Asato ma sat gamaya
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Mrityur ma amritam gamaya
Lead me from illusion to the Truth
Lead me from darkness to Light
Lead me from death to Immortality
from the Brihadaranya Upanishad.
Money is fungible.
If I give money to my neighbor to help out with his grocery purchases, I may be acting out of good neighborly feelings. But what if he is an alcoholic? By giving him money, I could as well be funding his alcohol purchase. Even if I were to buy groceries and have them delivered to his home, I am again freeing up his own money for booze. Worse yet, what if my neighbor actually builds bombs in his basement which he frequently lobs over the fence and destroys parts of my house? Surely, giving him grocery money out of misplaced pity is the same as my paying him for his bombs which he uses against me.
Just a few weeks ago, we learnt that the KGB poured cash into the pockets Indian communist leaders and handsomely bribed the leaders of the Congress Party which was then under the control of Indira Gandhi. This past week we learn from UN sponsored investigation that Natwar Singh and the same Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi has been bribed rather handsomely by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain.
Is the Congress Party corrupt? It is like asking, is the Pope Catholic? Or asking, is Bill Gates rich? Or the more earthy question, does a bear shit in the woods?
The corruption of the Congress Party is not a new thing, however. In 1938, Sri Aurobindo wrote:
All this [referring to certain dishonest financial practices] promises a bad look-out when India gets purna Swaraj [full independence]. Mahatma Gandhi is having bad qualms about Congress corruption already.
Power corrupts, as Lord Acton famously observed, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. It is a nice aphorism but in India’s case, it is the corrupt that get power and the absolutely corrupt get absolute power.
I think that people seek political power in India fundamentally because it allows them to gain personally by corrupt means. The politicians are best placed to engage in corrupt practices because the economy is a command and control economy. So it is not that they become powerful and therefore later become corrupt. It is the other way around. It is the already morally and ethically bankrupt that seek power and attain it because they are corrupt. The honest and the good don’t have what it takes to reach the pinnacle of political power. They cannot compete with the criminal class from which the politicians rise to the top of the heap.
“It is all about power, isn’t it?” said CJ.
I was on the phone with CJ, discussing a series of columns that the Indian Express newspaper has been running called “India Empowered” which as the newspaper puts it, “if there’s one engine that’s today driving a changing India, it’s empowerment. Empowerment of the individual, the family, the neighborhood, the community – and, hence, the nation.”
A bit of Saturday silliness.
Have you noticed the spanking new brown decal on the right hand side column which says, This blog is listed on W I K A B L O G? Wikablog is a new ultimate Wiki of blogs.
They said it shouldn’t be done, and they were probably right, but here it is anyway: The Wikablog, so called because it’s a big wiki of blogs. We, the Wikablog’s shadowy masters, hope that it will fast become the ultimate wiki of blogs — and why shouldn’t it? All it needs is you. Yes, you. Continue reading
I would describe the Mercedes Benz International School in Pune to be the Rolls-Royce of schools in India.
They follow the International Baccalaureate Organization’s curricula. About half their students are Indians and the others are the children of expatriates working in multinational firms in Pune.
It is the kind of school that if you have to ask what the tuition fees are, you probably cannot afford it. With only 167 students, it is as exclusive as it is expensive. The annual fee is mind-boggling—to me at least—over half a million rupees a year. The top fees is Rs 5.7 lakhs ( approximately, US$ 13,000) and the one-time fixed cost is Rs 3 lakhs.
Why exactly is connectivity so expensive in India? For instance, these days in Pune I pay Tata Indicom Rs 880 (US$20) a month for 64kbps (max) speed. Compare that to 5 years ago I used to get 256 kbps unlimited usage ADSL connectivity in Berkeley CA for only about $20 a month. One can naively ask why I don’t get 256 kpbs unlimited usage for say Rs 200 a month in Pune today?
OK, just to frame the question a little better, let me state that I recognize that prices depend on the underlying costs and on the degree of competition in the market. First, underlying costs. There are technical costs and there are statutory/regulatory/government imposed costs. Technical costs in India cannot be more than the technical costs in the rest of the world. Equipment costs approximately the same, modulo local taxes and import duties. Of course, average fixed costs vary depending on scale, and I do recognize that there are scale economies. So that is one factor that needs consideration: the scale of the operation. Perhaps the BB market is so small that some variant of average cost pricing makes the prices so high.
For reasons unknown to me, I want to write about some songs that I like. Songs always bring back memories to me and I always associate songs with the most profoundly moving experiences of my life. The song lyrics matter to as much as the musical arrangement. I must know a thousand songs by heart, most of them either in English or Hindi. To me, a song is just a poem sung to a tune. My liking for poetry goes along with my love of music, I suppose.