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After a lot of thought and deliberation and musings, I have concluded that:

“The value of a life is directly proportional to the number of people it touches in a good way and inversely proportional to the number of people it touches in a negative way.”

When you are gone, the summation of the loss which a number of people feel is equivalent to the value of your life.

Any thoughts on this?

[Update 1]
Modified the definition to take care of all the bad guys :)
See comment 2 below.

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I have off late started judging businesses depending on their parking policies.
No seriously! If you see some of the extreme arm-twisting techniques and prices some of these malls use, it’s unbelievable.

Firstly, charging for parking is illegal (I think) and yet everyone does it!
But if you think about it, we Indians being the free-loaders that we are – would just abuse free parking and I know tonnes of people who regularly do it.

C’mon – haven’t you gone and parked at a mall – just to go somewhere else nearby.

So, after a lot of thought and consideration, I kinda agree being charged a nominal fee for parking my vehicle.
But at the same time, the price should be justified.

The places and policies that top my list are:

1. Crosswords (at Sohrab Hall)
They have reserved FREE parking for people visiting crosswords. All you need to do is – on your way back, get the ticket stamped which says that you were in the store.
This seems completely justified – considering the amounts they spend on reserving parking slots for their customers – the least people can do is visit the store and see what they have on offer.

2. Inox (Free parking for 30 minutes)
Inox charges 10 bucks for bikes and 20 bucks for cars – completely justified in Pune – and this also seems like the norm.
However, what I really like about them is that they have 30 minutes of free parking. (This was an hour earlier but I could live with 30 minutes)

What this does is – gives you enough time to hop into the theatre and buy some tickets or grab some lunch at McDonalds without paying the equivalent of your Mc Donalds’ meal. If I am watching a movie for a couple of hours, fine – I agree with being charged – but theatres shouldn’t charge people for coming and buying tickets!

3. Pune Central (Parking charges redeemable during purchase)
Pune Central charges you for parking – but you could exchange the ticket inside when you purchase something.
This seems kinda harsh – considering that you may not like something and still be paying just to browse around the store. (Hey! Wait a minute! Shouldn’t stores be making it more conducive for you to browse around?)

Anyways, so yeah! What Pune Central does seems pretty just to me.
Actually Dorabjees in camp does the same thing – but you need to purchase a minimum amount of things (I think 100 bucks) before they will re-imburse you for the parking. Not entirely fair – but still okay sometimes.

Now for the worst offenders!

1. E-Square
Nothing – and I mean nothing beats paying 40 bucks for parking your car. I have noo idea what these guys do to your car. 40 frikkin bucks for parking! I could put a litre of fuel in my car for that amount and drive half way around Pune.
Totally sadistic, arm twisting tactics (and there is no public parking available near E-Square for miles!!!)

This is one of the reasons I really hate E-Square and avoid going there.
(The other being the weird seat arrangements and the crowds – but thats for another post)

2. Ishanya, Nucleas, Gold Adlabs, Lifestyle, etc. etc.
(And every other place which does not re-imburse you even on purchasing)
Ishanya and I however have a special history …

When Ishanya opened sometime ago near my house – I thought it was fabulous!
The mall was gigantic – you could get anything there, spend a good couple of hours just browsing around and even the parking was free. (and they have ample parking believe you me)

However, I was in for a rude shock one day when I drive in and am charged for parking which is not even redeemable.
The worst thing is that Ishanya is literally in the middle of no where and you have no option but to park your vehicle inside. Its like paying 20 bucks for an entry ticket to the museum!!!

Anyways, I came back and shot an email to them complaining about it.
To my surprise, the next day, I received a call from their head of operations (signing the email as President, ThinkingSpace Technologies has an effect sometimes) who assured me that they would start the redeemable policy soon and that they were charging parking because people would park their bikes there and go off someplace else.
(Yeah right! If you’re in the middle of nowhere, where do you think I’ll go?)

Anyways, its been a year and more since, and still nothing has been done.

However, I have stopped visiting Ishanya.
Result? I try and buy whatever I need from local places around my house. Ishanya being the last option.
(I dunno – I just somehow feel cheated going there)

To cut a long story short, I do empathize with businesses and their problem with free-loaders parking in places reserved for customers – but these businesses need to come up with more amicable solutions to this problem.
Charging monstorous amounts for parking is just going to hurt your business.

I love what Crosswords is doing – but I also understand its difficult to implement.
But I’m completely cool with the Pune Central approach too. (Redeem parking when you buy)

I actually have a better idea!
Redeem double the amount of parking when you buy something! (Applicable over a certain limit. For below the limit, just redeem the amount what you paid for).

Here is wishing some sense manages to creep into the heads of people making such idiotic decisions (especially the ones from E-Square) and hoping that ’09 is a brilliant and fun-filled year for everyone!

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This happened the last time – and I bet it will happen again once the dust and smoke settles down.
Last time, people commended – how life went back to normal and the resilient nature of the people of Mumbai India.

It is actually sad that people approve of how life gets back to normal.
It should not! Lessons need to be learnt and things need to be changed …

We Indians are probably one of the most tolerant and laid back group of people in the world.
It’s time to get a little bit angry and a little paranoid …

It’s not too late to have a plan. Terrorism is upon all of us now – not only in J&K.
Time to stop covering our eyes and prepare to deal with these guys as and when the situation arises …

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I spent a good hour at Landmark (which is a pretty large bookstore in our city) the other day – having nothing to do. I ended up buying two books even though I entered the shop with the intent of just casually browsing through the store and passing some time …

While browsing, I had picked up a couple of books with the intent of buying them – but later placed them back on the shelf, changing my mind the last minute.
The books I eventually ended up buying were – The Alchemist (something that I have wanted to read since a long time) and Games Indians Play (a book in which the author tries to explain why Indians behave the way they do using Prisoner’s Dilemma in Game Theory)

The books I ended up placing back on the shelf were – “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini (not the right time to jump into a large novel) and “It Happened in India” by Kishore Biyani (wasn’t very keen and would be able to borrow it from a friend later).

Anyways, getting back to the topic at hand – the reason I wrote this post – is because I was wondering — how we willingly spend money for different things.

I have never felt the pinch while spending money on books – I spent a good 400 bucks on books I didn’t even intend to buy when I got to the place.
Similarly, I never quite feel the pinch while buying computer hardware – say a new hard disk or some ram.

Honestly speaking, I have started feeling the pinch (computer hardware) a little as compared to my college days – but nothing compared to spending a similar amount on getting my bike serviced — or on buying clothes for example.

I found it ironic that I could buy books worth a 1000 bucks in the morning – and cringe when my mechanic told me later that evening that I would have to change the brake liner of my bike which would cost me 250 bucks.

I really wonder why…

Maybe its because the way we are brought up.
Maybe because I had a sort of a “no questions asked fund” for buying books as a kid – that I continue not to feel the pinch now.
Or maybe I just strongly believe in the benefits of buying books.

I really don’t know – but I definitely do believe — different people do have different policies on spending money on different things. I just really do not know why.

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One thing I love to do – sometimes even more than reading is watching films.
In my humble opinion, a good film talks to you at so many different levels and takes you to so many different places in those 120 minutes – that nothing else compares to it.

Well, there are books of course – but the joy of watching a well made film comes very close to that of reading an extremely good book. I do believe that making a film is a lot more difficult than writing a book.
A director has to deal with gazillion different things simultaneously as well as please the millions of people who would throng the talkies to watch his masterpiece.

sr.jpeg

Excuse me while I get all sentimental and emotional about films – because I have just come back from one of the most horrific film moments in my life. I have just returned from watching the Bollywood film – Black and White.

The greatest of the directors — the Peter Jacksons, Steven Spielbergs, Martin Scorseses, Quentin Tarantinos, the James Camerons give you — the viewer — the respect that you deserve when you walk into the talkies to see one of their films.
They know that their audiences are not stupid idiots who will watch and take any crap dished out to them.
Walking out of the theatres, watching one of their creations — you feel special — pampered in some sort of a way and take that nice, happy, satisfied feeling all the way home.

I’m extremely sorry to say that Indian directors on the other hand – are exactly the opposite.
They think — we — the audience — are a bunch of morons who will lap up all the meaningless, mind-numbing crap that they throw at us — with our mouths wide open – asking for more.

There are definitely some good film makers in India right now (Aamir Khan, Nagesh Kuknoor, Anurag Basu, Anurag Kashyap) — but the percentages of the films these guys produce compared to the vast numbers that are being churned out annually is very, very meager.

I have no idea why such crap is made and even accepted by the masses.
Today’s film for instance (Black and White) would insult the intelligence of even an eight year old. The research these guys do is limited to their imaginations – and the dialogues are as cliche’d as ever.

It’s about time I think – we guys really refine our tastes and get some quality cinema out.
Please God – let it happen soon :)

(If you are wondering why I went for this movie if it was full of horse shit – was because my mom wanted to see it for some inexplicable reason and me and my brother volunteered to take her.)

The pain and agony of those 140 minutes I tell you – was unbearable.

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Today has been a pretty horrendous day actually …

We had no electricity for almost 12 hours …
From about 12 in the afternoon to about 12 now …

It is a pretty sad experience really – something we haven’t faced for a while …
There was a time – about a year ago, when there would be no electricity for 4 hours daily in the summers due to load shedding …

Thankfully, that situation has improved tremendously now – and electricity disappearing has reduced quite a bit …

Anyways, what was really cool today – was the experience of it all …
Allow me to get a bit philosophical (and a little kooky) while I try to explain what my experience was …

Before I get started, just a little background information …
Our house has two floors and each floor has its own UPS (inverter) backup which allows us to run a couple of tube lights and fans for 4 – 5 hours …

When initially the power went out, it was still bright outside – and everyone — in the optimistic anticipation that power would be restored soon (it generally does by around 6 P.M.) – spent the back up electricity running fans when they could actually do with some discomfort – in order to save the power up for later …

However, when the inverter beeped and let us know (at around 7 P.M.) that it was almost drained — and there were no signs of the power coming back, we cramped up into two rooms (from four initially) to save up on the remaining power …

After a while, when the inverter complained again, we were forced to move into the drawing room to further save up on power …
And we eventually had to switch from the single bright tube-light to the very dim, power saving lamp — when the inverter started beeping – notifying us of its final stages …

This is a pretty depressing feeling – knowing that you’re at the end of your line …
The inverter would give up any second now – and we’d have to spend the rest of the night in complete darkness …

At around 10:30 P.M., the inverter finally croaked. All of us gave up, switched off the lamp and went to bed.

A lot of work still had to be done.
Mail had to be replied to. Some coding was still left. My brother had to do his assignments and journals.
Everyone felt so helpless…

I somehow could relate to the movie “Children of Men” – in which there was no hope for mankind even at the peak of their civilization — when all the women become infertile.
(However, I related to it at a slightly different level)

At around 11, I crawled into bed – anticipating an extremely hot and humid night – with the guilt of leaving tonnes of work incomplete — that needed to be done by today.

Suddenly, just as all hope was exhausted, the inverter clicked – letting us know that power was back on.
Electricity was finally restored!!!

The street lamps outside — slowly came to a glow, televisions were switched on in the neighbourhood and the fans in my house started rotating again…
Suddenly, out of nowhere – I felt hope …

I don’t know how and why … but I felt everything was going to be alright …
Whatever the worries – at home, work, about the future, etc – I felt everything was going to be okay …
(This is the kooky part I was mentioning about)

I am not being an idiot by pinning my hopes on the state government – and every time they restore power – but on a more general phenomenon …

So many times in our lives, when we’re feeling down and out due to situations not within our control — something miraculously happens and everything is back to the way it is supposed to be…

Though this may not happen everytime – it does give us something to live for…
Perhaps this is something which makes humans – humans…

As ‘The Architect’ from the Matrix aptly put:

“Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”

Or as I would prefer to put it:

“Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not, its not the end!”

:)

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 77.]

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If you really think about it, India is in a pretty mixed up place – economy wise …
We’re nowhere near a capitalist economy – nor are we entirely communist either …
We are somewhere in between …

I am talking about this because of late, there have been incidents in my life – caused by this aspect and I was wondering – whether a right balance could ever exist …

When I was returning from Proto a couple of weeks ago, I was to come to Mumbai by flight and then catch a bus from there to Pune. My flight was supposed to land at 10:40 PM – but it being Indian Airlines, it only landed sometime around 12:20 AM.
Luckily I had no checked in baggage and I was able to get out of the airport by 12:30.

I rushed to Dadar, and in my heart knew — that the last State transport bus would have long left and I would have to spend the night at the bus stop. I reached the bus stop at 1:00 AM.
Unbelievably – there was still a bus going to Pune (which I think would have probably been the last one).
It left with around 10 passengers (out of a capacity of 35 – 40) at 1:15 AM and albeit an extremely bumpy ride, I was home by 5:00 AM.
I secretly thanked the government for running such buses – even when there were hardly any passengers at such odd timings.

This is the other incident.

I live on the outskirts of Pune. As such, we have all the benefits which come with such a setting.
Clean, calm and pollution-free surroundings, lots of open spaces, etc. etc.

At around 10 kms – the main city isn’t too far either …

However, we also face the problems which come along with such a setting.
Namely, that of infrastructure — in this case, the internet.

The place where I live, there are no private players providing high speed internet services (or broadband).
This is primarily because not many people would go for it – so it does not make sense for these companies to lay fibre cabling all the way for a handful of subscribers.
The only one which does – is the government owned BSNL.

Until sometime ago – they had the monopoly in the telecommunication sector – and if you had a phone, it had to be from BSNL.
As a result, they have cables already setup – through which they provide the internet services.

The service though, leaves a lot to be desired – and the sorry fact is – being a government enterprise, no one gives a damn.
I’ve been having connection issues since eons (it works sporadically and mostly, only at nights) – but no one seems to be bothered. After about a hundred complaints, nothing comes of it.

I seriously have started believing that if anything needs to come of a government run agency, some palms eventually have to be greased. Haven’t tried that yet – but sadly, we’ll probably have to do it eventually.

So coming back to the issue.
Living in an entirely capitalist economy definitely has its merit. I honestly believe that the entire country progresses at a much, much faster rate as compared to living in a communist one.
People who are smart, talented or hard working get their just rewards – encouraging more people down that road, thus leading to faster growth of the entire nation.
(Monopolies are a negative – but then, thats just the way you look at them)

However, if we were actually in a completely capitalist economy, I would have spent the entire night at the bus stand and would still be on dial-up connection at home.
And if the government does step up and provide services like the state transport bus running at night or me getting my broadband at home (even though its on only half the time), am I right to demand good service — or should I just be grateful that I am getting such services in the first place and be happy with it?

The Indian consumer at large, I think, follows the latter ideology …
What do you people think?

(My connection went off and on 7 times while I wrote this post)

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 79.]

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