Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery
Stubble or Not?
Work Less, Get More
Sleepy Second Sex
More Equal Than Others
Think it Through
Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery
There’s great Bengali short story that I read long ago. I can’t forget it because it is re-enacted every so often in the goings-on around us.
It was about someone who always lived – like most developing economies – beyond his means, and quite often found himself in financial mess at the end of the month. Invariably, in the last week of almost every month he had to borrow Rs. 100 – I’m talking of times when a hundred rupees meant a lot – from one of his two good friends. Promptly on the first of every month when he got his pay, he returned his loan to maintain the impeccable record of credit-worthiness. (That’s what India too does.)
Next month, he approached his second friend and borrowed money. Again, he made it a point to return it promptly but approached his first friend in the last week for a similar loan.
The virtuous cycle continued for some time. One day a brilliant idea struck him. He called both his friends over at tea. Pleasantries over, he straightforwardly made a proposal. “Why don’t you two deal with each other directly in the future? Every month you borrow and return Rs 100 to each other and kindly leave me out of the grid.”
Isn’t it a wonderful arrangement? And something very similar to this is happening under the nose of all Delhi-ites.
NTPC supplies a little more than half of the total electricity distributed by BSES Rajdhani, mainly in thickly populated southern part of Delhi. Not having received payment for its supplies, NTPC issued an ultimatum to BSES to stop its supplies. So get ready for blackouts.
All told it’s a beautiful Laurel-Hardy mess. The power distributing companies – called discoms – owe money to government. Government owes money to discoms. The only ones paying month after months are the poor consumers. Where does the money go and who keeps an account? The whole thing is, to use the Churchillian bombast “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
Anyone trying to resolve the mess gets sucked up in the narrow confines of the enigma. Pity Arvind Kejriwal, the latest victim.
You shouldn’t worry. Instead, be happy. The Hon’be Supreme Court has directed NTPC not to implement its threat to disconnect power supply till at least march 26, 2014 if BSES Rajdhani, the distributing company, failed to pay up Rs 96 crore in dues.
Let’s sweep the mess under the carpet for another six weeks. Anything may happen, meanwhile.
Stubble or Not?
One thing that intrigues me about Rahul Gandhi is his proclivity to be indecisive about growing a stubble on his chin. During any given week I see him supporting a well-trimmed beard at least a couple of times on TV and immaculately clean shaven on almost equal number of occasions. My experience tells me it takes at least a week or two – if not more – to have a presentable stubble. It’s only in films that a very quick change is possible, but not in real life. Or, is it, that he has a double to pose different postures for different occasions?
Can anyone enlighten me about this mystery?
The half-trillion-dollar Anglo-American tobacco industry has been – with unquestionable justification – compared to a terrorist movement. Indeed, it can kill up to a billion people worldwide in this century on account of smoking, unless the governments do something to clamp down on the perpetrators. Smoking is described as the biggest public health disaster in the history of the world as it kills more than half of smokers, mostly from cancer.
John Seffrin, chief executive of the American Cancer Society, who was speaking at a high-level forum of the world’s 100 leading cancer experts gathered in the Swiss resort of Lugano, issued a stark warning to governments worldwide. Experts said governments must do far more than they have done to control the global tobacco industry, either by raising cigarette prices dramatically, outlawing tobacco marketing or by taxing the multinational profits of the big cigarette firms.
Scientists have calculated that despite it being the single biggest avoidable risk of premature death, there are about 30 million new smokers a year. Experts believe that if current trends continue, with cigarette companies targeting the non-smoking populations of the developing world, then hundreds of millions of people will be dying of cancer in the second half of this century.
The experts called for an outright ban on cigarettes and for the tobacco industry to be treated as a terrorist movement for the way it targets new markets with a product that it knows to be deadly when used as intended. Yet it merrily carries on because the tobacco lobby has very, very deep pockets.
Work Less Get More
Paying political figures too generous salaries as we do in India, does have a negative impact on their work ethic. (In fact, most of them are immune from the disease.) The Guardian reports on the basis of a new study to ascertain the connection between how much politicians are paid and the effort they put into their jobs. Two political science professors compared the effects of pay raises and decreases on elected members of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2011. They concluded that those MEPs who had received a raise actually attended fewer meetings, while those whose pay was cut attended more.
No wonder, dear readers, our MPs’ work less and less ever since they started paying themselves more and more not only in salaries but in perks and privileges.
Sleepy Second Sex
You may dismiss me to be a male chauvinistic pig but let me tell you that women need more sleep than men. If ever by mistake you wake your wife up telling her that it’s past 8.30, don’t be surprised to find her grumpy. And women need shut-eye routine several times in the day, particularly when they cross two score and ten. These observations aren’t mine; these are the findings of a well-researched Duke University study.
The lead researcher is on record to say: “We found that women had more depression, women had more anger and women had more hostility early in the morning.” So, if you want perfect peace at home – and who doesn’t want it? – make you wife have forty winks fairly frequently during the day. Or else….!
How on earth did the Bard know about it when he wrote in Macbeth:
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.
More Equal than Others
Recently, the Supreme Court ordered that only those holding constitutional offices can have red beacons on their cars. That meant only the President, the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, senior judges and some other officials alone will be entitled to red beacons.
I was naive enough to think this marked the beginning of the end of our vulgar VIP vulture. No, not at all. It is alive and thriving.
The government is believed to have asked private airlines to give special privileges to members of Parliament. The protocol includes reserved lounge facilities, complimentary tea and coffee, free access to airport buildings and designation of one officer of the airports as protocol officer to extend all facilities and courtesies to the MPs. Free complimentary air tickets is not mentioned but everyone knows it is implied.
Indeed, as Orwell said in 1984, all animals are equal but some of them are more equal than others.
It all began with Air India and you know the fate it met.
Think it Through
“Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.” Guess who said that? Some celebrated woman libber? Yes, it is an observation – and a profound one at that – of the French existentialist thinker, Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex.
The Greek legend has it that as a punishment for his trickery, King Sisyphus was made to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. Before he could reach the top, the massive stone would always roll back down, forcing him to begin all over again; day after day, week after week. Hence, pointless or interminable activities are described as Sisyphean. The American philosopher, Richard Taylor who wrote influential papers on the meaning of life uses the myth of Sisyphus as a representation of a life made meaningless because it consists of bare repetition. And it is precisely this meaninglessness of daily routine that Simone de Beauvoir, the famous French existentialist thinker is referring to.
What is the opinion of the Indian representatives of the Second Sex?