Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It's a wonderful life and suicidal thoughts

"It's a Wonderful Life" has always felt like a corny film and, yet, it's message of optimism has been unforgettable. I was reminded of the film by the impact a silly act had on me years ago and I wish I could thank the two involved.

It was the start of spring and I was walking home - depressed. Progress in research had been very slow and seemed hopeless. I used to walk through the city forest near Helsinki railway station on my way home. I was fantasising about jumping in front of the train going from Helsinki to Leningrad.

My thoughts were interrupted by a pre-teen. It took me a while to understand the broken English and Finnish words. She was asking if I had a pen. I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Sorry, no". Suddenly, she kissed my cheek and rain away.

It was a strange experience even though my looks aroused curiosity even in Helsinki in those days. Suddenly, I heard two girls giggling away.

It changed my mood. I felt I was taking me/life too seriously. I have never contemplated suicide since.

So, I hope those two anonymous girls have had a wonderful life.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Can inexpensive services and decent earnings co-exist?

A friend posted a link to Why Uber is a scam: maths explains. I had seen it before but I now have an additional perspective. I do not keep a car in Chandigarh and use Ola/Uber reasonably frequently. I would have liked to use the same option in Goa.

I can easily believe that in the long run, given the fares, the drivers cannot be making a comfortable living. I also realize that if the fares reflect my desire that drivers make what I believe to be a comfortable wages, I would wind up owning a car.

There is a conflict and no easy way around it. As a society, it is in our collective interest that there aren't too many cars - both to save on parking spaces and prevent congestion and pollution on roads.

Long term solution is obvious and inevitable. The Ola/Uber vehicles will be driver-less.

Meanwhile, what if we had a minimum income provided to all citizens. Then a driver's earnings are over and above the minimum needs. Hence, the needs of society, the consumer and the service provider can coincide.

This model would be useful for all services from helping patients/old people who are bedridden or need assistance to inexpensive coffee/tea shops not exploiting the workers.