be done” and not due to some special religious intent. He agreed and kept his word, as he quickly took me through the most basic rituals.
  • When I was away and in the river taking bath, the shastri told one of my uncles that I’m the types that would’ve dunked ashes online if that were an option.
  • I had made it clear to my relatives that I find most of the post-death rituals extremely depressing and so I didn’t wnat to engage in anything beyond the most basic stuff. This meant that at the end of yesterday’s rituals I’d to discard my procedural “tools”. The “paatrams” were given as a gift to the shaastri. The sacred stone was thrown backward in the river. And when I was bathing after the rituals, I let the river wash away the highly starched procedural dhoti

    Once that was done, I uttered a silent apology to the river for polluting it

  • Having been through all this once before, I knew what to expect and so was completely in control of the situation. This helped me manage my relatives better and have my way.
  • Having my way meant occupying the relatively comfortable front seat in the sumo while my senior citizen uncles struggled in the back due to lack of leg space. “This is even worse than an aircraft”, a former-HAL-employed granduncle told the driver
  • To help ease the situation for myself and distract myself, I live-tweeted the journey. And to further distract myself, I tried to tweet like Tharoor.
  • There was a fair bit of pollution involved in the ceremonies. A fair bit of plastic was used, and all got dunked into the river. Extremely sad stuff but I couldn’t really do anything.
  • I wonder why the urn of ashes is thrown backwards into the river. You stand on some rocks facing away and then chuck the thing backwards. I wonder what the significance of this is.
  • Looking at the general crowd there, I was wondering if death is a profitable business.

Getting rid of the landline

A large number of people I know have got rid of the land line phones at their homes and replaced them with a mobile phone for each member of the family. So now, there is no “home number” and each member of the family has their own personal number. And from talking to some of these people, apparently the economics work out well – an uncle I know says that the combined bill out of the five mobile phones that his family members own is far less than the bill he had to pay back when he had a land line.

Now, the reason for this reduction bill is fairly intuitive – now, one can keep track of how much each of the family members talks. Earlier, even with itemized billing it would be difficult to track who made which call and who is contributing to the inflation in telephone bills. However, now, it is possible to keep track of how much each person spends. And even if the “family fund” is willing to pay 100% of everyone’s bills, people are now wary of inflating the bills since everyone will now know who has been responsible for the inflation. And that automatically causes people to speak less.

I have a landline phone. The main reason I keep it is that it comes along with the broadband connection, which is a must for me. Apart from this, I think it is important to have a “home phone” or a “family phone” even if everyone in the house has a mobile. This is especially useful to give to relatives, etc. And last but not the least the landline phone feels good to the ear and the cheek, and is comfortable to hold in the hand – compared to a mobile phone which is likely to give you a pain in the hand and ear in case of long conversations.

However, when people are concerned about cutting cost and don’t need a broadband connection, it is intuitive to personalize people’s bills and thus get rid of the landline. In fact, I think nowadays some companies do it too, where employees are expected to make their business calls through their personal mobiles and then get it espensed from the company, rather than using the common office phone.