The Other Side of Life: A FreeRider's Perspective

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

26 Years of Solitude

Finished reading the long 100 yrs of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And back to that uneasy feeling of not understanding anything after reading a book. The book is a classic, say all. I agree. But the problem is with me I guess. It is not about English, mind you. Certainly not for a person who has cleared the dreaded comprehensions of CAT. But in the novel there are so many characters and events that it is difficult to nderstand the meaning and significance of them all. The web of Aureliano and Arcadio is so woven that a naive reader finds it bemusing.

I first encountered that problem while reading another classic Catch-22. There too I cannt understand what the novel was about? It is a military satire but its in-your face type of humour was apalling, at least for me. Then there was Alchemist where the boy talked to sand, wind and sun. But here author Pauleho Coelho tried to explain the events himself which made it easier for reader to understand them. Similar is the case of Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The interaction between the person and the tiger are well depicted and their significance explained therein.

But not with 100 yrs of solitude. It is one long epic with nothing explained between. It goes on and on. It is "boring" for a person fed on doses of Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer. The most important part is that I dont even understand its overall theme as to what novel is about. I read it in our OR and Prodman class. Not that if I have paid attention in Prodman classes, I would have fared well in the exams, considering the exam paper.

And the feeling of restlessness is becase someone had written a classic which so many ppl have appreciated worldwide. But here I am, not able to fathom it. Maybe the analytical approach followed in IIT and IIM have blnted my mind to the abstracts. Maybe I have to unlearn some of the things in life. Or maybe take some English Literature course somewhere.JEE and CAT are not sufficient.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Entrepreneurship: A Necessity and Competitive Advantage

Our Economics Prof Mohanty said that probably the only advantage India has over China is its entrepreneurs. While the growth in China is propelled by the govt, in India it is fuelled by its entrepreneurs. And this is more sustainable path of growth.

Luckily, I have come across a number of friends who have started their own line of business. One is obviously Jeetu,the regular commentor on this blog. He has started 2 software companies t different point of time. Then there is my old friend Ajay Gupta who has entered garment business. And then there is my school friend Gaurav who incidentally also has gone into garment exports. And not to forget my wingie Amol at IITB, presi of E-Cell of IITB who has started making small movies. There are a number of other ppl I know who also have done something similar but these 4 examples come instantaneously to my mind.

If you asked me what is distinguishing feature of these ppl well I cannt say. They are just ordinary ppl out to do some extraordinary things. They are just dreamers, dissatisfied with the traditional job-oriented careers. They like to take risks.

Now as I have discussed in previous posts this spirit is much less in IIMites than IITians. But this is understandable. PPL who want to start their own business do immediately after Engg. Those who come to MBA have already decided to enter traditional line of jobs.

As for govt, it should give all possible support, both financially and morally to these budding entrepreneurs. There should be a proper channel of information from where these ppl can know the current business scenario and understand all the help available. The rules and regulations should be simplified and bureaucracy made more helpful nd responsive. In schools and colleges, there should be courses on entrepreneurship and the storybooks should carry stories of famous entrepreneurs. Finally media should also play active role in shifting focus from politicians and B-school salaries to the ppl who have started out on their own.

Friday, March 17, 2006


In 1929-30 when the Western world was suffering because of vast unemployment and closure of industries, USSR was booming with prosperity. It was the only country in the world unaffected by the Depression. Or so we are told in our History textbooks. But they conveniently forget to mention that even during that time in Russia ppl have to stand in queues for 2-3 hrs everyday to get their ration. We our told about the exploits of capitalist regimes. But never about the atrocities committed by Stalin on ppl of Eastern Europe. We condemn saffronization of education. But why we fail to condemn this redization(I know there is no term like this) of education?

The concept of communism itself is wrong. As in all ppl should get equal oppurtunities but why all should get equal rewards. As long as all people's basic needs are satisfied, capitalism is the best system. The basic tenet of Marx that under capitalism even the middle class will shift towards poverty has proved wrong. Actually the poor has shifted towards being middle class. And as a result there are no poor now in Western world in absolute sense. So if capitalism can lead to eradication of absolute poverty, why should we want communism. In communism all are absolutely poor, but none relative.

The most devastating effect of communism is that it kills creative and inquistive spirit in people. It lead to people accepting fatalism and not motivated enough to make a significant contribution in life. Because there are no rewards associated. So for the progress of mankind as a whole, this curiosity and desire to excel should be nurtured in humans. And only capitalism can do that. You have to live one week in Calcutta to realize how true this is. How true this fatalism and being laidback is. How when money ceases to have its power, the society crumbles to a black hole through which even light cannot pass.

In an article published sometime back in TOI, it was revealed that out of 10 richest people in US, 7 are self-made, ie ppl who have risen from middle class to achieve that billionaire tag. And that is the triumph of capitalism and market economy. If a middle-class guy has dreams and ability and enthusiasm to convert those dreams to reality, the society's only role is to facilitate him to achieve his dream. And this can be done only in capitalistic society.

I am not saying that governments should not exist. But the govt's role should only be to facilitate free competition and remove gross inadequacies and injustices in the market. It should concentrate its energy towards social sectors ensuring basic facilities like education and health to all. For rest market can take care.

All through the world, communism has failed. If we look at the tiger economies of eastern Asia, they have prospered because of the ushering of market mechanism. And people of my age group who have seen both pre 1991 and post 1991 world and lived in Mumbai and Calcutta can vouch for it. It is very difficult to explain young childeren the world before 1991. The supply of LPG, the day long wait for getting cheques to be cleared, the good old Doordarshan with all its educative is difficult to imagine life as it was 15 yrs back.

Here are the pics on image-searching tiananmen square in UK

and Here are the pics on image-searching tiananmen square in China

How has communism fooled entire world for so long.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

The City of Dreams

A new boy in town. Don't know anything about the city. In a train he asks a stranger
about an address. The stranger tells him the address but the boy don't understand. When the train reaches the station the stranger comes out with the boy on the street. He directs the boy where to go. Then the stranger went back to the station to catch the next train on the route.

The boy is me, the city is Mumbai. But I don't know the stranger. Anyways it doesn't matter because most of the ppl in Mumbai are that helpful.

Now after my recollections of Calcutta, the post abt Bombay was forthcoming. But what prompted me to write this post during exam time(Yes I do study yaar, atleast during exams) is a message floated by Junglee which said:

12 March, 12 blasts rock Bombay.
13 March 93% attendance in Office.
Salaam Bombay.

This really shows true spirit of Mumbai. In any other city, such an incident would have led to 7 day leave from offices. But not in Bombay. Ppl here are not shrewd as in Delhi, neither laidback as in Calcutta, but they are hardworking and enterprising. You just have to see kids playing in Shivaji stadium to realize it.

Bombay is a true cosmopolitan city. There are ppl from all parts of India there. And a number of festivals are celebrated here with enthusiasm. And since there have been so much discussion on culture of Delhi and calcutta with Saha, well Mumbai is true cultural capital of India as well. Ppl are modern here but not in rebellious or showy sort of way, but simply in their ideas and spirit. And thats what matter, not continuous bragging either abt your wearing modern dresses and uttering some English words in Punjabi(read Delhi) or cultural heritage(read Calcutta).

I wanted to avoid this, but Saha would sue me if I did. The taxiwallahs and Autowallahs in Mumbai are extremely disciplined. They never charge you beyond what meter reads and mind you there meters are never rigged. And nowhere else have I seen ppl following traffic rules with so honesty as in Mumbai. Infact the role of Traffic Police is redundant there.

Also the intellectual leaning of common ppl surprise me. You can see local ppl in trains solving crossword puzzles, reading novels and Economic Times. And they never talk nonsense.

The only problem with Bombay is its population size. Ppl from all over India come to the city of dreams. There is shortage of water and electricity but it is true of any other metro in India. Anyway Central Govt is contemplating a comprehensive plan for development of Mumbai, so something will happen soon.

What I miss most abt Mumbai is its night life. The watching of night show at some VT theater and then missing the last train. But spending a night at railway station is not at all bad if you are in Mumbai. Anywhere at any time of night you can find ppl on streets. And these are not some shady buggers but just common ppl. Still miss nights spent by Gatway of India and Juhu Beach. Even in Hiranandani there were a few places open till very late in night.

Now the part that I enjoy most. Rankings. The idea is offcourse taken from Vivek's Post. I have not been to Madras so wont include it here.

Attitude of Ppl Mumbai>Delhi>Calcutta
Girls Delhi>Kolkata>Mumbai
Traffic Delhi >Bambai>Kolkata
Air Quality Delhi>Bombay>Kolkata
Culture Mumbai>Kolkata>Delhi
Malls and places to hang out Mumbai>Delhi>Kolkata
Night Life Mumbai>Delhi>Kolkata
Overall Mumbai>Delhi>Kolkata

What else to say. Aamchi Mumbai roxxxx. Something abt Delhi soon to follow.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Other Side of Life: A FreeRider Perspective

For the uninitiated, WikiPedia defines a FreeRider as
free riders are actors who consume more than their fair share of a resource, or shoulder less than a fair share of the costs of its production.
In the context of an academic institute, freeriders are persons who don't shoulder their responsiblity in the group tasks or who are simply too lazy to work when other people are there to complete the work. This applies not only in academic context. Freeriding is not abandoning your academics in favour of some extracurriculars(like sports/music etc) or other productive activities like holding an important post. Rather it is simply killing your time doing useless activities, like watching movies, listening music or still worse Blogging or Orkutting.

You guessed it right. I am a Freerider. Though I always knew that that fact but in IIT there were not too many group tasks so this thing never came out in open. Even where we had group projects, most of the time I was with Ajay Gupta who was a major fighter. But here at IIMC, when there are Group Projects in almost every course, I have to face this fact, however painful. Perhaps the best example is the fact that I am extremely fond of reading novels. You give me any arbit novel and I will read it. But in our BS course, where we had to analyse the novel Colour Purple, I did not read even a single page of the novel.

Not that I am alone. There are many of my community here. And we are very careful that all freeriders are not clubbed together in any group Project. Otherwise the result would be disastrous. Thankfully some of the groups are allotted Roll Numberwise so to some extent this problem is alleviated.

Now I cann't justify it. Maybe the Projects are too boring and monotonous for us. But so is watching Andaaz Apna Apna nth time. And there are not so many Preity Zinta wallpapers available anymore that I can change my Desktop that often. I can do some productive work related to my timepasses like playing Bridge(instead of other arbit card games) or reading some value add books like Freakonomics or When Genius fail(insead of more Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer), but my spirit don't allow me to dilute my freeriding.

I confess that I have tried to change my Freeriding ways a number of times. But it is congenital, or determined at birth. maybe it has some genetic component. It cann't be changed by Herzberg Motivation factors our Maslow's self-actualization theory. Freeriding as a personality trait is very poorly documented in literature and psycholgy. In economics,it is only used for its nuisance value. More research should be done on this as this is a sort of social problem.

Afraid that some non-freerider will view this post and not take me in his group next time onwards. Don't be, because non-freeriders don't read my blog.

Come to think of it, the non-freeriders want to learn something in the courses. We provide them that oppurtunity by not working at all. It suits both ours and theirs goals. So this is a sort of Pareto- equilibrium for both of us. No point in disturbing it.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Opium of the masses:Hostile Witness Case

On Vivek's blog, we discussed a hypothetical case. Its brief summary is as follows:
Lets say that you are a key witness in a murder case. You saw the accused kill the victim right in front of your eyes. The facts of the case are absolutely clear to you, and fresh in your memory. Now, your testimony is up for tomorrow. You get a call during the night before the fateful day. The caller threatens to kill/harm either you or your wife/your kids/someone-very-dear-to-you. Alternatively, the caller could make you a different offer - that of money. Say Rs. 1 Crore (a little over $200,000). You know for sure that the accused can indeed shell out that much money. The condition is obvious. You must become a hostile witness. What would you do? And why?

Most of the people agreed that they would not take money but if the safety of themselves or their family is threatened they may buckle up.

I think we forgot to discuss a very important third instance. Somehow the reality and frequent occurence of this third important instance has disturbed me and so I am writing this post. What if the murderer himself belong to your own community. Here community may mean one's caste, religion,city, region, company or college etc. He may not be someone we know very closely or have met often but somehow because of a collective link we identify with him. Would we expose the truth?

No, I don't think so. Across the history man has known to hide truth to protect the image of his tribe, religion, society, college or community in short. Somehow we take myopic vision of things and stay calm. Though we know very well that staying calm today may lead to ultimate doom/downfall of that very community. But somehow collective pressure is so high that we go into some sort of collective rationalization. This is not fear, but something greater and darker than fear, an unknown anxiety of not going against the common feeling, however wrong we know it is. We tend to follow a herd mentality. But this thing never benefits a community. It only give further encouragement to the criminal to do such acts. And it initiates other members of community also in the crime.

Many people in Enron must have known what is going on. Perhaps if they have blowed the whistle, company might have been saved. Even many honest Govt officers don't report bribes taken by their colleages. And even if someone gets caught by a brave effort of an individual, they try to protect him and put in their best effort not to report the event to outside ppl. This collective rationalization may also lead to groupthink as in the case of famous Bay of Pigs incident. We become so blinded by our loyalty to the small community that we miss the larger picture. We lay bare our individual morality in front of the collective fraud.

I feel this vague and undefined feeling is a more important factor in keeping shut when witnessing a crime than any tangible thing like money or threat to family. And many crimes and other unpardonable acts remain unpunished precisely because of that.

It is said that religion is opium of the masses. But I feel any community loyalty feeling can become opium and blind the ppl to the danger looming in front of them.

~Please comment on the post.