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Showing posts from September, 2011

Bank Uh! India

So how does it 'FEEL' like? What is the typical experience of banking in India? I had an experience today that is considered par for the course in this country. It's instructive as well as funny.
Some things change. Some things remain the same. That's the nature of India. Showrooms (think Suzuki ... or BMW) that have the look of permanence and solidity can disappear when you revisit some old location after a gap of a year or two. But a street vendor selling ice cream or sweets in front of a Pizza Hut is a permanent fixture over five years, perhaps a decade. People who are familiar with Janpath in New Delhi and know where the Hut and Sony are located will understand what I am talking about.
I recall the guy who used to collect old newspapers from our house back in my childhood days. When we moved house once to a new place which was some 15 miles from the old place, I was astonished to see that the paper-collector got to know about our new location and came to our new q…

A Sane Tax Policy

In any modern nation that has a taxation system, the poor don't pay taxes. In India, more than 90 percent do not pay taxes.

But that makes sense. The poor in India do not use as much of the infrastructure. The poor in India do not use airports. The poor in America do not use private planes.

One should be taxed at a rate commensurate with one's level of income. This is obvious and does not need debating. When the super rich have to pay taxes at a lower rate as Warren Buffett has reiterated so often, it's clearly unfair.

Millionaires need to be taxed at a higher but fair rate. A 90 percent rate of income tax is clearly unfair. But a 30 percent or 35 percent rate of tax seems fair enough.

Those in the 10 million to 50 million bracket can correspondingly be charged at a higher rate than the mere single-digit millionaires.

Those in the 50 million to 100 million bracket need to pay even higher taxes.

The tax rate can increase by 5 percentage points for every tax bracket.

The other bra…

The Strangest Thing

What is it that draws us to a news such as the untimely death of a celebrity? Whether it's Diana or Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley and John Lennon and so many others?
Now we have the untimely, tragic death of a teenage son of a cricket star.
It must tell us something about ourselves above all. Are we attracted to these events by any chance because at some level, we somehow prove ourselves to be superior to the dead by having simply outlived them?
After all, one of our most fundamental biological traits must be the desire to stay alive for as long as possible. Whatever else it's that you want to do, you have to be alive in the first place to be able to accomplish that.
Celebrities are celebrities in the first place because we choose to idolize them. This idolization perhaps involves both admiration and envy.
We must envy celebrities as they have surely achieved success in life in any of the myriad ways in which we may choose to define the term.
Thus when celebrities die, and we out…

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

All I propose to do in this post is collect in one place the book reviews published at various places.
From The Telegraph:
Every generation tends to look silly to the one after; those beehive hairdos, those chain smokers. Reacting to previous experience, we don’t make progress, necessarily. Vicars have randy daughters and randy daughters give birth to boys who in turn become vicars.
Salman Rushdie told me once that Hitchens was one of the two funniest people he had known (the other was Bruce Chatwin). I was unconvinced until I read in Arguably the following passage: “Is there anything less funny than a woman relating a dream she’s just had? (‘And then Quentin was there somehow. And so were you, in a strange sort of way. And it was all so peaceful.’ Peaceful?).” Of all the beliefs from which he has yet to deviate is the conviction that “the people who must ne…

New Delhi Bomb Blast : 7 September 2011 (a.k.a. 7/9)

Article first published as Delhi Bomb Blast on Technorati.

Life is cheap in India. Deaths from myriad random and unnatural causes are all too commonplace.
Nobody will really be able to give an accurate count of the number of terrorist attacks that have happened over the past few years.

It's fashionable to compare any and all terrorist attacks to the gold standard christened as 9/11. There is no ambiguity about what event it refers to.

But when attacks become all too commonplace, it's a bit tiring to come up with numerical shortcuts to refer to them. Should today's attack be called 7/9? The Mumbai attacks (not 26/11) on the suburban train system is already barely there in the faintest storehouse of our memory bank. The attacks on some crowded markets in Delhi around Diwali time is also but a mere part of the white noise background of my/our subconscious.

At least in New York City, they are coming up with a permanent memorial that will have the names of the nearly 3,000 peo…

Age of Empowerment

The attraction of the Anna movement apart from the topic of anti-corruption which is everyone's favorite whipping boy, was or is the fact that it is empowering.

It is weird to compare this movement to the Arab Spring as that would be like aspiring to scale the economic heights that Bangladesh has climbed.

Over and shrill nationalism is quite scary as it brooks no dissent.

India's core problem is clearly not corruption.

But people are easily swayed by symbolism rather than hard realities.

This happens even in developed economies such as the United States where opportunistic politicians are harnessing superficial problems such as outsourcing, illegal/legal immigration, big government rather than focusing on fundamental shifts in the nature of the global economic structure.

There will be disillusionment at some point. It remains to be seen what happens after that point is reached.

It's as clear and true as the Earth moving around the Sun that India won't become a developed nat…

Sex and Religion

Clearly that brings together two important topics.
Greta Cristina writes wonderfully about a report that has come out that shows how atheists have it better in matters of sex. Good to hear.
But the survey is clearly confined to Western nations with their (already) rather liberal cultures and the three monotheistic religions.
I want to bring a bit of a different perspective to it. Here in India, I have observed an entire generation grow up during the 30 odd years of my own life.
It has been quite bewilderingly disappointing to see the way the younger generation deals with the existing cultural and religious value systems.
To be sure, while growing up, kids in India are incessantly bombarded with the idea that it's important to respect the elderly, that they are great storehouses of knowledge and experience and wisdom.
Clearly, the matter of respecting one's elders would have made sense in agrarian societies where the elderly would really have in fact more knowledge by virtue o…