Saturday, January 19, 2008


Jug Suraiya, a very accomplised writer is a regular columnist for the Sunday Times, mostly writing on the small weirdieties/incidents of life which mostly everyone misses, but requires a very strong power of discerning observation. heres an article by him, which explains the coming back of the retro, and i believe explains a phenomenan which would be very difficult to even notice. its in the same general area as the new freakonomics, but states only the thesis and not the proof...
this new freakonomics phenomenan, which explains the smaller things in life by using maths and science, seems far more useful then the science and maths that we learn. it explains life and can go a long way in changing it, a long way in we able to understand and control it. its supposedly a new phenomenan but what was explained by John Nash (a beautiful mind fame), wasn't it in the same lines. Explaining game theory, which is a very natural phenomenan using mathematics. it was something which was already happening, but was made understandable and thus usable.
come to think of it many of these freakonomis era phenomenan, after they are brought to notice seem so natural and logical that they donot require any proof, but because of its simplicity and also because of our general attitude to miss out on the small things, are never discovered.

here is the article, can't put in the link but can be found at, published on Jan 19th.

Take care.

Not elitists but neo-casteists hate Nano
Jug Suraiya
Ratan Tata’s Nano has, predictably, hit a caste barrier. While being enthusiastically, indeed euphorically, welcomed by its target audience — archetypically characterised as a middle-class family of husband, wife and two children, perched on a two-wheeler, exposed to the vagaries of sun and rain, from which Tata heroically wishes to rescue them by providing the comfort and safety of an affordable four-wheeler — the ‘people’s car’ is reportedly inducing ‘nightmares’ in environmentalists and urbanologists, allegedly because of the exponential rise in pollution and road congestion the Everyman auto will cause. This reaction has been deemed as ‘elitist’; it could more appropriately be described as ‘casteist’. Elitism, as a concept (you are as good as you can make yourself), is based on meritocracy and as such its proper place is in a dynamic, or would-be dynamic, society. Casteism (you will always be what you are born into no matter what you try to make of yourself) finds its entrenched place in a static, or would-be static, society. For example, IITs, or IIMs, are meant to be elitist; dynamic meritocracies. Caste-based reservations will turn them into static statusbestowers, and nothing more. True elitists should welcome the Nano, for it suggests that — finally — the country might be getting into top gear and that all, and not just a privileged few, of us could one day be elite. Most importantly, a true elitist believes that the problems of social change — including those of pollution and congestion — are amenable to solutions, be it in the form of hybrid cars, better road use, or other products of ‘elitist’ thinking. The negative response to the Nano springs from neo-casteism. Those who oppose the Nano not only have their own non-people’s (often chauffeur-driven) limousines, but these limousines frequently ferry them to and from international airports which they whizz through to attend seminars on global warming, carbon emissions and sustainable development (we’ll do the developing; you can do the sustaining). In fact, the other great bete noire of technological casteists apart from the Everyman car are Everyman cheap air fares. If the Rs 1 lakh car debases the car-owner caste, cheap air fares debase the coterminous caste of frequent flyers. Since both the Nano and cheap air fares are here to stay, what will technological casteists do to preserve their caste purity? One answer could be that they’ll go retro. Years ago, Nancy Mitford writing about England — a society perhaps more casteist than India, at least where language and pronunciation are concerned — showed how the ‘U’ (upper castes) responded when the ‘non-U’ (non-upper castes) encroached upon the ‘U’s’ traditional linguistic prerogatives. When the non-U began to ape the U usage of French-based words like ‘perfume’, ‘toilet’, and ‘serviette’, the U promptly went back to the hitherto non-U counterparts: ‘scent’, ‘lavatory’ (or ‘loo’), and ‘napkin’. When the non-U presume to become U, it’s time for the U to become non-U, at least selectively. To an extent this has already happened in India. Though a diamond-drenched Mayawati eating Black Forest pudding on her birthday has yet to prompt the Indian U from dropping De Beers and European confectionery in favour of mangalsutras and desi mithai, various forms of ‘ethnic chic’ have made inroads into Indian citadels of neo-casteism. Polyester (in the 1950s the preferred fabric of the haute monde, today the wash-’n’-wear choice of the aam janta) is out; handloom cotton, preferably organically grown, is in. Fizzy colas are out; ‘vernacular’ alternatives like chhachh and aampanna (even Coke is planning to make it) are in. Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse are out; Little Hanuman is in. Ratan Tata should do a favour for those who’ve turned their thumbs down for his Nano: make for their exclusive use an authentically ethnic, authentically retro and environmentally upper caste designer bullock cart called Indigobar. It might be a bit slow. But heck, what with all those Nanos choking the roads, who’s going anywhere fast, anyway.

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