Friday, January 18, 2013

Commercialisation of special days

The first caller to wish me today for our wedding anniversary was a woman from our car dealer! It took me a while to realise why she was calling! After wishing me for our anniversary, she asked me if I would like to share my birthdate! I politely declined.

Afterwards I was trying to recollect when and why would I have shared the wedding date with the car dealer. May be I had been hoping they would send a cake or a bottle of wine :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ignorence is bliss as per Mumbai Police chief?

The headline "Sex education leads to more crimes against women, says Mumbai police chief" was obviously striking. My immediate reaction was - what would Martin Beck think? I was already sad and depressed after having finished reading the series yesterday.

The sadness was not just because I now had no more novels of Sjowall and Wahloo but, more so, because as Martin Beck's career progressed, his bosses became more insufferable and incompetent.

As Martin Beck says to his soul mate who finally leaves the police force in disillusionment that a decade ago when the nationalization (centralization) of the police force began is the time when the decay started. Sadly, our nation also seems to want CBI to do every investigation :(

The key message, though, for me was that violence in society cannot be solved by increasing violence by the police. That would instead set an example to be followed. It also results in alienation of the police from the public.

We can see the difference - Martin Beck started as a cop on the beat. The recruits by the end of the series were represented by the example of Kenneth Kvastmo.

The "illustrious" example of Bulldozer Olsen can be seen in the recent harassment of Aaron Swartz - only worse.

Returning to the headline, I am at a complete loss at what to make of it except that "Ignorance is bliss"! It would be a terrific joke were it not a representation of closed minds. There should be more sex education so that the social values are harmonious with biological and psychological imperatives.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Waiting for Godot - oops - Cooking Gas Cylinder Repairman

I hope Shekhar Gupta is right that Indians are now willing to pay. This would require enough people who are not able to expedite service thanks to either their connections or their wealth. However, they have to be well off enough to be able to pay.

Our gas cylinder consumption is fairly low. It would not be much of a dent in our standard of living if we were to pay the market rates. Would we volunteer to forego the subsidy - Heck no! Would we go to an alternate supplier who provided good service - Very likely yes.

Replacement cylinder was leaking. The emergency number of the distributor did not work. The phones to the office invariably said that the person is on his way. It will take 20-25 minutes. A typical north Indian response - yes, it is being done. How does one respond even if one knows that it is just bullshit.

On a number of occasions, the repairman has come and changed a rubber ring. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the refill factories have such a poor quality control. It would seem like a trivial process that the rubber gasket should be routinely replaced on each refill. After all, gas leak is a risk.

I was also wondering if anyone has ever sued Indian Oil for a gas cylinder tragedy?

I hope private gas suppliers can resume operations. They were a boon for me when I was transferred to Bangalore in the late 90's.

Friday, January 11, 2013

An Interaction on Open Source - what a disappointment

I got an email from a government official that he wanted to discuss open source with me. I was flattered. Just to make sure that it did not have to do with the Institute, I mentioned that I had stopped teaching.

I got his call the next day. He mentioned that he had accidentally come across the web site and had seen an ad for position requiring open source experience!

I was wondering why he was interested as the position was not that high. It transpired that he was searching for a job for his son. That in itself was a sufficient indication for me to conclude that his son must be incompetent.

However, I was not in the picture and told him so. The job details and the process which needed to be followed was on the web site. So, what was the problem? The due date had expired and he wanted me to help.

He insisted on telling me about his son's degrees and experience in open source of half a dozen years. He seemed to expect that the rules would be bent for him.

I was beginning to feel irritated and it took some patience to politely get him to stop talking to me and contact someone else.

I hope his son is not incompetent and has taken his current job to be as far from his parents as possible :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sleepless night, a blocked nose and society's problems

It has been bitter cold in Chandigarh. I woke up with a nightmare. There were hijras outside my home. The gist of the nightmare was that they demanded the right to dance in celebration of my sons' weddings and demand money unless I could prove that I had already paid hijras in the towns where the weddings took place.

I have never been able to figure out why Punjabis created this sick custom and how anyone living in the society can avoid it.

I had a blocked nose and felt miserable. The mind wandered from one problem of our society to another and the harassment we fear we may face.

Finally, what if I were to sell the place where I stay and move to a warmer location? From what I gather, getting out of real estate in India is not easy  for anyone not knowing what to do with cash!

I could finally sleep when I thought that government should allow a seller to declare a higher value for the sale of his property than the buyer and deposit the cash in a bank. The seller can pay the usual tax on the excess amount and be free to use it in any way he chooses.

Ah, we can have dreams not just nightmares :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The culture of privileges

In 2008, Punjab had introduced special police stations for the convenience of NRIs. I wonder if they were ever created or are still present.

Now, the government has another plan for the privileged NRI's -
The card holder will also get preferential treatment at various reputed hospitals, schools and commercial establishments.
And the obvious implication given the resource constraints - the rest of us should be prepared for worse treatment :)

Still, it is not as brilliant a step in governance as donating to a privileged school.

First Day of the Rest of my Life - Retiring

I handed over the key and completed various formalities. I will no longer be working(teaching) even part time. It is a relief though with a little disappointment of ending on failure.

The primary reason for quitting was the risk of driving 50KM each way to IIT Ropar from Chandigarh and I do not think one can regard fear of driving on Indian roads as irrational - unlike the fear of radiation making Japanese children fat.

The risk has to commensurate to the reward and the reward was not sufficient. For my courses, very few students gave feedback which was quite positive and said that they learnt a lot. However, my perception was that these students would have learnt anyway and I am not sure I made any impact on the rest. They remained indifferent.

On the other hand, at an IIT, I could experiment. Each semester I tried something different which by the end of the semester left me dissatisfied. However, each disappointment gave rise to ideas which I could try in the next semester. Hence, had Ropar been closer to Chandigarh, I would have continued the experiments even if the results continued to disappoint. May be one day I would have found the right combination by which the students would have learnt instead of me.

Who knows, I may get bored with retired life and then what next?