John Paul II passes away

Joseph Ratzinger the new Pope

So smoothly done in a ceremony and methods older than the beginning of the Mughal domination of India. I have seen a lot of movies over the decades. Complete with computer created artficial scenes. Just nothing compares with the gripping 1 hour between the smoke turning white, the massive bells ringing (audible all over Rome!) and the announcement of the new Pope's name.. even though it was already in circulation. It seems an enormous number of young people from all over the world converged onto St. Peter's at that time. What drew them ? Perhaps a desire to witness even at a distance a procedure which has been repeated over the centuries (milleniums ?). Did you notice there was not a single binocular or telescope visible(in Galelio's homeland) ? Did you know that the area could hold close to a million people? The Vatican has a constant population of 987 people, all men. The St.Peter's Square, the Palace , gardens and Museum occupy 16 acres. The impact of the ceremonies was certainly greater than all the visual extravaganzas we see on TV. However in the final summing up I for one am relieved that it is restricted to a small spot of land in Italy. Mega ceremonies were used in the times of monarchies to blow up an individual out of all proportion. Is Democracy anarchy? So be it, I would vote for it at its worst. By the way the Darshan Balcony exists in all our Palaces and even in some small Havelis. The most prominent one being at Red fort which was last used during the 1911 coronation durbar by King George V and Queen Mary.

Indo Pak Bhai Bhai

No matter what happens at the matches everyone is clapping. As they should when enemies extend a hand of friendship to each other. It is time to remember that even currencies don't change in Europe when you cross a border - now that is really advanced civilization. Borders are now mainly there for administrative purposes only, and not to protect people from their neighbours.

All about VAT

All the fuss about Vat

The last I read something about it was a bureaucrat waxing eloquent about how lower forms of life did not know what was good for them . "We are from the Government and we know what is good for you." That attitude really sets the tone for a lot of trash. This attitude harks back to colonial times when all talk-back mechanisms were omitted from the system. "What on earth could they tell us about?". I will write later of what traders say when they are off guard. To put it mildly there is little respect for the collecting class.

Do read the scan from a Times Of India Late city edition of Saturday 7th August 2004. It deals with petrol and diesel prices. What connection does it have with VAT? They fall under the broad heading of T A X . A rose is a rose no matter what name you give it. And the truth is Excise is by far the largest revenue generator. So what is this fuss about methodology. In fact just above that news item is an item about Chauthala . This is where the tax really goes - to sustain such people lavishly. In fact in all probability the Government will save a lot of money if it eliminates Sales Tax all together. "It is done all over the world"... Then let us peg our excise duties to their levels . In the US they do not cross single digit percentages.

Overheard : "Hamare pas kala dhan kahan hai ? Kala Dhan to Sarkari jaibon main hain. Hamari to khoon paseene ki Kamai hai." This is true, if the trading community has wealth then it is the result of thrifty and spartan living and slow accumulation sometimes over generations. Just give it away to the scruplously honest Sarkar ? You must be joking..

Another :" Tax se hamen kya milta hai. Bijli dekho adhe din nahin hain. Pani ka bhi wohi haal , gandgi ka pucho mat. Kutchery se Khuda bachaye. Haan Sarkari Gaadian rasta rokte badhti jaati hain."

I am sure you must have heard similar comments. They get straight to the point and cannot be ignored.

Budget around the corner

Ho - Hum ? Not quite. This is going to reaffirm that the congress will tread the path which will logically deliver the "greatest good to the largest number". And it should do it without displeasing the Red flag. Quite a feat don't you think? Let's clap.

Everything is going to be OK soon. Well, OK, a lot of things. If you have good people at the top the goodness trickles down. Maybe there will be a little less of Lulloo. I particularly liked the Election Commission's "shoot at sight orders" if Shabuddin makes an appearance. Let there be less discrepancy between labels and reality. After all we Indians naturally have a lot of respect for authority. Let us have people worthy of that respect.

The urban rural divide

As distinct as the East from the West?

A visit to GhantaGhar : This is where a large number of people traditionally go to when they come to Meerut from the villages. You also get the largest choice of Cell phones, Clocks, Watches, Amplifiers here. I went to get a cordless microphone repaired at Hindustan Electronics. A person walked in from a nearby village Balrampur(?) who wanted to get an amplifier repaired. He said it was a very powerful Amp. 120W (RMS perhaps). The shop owner seemed to know without prompting what it was for. "Aap ka PCO hai kya?". Later it dawned on me that it was perhaps one of the few phones in the village and when a phone call for someone came it was announced over the amplifier.

And you thought you don't know anybody who does not have a cell phone..

At least two more customers from the villages came one for a VCD player and another for a larger and louder TV set. Quite obviously for video parlours. No they don't work in the hot sun in fields all 24 hours. I wonder if there is a Tv set with a built in Inverter and Solar Battery Charger they should sell like hot cakes.

We learn from History

That we don't learn from History!

Of Cell Phones and snail mail

The postal service will never die. Its use though is diminishing. It is worth noting that a paper document is still used for important stuff and circulates easier in a local area.

Is there something that the postal service can teach the dazzling new cell phone industry? There is no pretension of comparing cell phone technology to postal technology. Cell phones are easy to use but they ride on a technology which is enormously complex and relies on two stupendous mysteries of the Scientific and Technical world - Radio Waves and Computers. These are so complex that even proffesionals can never get the complete picture. Don't think so ? Well meditate on this for a while. Remember the good old Medium Wave and Short Wave radios or Fm for that matter. At the most 30 to 40 stations could be received on one wave band. And now we have entire populations carrying cell phones !!.

It is the applicable charges which could learn a lot. One can make a good case about Cell phones being almost free or being subsidised by the invisible taxes like excise duties. You have different rates for God knows how many classifications. Local call charges less than 50km, greater than 50km, but less than 200km ad nauseum. And the whole katha for SMS.

This becomes quite ridiculous when you pause to ponder that nothing really moves or sweats it out in the wonderful chain of events that deliver your call to its recipient. What you are paying for is not labour, but the right to use, (and of course towards capital employed accounting is through computers and very low cost though complex also). Even cell phones have their limits and there is no way every user can use his phone at the same time.

It is time you paid your tribute to an Englishman called Sir Rowland Hill. The inventor of the postage stamp. :) Hee, Hee... the postage stamp was an Invention ?. A piece of paper with some glue at the back !Wrong the invention was the idea behind the postage stamp, it was called "uniform postage". It took him 3 years to collect the data to substantiate his claim that having uniform rates for letters whether they go 100 yards or 300 miles within the country can actually save money.

Here is a little excerpt which should give a hint about how old the idea is. This is the time the West thought of itself as "the civilized world" and wiped out entire cultures and population as if it were their right to do so. Which ones? The "Red Indians" and the Incas. Even we Indians could have been living on reservations right now. That is a topic to be avoided as the entire libraries of the world will overflow if the subject was thoroughly investigated.

From the book Pillar to Post (page 137):

In 1795 a son was born to a schoolmaster named Hill in the small English town of Kidderminster. The boy, the fourth of six brothers, was Christened Rowland.

Times were harsh and corrupt. Press gangs lurked in the harbour towns and made their forays into the country. The pillory , the stocks and the whipping post were common sights. It was only five years since the last woman was burned at the stake . Her crime was coining. Death was still the punishment for 150 offences , among them stealing a letter. On two consecutive Mondays, young Hill saw 19 and 22 bodies danglng in the gallows at Newgate.

Want to read more about the state of things in the England between 17th to 19th century. Click here for a short article by Jeremy Seabrook. An enormous amount of our legislation dates to that time, not only that, the will or perhaps guts to modify it has been missing since India became Independent.
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