why is the level of English in North India so low?

I had sent this mail to a mailing list of 60-odd super-intelligent people. unfortunately, in their fondness for Savita Bhabhi, Vidarbhan farmers and child-eating, they weren’t able to come up with any convincing explanation for this. So I thought you super-intelligent readers of my blog might be able to help. I begin.

Three months back I moved to Gurgaon from Bangalore. And one thing I’ve noticed is that here practically no one can speak English. I’m referring to service providers here, people who are typically from the lower middle class. Taxi driver. Electrician. Waiter. Accountant. etc.

None of them can speak a word of English, and  I mean that almost literally. In Bangalore and Madras, we can see that people in these professions at least make an effort to speak English, and even if you don’t know their local tongue you will be able to communicate with them and get your work done. Here, unless you know Hindi, it is impossible. There is only so much you can communicate in Dumb Charades, right?

I suppose one argument will be that people in the North would have never had the need to learn English since most people they come across can speak Hindi. And that since linguistic regions are much smaller in the South, there is greater incentive for people to pick up and learn new languages. And since they know that a knowledge of English helps get them more business, they make an effort to pick it up.

But again – even if you exclude those who haven’t gone to school, the knowledge of English here is horrible. Isn’t it aspirational in North India to send kids to English medium schools? If not, I wonder why this is the case – given that in the South practically everyone want to send their kids to English medium schools.

Ok here is my hypothesis – remember that it is a hypothesis and not an argument. I wonder if people who are native of regions where the same language prevails over a large geographical area are linguistically challenged. because everyone they need to interact with know their language and there is no need for them to learn any new language. and this affects their ability to pick up new languages. on the other hand, people from linguistically diverse regions will tend to find it easier to pick up new languages.

extending this, it might actually help if the medium of instruction in your school is not your native tongue. having learnt a new language early, you will find it easier to pick up new languages as you go along.

sometime last month I was at a high-end restaurant with a couple of friends. spoke to the waiter in English and he didn’t understand. one of my friends who was with me said “don’t bother talking to these guys in English. if they knew some english, they’d’ve been working for Genpact and not become waiters”

On Alonso and Delta Hedging and Creating Positive Black Swans (and louvvu of course)

Yesterday, on the Twisted Shout blog, I had blogged about Xabi Alonso, and his methods for scoring goals. Complete with videos of a few of his goals, and incomplete because I couldn’t find a few other videos, I explained how he goes about the entire process. He takes long shots, I had explained. From a distance. Hoping to catch the goalkeeper off guard. And accurate enough to get the ball in the net most of the time.

Towards the end of The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb talks about how you can make black swans work for you. He talks about industries such as moviemaking and book publishing, and he says they traditionally thrive on positive black swans. They lose a little money on most projects – books or movies, but make significantly more money when one of them succeeds.

The book industry, Taleb argues, has now lost its traditional revenue model. Nowadays, the norm for publishers is to dole out huge advances to authors who will potentially write blockbusters. This, Taleb says, now exposes the publishers to huge negative black swans. The advances are so huge that if a book sells well they recover their investments. If not, they are prone to losing a huge amount.

I notice a similar problem in the romance industry. Suppose you have been hitting on, or even seeing, a girl for a long time, and it’s now time for measurement. By conducting the measurement experiment now, you are exposing yourself to a huge negative black swan. You have already made considerable investment in the relationship, mostly emotional but also monetary and temporal. And what if the measurement doesn’t go the way you want it to go? You are already in the D (desire) of Kotler’s AIDA. It will take a long time for you to recover from it, and this could even be career threatening, as I had discovered the hard way a couple of days years back.

Now, my theory with relationships (I don’t know how much you want to trust this – since I’ve never been in a relationship) is that in order to succeed, both parties should be at least in the I (interest) zone. And one of the parties has to be in D zone. This is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the relationship to go thorugh.

So, how about testing whether the other person is in the I zone when you are also in I zone? If she is, then well and good – you can start the process of figuring out if you want to get into D, etc. If she isn’t you can quickly cut your losses and move on. If she does admit to being interested in you, it’s great. It’s a positive black swan. And if she tells K, you haven’t really invested much in the relationship so it shouldn’t be hard. Right? So that’s how my mind ran when I thought about this problem yesterday.

I sent her a mail asking her for permission to put blade on her. I explained to her in the mail (i’ll probably blog the mail at a later date – I’m quite proud of my efforts on second thoughts I won’t blog the mail. I think she deserves exclusivity to that masterpiece) that I ever since I met her a few days back I have gotten really interested in her, and am considering the possibility of blading her. That if she is not interested in getting bladed by me, then there is no point in my continuing and wasting both our times and energies, and so she should tell me that right now. I sent this mail to her earlier this evening and I’m still awaiting her reply.

So where does delta hedging fit into this?  It is like the road to Ithaca as this poem mentions. It is about the journey being more enjoyable than the destination. It is about the process of doing something being more enjoyable than the results. It is from the excitement you get just by doing something for the heck of it. These are all what I call as second order effects. They are, in effect, derivatives. First order derivatives of something you are doing, which is effectively the underlying.

As I had mentioned in my previous post, by going ahead with the blading, the only thing I had to lose was my confidence. My form. And if I had gone about blading the conventional way, poking and probing, and making small inroads, the process too would’ve been excruciating, and would’ve added to the pain of the blade not succeeding. So was there a way in which I could hedge out the loss of form and confidence?

I think I’ve been fairly ingenious in going for my long shot. I’m doing something unusual by going about it the unconventional way. Add to this the joy of sitting and drafting that letter to her (yes, it’s a masterpiece). And the possibility of the insights I might gain from this process. And of blogging it, as I am doing now. As soon as I had hit upon this method, i realized that the second order advantages from this were huge. And would easily hedge away any blues that failure in my attempt would bring. It was like getting a put option along with a stock. You knew that your losses were capped.

On the other hand – if she accepted – the returns would be huge. It would be a positive black swan. Capped losses and uncapped gains! Once I had figured this out it was a no brainer that I should go for it. And I have gone for it. A long shot a la Alonso. And I’m waiting for the result. Wish me luck.