Hail dictator Gandhi: Strange India

Indira Gandhi did not declare emergency on 25th June 1975 because country was at war (it happened for a 13 day period from 3-16th December 1971). She declared emergency because she was found guilty of corruption and wanted to circumvent democracy by imposing dictatorial rule on India. Times of India summed it really appropriately in its obituary column:

“D.E.M O’Cracy, beloved husband of T Ruth, loving father of L.I.Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justice, expired on June 26”

A dictator who subdued the freedom of this country is widely respected and remembered in India. A large portion of the population condones the mass castration & atrocities that her son unleased her own citizens. The draconian policies, 97% income tax rate, inconsistent nationalization policies brought India to the crisis and institutionalized corruption. Yet the TV and radio praise her as mother of reforms & liberalization. What they don’t realize is that by when Narasimha Rao only undid her policies that country could grow and break the hindu-growth rate stalemate.

My daughter opted to dress up as Indira Gandhi on the independence day as part of school’s fancy dress competition. I couldn’t stop laughing at the irony but surprisingly neither my family nor the school authorities could understand why this is so wrong and disgraceful. I guess history can be written and re-written a 100 times. What people remember is the propaganda which survives and that is usually popular fiction unrelated with truth.

Inkjet Printer vs Champagne

  1. Ever wondered why there are no monochrome (black ink only) inkjet printers? You cannot print a simple B&W document from a printer if the color cartridge is empty/missing?
  2. Most inkjet printers have a water-based ink (that is more expensive than champagne) and will dry after 3-6 months irrespective of how little you used them.
  3. Did you know that most printers have an auto cleanup program that squirts out a good deal of ink every time you power it on? What’s worse that if you did not power it on for a month, the ink-nozzle might get clogged irreversibly.
  4. Earlier you had a provision to manually refill the ink. But now most companies have sensors-chips in place and have sealed the cartridge to prevent any re-usability/recycling.

Essentially, like a drug dealer, the printer is shipped for free and the dealer makes money from the repeat business. It does not matter whether you use your printer or not. Your printer will sip Champagne every day and make you pay of the full bottle. Cheers!

A basic HP/Cannon printer costs less than 2000/-, but I need 550/- for a black cartridge and another 450/- for a tri-color cartridge which expire every six months. So 1st year total cost of ownership is 2,900/- (assuming I replace the demo cartridge after 6 months). After two years the printer warranty will expire and you will develop paper jam/mechanical issues that need constant intervention of service engineer. Why do we tolerate this highway robbery?

Airline boarding pass, tax forms and maybe a few articles that I wanted to file would define my printing needs. Like most people, I need an occasional printer and a realm of A4 pages turn yellow before they are consumed. There is a print store not more than 500m away and my personal printer is the price of luxury. But how much should I shell?

Today I was contemplating buying a laser printer instead. Pros:

  1. It uses a powder toner rather than water based ink. Hence no risk of drying/clogging
  2. Laser printers are monochrome (at least the personal ones are) which means only one consumable to store and refill.
  3. Designed for heavy use and one 500 bucks cartridge lasts more than 700 pages compared to less than 100 pages (if your ink does not dry first)

Cons:

  1. They are bulky and cost almost two-three times more (although I found a good Ricoh basic laser printer for 3.4k) but it has no fancy stuff that color, photography, scanning, fax or wi-fi that you expect from a inkjet of the same cost.
  2. No color printing to indulge in occasional pleasures.
  3. These heavy machines take 5 minutes to boot and are designed for mass printing
  4. They are not portable and no wi-fi connectivity for mobile printing
  5. There are designed for offices that print 100s of pages each day not for somebody that prints a page a month.
  6. If you get the toner refill wrong, your hands, clothes, window drapes and carpet might pay for your folly.

Essentially I am looking for simple printer that has low cost of ownership. A dot matrix printer with a much finer print quality would be sufficient. Is there no company that understands my need and can meet it? Am I not a big enough market segment?

Bangalore: How to fuck up a 14 lane road

The road from Silk Board (near koramanagala) to Electronic city is a 14 lane road. Probably the biggest capacity in India. It consists of a 6 lane main road, a 4 lane elevated toll-road and 2+2 lane service road. Yet today it took me more than 2 hours to cross the 10km long stretch.

Almost all the traffic problems can be attributed to stupidity of the municipal authorities. The crossings are not well defined. There street signs, or even the street names are missing. The traffic lights don’t work and the road signs have no directions on what route to take to reach the destination.

How difficult is it to plan for a straight road? Do you need a college degree to realize that if drains are not laid out then there will be water logging and traffic congestion? If the speedbreakers are not painted, the whole city has to drive slow for the entire stretch? If there is standing water on the road, the underlying mud will wash away and leave behind a pothole.

There is no cure to stupidity, and Bangalore municipality is a living example. The new parts of the city are most poorly design and are killing the city slowly. The tax collection is good but all the money is squandered away through corruption & stupidity. If you want to learn city mismanagement then visit Bangalore. It has the highest road tax in the country. (Maruti Ciaz is 1.2L cheaper in Delhi than in Karnataka) The fuel prices are highest in the country, the bus fare is 330 bucks from airport to Electronic city again highest in the country and the quality of life poorest in the country.

Siddaramaiah… Where the fuck are my taxes going????

When Software upgrade is a downgrade

I expect upgrade to be newer, faster, better versions of the existing models. Traditionally they had additional functionality, increased utility, yielded higher productivity and had better aesthetics.

On the contrary, the upgrades often are bulkier, consume more battery and often have bugs with erratic behavior. The only change will be that many of the Freeium apps will have newer set ever annoying ads. Are the upgrades a ruse to make you feel that your phone’s battery, processor & storage are insufficient? Why is a deliberate deterioration of user experience & sufficiency of hardware called upgrade?

Every week there would be 20-50 different apps that would require an upgrade. Every month there will be an operating system upgrade. If you ignore the upgrade, then like the distant windows desktop cousin, you will get annoying pop-up reminders every time you unlock the phone and the apps will suddenly stop functioning due to compatibility issues. If you accept the alleged upgrades, then 1GB of data will disappear every week at a huge cost to your wallet if you are on the GSM data plan.

My problem is not the frequency or the data cost, but the very concept of the updates. Often there are no apparent incremental gains that I would expect. What’s worse the infamous Feb 2016 iphone upgrade introduced ‘Error 53’ which killed the cherished device of many. So many people

A friend told me that updates are a method to collect personal data & usage heuristics from your phone. It also plays around loopholes in the ranking mechanism of app stores by bloating the number of downloads & active users. If these are the only two reasons, then I should do a factory reset of my phone and disable google store forever.

Value of Education | B-school

If you were to choose between owning a 2 bedroom house/flat in a decent locality (fully paid, no EMI/loans) and a 2 year MBA which one would you choose?

If you are wondering why I am asking this, then consider the tuition fees, add to it the boarding, lodging costs and the opportunity cost for lost wages, you could easily afford a house with the same money.

I do not doubt that education is important in one’s life and one should not put a price to it. However the life does not stop the day you enroll into a B-school. The loans esp. student loan for your under-graduation, home loan needs to be taken care of. The family obligations do not stop just because you have taken a sabbatical or vacation. What’s worse is that earning money makes us addicted to a certain standard of living and it is difficult to scale back. As a result it is harder for anybody who has worked for a few years to resume studies.

Your friends and colleagues who continued to work would have earned many accolades & laurels over the two years. Most of them would be promoted as well and would be well regarded in their streams. While invariably MBA graduates have to start afresh. Many of them are considered too old/expensive for fresher jobs and too inexperienced for the higher level jobs.

You get invited to the funding/sell-off parties of your colleagues while staring at your empty bank balances. Actually MBA makes it harder for people to pursue their dream as an entrepreneur. You have lost some precious years and capital due to the two year program and that’s put you in a catch-up mode. No wonder IIMs boast of many things, but IITs still have an edge over the number of entrepreneurs they have churned out.

I am not ranting, but cautioning the CAT/MBA aspirants that the world does not owe you a living. Take cold calculated decisions about the viability of your dream. MBA might make you book-smart, but are you ready to compete with a street smart in a knife-fight at the end of your program?

Reverse professional failure | 10 Commandments

It is OK to fail, and people fail all the time. The question is what you do next. Here are 10 steps I practice in my personal life.

  1. Attitude is everything. The world never owes you a living and try to have a positive outlook.
  2. I repeat be optimistic. Optimistic people are more successful in life and people want them around. Make sure you emit the right vibes, your dressing sense and behavior is correlated with your words, actions & intent.
  3. Projection is important. Make sure that people are told what you are doing & what value you are adding. Often bosses don’t understand your work and hence cannot appreciate it.
  4. A firing from boss often results in a dispassionate attitude. This lack of passion will lead to casual behavior, lack of attention to detail, loss of rigor & pro-active approach. All these are sure-shot recipe for a total disaster from which one can never recover. Take a break if you have to, but don’t let the harsh words get to you.
  5. Push back unreasonable demands. It is common to get overwhelmed with a never ending work getting piled up. Don’t over-commit and under-deliver. Set right expectations and distribute work if you have to.
  6. Attention to detail is important. If you are reading this post, probably you are already walking on thin ice. Further mistake and omissions will only aggravate the problem. Don’t try to push things out of the way. Concentrate on perfection.
  7. Focus on your strengths. Try to score a quick win by plucking a low hanging fruit. You need a moral boaster
  8. If you need help, shout for it and shout early. How will the world know your side of the story if you don’t tell it?
  9. Don’t lose faith in yourself ever. If you doubt your ability, then the world would have already smelled it and are probably asking the same questions about your competency.
  10. Cut your losses early and don’t waste your career over a lost cause. Not every battle is meant to be won. A fish can never scale trees nor a monkey cross the deep seas.

Essentially early interventions through an open dialogue and small tweaks in the attitude can rectify most failures at work place. Try to have an open communication with stake holders and exuberance positive energy. You will be surprised to realize how considerate your team and bosses will be. Most people are reasonable and are willing to wait if they believe you can work hard & recover.

Joint finances in Family

In olden times when the earnings were low and basic necessities were expensive managing finances were easy. Everybody pooled all their money and still there was not enough to keep everyone warm, fed & clothed. You may call times to be hard, yet everyone seemed happier.

Today it takes just 25/- to buy a loaf of bread and take credit to be a breadwinner. The share of food & basic necessities (housing purchase excluded) has gone down each year in spite of the complaints of the rising prices. Yet almost nobody has sufficient money and nuclear families are mushrooming primarily for misalignment of social & financial priorities.

Furthermore a family finances is a complex tussle between means, wants and priorities. Add to it retirement planning, mortgage, car purchase, investments and even the most seasoned financial analyst will not be able to give you an answer. In fact I have seen fights over finances in Double income no kids/dependent family as well.

Typical issues faced by joint families or nuclear family with two bread winners are:

  1. Delayed gratification: How much to spend and how much to save.
  2. Alignment of goals & priorities
  3. Saving enough for Separation/transfer/relocation
  4. Share for large ticket purchases (Car, house, investments, abroad vacation etc.)
  5. The financial means & needs of each member in the households changes over time. But expectations & obligations are often not adjusted because of culture or habit.

Commonly households with multiple breadwinners manage their finances in the following ways:

Sr no Method Pros Cons
1 Pooling: everybody pitches in equally and make the head of the family responsible for all finances Simplest measure, practiced across ages Breadwinner & decision makers are sometimes different
2 Fixed contribution by each bread winner Gives each breadwinner some discretionary funds to fulfill their needs If contribution is too low or too high then there will be misalignment of funds
3 Pay what you can: each member takes care of a certain expenses It is division of chores extended to payments as well Basket of chores needs to be re-aligned periodically
4 Generation based roles: pensions & family estate to take care of daily needs, and younger generation to care take of luxury, entertainment & savings Keeps the tussle between investments & luxury to minimum Essentially the younger generation is free loading on the elders

 

I have realized is that money is important, but it is not everything. As long as the individual members realize that the joint family has the support system needed for emotional & economic well-being then the system will work fine. There are no magic formulae and each family is different. One needs to develop co-dependency and value the kingship of your extended family everything works fine. In fact you get the economies of scale with living together, the kids are better groomed and the support system well established.