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Saturday, March 26, 2005


Still in Texas. Still not feeling like thinking up a post. So, in the name of preserving the planets scarce resources - I'm recycling.

Following is a piece that was published in the Presidency College magazine back in the days that I was a student there. It marks the beginning of my descent into silliness. Take a look.

Statutory Warning: Suitable but not appropriate for non-Presidencians
Statutory Declaration: This piece is copyrighted to me and the editors of the Presidency College Magazine. Neither of the two have any objection to its being reprinted (and the fact that the editor was my cousin has NOTHING to do with that). So much for legalese.

Presy Public
(A Perfunctory peek at the Presidencian of the present)

Over the years, many many literary pieces have been composed about the people who populate the institution that I, and 1,69,978 others, call The College (most of it hopelessly uninformed and utterly outrageous. So, deciding that enough is enough, I have put pen to paper and produced this piece for the benefit of outsiders, which should give them an insider's point of view about the kind of people they are likely to meet if they step into our hallowed portals. For the sake of convenience, I have divided them into twelve categories.

1) Pulchritudinous preener
Pseudonyms: Babe, WOW, The looker.
Peculiarities: Has the incredible ability to sit in one place and do nothing for hours on end. Extremely sharp and watchful, but tends to appear languidly bored, which encourages males (especially 3)’s) to approach. But be warned! She’s smarter than she looks. Displays strong repulsion for other members of the same species, but great affinity for 5)’s.
Plus Points: A sight for sore eyes (Especially in Presidency).
Potential Pitfalls: You seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all.

2) Powerful Politico·
Pseudonyms: The Boss, Neta, Sir·
Peculiarities: A firm stride and a head held high. Usually surrounded by members of subgroup 2a) – Not-so-powerful Politico. Will be at the forefront of every strike, gherao or rally. Has the innate ability to blame everything on the Government (State or Centre, depending on Party). Strong orator with ability to convince, confuse, or abuse depending on his audience.
Plus Points: Hang around him long enough, and you may become Secretary of something-or-the-other.
Potential Pitfalls: For every powerful politico in power there is an equally powerful politico in opposition.

3) Pathetic Pervert
Pseudonyms: Lech, Eeyuck, Sicko
Peculiarities: Tongue hangs out upon viewing members of 1). The degree of drool is found to be directly proportional to the physical distance from relevant 1). Has a perpetual leer on face. Known to dress in manner that would accentuate physical attributes in better species. A few tend to go over the top and become 6)’s.
Plus Points: Wherever you find him, there must be something worth looking at nearby.
Potential Pitfalls: That something worth watching may associate you with him, which could be fatal.

4) Poisonous Puffer
Pseudonyms: Chimney, Cough-Cough, Chainsmoker
Peculiarities: Generally masked by a smoky haze, which makes physical identification difficult. Is exclusively found in the habitat known as ‘Canteen’. They are sometimes 8)’s as well. A large number of their population is composed of frustrated ex-members of 1), 3), 6), 10) and 11). Usually found in large groups.
Plus Points: Smoke in the eyes is said to clear the head.
Potential Pitfalls: Passive smoking could lead to lung cancer

5) Ping-Pong player
Pseudonyms: Sportsman, Stud, Gambhat
Peculiarities: A very rare species. Is usually found hanging around the gym, the TT room or the Field. Comes out of hibernation a couple of times in a year to ‘Play’ and is not heard of for the rest of the year. In Presidency, this class of people are stymied due to lack of opponents in their sporting pursuits.
Plus Points: If he likes you, you could make the departmental cricket team.
Potential Pitfalls: If he doesn’t, you could make the ICU.

6) Poetic Piner
Pseudonyms: Bechara, Kabi Guru, Romantic
Peculiarities: Characterised by a lovelorn expression. Appears disinterested with life and is often found humming songs from movies by Guru Dutt. This class of Presidencian has a high output of Lyrics and Poetry, most of it grossly misunderstood by non-sufferers. Generally sympathised with. If not cured soon, may become an 8). Strong affinity for those of type 10)
Plus Points: Will convince the most hardened cynic that true love exists.
Potential Pitfalls: May recite his poems to you.

7) Peeking Pryer
Pseudonyms: The gossip, Blabbermouth, CNN
Peculiarities: An inquisitive look and a piercing stare. Rarely found in one place at one time. Degree of lack in its own life is directly proportional to interest shown in the private lives of others. Members of 1) and 5) are preferred topics of conversation. Is known to suffer terribly if unable to meet a member of its own species at least once every two hours.
Plus Points: You could become extremely knowledgeable about the secret rumours in college.
Potential Pitfalls: Those rumours might be about you!

8) Partaker of Potent Potions
Pseudonyms : Junkie, High there, Totally Haloo
Peculiarities: Is often mistaken for an alien creature from outer space. Speaks in a language that is understood only by members of own group. These people bond among themselves tightly but rarely with others. Are given to intense fits of emotion. Sometimes may also be a 4) or a 10).
Plus Points: From a high point, you can see a lot.
Potential Pitfalls: The higher you are, the further you fall.

9) Passionate pupil
Pseudonyms: Bookworm, Topper, Slogger
Peculiarities: Usually spotted in any of the libraries. Very rarely observed, if at all, in the canteen. Face is often obscured by a large book. Goal is an obscure ideal, generally referred to as 'First Class First'. Conversation limited to item known as 'Syllabus'
Plus Points: Some of their marks may rub off onto you.
Potential Pitfalls: Is it really worth it?

10) Pensive Ponderer
Pseudonyms: Vaguo, Deep Thought, Wierdo
Peculiarities: Greets you with questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” “Why am I on this Earth?” and, “Is there a God?” Has a vacant stare on his face. Often overcome by fits of depression, which may cause a mutation into item 4) or 8).
Plus Points: May change your perspectives for the better.
Potential Pitfalls: May change your perspectives for the worse.

11) Pretentious Pseudo
Pseudonyms: Antel, Intellectual, Know-it-all
Peculiarities: Has all the answers, even before you ask the question. Appears to be personally acquainted with gentlemen with unusual names such as Nietzche, Sartre and Trotsky. Has the incredible ability to explain every problem in terms of obscure philosophies. Usually found in pairs, or with members of 10).
Plus Points: If you have a question about life, the universe or anything, he will have the answer.
Potential Pitfalls: The answer will lead to a million other questions.

12) Perpetually perplexed person
Pseudonyms : The author of such ridiculous pieces
Peculiarities: Wanders around aimlessly, wondering how he gets himself into these messes.
Plus Points: Doesn’t have too many minus points.
Potential Pitfalls: Not likely to survive after publication of this piece.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Space Filler

It seems both readers of my blog are wondering where I have vanished to. Well last week I was here, now I am here, and next week I will be here. As you can tell, I'm enjoying myself too much to blog.

But duty calls (sigh). So here's one more of those two-minute quickies to bide you over till I get back.

Mr. Sagnik "CS" Nandy has said in his blog that he has no clue what I (or any other social science person for that matter) do. So here's a little heads-up.

Basically there are three kinds of economists in this world. They can be classified as follows based on their modus operandi.

Type 1 - Blue Whales

1. Are struck by deep insights about why the way we look at the world is all wrong.
2. Formulate a model for how the world should really be.
3. Win Nobel Prize (unless they die prematurely)
4. Are worshipped for ever after.

Type 2 - Salmon

1. Observe phenomena in the world.
2. Formulate models which attempt to explain said phenomena.
3. Use lots of math and jerryrig the model so it fits reality.
4. Test model using doctored data
5. Claim success until someone comes up with an alternative explanation.
6. Are looked at with regard in the academic community but unheard of otherwise.

Type 3 - Plankton

1. Read paper by Salmon.
2. Tweak one assumption.
3. Use obscene amounts of math and every Greek letter possible, to show either that a) Nothing changes or b) Everything changes.
4. Die in menial obscurity.

So what can you do, plankton - asks Mr. Nandy. Well not very much really. You see, plankton float in their part of the ocean and have no idea what's going on in other parts of the world. As for me, I'm a budding Applied Game Theorist. What that means is that I cannot answer the following questions.

1. What will India's GDP be next year?
2. What was India's GDP last year?
3. What's a GDP?
4. How long is a year?
5. How will the stock market behave?
6. Which stocks should you invest in?
7. Which stocks do I invest in?
8. How do credit card companies make money?
9. Why does Citibank insist my credit history is poor?
10. Will there be more jobs outsourced to India?
11. Will there be more jobs for Indians?
12. Will there be a job for me?
13. Will there be a purpose for me to serve on this Earth?

Actually, stop there. I should point out that Game Theorists have answered a number of meaningful questions that have puzzled people for centuries. Some discoveries by those whose footsteps I aim to follow.

1. Marriages are more likely to fail if the partners are jealous.
2. The current rain-rule in cricket matches sucks.
3. A woman is more likely to fake an orgasm if she's in love with her partner.
4. If you like a girl, never let her know.
5. Richer men will end up with hotter wives.
6. Democracy won't work except in exceptional circumstances.
7. Though sex is fun, its not always a good idea to do it. (This is what I am reading now)

Hmmm... and hmmmm.

So - in a nutshell, my line of work involves using lots and lots of complicated equations to prove stuff everybody over the age of 5 knows anyway.

Is it any wonder I blog so much?

PS (i) I have no idea why this post vanished for a day. I think it had something to do with my not republishing after adding the new links.

(ii) For Samit - This gentleman has expressed a great deal of interest in the equilibrium properties of duck-gang-rape. He spent a great deal of time at the Northwestern lagoon observing this phenomenon and then explained it to an awe-struck audience (including myself). If you want, I can explain to you why it is an inferior Nash for male ducks to indulge in gangbanging.

Monday, March 07, 2005

...if you were the last man on Earth

Today's post in celebration of International Women's Day asks what if women did indeed run the world.

...I wouldn't ride with you if you were the last man on Earth.
...I'm workin' on it.

- The Quiet Earth (1985)

This is actually a small post (relative to my usual standards). The reason for its brevity is this. Anyway, this is a continuation on the theme of "Why we men have it so bad". For those who came in late, the situation is something like this:

...If you were the last man on earth and I was the last woman on earth, and the future of the human race depended on our having sex, simply for procreation, I still would not have sex with you.
...What's your point?

- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Also this ties in to one of my more favourite activities - reading comics (what DID you think it was?).

The comic in question is Y: The last man. I liked this one so much I actually BOUGHT the trade paperbacks. Right now, the series is onto the 5th paperback (out of 8). So here's the story so far:

A mysterious plague destroys every living being on Earth with a Y chromosome. Every man, boy, bull, tomcat, sperm cell - EVERY one. Well, not EVERY one, actually - that wouldn't make for a very interesting story. The plague leaves two survivors. A young escape artist by the name of Yorick Brown (the title character Y), and his pet monkey Ampersand. So we have this one chap and all the females in the world at his disposal - heaven, did you say? I mean, this surely beats 72 virgins hands down. In other words:

...I would'nt marry you if you were the last man on earth!
...If I were the last man on earth I'd be too busy!

- The Lambeth Walk (1940)

Umm... not quite. In the story so far, Y has had 7 attempts on his life, 3 rape attempts - one of which was successful - and been subjected to violence and humiliation by all kinds of nut jobs, including a gang of single-breasted warriors led by a former chess grand master, a whip-carrying S&M freak, the Israeli army, a bunch of motorcycle-riding surgically-altered hermaphrodites and a former supermodel who was upset because her boob job was suddenly pointless. And right through this a huge number of groups are playing tug-of-war over him to make sure that when the Earth is saved, they hold all the cards. So serious international espionage happens as well. All in all, hardly fun and games (it is peppered with witticisms, though).

But let us set our hero aside for a moment and look at the world he lives in. The authors actually come up with a pretty reasonable counterfactual description of a world without men. Some of the major changes are:

- Judaism, Christianity and Islam collapse completely because of the absence of women in all levels of their heirarchy.
- Some countries, such as the Middle Eastern ones, fall into complete chaos because of the complete absence of women in government.
- Israel suddenly has no enemies and civil war breaks out.
- In the USA, the Republican Party is almost completely wiped out. The Democrats take complete control of the Senate and the Secretary of Agriculture becomes the President. The wives of former Republican senators lead a march to the White House, leading to a gun battle in DC.
- Almost all aircraft are grounded, as 95% of pilots worldwide are male.
- Construction activity comes to a standstill.
- Transport, power, communications all collapse.
- All satellites go offline.

There has been no mention of India in the story till now. I'm guessing that if all the men were to die tomorrow, India would not collapse as completely as the Arab countries, but would be more crippled than the Scandinavian countries. Lets try and imagine what might happen if this happened today:

- Sonia Gandhi becomes the PM, declares a state of emergency
- The armed forces collapse, but so do their counterparts in China and Pakistan.
- Some insurgent groups (LTTE, PWG) launch crippling attacks in some states.
- Production falls in almost all sectors
- States such as UP, Rajasthan and Haryana fall into chaos. Women who have never stepped out of the house suddenly find that the responsibility for running the land is theirs and are all at sea.
- Kerala, Mizoram and Goa set up emergency response systems fastest.
- The Communist Parties shut down. Mamata Banerjee becomes West Bengal CM.

I think I'll stop here, but you could go on with many scenarios. None of them are pretty, but its just something interesting to think about.

And now the question to the men now is - would you really want to be the last man alive in a state such as this? Take it from someone who spent three years of his life studying in the best girls' college in India (i.e. the best college for girls, NOT the college where the best girls went) - you REALLY don't.

PS - Y: The Last Man is published by DC Comics under their Vertigo imprint. Its written by Brian K. Vaughan and the paperbacks are available at most bookstores in the USA. And no - I am not getting paid for this - its a public service announcement.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Banga santaan

I noticed a number of my male Bengali friends had much to say about the previous post - much of it relating to their desire to bang random samba dancers. If you were from another country, you might conclude that the men of Bengal are a sad, frustrated lot. In fact, you'd be right. But give them a break - its not really their fault. I shall explain why in a scientific study.


I recently noted that my male friends - most of them Bengali - have been suffering from what is known as "doormat syndrome". In other words, throughout their lives, they have been trod on by stiletto-clad feet until it hurts (which is pretty soon, if you know your stilettos). The average Bengali guy is therefore a confused chap who, in spite of a towering intellect, cannot figure out why he's missing out on the action that the Singhs, Aroras and Sharmas are making the most of.
On the other hand, the women of Bengal are using the aforementioned stilettos to good effect. Oozing confidence, intelligence and serious attitude - the world is at the feet of these tigresses, just waiting to be trod upon.

Why this strange divide? Why have the sons of Bengal caught a collective cold, while the rest of India keeps its hankies firmly in its pocket? To answer this question, we will have to go back in time.

Reason 1

The area referred to as Bengal (including present-day Bangladesh) has seen much less military action than the other parts of South Asia. Note, for example, that the Bengali caste system does not include a warrior caste.
The reasons are mainly geographical. Bengal contains the riverine plains of the Ganga-Brahmaputra system, and is incredibly green and fertile. Also the multitude of streams divided the land into small self-sufficient communities, each of which could grow pretty much whatever it wanted. These factors combined to turn the Bengalis into a contented bunch who didn't really feel like getting out of bed in the mornings, let alone tramp across the countryside to conquer the next village.
Compare this to the arid North where fertile land was at a premium, and the ruler with the most land to his name was invariably the most powerful. So the Northerners were forever riding into battle in an attempt to boost their landholdings. In fact at the time that the Rajputs were battling the Turks in the Thar, the Bengali men were taking afternoon siestas.

So how does all this ancient history affect Mr. Basu's love life? Well, its like this - in times of war, the relative stature of men, with respect to women in the community, will invariably rise. If the men are forever on horseback fighting for the glory of the land, the women... umm... just hang around. Swordsmanship isn't really a woman's forte. On the other hand, even today, while making the idol of goddess Durga, the first lump of clay is brought from a prostitute's house (one of the FEW things Bhansali got right in that movie he made), showing that Bengali men are only too glad to grant the superiority of women in bed. And considering they spend so much time in it...

Segue to the present and - Reason 2

The primary deity of Bengal is Goddess Durga, the embodiment of Shakti - woman power! Right through their childhood, all little Bengali boys are treated to an annual spectacle of people praying to a violent thousand-armed lady on a lion spearing a male demon with a spear. Then there is Kali, who is quite, quite scary and is portrayed walking all over her husband (a prostrate Shiva) with her blood-red tongue sticking out. And lest we forget, there's Lakshmi and Saraswati as well. Male Gods? What are those? I mean seriously, Kartik was also Durga's child. How come HE doesn't get his own festival?
And this is unique to Bengal. The Ghatis have their Ganpati Bappa, the Northerners have their Shivratri (which gets the award for the ritual most demeaning to women), and there's Dussehra, which coincides with Durga Puja, but where the lead character is the virile blue-skinned Rama, and the only woman involved is his hapless damsel-in-distress, Sita. If you thought that was bad, the Southerners do one better - they show devotion by pouring milk over an idol shaped like Shiva's phallus. No seriously - "Just in case you women didn't get the point that you are completely subservient to us, we shall make you bow to a divine d**k". How sad is that?
So basically, the vagina monologues are limited to Bengal, and everyone else is completely (well?)hung up on male domination.

With imagery like this, the average Bengali boy grows up in the shadow of the Mother Goddess, in awe of women in general and utterly under the thumb of his mother. Every time our little lad has wanted to defy mummy, an image of a lion and a spear flash through his brain, and the thought passes. Is it any wonder he finds himself wanting in the battle of the sexes?

So, history and social conditioning combine to make Bengali men complete and utter wimps. At the same time, the women of Bengal are confident, powerful and very very dangerous. Not even a fair fight. In fact the Bengali women are even competent to take on the testosterone-pumping "Wham bam, Sat sri akal ma'am" brigade of the North. And they thought Turks on horseback were bad!

So Messrs. Mukherjee, Basu, Chatterjee, et al - its not you. Its fate. Tough shit, guys.

A small suggestion, though. Make a beeline for the towns of Haryana and Rajasthan. There you will find women who are still under the misapprehension that they are inferior to menfolk. They have had a different set of ideas drilled into their heads, and are so completely subjugated that even you guys will have no trouble handling them.

A final prayer to Buchuchandi, the wrathful Bengali goddess of South Asian History -

"Maa Buchu, I know have offended thee with my shameless desecration of ancient history. Please find it in thy heart to forgive me my minor shenanigans, and turn thy mighty vengeance to targets within thine own realm of Notoon Inglistan. Om Shantih."