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A meta post

Revisiting my own site, I began to wonder who it was that wrote all this. The self transforms with time, and every day he who writes changes, and with enough time even contradicts himself, and after a while may only recognize himself in a sort of nostalgic way, the way you may look at a childhood picture of yourself with a mixture of recognition and curiosity. Sometimes it is possible to walk through the rooms of your own home like you never lived in it. Sometimes you keep repeating a word aloud, and suddenly it loses all meaning and it slowly turns into a random sound, stripped of all association. And so it is that sometimes the familiar, the evolving self of the past may seem like something strange, and new, and occasionally, well, interesting.

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Reservation for women

A well reasoned piece by Sagarika Ghose against women’s reservation in the parliament:

As analysts have pointed out, the Bill contains many structural flaws. First, there will be compulsory unseating of two-third of the members every election. Second, there will be no incentive for MPs to nurse constituencies. Third, there is the undeniable fact that family politics will be further enhanced as a male who suddenly loses his seat to a reserved constituency will be tempted to simply put up a female relative as a proxy. Thus the floodgates of bahu-betis may open. More here

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Quite an interesting title song from the Aman ki Asha initiative.

The lyrics by Gulzar create in the mind an impression of tenuous knots of over a fifty years coming loose, at least for a moment of release.

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Media Bias

Gerald Marzorati, of The New York Times offers a great response to a question on the editorial bias, if any,  of the NY Times Magazine.

Q. The New York Times Magazine, I’ve been told by a former editor, considers itself “centrist” — playing stories straight down the center. Any comment?

— Ron Mwangaguhunga

A. Interesting. What you’re asking is: Does the Magazine have an ideology? At the risk of giving some of my colleagues hives, I think it does. Call it Urban Modern. That is, I think it reflects not a left-or-right POLITICAL ideology but a geographical one, the mentality of the place it is created: 21st Century Manhattan.

So: The Magazine reflects a place where women have professional ambition, where immigrants are welcome, and where gay men and lesbians can be themselves (if not marry, yet). The Magazine also reflects a place where being rich is not a bad thing, where fashion is not a sign of superficiality and where individualism is embraced. Here, arguing is not bad manners. Here, a chief way of loving your hometown is criticizing it: For, say, not doing enough for those (children, the poor, the homeless) who are most vulnerable. Here, art is seldom spoken of in moral terms, and most aspects of everyday life — food and drink and bathroom fixtures — are mostly spoken of in aesthetic terms. And here, as E.B White famously wrote, it tends to be those who come from elsewhere full of longing who make the place what it is.

More generally, we reflect a place where change is not a threat, where doubt and complexity are more TRUE than certainty, and where most everything non-criminal is tolerated — except a bad haircut.

More here

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On opinions

Noting down a thought I expressed on facebook:

Most opinions end up becoming part of our identity. Any threat to the opinion becomes thus a threat to our ego, and our self definition. I think the best way is to have opinions, yet be sufficiently detached from them and allow them to be criticized.

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More Amartya – 2

A very interesting approach to poverty from Sen. Poverty of freedom, and capability are just as important than any financial measure, he argues.

Sen, a former Trinity master, economist, philosopher and mathematician, all rolled into one, in his latest book ‘The Idea of Justice’ says the income approach to poverty, which considers people earning less than a certain amount annually as poor, is not an accurate measure of how well people live.

Instead the laureate gives precedence to one’s capability or the capacity that people have of choosing and leading their lives. More here

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Amartya Sen’s Puzzle

Amartya Sen’s question on idealized versus remedial justice:

Three children — Anne, Bob and Carla — are quarrelling over a flute: Anne claims the flute on the ground that she is the only one of the three who knows how to play it; Bob demands it on the basis that he is so poor that — unlike others — he has no other toys to play with and it would therefore mean a lot to him if the flute were given to him; and Carla says that it belongs to her because she has made it with her own labour.

I think the best solution is for Carla to sell her flute to Anne for a price and thereby get rewarded for her efforts. In the interest of justice, Carla should probably teach Bob how to make his own flute. That way Bob gains a flute as well as the skill to make and sell more flutes, which in turn will hopefully make him ‘rich enough’ to buy other kinds of toys as well.  Sen believes there is no perfect solution.

I think this solution structure fits in well with the reservation debate in India. Meritorious students claim that they deserve seats in the best institutions owing to their demonstrated capabilities. The supporters of reservations argue that reserving seats (on non-merit based criteria) is the only way in which backward castes can get into the mainstream of society. The government of course actually creates or facilitates the creation of seats. So, what the government must do is to sell these seats to the meritorious for a price, and invest aggressively in the skill enhancement of the so called backward communities so that they can play on a level playing field with the others.

Instead the government is arbitrarily giving away seats to individuals who may not yet have developed adequate skills to compete with the mainstream, thereby ensuring that these people have a symbolic tag of education, but not necessarily skills that will lead to employment or any improvement in their quality of life.

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