Friday, March 31, 2006

Communism-um athaan!

Its funny how what was supposed to be just another weekend trip to the Marina turned out to be a lot more than that. I was in a friend's car for a few minutes - while on the way to Gangothri. That's when it happened. He played a song. I caught a few words here and there, but it was the music that caught my attention. I got him to replay the song, but we got off the car before I could do that again . I downloaded it after I got home. And then it got stuck in my mind. The music was good, yes. But the words were just mind-blowing.

"Yethanai kodi kanneer manmithu vizhinthirukkum.
Athanai kanda pinnum boomi ingu poo pookum."

"Iruttinile nee nadakayile, un nizhalum unnaivittu vilagi vidum.
Nee mattum thaan intha ulagathile unakku thunai endru vilangi vidum"

"Antha deivaragasiyam purigirathe
Ingu ethuvum nilaiyillai kalaigirathe
Manam vetta veliyile alaigirathe
Antha kadavulai kandaal..."

"Unakkum illai, ithu enakkum illai... padaithavane ingu eduthu kolvaan
Nallavan yaar, ada kettavan yaar... kadaisiyil avane mudivu seyvaan
Palipodum ulagam inge... baliyaana uyirgalenge?"

"Ulagathinoram nindru athanaiyum paathirupom.
Nadappavai naadagamendru naamum sernthu nadithiruppom."

The song beautifully captures the futility of life - and, in fact, of the universe itself. The impact is all the more due to YSR's vocals. That his voice isn't best suited for such a song actually makes the song more realistic and it fits in with the feel of the song. And the interlude on the violin is just divine.

For me, the high point of the song has got to be the last couplet I had quoted above. To repeat,

"Ulagathinoram nindru athanaiyum paathirupom.
Nadappavai naadagamendru naamum sernthu nadithiruppom."

It is the beginning of a stanza that provides closure to the whole song by stating how even if life is futile, it is to be lived. And the final touch of "Maru piravi venduma" is awesome. What a way to end a song that takes a mocking look at life!

I place the song at a completely different level from my other favourite songs for its philosophical depth. While the whole song celebrates the futility of life, it never really talks about death per se. The lyricist does not equate futility of life with any kind of suicidal tendency. And for that, I salute him.

The last thing I would have expected from a song that celebrates universal futility is to clarify my understanding of the concept of love. But that's just one other thing that the song did to me. One of the many times I've heard the song, I felt something at the high-point of the song that I have referred to above. It was a combination of so many contradictory feelings - happiness, frustration, wonder, gloom... And at that very instant, I understood something. Love is not one's feeling towards another. It is not what one feels about another. It is what one feels about himself when he is in the company of the Other. It is one's feeling of oneself induced by the Other. In other words, I like the song not for what it is; but for what it does to my feeling of my own self.

And for all this, a big nanri hai to Amalraj, YSR, Na Muthukumar and DD.

"But Mr. Red, Love is a feeling" means so much more to me now!

Monday, March 20, 2006


A truism to begin with: governments are bound to fail.

In the interest of sanity, any huge organisation that has too many owners (aka citizens) is best run by elected representatives. These representatives are given a free reign till the next time the elections are conducted. Can we expect these people to work for the benefit of the owners? What is the incentive for them to do so? Fear of losing this blank cheque for the next five years. So the reps have the incentive to do the bare minimum that is required of them - if they are to retain power for the next five years. Seems obvious? Read this para again - only this time, think of a private organisation with thousands of shareholders, and not the government.

How are the two any different?

1. In a private company, the mandate for the elected reps is clear. Profit motive. In government, there is no clear mandate.

2. Private companies are required to divulge performance metrics regularly to their many owners.

3. Government is a monopoly. Private companies are not always so.

4. Universal adult franchise divides the voting powers equally amongst all the owners. In most private companies, certain individuals or institutions have a sizeable share of the company and hence enjoy more than their proportionate share of power.

So what kind of a democracy would be better than one that is simply run by regularly elected representatives? Would it be safe to say that one that addresses the issues raised above will be better?

Except for the last point, the rest seem to provide pointers on how democracies can be better structured. The third point is a structural assumption. The other two points can actually be addressed in a significant manner. It requires active participation of the civil society in a government's functioning. The media and public protests served as a good medium for this. But for a few months now, there is a different weapon for the society to use - the Right to Information Act. It enables greater transparency - and specifically helps highlighting the government's progress in particular areas and thus provides a stick to define the gov's mandate.

The next time you crib about anything in the government, STFU. The RTI Act implicates you in every (in)action of the gov unless you speak out. If you feel strongly enough on any issue reg the gov, all you need is less than 1 hour of your time and Rs. 50. If you're not willing to spend that, then you may just shut up.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Ulagathinoram nindru athanaiyum paathiruppom
Nadappavai naadagamendru naamum sernthu nadithirupom

(c) Na. Muthukumar

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Breaking the myth of 24*7 news...

I like to think of myself as someone against excessive state regulation in private sector. But how bad would it be if news channels were expected to display the date of recording whenever a news clip is shown. This would at least make the reuse of footage more obvious to the viewer. The problem is not limited to Indian news channels alone - not surprising since they are modeled on the phoren channels. CNN famously showed clips of years-old footage of Palestinians rejoicing soon after 9/11 as though they were celebrating the terror attack. I'm quite sure this idea will never be implemented. But well, this blog is supposed to be an avenue for me to spread my (unmitigated) learnings. :)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Airports Privatisation

A few weeks ago, a lot of media-space was spent on the privatisation of a couple of airports. I found it quite intriguing that there was hardly any discussion on the merits of the privatisation scheme. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a CPI(M) card-holder or anything. But the debates were restricted to what would happen to the airport employees. (In fact, CPI(M) has been able to stall privatisation only because it has been allowed to frame the issue as a problem of job security for the unionized workers. The government should be using its PR skills to get the other aspects into focus as well.)

To get back to the point, here is my problem: When you assign a private firm to take care of an airport for 30 years, how does a private monopoly solve the problems of a public monopoly?

Competition incentivises better performance. Privatisation - without competition - does not. Anyone who believes privatisation alone is the answer should consider the recent expose by NDTV (or CNN-IBN? They're both almost identical anyway) on how private customer records can be bought for a paltry amount from Airtel, Hutch, Standard Chartered and HDFC. (Aside: I burst out laughing when the private eye said it is difficult to get info out of nationalised banks, but not so in other banks that have computerised records) Or just try calling the customer-care numbers of any mobile operator/bank. Customer-service, huh? Even with competition, these private players don't do a good job of serving their customers. What if there was no competition?

Having said that, I'm not denying the benefits for customers due to the entry of private operators in banks and telecom sector. But I'd attribute those benefits to competition. So I'm back to square one - how does privatisation of airports help improve their infrastructure?

Zakaria on India

"...This is perhaps the central paradox of India today. Its society is open, eager, confident and ready to take on the world. But its state—its ruling class—is far more hesitant, cautious and suspicious of the changed realities around it. Nowhere is this tension more obvious than in the realm of foreign policy, in the increasingly large and important task of determining how India should fit into the New World."

Nice article by Fareed Zakaria. The depth and breadth of the article are quite amazing.

Nanri hai, Adi.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

"Death is the birthright of every person born."
"She wanted to justify herself to her own self as well as to the world."

When I began reading 'Discovery of India', I hadn't expected this from Nehru. Too good.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

"We've got to figure out how to live with a life that sucks."