Friday, February 27, 2009

Cold reality

Although I've read numerous articles on the impacts of the recession, most of those are by journalists for big newspapers. As I read the journalist's well-scripted and poignant story of suffering, I can't help but notice the ads flashing on the sides of the article making me wonder how much profit my sympathy brings into their coffers. Nothing hits me so painfully as a brutally simple and unembellished rendering of one's suffering without seeking an ounce of pity. This is a letter written by a resident of Tempe to the editor that came in today's 'The State Press', the free on-campus daily:


My world came crashing down last August when my housemate lost her job at ASU I depended on her income to keep my canine family and me afloat.

In 1994, an impaired driver plowed into me as I walked my dogs. The impact sent me hurling through the air, and I landed in a ditch, bruised bloodied and battered. Lingering injuries from brain trauma, seizure disorder and other broken bones left me disabled. I'd rather work than collect disability, but that's just not possible.

A letter arrived a few days ago telling my house-mate her unemployment benefits were exhausted. In this grim economy, a doctorate from Harvard might be useful in India, but it does nothing here.

We both scrounge for aluminum cans in the garbage. It is shameful and degrading, especially when neighbours see us, but it's a source of income. I started grocery shopping in the dollar store. The bank won't refinance the house because she has no job and my income isn't enough. Unless there's a miracle soon, our home will be added to the glut of foreclosures in Arizona.

We are both in our mid-50s. At the time my house-mate was fired, she was under treatment for heart and spinal cord disease and major depression. She has no health insurance and no way to pay for medicine.

The prospect of losing our home, our dogs and everything we own is terrifying, but it's likely to happen. We could panhandle, but we are too proud to beg. The bank may take our home. ASU took her job, but no one can take away our dignity. There are thousands of people facing foreclosure, job loss, surrender of their beloved pets, and there is no end in sight to the misery.

While students at ASU may protest budget cuts, the real conern should be what happens when you graduate. You, too, may end up like me. I played by the rules my entire life. I never thought that homelessness would be right around the corner.

Debra J. White
Tempe resident

The last two lines kill me.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dear stupid Obama maniacs of India

This is why it is important for you to read matters of foreign and economic policy of a party before you cry hoarse in jubilation and run around proclaiming the goodness of god with tears in your eyes over a pretty-faced glorious-sounding man. It was part of the Democrat policy all along to reduce outsourcing in order to improve local employment.

P.S: The theory that outsourcing is affecting local employment rates is a myth. But since nobody seems to care to know facts, I'll not waste my time.

P.P.S: That protectionism doesn't help the US cause is not a myth!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Alcohol abuse and trouble fingering

It is not so much that I abuse alcohol to harm myself as it is that I abuse alcohol to harm alcohol itself.

It is also not so much that I am inexperienced at fingering as it is that I am having trouble of late.

Let me explain. In the India stores in my neighbourhood you get this wonderful product called 'mango pulp' in a can(Yes, that's the beginning!). If one adds yoghurt and some water to some of this pulp and blends it all together it makes a most delicious mango lassi! I bought one such can yesterday. There are two stores close by and I usually get all my desi products only from one of them because the other is reputed to have outdated stuff often. But this latter store is open longer. So at the sunset hour that I went, only the latter store was open. I searched the store and didn't find this mango pulp can. So I asked the store owner if they had any, in case I overlooked, and he pulled one lone can out of some corner. Naturally, it was terribly old, and quite rusted too. But I figured the rust must only be on the outside and was a little uncomfortable at the thought of refusing to buy it when he took all the trouble to hunt one out for me. I bought it and took it home to make my lassi. The can had a large circular base. So in order to open the can fully, one has to crank the opener several turns. Now, there are three openers at my home, but all three are rusted. So it takes quite some effort to do all that cranking. So what I did, I opened a little and then thought I'd let my muscle power do the rest for me. Accordingly, I put the tip of my index and middle finger against the edge of the cut lid of the can and exert my muscle to try and rip the can open. Instead, I nearly rip my index finger against the sharp edge of the lid that was sticking out. Oddly enough, the edge was rusted. That wasn't good news. Now all this I did at around 6:15 pm in the evening. At 6:30 I had to go play sand volleyball. I didn't want to miss my dear volleyball so I did what I usually do when I have blood oozing out of my body. I poured some of my aftershave on the wound. It has alcohol which would temporarily do something to kill all the unwanted stuff looking to have an orgy on my wound. BUT, I cannot forgo volleyball. So I poured lots of aftershave and ran to the sand courts to play. I played for a good one hour and got the cut covered in a mixture of dried blood and sand and it remained that way for a good hour or so till the germs probably formed an army large enough to concur the world. I came back and washed my hands with running water and soap, and poured more aftershave on it. But today at work, it started hurting again when I tried to lift some piece of equipment which was heavier than I expected and ended up putting the cut against the edge of that equipment while trying to lift it. There are some little luxuries of being in an experimental science lab. There is bound to be alcohol, which a good solvent and is often used for cleaning stuff. So I went to pick up the usual ethyl alcohol squeeze tube and pour some of it on the wound. It stings of course. But that's a sign, hopefully, that it is screwing those germs! Unfortunately, today the ethyl alcohol squeeze tube was empty. So I took the isopropyl alcohol squeeze tube instead and poured it on the cut. My lab mate then put a band-aid on the cut and wound it up with some tape to keep it in place because it was more at the fingertip, which has a curvature to it. So far so good. But what I didn't tell you was that yesterday's mango pulp not only looked old on the outside, but also tasted a little odd. As I wasn't prepared to risk an upset stomach, I threw the can away and bought one from the other store today. Laziness prevailed again. I cut through half the circumference of the lid, which was more than I had done yesterday, but it still proved insufficient for my muscle power act. Same story, I cut a finger? No. There's a twist. I cut two! Two new ones. So now I had three fingers with cuts on them. Two bleeding. More aftershave. Call for volleyball comes. Irresistible urge. At the courts, I found that today's cuts were starting to bleed while fingering. (We Indians call the 'setting' fingering. Actually, that is how it used to be called in the US too, until the more perverted connotations took prevalence I believe.) So what I did, I pulled the extra tape off the band-aid and wound the tape directly on top of the cuts to stanch the flow of blood. I hope that adhesive contains harmless stuff. The odd shape of the fingertip and the fact that I was still trying to spike and finger the ball meant that the tape fell of in a few shots. Some great matches today. A good three hours in the sand courts. Good fun. But all three cuts were covered in a mixture of dried blood and sand. I do hope I don't suffer from Tetanus. It is a while since I've taken my last shot but I'm reluctant to go and get a shot. We'll wait and see?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Funny americans

So Obama arrived today in Arizona to show off his deceptive smile and dole out more hyperbole that the american public, and the world in general seems to be craving from this man. He is greeted by the mayor of Phoenix who gifts Shaquille O'Neal the basketball player's SHOE as a souvenir! The president proudly displays it for the cameras and then departs in his cavalcade. If all this isn't amusing enough, Shaquille O'Neal was born in New Jersey and played for the Los Angeles lakers for most of his basketball career and transferred to Phoenix only last year.

God Bless America.


Fantastic idea

What's in a Name?
The word /rung de/ in Hindi means to give colour. Through Rang De we hope that many of us will be able to share and spread the colours of joy with other individuals. Rang De is an attempt to bring together the India that is economically progressing rapidly and the India that has been ignored and needs all our attention. Rang De is a platform for individuals to make a sustainable difference and join a mission to alleviate poverty.

Genesis of Rang De
Living in India had prepared us to accept everything. We sure did complain about things that were not right or about the system that needed a revamp but never did anything to question the status quo. It seemed as if we had built a feeling of comfort that arose from the myth that it was a difficult to change anything in India. The same comfort began to impinge on our senses when we left India. We began to realise that bridging the gap between the developed and the developing India needed concerted efforts from everyone and we as individuals had a responsibility too.

It took a little more research for us to realise that most of the issues India faced were manifestations of a deep rooted and a multidimensional situation- "Poverty".

The quest to find a sustainable solution to poverty led us to Microcredit and the different approaches to it. This helped us crystallise our core beliefs that shaped Rang De into what it is today.

The Core beliefs that shaped Rang De are:

1. That most social issues if not all, are manifestations of poverty. Unless we address poverty holistically, our attempts will remain futile.
2. That microcredit is a sustainable means of alleviating poverty if it is affordable and can be accessed by all.
3. That charity and donations are hardly sustainable means to financial independence. In fact, it hinders an individual's spirit to fight against poverty.

Rang De's mission is to make microcredit accessible to all by lowering interest rates by doing things differently. To know how you can become a part of this mission please read further.

Why Rang De?
When we look back into our own lives, most of us realise that there were times when we faced a financial crunch. Thanks to the plastic card, the crunch was overcome almost instantly. What happens to those who do not have access to credit cards or even a bank loan for that matter? This is the situation of most low income households in lndia. Thanks to microcredit, many such people are beginning to gain access to small loans and credit. And it is our firm belief at Rang De that unless opportunities to access financial credit are provided through a holistic approach, the impact will remain insignificant.

Rang De is a unique platform for individuals to become Social Investors and connect with borrowers of microcredit by lending small sums of money.

You too can make a difference today as a Social Investor - At Rang De, a social investor is someone who can lend at least Rs.500 to an individual in need and in turn earn a nominal return as well as make a positive social impact.

Unique features of Rang De are:

1. Mission to drive down interest rates and make microcredit accessible to all. Rang De will always remain non profit to ensure this happens.
2. The only online microlending platform that does not use a payment gateway and still makes payments possible. Register and see how we make this possible.
3. 30 day loan disbursal guarantee.

How Rang De works?
Step 1. Register and become a Social Investor.

Step 2. Choose borrowers to make a social investment. You can invest as little as Rs.500.

Step 3. Rang De 's field partners receive and disburse loans to their borrowers.

Step 4. Borrower repays loan according to a repayment schedule.

Step 5. You receive a return of 3.5% on your social investment at the end of the tenure.

What's in it for Rang De?
Rang De is an initiative to make low cost microcredit a reality. By enabling individuals to become online Social Investors, Rang De hopes to bring microcredit and online lending to the forefront. Rang De is a non profit entity with the sole objective of connecting individuals who need money to social investors like you. Rang De will create a sustainable alternative to charity by promoting online lending as a way of life.

Warning: At present, international credit cards are not accepted.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My valentine

So the randomness of the world conspired to fetch me a valentine. Most of the day went by in a happy way, with nothing spectacular. By about 9:30 pm I was really frustrated I didn't have a valentine! Actually, I was reading a non-fiction book the facts of which were overwhelming me AND I hadn't had dinner because I was too lazy to cook. My stomach had started to mourn. So I called up a certain someone with whom I have a very ambivalent relationship and suggested that we go have some ice-cream downtown. We got to the Coldstone ice-cream shop there and ordered one large bowl of dark chocolate ice-cream(no prizes for guessing who made the order). I courteously offered to pay for the two of us, and then we happily took two spoons, went outside and sat under one of the awnings in front of their store, making conversation while enjoying the FANTASTIC weather(it was slighly windy and about 10oC). Somewhere in between, a guy selling flowers passes by. He sees the two of us, probably notices that we are eating ice-cream from one cup, walks up to us and asks if we'd like to buy flowers. Only, he looks at one, then the other, and repeats his question still unsure whom to look at.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Shakespeare in me

If Shakespeare can invent words, so can I. It is another matter whether people choose to use them. These modern feminist type women tend to get offended by the use of the entirely arbitrary word 'chick', more because of the connotation attached to it. Since it is an entirely arbitrary choice of word for a woman. I hereby offer that the women may refer to a man who is looked upon as nothing but a bodily object as 'chuck'. The name has a masculine tint to it, and in order to be given a word origin for wiki entries and stuff, I propose that it originates because of the extreme popularity of the hot bod and looks of Chuck Norris which led to its initial coinage by me, and then the later use by the larger public in general!

So if you are a girl reading this, the next time someone refers to you as a 'hot chick' and you are offended, just reply, "You are a cold chuck!" and amuse yourself.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My advisor's valentine

So today, Friday the 13th, I head to lab a little dull from a shortage of sleep, and not too excited at the prospect of some experiments I had to repeat. As I sit at my desk in the morning, promptly catching up on world news, I take a peek into my advisor's room to see if he's free for a meeting. I get the shock of my life when I find a big bouquet of flowers with glittering balloons sticking out of it reading 'Happy Valentine's day'. Now my advisor is married with a wife and a kid. Although I realise America is wilder than India I didn't know my advisor to be this sort of a man! So later that afternoon, when I did meet him, I stole a glance towards the label on the bouquet to find that it was from his wife and darling son of 5 years! :) They were celebrating the love of family I guess. Something less illusory than the love of teenagers, and perhaps worth celebrating.

Since I'm on the theme of love and valentines, I might as well narrate another incident. I was returning from some volleyball yesterday evening when I saw a professor from my department. Now he is this big shot PhD from Stanford whose advisor collaborated with Shockley(of transistor fame). But he's a terror to work with because he is extremely demanding, and very manipulative. He would've been a very successful businessman. And he partly is, because he is one of the best funded professors in the university. Anyhow, perhaps because of his poor character, or for other reasons, his first wife divorced him, and one of his students had informed me that he had a new girlfriend. Now mind you, this is a professor of 50 something. So I was quite mortified when I saw him coming towards me, holding hands with his girlfriend. I was also very amused at the site of this stern, shrewd, scheming and terrfiying man holding and swaying hands like a teenager with his girlfriend. Love is indeed a funny thing. But it is a good thing. It does more good than evil, on the whole.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fat Boy and Fat Man - the Twin Bombs on the United States

First a failed $700 billion stimulus package attempting to directly buy out the bad bank loans and stimulate bank lending. This when the total of bad debt is in several trillions of dollars.

Then, Obama and the Democrats' $800 billion stimulus package which happily spends on everything from discount coupons for digital TV conversion to improvement of highways and projects on climate research. For all I know a part of the money might also be allocated to financing his kids' education so that they may become future presidents. Only about 20% of the 800 billion will flow into the economy during FY '09 as a stimulus. Another 40% percent during FY '10. The rest is a clever manoeuvre to get funding for general ambitious projects for the future while the economy is still in tatters now. Does anyone even know the Republicans had an alternate bill proposing greater tax cuts' and more money allocated to 'stimulus' plans? That is why the democrat bill passed House with 0 republican votes. The poor souls were yelling their lungs out in the debate to get the point across that the package needs more programs that have effect NOW!

Monday, February 09, 2009

The pink chaddi campaign

The pink chaddi campaign is awesome! Well done.

Send your chaddis to:

The Pink Chaddi Campaign,
C/O Alternate Law Forum,
122/4 Infantry Road
(opposite Infantry Wedding House)
Bangalore 560001

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Is India creating a growth bubble?

The inflation is at a staggering 5.4% in spite of a drop in commodity and oil prices and a slowdown of the economy(the US inflation by contrast is 0.1%). It was as high as 13% around July 2008 last year. The main reason for the rising inflation, I gather, is the price of primary articles like food stuffs. What worries me now is that India, in the name of economic growth, is laying undue emphasis on growing the Industrial sector(that is, IT and financial services primarily) while completely neglecting the already inefficient agricultural sector! How is this economic growth? It will only lead to surging inflation and an empty growth bubble that is going to come crashing down when the corporate sectors become unable to borrow money, leading ultimately to hyperinflation followed by a recession that might slip into a depression! Isn't anyone concerned? Or am I wrong?