Oh um eh….I wear a bra…

By now you know all about this, but just in case you don’t, here is a link you could read. If you, however, do not like links and don’t look up things on the net that you read about – then here is a summary:

There is a meme going around Facebook. A lot of women, (me included) received an e-mail (forwarded), from other girl friends we know — suggesting that we change our status messages to a one word colour that reflects the bra we’re currently wearing.

Why? Because it might be a fun, silly, puzzling-to-men thing to do and also raise awareness about breast cancer along the way. How? One version of the story is that smart men will track down the mail and see that breast cancer figures in the mail – another version is that the mail originated from a breast cancer awareness organization.

A lot of my friends (and apparently a lot of women) did as the e-mail suggested. I counted twenty plus colourful status messages ranging from fawn, pink, white to multi-coloured. Mine said “black” for the record. A while later I started seeing e-mails going back and forth; several which objected to this entire exercise. I like summarizing things – so in summary there were two kinds of responses a) Don’t–  this is stupid/embarrassing etc, and b) Don’t do this – I’m worried this trivializes the entire breast cancer cause.

I’m terribly worried by the latter. This opinion is both stupid, embarrassing and frankly many times worse than ‘trivializing’. Here is why:

1. It is stupid because it betrays a fear about discussing a ‘private matter’. There is nothing really private about a bra colour. In any sense. Men are privy to the vast variety of leopard prints on bras in some of the biggest malls in this country. They are also privy to the cheap, and equally designer, replicas in road side shops. Besides, nobody forced anyone into sharing the colour of their bra. What is so troublesome about seeing a bra colour openly shared? Nothing.

What is troublesome, to these sorts of people, is that so many women spontaneously shared their bra colours (I have no doubt many lied – but a fair share must have been genuine too; at any rate the truthful or fictitious nature of the color is quite irrelevant) and GASP many of them were ‘committed’ or even ‘married’. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think this is quite close to being stupid.

2. Let’s talk about embarrassment. Clearly women who voluntarily shared this information were quite unashamed. If they were embarrassed they probably would never have done it. These women also already knew about breast cancer and felt obligated (morally) to pass the information on. We’ll discuss if Facebook memes are necessarily the best mechanism to do this, in a bit.

Now, I can’t see, why I (or anyone else) should be embarrassed about passing information about breast cancer. As a matter of fact – I would feel very embarrassed if I didn’t. Clearly embarrassment goes a long way. To my mind, if people could be embarrassed into reading (which does not automatically translate into knowing/remembering or internalizing) about breast cancer, let there be more embarrassment.

3. Trivializing the issue. This the big one. This is where all the activists and gender warriors stand up wag their fingers at you. “This is all very well… but won’t men just guffaw silently about bra colours and boobs and not really give breast cancer the concern it deserves? Besides, breast cancer is a serious issue – not a joke about bras and colours, right? Wrong. Wrong because there is a huge framing problem going on here. It is poor logic. If I say I am against capital punishment is that the same thing as me saying that I believe ‘all crime should go unpunished’?

Will men silently guffaw? Sure. Many will, some definitely will. But that is not the point. Let’s go back to the question I asked in point number 2. Are Facebook memes a good way to spread awareness? Depends of how you define the objective. The objective, I think, of the meme was to raise awareness about the existence of breast cancer. Awareness is, to me,  planting a thought. Waving a word in someone’s face. If I scream “BOOBS” and get three men to pay attention and manage to say three lines about breast cancer after – what is the likely outcome?

One scenario is – the man derives some happiness from the word ‘boobs’ and moves on. Scenario 2 – The man remembers about the boobs but also about breast cancer. He has a busy day – but when he casually surfs the net, he looks it up. Maybe he has daughters who he discusses the issue with, maybe he asks his partner.

Scenario 3 – Maybe the chap does nothing other than repeat this “silly story” to another guy, who then tells some other guy…. information spreads. One of those guys is from scenario 2.

So we have a lot of lousy and different outcomes – but some positive ones too. Are the positive outcomes worth it? You decide. What are the losses? Some guys, who wouldn’t have cared either way, still don’t – they occupy the same spot on the indifference curve. Some guys act as carriers of the message. Positive outcome. Some guys, who might not have cared, (if not for the meme) actually read about it. Positive Outcome. Is the breast cancer cause doing any worse than it was in the absence of the meme? You pick.

I also said that response two (the accusation  of trivializing) does some damage. How?

One of the best things about the internet is that information is easily accessible. It doesn’t cost me more than two clicks to read about breast cancer – right now. This is the magic of hyper linked documents. The power of a social media tool (like Facebook) and a meme on it, is that it, adds personal credibility. I get a message from a friend, I read it. Even if it is a meme. Then there is the hope to leverage huge numbers. Most critically – the internet is fun.

In school, I hated statistical classes, because the information was in boring histograms and I had to draw to scale on printed graph paper. There was no undo button if I made a mistake. The cost of drawing that graph and making an error was astronomically high in that context. I had to use an eraser and hope that all the rubbing wouldn’t tear my graph paper. In college, I discovered infographics, beautiful non-histogram ways to understand statistical data. And I could create my own (on excel back then) and make as many mistakes as I wanted – because I could ‘undo’. How did I start enjoying a subject I hated? It was made fun.

Surely, there can be no better way to attract attention to a deserving cause, than by making ‘awareness’ fun? If someone wanted to get people to look up ‘breast cancer’, by mentioning coloured bras because it is fun, how is that a bad outcome?

Here is a real bad outcome – by diluting the enthusiasm to share important information and getting minds to look up ‘breast cancer’ – you’re actually hurting the cause. Time and time again I meet people in the social sector – who like occupying the high ground by using this word ‘trivialize’.

Here is how to trivialize a genuinely good idea —

The internet using population has quick and easy access to information. The meme architect has a hook that catches the eye, a free mechanism to do the networking and a social media tool to add credibility — and what do you do? You worry about bad outcomes because you think people will misunderstand.Worse still, you air those views.

Some timid people out there, who would have liked to be a part of this information chain, have now opted out because your raised doubts. In the words of Steven E Landsburg — you have polluted the communal stream of information that had clear positive spillover effects. If you don’t like Economics — this means there are now fewer people to influence more people. Now that is a bad outcome.

I would not worry so much about people’s understanding. People are genuinely rational. Also, despite my description of men, many are not as awful as one likes to believe and are happy to learn and even help.

So what colour is your bra? 🙂

PS: This is not to say that there aren’t better ways to raise awareness. Neither am I saying that different questions and issues cannot be raised. Cultural sensibilities, prices, attitudes, aspirations and a bunch of other things are extraordinarily important. I’m not entirely sure if breast cancer is a women’s issue alone or if getting men involved is enough.

The point is – you can’t attack an attempt to raise awareness by saying “you aren’t saying all there is to be said on the subject”. Of course not. If the bra meme gets people interested in breast cancer – the internet is a great place to learn, about the weightier and by no means inconsequential issues, in this arena — and breastcancer.org is an excellent place to begin.

Monopolizing TED

This post is an opinion. It is important that I state this upfront given the probability that its likely to be taken badly. This post is an opinion. Re-Stated. Opinion. Period.

Lately, I’ve become a big fan of saying things ‘upfront’ along with becoming a fan of ‘staying in the loop’, ‘re-defining impact’, ‘being on the same page’ and the like, but all that is a story for a different day.

TEDIndia is happening. TED has been ‘happening’, in a better way – for longer. Years ago, when TED found me – I spent several days downloading mp4 (s) to my Ipod. Qualitatively, what made the videos/talks different, was the fact that they celebrated the ‘small fry’, voices that haven’t been heard before.

Now take a look at the TEDIndia’s speakers list.

If you work with development in India – almost all those names are familiar to you. Where are the new ideas? Where is the innovation? A huge percentage of the potential speakers represent the ‘social enterprise’ space, there are also the ‘microfinance guys’, the ‘development economists’ and all then some more.

Some of these guys have done great work in the past. They’ve shaped the development space into what it currently is. They’ve also run out of ideas. Not to mention the ‘legendary-ness” of Usha Uthup.

Clearly, many of these people are established ‘greats’ with good reason. They’re excellent speakers and ,yes, maybe those of in this niche ‘development’ sector do know them – but this is about Global Recognition (with G and R in CAPITALS).

I beg to differ – clearly this is about fund raising and hobnobbing. Nothing wrong with that, just state it upfront.

So here’s my quibble — the idea was for TED bring ‘inspired’ thinking to the rest of us. On this front, TEDIndia – well you’ve failed me.

PS: This post, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that boss(es) are also on the speakers list. 😛

Why Ad Hominem is Bad Strategy…

It never is pleasant to wear your political stance on your sleeve. I started this morning with a diatribe from someone (not named for the sake of civility) who I am sure has not even an iota worth of political clarity.  What could possibly prompt this? Most likely the fact that I am spending the summer working for an organization that ostensibly ‘Mr. Diatribe’ disagrees with.

This is what I was told in response to my ‘libertarian leanings’:

just checked on xxxxx foundation. am amazed. people like you work for free market shit in and for america and still wanna call urself indians and pretend to be theatre lovers and major book readers and god knows what other. really sad. human rights activism? u must be joking. you shud be in irag then – or palestine. but then u need the american breast to suck. sorry for this.

Spellings retained as in original!

Its taken me a while to stop laughing at this, but I have succeeded. Tearing these arguments apart is not really the focus of this post- though I shall say this:

Working at an ‘American’ think-tank is not the same as working for America. In fact, I’m not even sure what someone ever means by the phrase  “working for America”. Is a country just one giant monolith? What was the allusion to? – All capitalists in general, the entire population of Americans (who I assure you, hold a wide variety of conflicting views on most subjects- just as entire populations do in any country), the government of America? Now this is what a political philosopher would describe as a classical example of the ‘methodological individualism’ fallacy. I, of course, do not  work for any of these groups- I work to advance the cause of liberty.

The next argument is the ‘free market’ problem. This is definitely the result of misguided thinking, a corporate monopoly is NOT an example of the free market! The free market is about choice, liberty and competition- it is not about one large corporation taking over! More importantly free markets are not the same thing as ‘privatization’ (which also gets unfairly abused by quasi-uninformed- fashionable-activist cum socialists) or even liberalization or globalization – its more like a blend of all three that works in the best interests of everyone. Its a commitment to freedom.

The next argument is my favorite argument; its called the ‘Let’s kill all the Non-Resident Indians’ argument. Of all Mr Diatribe’s arguments this is probably what disturbed me the most, and that is so not just because it is completely out of context or because as a tiny aside I am not an NRI. The problem is two-fold I think. Actually manifold – but i think I will stick to two.

My first response to this is that nation-state boundaries are human constructs and human society has spent  millennia in war trying to defend them. War is probably the most counter-productive phenomenon that has plagued human productivity. I’m not sure I appreciate a sense of ‘nationalism’ that arises out of being ‘Indian’ because I was born within the boundaries of a geographical territory I had no choice about. Also globalization and free trade is probably the surest path to peace, nothing is more obvious to people: “I am better off making money as opposed to killing you”.

At a lower level of argumentation; what does being ‘Indian’ mean, and what on Earth does my place of residence have to do with being ‘Indian’?! There is a more serious objection I have to this however- prosperity spreads through voluntary exchange and therefore trade. Anyone who has even in the passing read about comparative advantage knows that. One of the reasons why India, for example, prospered through the golden ages was because we have had a history of immigrations. Immigrants brought opportunities to trade, therefore immigration is a good thing for everybody.

Why can’t we understand the NRI phenomenon the same way? NRIs (though I do have a problem with this kind of classification of people) add value to the economic system, both the Indian system and the American system and doing so ensure that their existence is a positive sum game! NRIs are not an example of capital flight. Farmers in India will not be better off if NRIs did not do business abroad and farmed instead. Bastiat is far better at explaining the phenomenon of What is Seen and What is Unseen, than I am, and this is a classical example of how that effect works.

Productivity stems from being employed in or engaged at doing what an individual is best at doing- and if that is entrepreneurship so be it! This is probably why I am not in Iraq or Palestine (though I would love to be) yet! To illustrate Mr Diatribe’s line of argumentation a little better: If you love ice cream you better only be employed at Baskin & Robbins. Hell no! Just because I love ice cream it does not mean I should narrow down my options in terms of career choices to working with ice cream firms all my life.

Here is another argument that a uninformed quasi-socialist can throw at you.  They will yell at you saying thus “someone who believes in markets is necessarily anti-human rights”. Not true. This to me represents the pinnacle of ignorance. Markets are super-efficient mechanisms that work for everyone’s benefit, if and when, they exist for everyone! The problem, as most development economists know, is not that we have too much market- but far too little.

For example, in India the formal credit market is terribly under-developed. Witness the fact that women are not a part of the formal banking system, neither are several millions of the poor. These people are also incidentally thwarted by the government in every effort towards entrepreneurship through yards and yards of regulation. Also notice that these people are called ‘pre-bankable’ in micro finance parlance (which all the uninformed quasi-socialists love), they are ‘pre-bankable’ because they hope to build up a credit history through micro finance that allows them to get into the formal credit market. But why?, yells the uniformed quasi-socialist, because micro finance loans are costly, they have higher interest rates than regular credit markets that rely on markets! What is micro finance really achieving? Its creating a market where none existed earlier, and people want to move onto more developed markets.

Markets are good, being excluded from them is bad. Markets are not mean for fairness, justice and equity- that is for the uniformed quasi-socialists. Why? Because people who understand markets know that every policy helps one group at the expense of another- we know fairness is a subjective value. We also know that efficiency works, we know prices are great signaling devices unless distorted by taxes or subsidies, we know that there is no such thing as a free lunch because opportunity costs exist and we know incentives matter. We therefore believe that the only ideological position one can legitimately take is to not justify waste (read inefficiency, not consumption waste!), so why should an ‘Indian’ with so many starving hungry people work in America for free markets? Because such Indians care about poverty, they care about allowing people to empower themselves through new markets, better trading opportunities, lesser regulation to do trade!

This is a far cry from the uninformed quasi-socialist who believes that government failures for 60 years of independence is forgivable, but not market inefficiencies (which by the way are the result of too little market, not too much!), who sits and yells about the environment degradation and rising food prices in the same breath without understanding that underpricing natural capital might actually be the cause. It is also a far cry from the uninformed quasi-socialist who for the lack of brains resorts to rhetoric and more often to abuse. Free markets are for free people who believe in liberty, for everyone. Not forced equality or a subjective standard of equity- but the opportunity for everyone to be prosperous through free trade.

Finally, the jab about culture, theater and books. I suppose it might hurt Mr. Diatribe to look at history and tell me the why the most ‘bourgeois’ nations of Europe are home to some of the world’s greatest art? Hungry people do not really make good artists, do they?  Sub-altern art in communities even in Africa and India was the result of well-fed people.  There are similar trends in history for theater and literature.

Strangely enough, I am hard-pressed to find any member of the ‘uninformed quasi-socialists’ tribe who have actually read the Das Kapital in original! Activists like Mr Diatribe above, are the torch bearers of the new pretentious half-baked hand-me-down socialist tradition who base their perceptions on doctored summaries and the most horrifically prolific Vandana Shiva. Small wonder though, considering how disastrous state-monopolized education systems are.

All this brings me to the point of this post which is rather simple. Deciding to be nasty in conversation with someone especially about political issues is probably the most unhelpful thing to do. To begin with it prompts nastiness in response, or complete silence or in some cases– a patient detailed response, like this one, which is highly unlikely. Two it is extraordinarily presumptuous to assume that one knows everything, and far worse to assume that the other person is poorly-read, stupid or just plain wrong. In my experience, I find most people have very good reasons to believe what they do- its usually ‘us’ on the other side who decide to be aggressive and nasty that need to learn common courtesy and therefore need to attempt to figure out the rationale behind the other individual’s thought process.

The writer of the diatribe of course, would attribute ‘motive’ to such a suggestion and he would be absolutely right- after all I too get to do well in a nation, country and world where most people are prosperous!

Bad Evenings and Worse Mornings!

Two days ago I was in Bangalore giving an interview. One of the many questions I was asked was about relocation , I was also asked if I liked my ‘hometown’ Chennai. I remember answering in the affirmative; sure Chennai has terribly hot climate and it could be a little boring at times, but on the whole its safe and has the sea and well I generally like it. After today I think I like Chennai much less.

This evening my mom and I went in search of the i-pill, of course had I been a little less ignorant I wouldn’t have tried despite the circumstances. So this is what we did; we called our regular medical store and were told the i-pill was unavailable, so we then enquired about Norlevo, Pill 72, Ovral G and several other varieties of the ‘morning-after’ pill and found they were unavailable too. About an hour later we had set out on a walk, enquired at six different medical stores and came to naught, so we unhappily drew the conclusion that the ‘morning after’ was simply unavailable.

This struck me as absurd, Chennai – touted as the ‘medical capital’ of India had no medicines of a particular variety?, that was not all nor the the scariest part. In attempt to fill the gap, qualified chemists kept trying to convince me that ‘Mifepristone‘ a MTP Pill available usually only on prescription was the same thing. The fact is, Mifepristone is used in conjunction with other abortive pills (an abortificant) to induce an abortion below five weeks of pregnancy and is positively dangerous if taken in the place of an emergency contraceptive pill, ‘Levonorgestrel’, on the other hand, is used as part of combination oral contraceptive pill and in high doses can be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. Unintended consequences in a situation of information asymmetry and really nasty plausible outcomes playing out.

Apparently sometime in 2006, Tamil Nadu’s state Directorate of Drug Control (DDC) decided to take all ‘pills’ of the ‘morning after’ variety of the shelves. The provocation? Apparently the Chennai-based ‘Responsible Parents Forum’ and ‘Satvika Samuga Sevakar Sangam’ felt that the drug induces abortion (and is not a contraceptive); therefore its sale without prescription is illegal, additionally the two protesting groups claimed that there was no public debate before it was included in the Schedule M of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act (DCA), 1940 which makes the drug available over the counter.

I’m not sure whether I should be shocked about how regressive people can be or stand in awe of the stupidity involved. To begin with ’emergency contraceptive pills’ are not the same thing as abortive pills, the text of any ‘morning after pill’ explains that they are ineffective once ‘implantation’ has taken place in the womb or in other words once fertilization has happened, which is why they are termed levonorgestrel-based ECs! Abortive pills on the other hand are designed to work after this fertilization has taken place, the methods then are very different.

Chemical analysis and indeed any minimum degree of bio-chemistry knowledge easily proves that any ‘morning after’ pill contains Levonorgestrel and not Mifepristone (which is what is being sold as replacement, GASP!) as suggested by the hair-brained protesters. What is interesting is that the TN DDC has the right to seize ‘drugs; of a particular kind only if they do not adhere to prescribed standards, or are mis-branded, adulterated or spurious, I really wonder which one of these conditions apply to the ‘mornign after’? As far as is known, in the case of emergency contraceptives such as the ‘morning after’ the dosage is 0.75 mg (recommended by the Drug Controller of India) and sold as a Schedule M drug under a ready licence!

Even more absurd is this quotation from one of the women by name of Ajeetha (sigh!) who was at the forefront of the protests, she says: “the text is objectionable and promotes ‘free sex’. Words such as ‘..when one becomes careless, or things get out of control‘, It takes away responsibility from the act of sexual intercourse. And the branding (Mis-take) is also not so subtle insinuation that pre-marital sex is alright…”.

One of the biggest things to learn about patriarchy is that women themselves are the biggest perpetrators of it! Its been a long time since I have seen or heard of a more vivid example than this. Its fascinating how regressive laws can become in a country that is supposed to be swaggering down the road to development.

Consider capital punishment for rape, in India capital punishment is given in the ‘rarest of rare instances’ for the ‘most heinous of crimes’ which are often such crimes that render their victims in some sense ‘irreparable’. For a moment lets forget the argument that most people who have studied ‘law and economics’ draw – which suggests that at the margin the cost of committing rape+murder for a rapist becomes zero if capital punishment is announced for rapists thereby creating an incentive to additionally rape and kill their victims in fear of evidence coming out for a harsher punishment and so…

But consider this, is this the message we want to give out in society about our women? Ought rape to be a crime that makes no women live a normal life again? Ought we to attach such stigma to a woman who has been ‘raped’ to make her feel that the most ‘heinous and irrepairable’ damage has been done to her? Is chastity all there is to woman? Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying rape is OK, I’m asking if we really want to make women believe that their chastity being lost is something that should make them feel guilty life-long? But I digress.

One thing that is obvious is this, the SS Co. (which sounds dangerously RSS like) and the ‘Responsible Parents Forum’ probably consists of the most irresponsible bunch of people ever known- people who oppose freedom of choice, liberty in action and the access to technology all together. A formidable coalition of fools who believe that Chennai streets are better overrun with teenage mothers and scared teenage fathers, with dustbins littered with unwanted infants and people with closeted minds who will silently engage in marital rape while the law turns a blind eye and proclaims all is fine.

Never mind that Chennai has one of the highest incidence of AIDS in the country, never mind that domestic violence is spiralling in Tamil Nadu and never mind that the un-natural separation between growing girls and boys in this academic ‘temple’ of the south causes more and more roadblocks to conjugal bliss. After all who will ever find out?, we will keep sweeping it under the carpet as long the vermilion stays bright and the sacred threads sparkle along our broad backs!

The tragedy is that its been nearly two years since emergency contraception has been available freely in Chennai, and I am yet to hear of a protest! Tragically Chennai is the same place where the global campaign for microbicides (a form of contraception) began and is still head-quartered. What happened to science and reason or is it only prejudice that matters now?

Book Byte

Most friends consider me anti-social thanks to my habit of crawling under a blanket with a book. Most times I consider this a compliment. I have over fifteen assignments (varying in degrees of difficulty) due before the first week of next month, and therefore it is the perfect time to turn to completely unrelated literature to refresh my mind.

Anyhow, the point is a couple of hours ago I started randomly browsing and ended up here. Webdeposite.com is an awful website and an excellent source for free books at the same time. Its awful because of the horrible ads all over the pages, I recommend looking at it only through Firefox with AdBlocker on. Despite all the ads, I found close to forty books (Actually I found more, I downloaded forty) in PDF across a mind-boggling array of subjects. The beauty of it, of course is that its all free.

Some of these books I’ve wanted to buy desperately, and some I could never decide about at bookshops. I found books like the Evolution of Civilizations, The Economic Origins of Evolutions, almost all of Chomsky, The Oxford Classics series on Natural Theory, Books on SAS, Differential Evolution, The For Dummies Series, the Routledge Philosophy Series, The Very Short Introduction to…. Series (The Very Short Introduction to Economics, by Partha Dasgupta is a beautiful book), The Guide to Mental Health, Problems in Real and Complex Analysis, The Chemical History of a Candle and a whole host of others. If you’re looking for a great E-book resource this is it. Some of the books are in the .djvu format. You’ll need to go here to download the free viewer.

Of course there are other places to go as well, the Gutenberg Project was my last favourite resource and still remains the only place where I found the complete and download-able version of the Devil’s Dictionary. The text file format of books bugs me though, and I haven’t found much aside of classical texts. Take a look at this blog post for an updated list of where to find free books on the web.

Jesus Among the Neocons

            Had Jesus, the Shepherd of  sheperds,

            been a bodily traveler among us

            today, he might not have been able

            to ride any plane, or cruiser,  or bus

            into the United States,

            or to conquer any of its many hates.

            What with his Asiatic visage

            and sable skin,

            compounded by his Bin Laden beard,

            he would have had to dare

            more than the fates.

            Supposing he had entered the place,

            aided by some technical subterfuge,

            would he have recognized the New World

            as love’s haven, or christian refuge?

            The born-again, beefy giant

            at the check-point tray

            might have slapped the cuffs

            on him even as he made his pliant

            in unintelligible Aramaic huffs;

            and no sooner than you think

            he might have landed in Guantanamo Bay.

            Once  secured there, O Jesus,

            answer me this:

            would you have pleaded anew

            ‘father, forgive them; 

            they know not what they do?’

            Or, would you, more realistically,

            (as Luke has you say) express

            your wrench and anguish thus:

            ‘father, why hast thou forsaken me’

            in a glittering, golden wilderness

            from whence the reigning evil one

            decrees to demonise Creation

            with dirty uranium and white phosphorus?


Easter thoughts in a lovely poem, forwarded to me by e-mail.

The Hallmark of a Pathetic Institution

I have spent much of my life moving from one pathetic institution to another. So much so, that I could probably write the 101 ways to stay and survive in a D grade institution. The trouble is that this would take much to0 much time which I’m unwilling to devote to such a frivolous pursuit.

I must however vent my utter dismay. Here is a list to ponder upon: You know your institution is pathetic if,

  • If you have enough assignments to fill up weeks together but no form of resources whatsoever including a reasonable library, informed faculty or the internet.
  • Your professors need endless reminding to help you, either with classwork or with related academic work.
  • The air conditioning in your cyber hole doesn’t function, and you are expected to produce quality research in the sweltering heat.
  • Your classmates are a bunch of dorks. They cannot construct a sentence, are incapable of non-linear thought, have nothing other than chatting on their minds and want you to do their work for them all the time.
  • Your institution does not subscribe to any known online news/journal service and expects you to buy individual membership from international statistical services.
  • Hates you because you appear to be slightly smarter than the average dork and way smarter than the average professor.
  • Encourages cut-copy-paste as long as the source is well concealed.
  • Believes group work can do no harm to a bright mind, especially when co-workers are selfish dorks.
  • You leave feeling utterly gloomy and depressed every single day.
  • You are stuck with a bunch of people who all think of nothing more than the promotion of their own community, where merit is passe and where the academic head considers your future a political playground.
  • Pushes you to such levels of insanity, that you end up blogging about it!

If you think of any more, do comment. It is cheering when you know you’re not alone.

The RTI Tangle

For those of us who (despite the complete failing of the Duty To Publish aspect of the Right To Information Act) believed that the coming of the RTI was the most progressive move India has made in a long time– it is time to be despondent again.

You could say that we could fight back. Sure we can– but the fact that an amendment of the RTI, was ever considered, tells us one thing for sure. Real democracy has a long way to go in this country. What the RTI in its original form was meant to do was to make information freely available to anyone who wanted it. It is this fact, simple as it may seem which the Indian government finds scary.

The proposed amendment makes ‘file notings” inaccessible to the public. Why is this a bad thing? Two reasons: 1) File notings by individual officers are dead giveaways as to who has made what change and therefore allows for the gulity to be traced. Secondly file notings reflect a governmentt thought process, which is a valuable source of information and a valuable process to critique as well.

Its worth thinking- Without this is the RTI of any use any longer?