Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I'm feeling unusually sad today. The reason? Quite simply, the absolute pig's breakfast that our politicians and bureacrats have made of the Commonwealth Games. Foot overbridges are collapsing. Stadium ceilings are crashing down. Athletes quarters are shoddy  and uninhabitable. The list goes on.

"But sad? You? Surely not, Naren!", you ask me censoriously. "Haven't you lived here for the 45 years that you have existed? Doesn't it give you a kind of immunity to disclosure shock that people from other countries don't have. Like you go out with your ABCD cousin eating chaat and where he lies alternately writhing and pooping the next morning, you're tucking into vada pao?"

The answer to all your questions is a shamefaced "Yes". And yet, I AM feeling sad beyond expression. Why this should be so, can't say exactly. I think it's because the shame is now international.

Earlier, you see, we used do all this quietly before our adorably mute domestic audiences who would cheerfully shrug off 1200 crore fodder scams with a cheery "boys will be boys!" and would good naturedly vote in favour of giving them another go. But this time, it's Public. The World Knows! And the World is Laughing! Oh the shame! Even countries like Jersey and Guernsey are planning to pull out it seems. Jersey and Guernsey! Their entire population is less than my housing complex.

Of course India is not silent! No Sir! Everywhere, people are voicing their displeasure. Ranting against Kalmadi. Ridiculing Dixit. Demanding Manmohan Singh's resignation.

And completely missing the point. The reason all this has happened is not that these people are filled with greed and avarice. They are, but if it hadn't been them specifically, it would have been someone else. The point is that our glorious system of benevolent socialistic public service propriety or whatever it  is that this country functions under, holds no one accountable. This is endemic to all public institurions large and small. There is no punishment for crime. No one can be sacked for dereliction of duty, for example. And no one has ever served a prison term for abuse of office.

I have no idea why this should be so. Take the case of the toilet paper scam. You know the one. Where toilet paper was bought for Rs. 4000 a roll when it should have cost Rs. 100. The matter 'is still being probed', as far as I know.

Why in freakin hell this should take so much time is beyond me. Here is what you or I would have done.

Step 1. Find out if the toilet rolls have really been bought for Rs. 4000/- each. Clue - See the invoice. You should see a figure which says Rs. 4000/- per roll, or if not, divide the total invoice amount in rupees by the total number of rolls in numbers and see if the answer is Rs. 4000. It is? Good now go to

Step 2. Find out the fair market price for the rolls. Go to the supermarket. Buy a roll. When checking out, see the amount printed on the bill. Does it say Rs. 100? Good. Keep the receipt.

Step 3. Ask the guy who approved the invoice why his ass should not be put into jail.

How complicated can this be? Why should it take a frikkin committee, who, after a month of dedicated scrutiny are still unable to answer in one of two ways
A) Yes, the rolls were purchased for Rs.4000/- per  when they are freely available for Rs. 100/- per
B) No, the media is being dishonest. The rolls were bought for Rs. 100/- per and not for Rs. 4000/- per, and please put the said media person into prison

By the way, the news I heard what that the 'probe committe' is 'recommending' that 'Darbari be sacked'. Sacked? SACKED! This is not unlike asking General Dyer to write 100 times "I will not order firing on defenceless people again". The man should be given rigorous imprisonment unless he is able to prove he was acting on superiors' orders, in which case the superiors should be given rigourous imprisonment.

The moral, as far as I can see, is that unless someone is given real punishment, someone nuts are really nailed to the floor, nothing is ever going to change. And to my village idiot mind, it looks the right thing to do, doling out punishment I mean. Compromising the nations honour and all that.  But then, that's probably because I'm not a highly trained and skilled bureaucrat.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Week That Was

One thing that never ceases to amaze me, as it must you, if you've been following this jolly little autobiography of mine, is how easily I manage to continue to exist despite so obviously being a total loser. I have no doubt there would be a decent market for tips on how to do this - "Be a total loser and continue to exist" is the title that comes to mind ("12 straight weeks on the NYTimes bestseller list") - but the thing is, I don't have a clue. It seems incredible that I should have so many super-tolerant people around me. My parents. My sisters. The missus. The boys. A whole lot of friends. And you, dear reader, who, sacrificing valuable opportunities of increasing your wealth by obscene amounts, are reading this page.

Good. Got that off my chest. And now to recount the last weeks happenings.

The stellar part of my life these days is the interaction with the boys while teaching them.

The elder one is the more silent and decorous of the two. I think he feels that his dad is a pumpkin brain, but in a gentlemanly manner that I think he inherits from me, he keeps that opinion to himself. Usually, anyway. And he politely laughs at my jokes such as they are.

I came up with one when I was teaching him complex numbers. "a+ib is a complex number" I told him. "And?" he replied politely, because he knew that already

"And b12+i is a b-complex number"

"Hahaha" he replied "I think I'll go through the section on Complex Planes on my own". So much for levity in the teaching process.

The younger one, on the other hand, is clearly in awe of me. The reason is that I teach him economics. This is a subject towards which, thanks to the absurdly dense textbook they have, he has developed a healthy hatred. And I don't blame him.

Entrusted with the task of writing a textbook for ninth-standard students learning about economics for the first time in their lives, the rhetorically gifted chaps in charge of writing the textbook have done the prose in a style heavy enough to be employed in auditors' reports of public limited companies. James Joyce would read like the Brothers Grimm in comparison.

"An economy is a rather loosely defined term for any broad classification of interrelated productive activities such as farming, manufacturing and supply of a variety of services that people are ready to buy from markets at a price", they tell the tots, expecting rousing cheers at the revelation.

The son was extremely grateful when I explained it in terms of farmer, blacksmith and goatherd.

"Wow Annie! You know everything!" was his reaction.

"He believes I am the cat's pajamas as far as economics is concerned." I told myself. Pleased as punch I was and I'm sure no one will grudge me that reaction.

But things have a way of turning, if you know what I mean. I had occasion, this week, to explain what capitalism, communism, socialism and other isms which constitute political theory, meant. The lad listened in rapt attention.

I was floating. Rarely do I hold anyone's attention like this. It feels good. I can understand why Deepak Chopra and similar chaps go about  saying things like 'realizing that our true self is one of pure potentiality and aligning with the power that manifests everything in the universe'. He knows he's talking rot, but the public is listening! Intoxicated by this, he continues and in no time is telling people that 'God's love is beyond death' and that 'one must do what one does because doing is what one must do when one does what one must'.

Which is why I waxed lyrical about communism, dragging in Animal farm, and generally "kicked ass" as my sons are fond of saying.

The missus confronted me later in the evening.

"What rot have you feeding Gautham?" she demanded.

"What did I do now?"

"He's going on about becoming a communist" she said, scowling.


"Yes. He's been telling me that communism is the only way and that he's all for it"

I meekly tried to defend myself.

"I was telling him how bad communism was and how it has failed around the world"

"Well, your rhetoric is evidently half-baked, Mr Ayn Rand. You need to polish your spiel" And with that unkind barb, she walked away.

Well, to cut a long story short, I engaged the lad in conversation later in the evening. It transpired that he hates his tuition classes and my statement that communism believed in a classless society had won him over to that ideology.

I hit my forehead with my palm, in a gesture popularly known on twitter as 'facepalm' or, among the more subtle, as 'manoj kumar' or simply 'manoj'.

Which, come to think of it, is how I spend most weekends.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Arctic Tale - Reposted

(When people run out of ideas, they usually join politics. Gone-casers like me go a step further. They re-post old blog entries.  Apologies and all that)

The blizzard was fierce. Old Tuskegaw the Inuit hunkered down with his huskies in the little ice shelter he had rustled up. The tundra could be lethal. He knew that, and was taking no chances.

The dogs whimpered. Even for them, this blizzard was too much. Tuskegaw could sense that. He was grateful to the spirits for guarding them thus far, and prayed they would continue to do so.

For he had a mission to accomplish. A sled full of Geometry books, just imported from China where printing was the cheapest, to be transported to his tribespeople, living on the North Pole. Knowledge! Liberation from generations of battle with unforgiving Nature!

Tuskegaw looked heavenward and thanked the spirits once again for the rare honour bestowed upon him. It was not everyday that one got the opportunity to cart Asian geometry to polar coordinates.