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My Friend Sancho

My first novel, My Friend Sancho, is now on the stands across India. It is a contemporary love story set in Mumbai, and was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. To learn more about the book, click here.


To buy it online from the US, click here.


I am currently on a book tour to promote the book. Please check out our schedule of city launches. India Uncut readers are invited to all of them, no pass required, so do drop in and say hello.


If you're interested, do join the Facebook group for My Friend Sancho


Click here for more about my publisher, Hachette India.


And ah, my posts on India Uncut about My Friend Sancho can be found here.


Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Category Archives: Old memes

Where Your Taxes Go: 31

In unnecessary gizmos for government bigwigs—especially ones that will keep them occupied during traffic jams. Mid Day reports that Mumbai’s mayor Shubha Raul recently threw a “tantrum” and demanded a laptop.

“Raul liked the additional municipal commissioner’s laptop and said she wanted one like it, but we gave her a better model,” said an IT officer. “It’s the best laptop in the BMC.”

Raul obviously is happy. “Who doesn’t want to get the best in the world? I am no exception. At least now, when I’m stuck in traffic jams, I can entertain myself with the laptop. I have never been tech savvy, but I will learn,” said Raul.

I don’t grudge our mayor a laptop, even if her post is largely ceremonial, but see the one she got. It’s a Toshiba Qosmio G40 costing Rs. 1.65 lakh. That’s like buying a Merc as an official car—it’s simply not necessary. I bought a beautiful Dell Inspiron 1525 a month ago for 45k, and it performs every function the mayor could possibly require—unless she’s editing films or creating special effects for Star Trek .

And see the woman’s gumption. Who doesn’t want to get the best in the world? she says. That’s my money you’re spending, Mrs Raul. Have some shame.

(Link via email from Amol Chavan. For more on how our government loots us, check out my Taxes Archive.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 23 April, 2008 in India | News | Old memes | Taxes | WTF


Where Your Taxes Go: 30

On painting Uttar Pradesh blue.

This is right out of Calvino, it is. Isn’t the sky enough for Mayawati?

(Link via email from Abhisek Pandey. For more on how our government loots us, check out my Taxes Archive.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 April, 2008 in India | News | Old memes | Taxes | Politics | WTF


Where Your Taxes Go: 29

On 62 sandstone elephants in Lucknow. Their cost, according to CNN-IBN: Rs. 38 crore. They will be part of the Ambedkar Memorial, which, according to The Economic Times, is being built at “a whopping cost of Rs 7 billion.”

That’s Rs. 700 crore.

Yes, yes, I know that’s your money, and mine. But it’s not like we were planning to do anything useful with it. The nation needs an Ambedkar Memorial. And the memorial needs sandstone elephants. No?

(Link via email from Akshat Kaul. For more on how our government loots us, check out my Taxes Archive.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 03 April, 2008 in Economics | India | News | Old memes | Taxes | Politics | WTF


The Great Tantra Challenge

This is hilarious:

On 3 March 2008, in a popular TV show, Sanal Edamaruku, the president of Rationalist International, challenged India’s most “powerful” tantrik (black magician) to demonstrate his powers on him. That was the beginning of an unprecedented experiment. After all his chanting of mantra (magic words) and ceremonies of tantra failed, the tantrik decided to kill Sanal Edamaruku with the “ultimate destruction ceremony” on live TV.

[...]

India TV, one of India’s major Hindi channels with national outreach, invited Sanal Edamaruku for a discussion on “Tantrik power versus Science”. Pandit Surinder Sharma, who claims to be the tantrik of top politicians and is well known from his TV shows, represented the other side. During the discussion, the tantrik showed a small human shape of wheat flour dough, laid a thread around it like a noose and tightened it. He claimed that he was able to kill any person he wanted within three minutes by using black magic. Sanal challenged him to try and kill him.

The tantrik tried. He chanted his mantras (magic words): “Om lingalingalinalinga, kilikili….” But his efforts did not show any impact on Sanal – not after three minutes, and not after five. The time was extended and extended again. The original discussion program should have ended here, but the “breaking news” of the ongoing great tantra challenge was overrunning all program schedules.

Now the tantrik changed his technique. He started sprinkling water on Sanal and brandishing a knife in front of him. Sometimes he moved the blade all over his body. Sanal did not flinch. Then he touched Sanal’s head with his hand, rubbing and rumpling up his hair, pressing his forehead, laying his hand over his eyes, pressing his fingers against his temples. When he pressed harder and harder, Sanal reminded him that he was supposed to use black magic only, not forceful attacks to bring him down. The tantrik took a new run: water, knife, fingers, mantras. But Sanal kept looking very healthy and even amused.

After this the tantrik dude “tried to save his face by claiming that there was a never-failing special black magic for ultimate destruction, which could, however, only been done at night.” The channel called his bluff and kept him on air. Edamaruku survived, and seemed mighty amused at the end of it.

The irony here is that many tantra believers, far from reevaluating their faith after this incident, will instead be outraged that this faith was questioned in the first place. They will rationalize away Sharma’s failure, and might even stick small pins into a TV made of wheat flour dough that has “India TV” written on it. And then, when that channel’s TRPs fall…

(Link via email from Anil Gulecha.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 March, 2008 in India | News | Old memes | Astrology etc


Where Your Taxes Go: 28

DNA reports:

Taxpayer money running into several hundred crores is being splurged annually on the upkeep of bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi.

These bungalows, used by India’s political and bureaucratic leadership, are white elephants in terms of running costs, thanks to their elaborate colonial style construction, huge lawns and staggering security paraphernalia.

[...]

The residences of the Gandhi family — Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka — saw a spend of nearly Rs47 lakh collectively during these three years.

I don’t have an issue with senior functionaries in the government getting perks with their jobs, but why on earth should the taxes you and I pay go towards Priyanka Gandhi’s plumbing and electricity expenses? Truly, the Gandhis are a royal family. I suppose I should just be glad that we live in the 21st century, or they’d have me hanged, drawn and quartered for my audacity in questioning their entitlements.

*

For more on how our government loots us, check out my Taxes Archive.

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 March, 2008 in Economics | India | News | Old memes | Taxes | Politics


Invisible Cows and Nicole Kidman’s Swimsuit

This has got to be the sign of the day:

Beware of Invisible Cows

There’s a delightful comic book in there somewhere. What I can’t figure out is whether the invisible cows are the good guys or the bad guys. Whatever be the case, they make for formidable adversaries.

In other news, ABC News informs us:

A swimsuit left at a Swedish pool by Australian movie star Nicole Kidman has been sold at auction to buy cows for poor families in India.

I love the way three countries are involved in that sentence. And many udders.

(Invisible cows link via email from Kunal. Kidman link via a Nanopolitan post that reader Anand Gadiyar pointed me to. Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 14 February, 2008 in Old memes | Cows


Where Your Taxes Go: 27

Towards establishing a professorship in Jawaharlal Nehru’s name in Cambridge.

I rather like R Vaidyanathan’s comment on the matter:

It is also ironical that the professorship is for business studies, while Nehru was the architect of the licence permit quota Raj in India. It is like the butchers’ association of Texas providing a chair to study Gandhian thought in some US university.

The butcher’s association, of course, would presumably do so with its own money. The Nehru Professorship is paid for by money taken forcibly from us. Such it goes…

(Link via email from Rajeev Mantri. For more on how our government loots us, check out my Taxes Archive.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 14 February, 2008 in India | Old memes | Taxes | Politics | WTF


Avoiding Double Payment

Headline of the day:

Company seeks tax exemption for bribes

You can’t deny there’s a certain logic to it.

(Link via email from Shrek.)

Update: Hmm...

Posted by Amit Varma on 13 February, 2008 in Economics | News | Old memes | Taxes | Politics


Meanwhile, in Britain…

... the Labour government is using tax-breaks to incentivize polygamy. Heh.

Posted by Amit Varma on 05 February, 2008 in Economics | News | Old memes | Taxes | WTF


On Earmarks and Taxes

Don Boudreaux writes another great letter.

Posted by Amit Varma on 05 February, 2008 in Economics | Old memes | Taxes | Politics


Long, Healthy Lives…

... are hazardous to the taxpayer, reports IBNLive.com. A study has found that “the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers,” and “healthy people live longer and may develop long-term diseases in old age like Alzheimer’s which are very expensive to treat.”

The solution here is not to prevent people from living long and healthy lives. Instead, it is to question what our governments do with the money it coerces out of its citizens. Is it fair to take money from the obese to pay the medical costs of the relatively healthy, as is effectively the case here? Would it be fair the other way around? Is the government taxing us to provide certain basic services like law and order, or to redistribute it according to the interests of a few politicians in power?

I hope to live a long and healthy life— and even if I don’t, to be a burden on nobody. Is that unusual?

(Link via email from Andy.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 05 February, 2008 in Economics | Old memes | Taxes | Small thoughts


Where Your Taxes Go: 26

IANS reports:

Rising hemlines saw temperatures going up in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Tuesday with an actress’ short dress triggering a demand from the PMK for a law imposing a dress code and the ruling DMK counselling its ally that it should exercise restraint.

While the DMK advised the PMK that restraint, not the length of a skirt, was the solution, M K Kanimozhi, daughter of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and MP, was attacking the ‘hypocrisy’ of imposing a dress code on female actors elsewhere in the city.

The fundamental problem here is that our governments want to rule us, not serve us. And that negates the purpose of parting us from the taxes we pay. No?

(Link via email from Karthik. For more on what happens to our taxes, click here.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 30 January, 2008 in Freedom | India | News | Old memes | Taxes | Politics


Moral Responsibility For Cows

PTI reports:

Blaming the DMK government for the death of 15 cows at the famous Rameswaram temple, AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa on Monday said Chief Minister M Karunanidhi should resign owning “moral responsibility” for the incident.

I love Indian politics. Out there in the US, they’re arguing race and gender and politics and economics. And here…

(Link via email from Pranesh. Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 January, 2008 in Old memes | Cows | Politics | WTF


Written in the Stars?

This surely has to be the line of the day:

We regret to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, the publication of The Astrological Magazine will cease with the December 2007 issue.

I have never before been so tempted to put a smiley on my blog!

(Link via email from Narasimha Shastri. Earlier posts on superstitious nonsense: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 21 January, 2008 in Old memes | Astrology etc


Gordon Brown Looks Like A Cow?

AFP reports:

British photographer Alison Jackson, famed for her portraits of celebrity lookalikes in compromising positions, launched an appeal for would-be Gordon Brown impersonators on Monday, after six fruitless years of searching for a stand-in.

Jackson said she had “never had such difficulty finding a lookalike before” and attributed the struggle to the prime minister’s “huge bovine features”.

Hmm.

(Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 15 January, 2008 in Miscellaneous | News | Old memes | Cows


A Fee For Patriotism?

Headline of the day:

Don’t pay us to be patriotic: Muslims to UPA

It seems that the central government “has proposed to offer additional grants to nearly all the 12,000 madrassas, which get Government funds, to celebrate national festivals namely Independence Day and Republic Day.”

If politicians wish to bribe or pander, they are welcome to do with their own money. But why on earth should you or I have to pay for it? Immense disgust comes.

(Link via email from Vikram Chandrashekar.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 05 January, 2008 in Economics | India | News | Old memes | Taxes | Politics | WTF


Nadiraji Wants Your Money

This is the 44th installment of my weekly column for Mint, Thinking it Through.

A few days ago, the respected theatre artist Nadira Babbar spoke to the newspaper DNA about the state of theatre in Mumbai. She felt that there weren’t enough good auditoriums in the city. “My appeal to the government is to build small, simple auditoriums with basic infrastructure,” she said. “I am seriously thinking of meeting the chief minister and put before him certain stark realities of the state of theatre. Some of my proposals are to subsidize the rates of the halls. Secondly, it would be of great help if they subsidize the rates of placing advertisements in newspapers; not only for the theatre events, but also for other cultural events.”

Most of us would sympathize with her. The arts are essential to a civilized society, and deserve our support. And there are many neglected areas of it, besides theatre, where an infusion of funds would help. Traditional folk arts are dying out, literature in regional languages gets a raw deal, and so on. So, naturally, many of us turn to the state.

But should we?

Read more...

Posted by Amit Varma on 13 December, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Economics | Essays and Op-Eds | Freedom | India | Old memes | Taxes | Politics | Thinking it Through


Should Entrepreneurial Geniuses Pay a Higher Tax Rate?

If so, so should tall men, argues a new study by Greg Mankiw and Matthew Weinzierl.

No, they’re not being facetious. The abstract of the paper states:

Should the income tax system include a tax credit for short taxpayers and a tax surcharge for tall ones? This paper shows that the standard utilitarian framework for tax policy analysis answers this question in the affirmative. This result has two possible interpretations. One interpretation is that individual attributes correlated with wages, such as height, should be considered more widely for determining tax liabilities.

Alternatively, if policies such as a tax on height are rejected, then the standard utilitarian framework must in some way fail to capture our intuitive notions of distributive justice.

You can download the paper here (pdf link).

(NY Times link via email from Ravi Venkatesh.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 12 December, 2007 in Economics | Old memes | Taxes


The Visible Cow

Susan Orlean explains the anatomy of

a cow

an essay:

I know it’s ultimately impossible and probably unnecessary to define what an essay is, but I think the Visible Cow offers an interesting and tangible analogue. What holds an essay together — the cowhide, so to speak — should be nearly invisible. The best kind of structure should be organic, revealing only the very natural way a smart person’s mind works through a topic, making connections and forming conclusions as they occur. And an essay can contain many thoughts and observations (those organs! those bones!) that might not seem to fit together, but in the end lead to a satisfying whole — a cow.

And if you’ll allow me to torture this poor cow — the Visible one and now all the real, live cows on the planet — for one more moment: just as each cow is individual, each of these essays is, too, though they are identifiably part of the same species.

This is part of Orlean’s introcution to The Best American Essays 2005. And I agree with her when she describes a cow as a satisfying whole. There can scarcely be a better occasion to assert that than the 100th cow post on India Uncut.

It’s been quite a ride.

(Link via email from Nitya Pillai. Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 December, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Old memes | Cows


Listen To Our Honourable MPs

Check out this entertaining excerpt of a recent question hour at the Rajya Sabha. My favourite bit comes at the end:

Mr Chairman: The Question Hour is over.

Dr V Maitreyan: Sir, it is very unfortunate that you are giving opportunity to ask questions only…(Interruptions). I am raising my hand for half an hour. This is very unfair. I want to protest against this. Only Members from Congress and BJP do not exist in this House. From tomorrow, I will disrupt the Question Hour…(Interruptions).

Apropos of nothing, I remember school.

(Link via Prem Panicker, who points out that “this is what is costing all us taxpayers Rs 26,000 per minute.” My happiness knows no bounds.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 23 November, 2007 in India | Old memes | Taxes | Politics


Sachin Tendulkar is a Buffalo

In the WTF story of the day, Bejan Daruwala, speaking to Rajesh Pansare of DNA, suggests a cure for Sachin Tendulkar’s “nervous 90s”:

It’s well known amongst the astrology community that Sachin Tendulkar is a Taurus and that numbers 3, 6 and 9 apply to him.

But according to Chinese astrology, Tendulkar is also a Buffalo, a cousin of the bull — and these two systems combined make him a Double Bull.

The Bull is steadfast, a sign of strength and consistency. The weakness of Bulls and Buffalos is that they get into a rut and often cannot think out of the box, something which applies to Tendulkar. [...]

Because he is a loving and faithful husband, to get out of his nervous 90s, I would suggest that Tendulkar follow four steps:

1. Sleep in the lap of his wife and tell her to love him sweetly and gently

2. Cook his own mutton cheese burgers and eat them

3. Have a terrific bath

4. Jump in his Ferrari and go for a drive

There is no indication on that page that this is a joke of some sort. It reads like a parody, but Daruwala always reads like a parody of himself. Anjali Tendulkar, of course, must be befuddled at what Sachin means when he asks her to love him “sweetly and gently.”

“What do you mean, sweetly and gently,” she could respond. “How else have I been loving you all these years? You can cook your own damn mutton burgers from now on. And take a bath, you’re stinking—now wonder Dada likes to run you out.”

(Link via email from reader Gokul. Earlier posts on superstitious nonsense: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 November, 2007 in Old memes | Astrology etc | Sport | WTF


Leave Them Cows Alone!

I’m always running into young Indians who tell me with pride, “Cow is my mother.” Well, shame shame.

(Via Zentastic, which Peter Griffin and Sunil Mohan Ranta pointed me to in separate emails.

Previous posts on Google Trends: 1, 2, 3.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 15 November, 2007 in Old memes | Cows


God Doesn’t Like Salwar Kameez?

The WTF news of the day comes from Kerala’s Sree Krishna Guruvayoor temple:

Speaking to IANS, temple manager Vijayan Nambiar said that astrologer Padmanabha Sharma while conducting the ashtamangalaya devaprasanam (astrological consultations) Sunday said that the deity was unhappy over the entry of women in salwar-kameez.

[...]

Since Oct 31, a team of nine people, including the temple priests, has been engaged in the rituals and prayers to find out whether the Gods are happy or not. The ritual is being held in Guruvayoor temple after 17 years.

‘The rituals began 31st and these priests give out their opinions as and when they go ahead with their rituals. These are all preliminary findings and when their entire rituals get over in another 10 days’ time, they would come out with a full fledged report on what are all the changes required to make the deity happy,’ said Nambiar.

I think God should simply provide an RSS feed of His wishes. Anyway, if God has started frowning on salwar-kameez, then I am clearly headed for an extravagantly Godless land in a few hours: Chandigarh. Queenie Dhody writes about her recent visit there:

The Patiala salwar reigns [in Chandigarh]. As the culture of going for evening walks by the lake is dominant, one sees a lot of women wearing Patiala salwars with sneakers.

Sneaky. And if you thought that was poor sentence construction, be warned that her article also contains the WTF line of the day:

In the Sikhs, by and large, the women are treated equal to the men and are thoroughly respected.

I’m a huge fan of thoroughly respecting women, in the Sikhs or elsewhere. And hey, while on Queenie Dhody, she just happens to be the subject of the WTF headline of the day, in the venerable Times of India:

Queenie Dhody throws a party

Or maybe that’s a typo, and ‘party’ is really…

(IANS link via email from Nandan Pandit. Previous posts on salwars et al: 1, , 2, 3, 4, 5.

Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 05 November, 2007 in India | Journalism | Media | News | Old memes | Purplocity/Verniness | WTF


Should Government Subsidize the Arts?

Here’s Frédéric Bastiat on the subject:

Does the right of the legislator extend to abridging the wages of the artisan, for the sake of adding to the profits of the artist?

And to extend that question, what causes justify abridging the wages of the artisan?

(The quote was from Bastiat’s great essay, That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen. Read the full thing!)

Posted by Amit Varma on 30 October, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Excerpts | Economics | Freedom | Old memes | Taxes


Where Your Taxes Go: 25

The Indian cricket team.

Yes, the Maharashtra government is giving Rs10 Lakh each to Ajit Agarkar and Rohit Sharma, and the Delhi government is handing out Rs5 lakh each to Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. This is disgraceful. If Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sheila Dikshit wish to use India’s victory to make a statement, they should spend their own money. All poor people in this country, from maids to chaprasis to cycle-rickshaw drivers, pay taxes every time they buy anything. It is ludicrous that their hard-earned money, coercively collected by the state, should be spent on cricketers with endorsements that are worth crores.

(Link via email from Jitendra Mohan. Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. Also see: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

My essays on taxes and government: Your maid funds Unani, A beast called government, A Business Proposal.)

Update: Speaking of endorsements...

(Link via reader Surendra.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 26 September, 2007 in Economics | India | Old memes | Taxes | Politics | Sport


Where Your Taxes Go: 24

A second Silicon Valley in the US.

Here’s the gist of it: A few IT companies are getting together with the government to set up incubation centers for entrepreneurs in New Jersey and Chicago. The government is going to pay half the setup costs, and it will also “bear the operational cost of the facilities for a period of three years.”

This is a great initiative for the private sector to take up. But there is no reason why my maid’s taxes should go into this.

(Link via email from Jayakamal Balasubramani. Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23. Also see: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

My essays on taxes and government: Your maid funds Unani, A beast called government, A Business Proposal.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 September, 2007 in Economics | India | Old memes | Taxes


Paling Sing Songs

The first email I opened this morning said: “Whatever happened to your Purplocity/Verniness series? Do you think we come to your blog to read your fine English? No we don’t! Give us Purplocity! Give us Verniness!”

Well, you know me, I gotta respond to the market. Reader Rajat Gulati has sent me a mail pointing me to a feature by IndiaGlitz on Manorama 6 Feet Under, in which an unnamed person—presumably Abhay Deol, who plays the lead in the film—is quoted explaining what his character is all about:

I am paling an amateur detective’s character in this movie, who wife usually suspects him for no reasons. I write a book on famous detective’s life and the incidents occurred in his life, a reader of that book, that it Sarika who is playing Manorama in this movie, get impress with my book as she appoints me as her private detective to explore more about her husband’s affair with a lady. While the investigation Sarika dies and I get stuck in to unwanted circumstances.

Abhay Deol happens to be an actor I think quite highly of, as much for his choice of films as for his acting. And there is no freaking way he could have, um, used the words above. This is why journalism is such a creative art. Anyway, later in the piece, Raima Sen is quoted as saying:

Though the music in this movie is not a Sing Song, I like song ’ Woh Mere Pal’.

I’m a huge fan of Sing Song films. I like paling Sing Songs. I am very impress.

(Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 September, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Old memes | Purplocity/Verniness


Where Your Taxes Go: 23

Mango exports.

If the US government has regulations that demand irradiation of mangoes, and inspectors, and suchlike, I don’t see why you and I should foot the bill. Surely the exporters should. Why on earth are we funding mango exporters with our hard-earned money?

(Link via email from Nitin Pai. Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22. Also see: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

My essays on taxes and government: Your maid funds Unani, A beast called government, A Business Proposal.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 September, 2007 in Economics | India | Old memes | Taxes


Bingo With Cow Droppings

What better way could there be to spend a dull afternoon? Make a bingo pitch, put a cow on it, and let it progress according to where the cow has a dump. Most exciting way to pass time ever, almost on par with watching paint dry on a cow. Is it not bovine divine?

image

(Picture by Sebastian Derungs, via Swissmiss, which I reached via email by reader VatsaL.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 September, 2007 in Old memes | Cows


Rukawat Hatao!

I’m back in Mumbai after three days in Hyderabad, where I was attending a conference on liberalism organized by Barun Mitra of The Liberty Institute. I met many interesting people there, and some enlightenment happened amid much conversation. One high point: while casually discussing popular slogans that could spread ideas of liberty, Sauvik Chakraverti suggested “Rukawat Hatao!” I thought that rocked, not just because it plays on the frustration of Indians at the many rukawats our government places in front of us, but also because it encompasses “Garibi Hatao.” If you hatao the rukawats, I believe the garibi will also go.

*  *  *

The conference was at Ramoji Film City, and on the second day we were taken on a tourist trip of the place. The Ramoji Film City essentially houses sets of all kind, most of them built with plaster of Paris. There was the Gateway of India, with the Taj Mahal inside. There was Mumbai’s Central Jail, with a beauty parlour inside. There were plaster-of-Paris imitations of slices of landscape from Switzerland, Hollywood, London, Kolkata and Benaras. There was an empty square about which our guide told us, “You can make this whatever nagar you want. Put a statue of Shastri, it is Shastri Nagar. Put a statue of Gandhi, it is Gandhi Nagar.” There was a railway station, with the trains being moved on tyres, for those were out of sight. There was a “Forward Planning Garden” and a “Family Planning Garden,” and much artificial greenery all around.

Then we got back to the hotel for our conference, and even the real building seemed like plaster-of-Paris to us. My only regret in all this: they didn’t show us a plaster-of-Paris Hilton.

*  *  *

Yesterday, with the conference over, I hopped over for lunch to my friend Sridala Swami‘s place. Her son charmingly gifted me a couple of drawings of cows, and then gave me a tutorial on how to draw cows. First he drew a cow, part by part, carefully explaining the process. Then I drew a cow. I am a slow learner, and the boy was upset. “All the udders can’t be the same size,” he told me. “And you’ve got the hooves all wrong. Also, why have you drawn a smile? Cows don’t smile.”

“That’s not true,” I said. “I’ve seen cows smile. Cows are always smiling at me.”

He looked at me strangely. “I have never seen a cow smile,” he said, with an air of finality. The subject was closed. He moved on. “Here, let me show you how to draw a buffalo.”

The lad no doubt inherits his artistic temperament from his mother, who is a poet. Sridala gives a reading of some of her poems in Mumbai on September 13, so drop in if you’re interested. (I’ll again be out of town, sadly.) I don’t understand poetry, being deficient in such matters, but here is a nugget from one of her poems that I rather liked:

I want to be like a tree
on which the birds rest
but when they fly away
there is no pain.

*  *  *

Yesterday evening was memorable, as I met up with friends and bloggers I respect a lot, Nitin Pai, Ravikiran Rao, Gautam Bastian and Naveen Mandava. Nitin was at the conference with me, and is always stimulating company, besides being a great guy. Ravi, Gautam and Naveen are based in Hyderabad, though the first two had once been in Mumbai, before deserting. We spoke much about economics, politics and chicken chettinad, and Nitin and I had a fierce argument on whether India should have sent troops to Iraq. (He argued yes, I vehemently argued no.) We hung at Barista, then hung at CCD, and in between, Nitin picked up a slice of Paradise, for his wife had warned him that he won’t be allowed inside his house if he doesn’t have lots of biriyani with him. Yes, Mr Pai is a hardliner on foreign policy, but when it comes to domestic matters…

(Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 09 September, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Freedom | India | Old memes | Cows | Personal


Say Cheese

Computing.co.uk reports:

Cows in eastern India are to be issued photo ID cards as part of a scheme to combat smuggling.

In 2006, around 435,000 cattle were illegally trafficked from the Indian state of West Bengal across the border into Bangladesh.

Indian border officials said the ID cards would help them keep tabs on the illicit trade.

I find all this rather dehumanizing. This is an assault on cows’ civil liberties. Cows are people too.

(Link via Facebook message from Amit Agarwal. Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 30 August, 2007 in Old memes | Cows


Bonding Over Electrical Goods

HT Tabloid makes me weep. In a story headlined “Bips, John make an ‘electric’ statement!” they write:

Even as the lovebirds John Abraham and Bipasha Basu continue to be under constant scanner of media for whether they are still an item or not, the couple were spotted looking at a range of electrical household goods.. and were even holding hands at Lower P. Cuuuute.

First line, reportage. Second line, analysis. If galaxies are being jolted out of place somewhere, it is only because God is guffawing at Her own sense of humour. Sigh.

(Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 28 August, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Old memes | Purplocity/Verniness


The Republic of Apathy

This essay of mine was published today in the Independence Day special issue of Lounge, the weekend edition of Mint, as “Those Songs of Freedom.”

Just thinking of it sends a chill up my spine. On 12 March 1930, at the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat, 79 men went for a walk. For 23 days they marched, covering four districts, 48 villages, 400 kilometres. On the way they picked up thousands of other ordinary people, animated by a cause so much bigger than themselves. Then, on 6 April, by the sea at the coastal village of Dandi, Mahatma Gandhi picked up a handful of salty earth and said, “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.” 

The empire shook. The purpose of Gandhi’s march was to protest the oppressive and unfair salt tax, and across the country people joined the battle. They made their own salt. They bought illegal salt. That year, 60,000 Indians were arrested during these protests. The Salt Law was not repealed. And yet, “the first stage in ... the final struggle of freedom,” as Gandhi described it, had made an impact.

More than 77 years have passed. We have been free of the British empire for 60 of them. If we were to get inside a time machine, go back to 1930, pull in some of the men and women who marched to Dandi, and bring them to this present time, how would they react? Would they think that they were finally in the India that they had fought to achieve? 

Or would they set off on another walk?

Read more...

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 August, 2007 in Economics | Essays and Op-Eds | Freedom | India | Old memes | Taxes | Politics


Where Your Taxes Go: 22

Sponsoring second honeymoons for people who delay having a child.

So the next time you file your returns, don’t be grouchy. At least someone’s having fun.

(Link via email from Andy. Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. Also see: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

My essays on taxes and government: Your maid funds Unani, A beast called government.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 09 August, 2007 in Economics | India | Old memes | Taxes


Shamita Shetty likes papayas

If anyone denies that the following excerpt is newsworthy, I will sit on him or her. Here goes:

Shamita ki sexiness ka raaz kya hain?

If a bee from Cash’s unit is to be believed, it is papayas or papitas as we call them.

One fine day, Shamita wanted papitas. Not one. Not five. Not ten, but 21 of them!

Since the shooting was in Cape Town and not in Film City, spot boys, assistant directors and production assistants went scurrying around the South African city.

After much heartburn, the crew finally found 21 papayas and gave it to madam. My bee has no idea what Shamita did with them. Meanwhile, mama Shetty, who was also at the shoot, asked for sambar powder one day. The action on the sets was ditto.

“The action on the sets was ditto,” it seems! Somebody please explain why I want to wrap barbed wire around myself.

(Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 05 August, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Old memes | Purplocity/Verniness | WTF


Mohit Ahlawat and Milk

I have been ignoring cow links sent to me recently, determined not to continue that particular meme. But this is too hard to resist:

We heard that actor Mohit Ahlawat bought himself a herd of cows six years ago. The health-conscious actor was upset about the adulterated milk that was being delivered to his house, and this instigated him to buy the cows.

When we asked him about it, he said, “Why doesn’t the BMC allow one to keep cows? What’s the issue? Where I come from, everyone has cows.”

Indeed. But it must be clarified that Ahlawat loves not cows, but milk. He is quoted as saying:

I have even tasted tiger’s milk. I was in Kenya’s jungle safari when the local men, who were about seven-feet-tall, asked me if I wanted to taste the milk of a tiger. I got pretty excited and they served it to me in a bowl. I cannot describe the taste of the tiger’s milk but it was the most thrilling experience.

I have tasted goat’s milk too. People say that Gandhiji used to drink only goat’s milk.

If I had to live my life all over again, I would opt to be a tiger-milker. Such a challenge that would be.

(Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93.)

Update: Nandan Pandit, Onkar Joshi and reader Ashwin write in separately to inform me that there are no tigers in Africa. But that’s the fun, no?

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 August, 2007 in Old memes | Cows


Nisha Kothari likes steamy steps

It’s been a while, but I haven’t forgotten about Purplocity/Verniness. How could I? Is there anything else in this world that is joyful?

HT Tabloid quotes Nisha Kothari on Ajay Devgan:

Though I have exposed a bit in a steamy song with him, yet he is looking sexier than me. I find him quite hot. I like his body when he takes off his shirt. He looks quite enticing when he exposes his torso. I have enjoyed the steamy steps on the set.

I feel that he is the kind of actor I can vibe well with.

Right. I yearn for the day when Devgan can say such things about Kothari. Anyway, young Ms Kothari is then asked how she managed to play the role of an autorickshaw driver without any preparation. She replies:

Ramu ji wanted me to do most of the scenes spontaneously on the set. So I didn’t really have to learn how to drive an auto-rickshaw. That way, it looks more realistic. Besides that, I always have a bidi in my mouth.

God is in the details, they say. God is a bidi.

(Previous posts with Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 July, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Old memes | Purplocity/Verniness


Nappies for donkeys

WTF quote of the day:

If we have to put nappies on our donkeys, soon they will say our cows need them too.

That’s a donkey-owner (as opposed to a donkey owner) from Limuru speaking, where the authorities want donkeys to wear nappies. I really don’t see what the fuss is about. Donkeys are people too.

(Link via email from reader Poornima Mani.)

PS: I intend to start a movement to put lingerie on cows. They need our support. Please join me.

(Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 July, 2007 in Old memes | Cows | WTF


“Metaphysical activities increase”

Trust the nation’s biggest English-language newspaper to cover this immensely important story, with global, even galactic, consequences: “Saturn makes a move on Leo!”

Apparently, Saturn entered Leo last night, hopefully with Leo’s consent, and the Times of India is at hand to advise us how to deal with it. An excerpt:

For those whose names start with chu, ch, che, cho, la, li, lu, le, lo, aa, ee, u, a, ee, u, ae:

Your health will suffer, so avoid eating out. Long journeys will be gainful, metaphysical activities increase. Prone to theft while travelling . Work pressure will be very high, you may have problems from superiors. Loss of money is seen, so keep away from the stock market. Friendships may break due to ego. Partnership will not be suitable. Plenty of travel, but no time for family.

For those whose names start with o, ba, vi, vu, ka, ki, ve, vo:

You will recover from a prolonged illness. Promotions with financial gains and favours from seniors is seen. Investments will bring good gains. Business tours will be profitable. Favours from the opposite sex will also come your way. A good time to buy property and save money. Job changes shall be favourable.

And so on. Needless to say, people who believe in this rubbish will ignore the bits that don’t fit, and dwell on the ones that do. If their name begins with “o, ba, vi, vu, ka, ki, ve, vo,” they will overlook the absence of a prolonged illness in their recent past, and focus on the bit about “favours from the opposite sex,” possibly on a “profitable” business trip. (Indeed, the secret to much belief is wishful thinking.) It depresses me that there is a market for this crap—though almost everything depresses me these days, so maybe the problem is me.

(Some earlier posts on superstitious nonsense: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 July, 2007 in India | Old memes | Astrology etc


Licensed to toast

This is the 22nd installment of my weekly column for Mint, Thinking it Through.

“You may now need licence to own toaster,” read the headline of a news report this Tuesday in the Hindustan Times. The article began: “You do not use the Toast Authority of India’s toasting services, but may soon have to pay a one-time licence fee for the toaster you own and an additional tax on any new toaster you buy in the future. Why? To support the Toast Authority of India and its employees.”

“Wait a minute,” you tell me, “you’re pulling a fast one on us. This is way too absurd to believe. Our gentle, compassionate government would never do something like that.”

Right. Well, I did make some of that up. The headline actually said, “You may now need license to own TV.” And in the para I quoted, replace “TAI’s toasting services” with Doordarshan, “toaster” with “TV” and “TAI” with “Prasar Bharati”, and there you have it.

Now tell me, is that any less absurd?

Read more...

Posted by Amit Varma on 12 July, 2007 in Economics | Essays and Op-Eds | India | Old memes | Taxes | Politics | Thinking it Through


Where your taxes almost went

Towards paying 700 staffers at the Hardayal Municipal Library in Chandni Chowk.

The Indian Express reports:

For the past few months, the Hardayal Municipal Library in Chandni Chowk has been witnessing a heavy rush of people — more than 700 — every day. Unfortunately, they are not readers but library staffers, all hired in a span of four months, ahead of the municipal elections earlier this year.

These employees, mainly college students, were hired by former Congress councillor Ashok Jain between December 2006 and March 2007. The library, Delhi’s oldest, is fully functional with 15 staffers. The remaining 700 spend their day protesting against the MCD for non-payment of salaries since April.

My favourite part of the story is when the current councillor tells IE, “[O]ur readers find no place to sit now.” That so typifies the essence of government.

(Link via email from Confused. Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. Also see: 1, 2, 3, 4.

My essays on taxes and government: Your maid funds Unani, A beast called government.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 29 June, 2007 in India | Old memes | Taxes


The Eye of a Cow

I hereby nominate Bob Hicok as the Poet Cowreate of the World. Check out his poem, “My new neighbour”:

Looking at a cow one morning last month,
I wondered if the congregation of flies
on the eye of the cow
stared at the eye of the cow
with their compound eyes
and if I had ever seen this many eyes
in this small a space or had a thought
in which the word eye occurred so obsessively.

Read the full poem—I especially like the way it ends, though not the fact that it ends. A poem about cows should go on forever, like the Milky Way.

(Link via email from Falstaff. Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 20 June, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Old memes | Cows


Where America’s taxes go

Nandz writes in to point me to an excellent graphic representation of where America’s taxes go. He wonders if I could do one for India.

Well, I’d actually once contemplated building a “Where Your Taxes Go” calculator, where you could feed in the amount you pay as tax, and get an itemized breakup of where that money is spent. It would be personal and easy to relate to, and would illustrate beautifully the extent to which our taxes are wasted. Sadly, I don’t think there is enough public data to be able to do this accurately. If you think otherwise, and believe that it can be built, feel free to write to me.

(Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. Also see: 1, 2, 3.

My essays on taxes and government: Your maid funds Unani, A beast called government.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 12 June, 2007 in Economics | India | Old memes | Taxes


Where your taxes go: 21

Building malls.

You have to wonder what we have learned in the last 60 years. The BMC is reportedly planning to “construct ‘municipal malls’ at various spots in the city,” where “prices of commodities would be regulated ... so that they could ‘cater to the masses’.” Mumbai Mirror rightly lashes out:

All this focus on a ‘business enterprise’ comes at a time when hundreds of roads across the city are still dug up, a large part of the Mithi river is yet to be cleaned up though the monsoon is already here, the city’s massive parking problems need urgent solutions, the Jijamata Udyan needs a thorough clean-up, octroi evasion is depriving the BMC of crores of rupees, the question of adequate and 24/7 water supply is still to be resolved, most BMC schools are on the verge of closure, and Mumbaikars on the whole want the city’s crumbling civic services to be improved.

The populist rhetoric accompanying the proposal is startlingly naive. These malls, a ‘civic official’ is quoted as saying, will “accommodate small shops that have been forced to shut because of big malls and also the BMC’s development projects.” The BMC should ask itself a few basic questions: If some small shops have shut down because of big malls, why is that so? When they don’t regulate prices outside those malls (with good reason!), how will regulating them inside the malls help? If those shops could function at a price lower than the market, wouldn’t they have destroyed the big malls, instead of the other way around? Isn’t the whole point of a market to satisfy the needs of the consumer, and is there any point accommodating stores inside government malls that the consumers have rejected outside them?

My prediction: If any such malls come up, they will become vehicles of enrichment for rent-seeking officials. Space within the malls will be allocated to merchants at the discretion of municipal officials, and corruption will be rampant. These malls will not turn a profit. You and I, again, will end up as shmucks. And the roads will still have potholes.

(Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. Also see: 1, 2, 3.

My essays on taxes and government: Your maid funds Unani, A beast called government.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 06 June, 2007 in Economics | India | Old memes | Taxes | Politics


An alternative energy source no one’s talking about

A cow’s sexual energy. It has been reported:

A farmer was trampled to death under the hoofs of his cow because he was blocking the animal as it was rushing to mate with an ox, the City Evening News in Northeast China’s Jilin Province reported today.

[...]

“The cow was too anxious and snappish since this was her first mating,” said the daughter-in-law of the ox owner, adding that cows can easily get out of control when in heat.

I propose a government fund to study the feasibility of cowthanol. Funds won’t be a problem—what do you pay taxes for?

(Link via email from Kartik Varadpande. Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90.)

Update: Dilip Chitre writes in:

Apropos of using cows in heat as an alternative source of energy there could be other explanations. Perhaps the Chinese cow in question was protesting against the sexual posture described by Vatsyayana in the Kama Sutra as ‘Congress of the Cow’ (not to be confused with the Indian National Congress which is a kind of politicians’ orgy). Chinese cows seeking liberation and rejecting sexist postures are a revelation. Was the cow rushing on to mount the bull to settle a gender issue when it trampled its owner to death?

A valid point, worthy of serious debate. Meanwhile, here’s more on the Congress of the Cow: 1, 2.

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 May, 2007 in Old memes | Cows


Technique and attitude…

... are irrelevant in the case of Virender Sehwag’s loss of form, according to one group of people. The problem might just be evil spirits. MSN reports:

An interesting Tantrik Pooja was held at the banks of Yamuna near Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj to bring Virender Sehwag back to form.

According to an India TV report, the Mahakali Pooja was allegedly organised by the dashing batsman’s relatives and implemented by a distant relative, but there was no quote or evidence to suggest their involvement. Probably, it was a fan’s idea, masquerading as a distant relative.

However, the visuals did show Havan fire, two pair of stumps - one on each side, some statues, a photograph of Sehwag and a bat with which “he had been dismissed without scoring.”

So the next time Viru swishes outside the off stump, the evil spirits that made sure it hit the edge of the bat will stay away, and good spirits will probably make sure he middles the ball and it goes for a boundary. Why didn’t we think of this earlier? Can we have a “Tantrik Pooja” for the entire team, please? And one for this blog also, so no one is ever displeased by what I write!

And while checking my earlier posts on superstition, I came across this one on the predictions made by astrologers before the World Cup. Heh.

Now I’m off to get me some spirits.

(Link via email from Ullas Marar.

Some earlier posts on superstitious nonsense: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 May, 2007 in India | Old memes | Astrology etc


God vs Tuberculosis

BBC reports:

Hindus have launched a last minute appeal to prevent the slaughter of a sacred bull which has tested positive for tuberculosis.

The bull, Shambo, lives in a shrine in Llanpumsaint, Carmarthenshire.

I have just one question: if the bull is sacred, how come God allowed it to get Tuberculosis? Tuberculosis is more powerful than God or what? Shouldn’t people be praying to Tuberculosis then?

(Link via email from Sanjeev Naik. Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 13 May, 2007 in Old memes | Cows | Small thoughts


Where your taxes go: 20

Spending thousands to deny Rs 2:

The Department of Posts is prepared to spend thousands of rupees on expensive litigation in the High Court to prevent a 75-year-old pensioner from getting an additional benefit of Rs 2 as part of his pension.

Sigh. And how ironic that every time this gentleman buys something, he is contributing to the thousands of rupees spent to deny him his Rs 2. Such it goes.

(Link via email from Kunal.

Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. Also see: 1, 2, 3.

My essays on taxes and government: Your maid funds Unani, A beast called government.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 23 April, 2007 in Economics | Freedom | India | Old memes | Taxes


Where your taxes go: 19

Subsidies for pilgrimages. The Times of India reports:

In its determination to protect Haj subsidies, particularly in view of the ongoing elections in UP, Centre has told Supreme Court that it was ready to offer similar support, at state expense, to pilgrimages organised by other communities.

Positing its offer as being in sync with the “secular ideals” of the Constitution, Centre virtually made a policy announcement by agreeing to provide financial assistance to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains and other religious communities.

This is not secularism. To me, secularism has two implications:

1 A complete separation of state and religion.

2. Every person in this country having the right to follow a religion of their choice, as long as they don’t impose it on others.

The right to follow a religion of your choice, of course, is completely different from a right to having your religion sponsored by other people’s money, which is nothing short of theft. Do remember, after all, that “state expense” comes from my pockets and your bank account and suchlike. Money does not fall from the skies, and even if the government actually printed money to afford these subsidies, inflation would result, which is an indirect form of taxation.

If Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh genuinely believe that pilgrimages deserve to be funded, I recommend that they shell out their own money for the purpose. There is no justification for taking away our hard-earned money and spending it on building votebanks for themselves.

(Link via SMS from little n.

Where your taxes go: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. Also see: 1, 2, 3.

My essays on taxes and government: Your maid funds Unani, A beast called government.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 15 April, 2007 in Economics | Freedom | India | Miscellaneous | Old memes | Taxes | Politics


Katrina and the cow

It seems that the cow that Akshay Kumar was shown milking in Namastey London is named Katrina. Can you guess what it would have been called when it was younger?

Katrina Calf.

Ok, sorry! It might be sleep deprivation…

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 06 April, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Old memes | Cows


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