Thursday, December 28, 2017

How Inequality works “The political upheavals and populist incursions of the past few years owe much to widespread perceptions of inequality and economic injustice in advanced economies. While median wages have stagnated, incomes at the top have continued to rise, and there is growing evidence to suggest that the two phenomena are connected.“
World’s richest become 1 trillion richer in 2017

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Teaching reading

This is what I want for my students. First, I want them to read a book, all the way through. I want them to find something difficult and do it anyway. Then, I want them to notice what a powerful tool literature is, to understand that without it we can’t know ourselves or the society we live in. I want them to discover that if they learn to handle language they’ll no longer be helpless, drowning in sugary gratification. Finally, I want them to see that reading breeds thinking, and thinking breeds resistance, and surely, especially right now, that is a good thing.“ from 'The difficulty is the point': teaching spoon-fed students how to really read 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A birth in the Short Stay Home (Swadhar Greh)

This is currently run by Aruna Tella under the auspices of APMAS. Yesterday night, one of the girls here gave birth to her second child, a son again. The pains started around one in the morning but the girls could not get a response from the hospital. Aruna Tella was woken up around three a.m. and somehow the voice of the person who spoke mattered and an ambulance was arranged immediately. The birth came around four thirty in the morning. There was no doctor at that time though one was supposed to be present. But the ambulance and the treatment were free thanks to a scheme introduced by CBNaidu and improved by Y. Raja Sekhara Reddy.
Some of the cases I have seen here are from lower middle classes with failed marriages often arranged by parents for underage girls. The girl’s case is one such. Parents forcibly married her to a person who turned out to be a drunkard and wife beater. She could not take it and came to the house with one child. Then there was reconcialiation for few months and she came back again pregnant. At some stage she developed a relationship with somebody she liked. She claims that the second child is his and possibly the first child too. Luckily, he is prepared to marry.
She was taken to the hospital by two other girls who were also in the home after difficult relationships. The first girl was in love with a person of different caste and her parents were against it. She joined the home and started working hoping to marry after she turned eighteen. She started working and fell in love with another at work. The first lover was heartbroken and tried to commit suicide. After that failed attempt, he continued to implore her and she complained about him to the police for harassment. The other girl came from better economic background and waiting for her lover to complete his studies. But she does not want to share work with others and often pays others to her share of work. There are some problems of fights, thefts and so on but in emergencies, they seem to come to each other’s aid.

some of these problems seem related to sex and marriage. There is an impression that extramarital affairs have been generally on the rise. The cause of these problems may be the desire of the parents to marrying off the girl’s at a young age with their own norms of alliances, property, status etc and not taking in to account the temparement of the children.

Addendum to The Colony of cooks-2

I would like to point out some special problems faced by women in these agitations. In this particular struggle, we had to meet politicians and officials. They were generally courteous but even during this brief period, there were a couple of disconcerting instances.
Once we had to meet a politician known for his fondness for the other sex, and I met him with a couple of cooks. After a meeting, the politician asked me to meet him alone in the evening. We were a bit vary of the prospect. The other two ladies were reluctant to let me go alone. They said that they would come along with me, wait outside and if I did not come out in five minutes they would burst in to the office. They also said that they were prepared to give up their allotment but would not leave me to the whims of a known womaniser. Possibly apart from the desire to finish the process that I started, the loyalty of such friends kept me going. Once inside, I reminded the politician that I was friends with his son and he addressed me ‘akka’. I also told him how good looking his granddaughter was. Anyway after five minutes, the other ladies came in and the meeting ended without much problems and there was no further trouble with the politician.
The second time, there was a municipal council meeting about the sanction of the land to us and we met and requested the councillors not to object to our request. The resolution supporting us almost passed but there was one dissenter. Since it was the last council meeting before the next elections, the matter was sent to an officer to either uphold or squandered the dissent. The official also knew me from other agitations in which I was participating at that time. He wanted to discuss the matter privately with me. But I went with my colleagues when I met him next and the official upheld the dissent and that was how the matter was sent to the court in the first place but the judge upheld the status quo. But as they say correlation is not the same as causation.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The colony of cooks-2 : sanction of the land, beginnings of housing and legal problems

We met in our house, formulated the aims and by-laws of the society and registered it under the name  ‘Prakasam jilla vantapanivarala samshema sangham’. This was in 1991. For the beginning ceremony, we invited the district collector Sri Abbanna, Zilla Parishat Chairman Sri Gutta Venkatasubbiah and other local luminaries. It was not really the season for cooks and during the speeches, one of the cooks collapsed out of hunger. The district collector was moved by this incident and recommended the grant of land. An assignment committee was formed with help of then current MLA Bacchala Balaiah, MP Magunti Subburamireddi, Mandal Revenue Officer Venkateswalu and it was decided to assign land to a hundred cooks. Originally, I hoped to get land in the suburbs where the cooks could build roomy houses with greenery around. But the MRO felt that a swamp near the bus top would be more convenient for nearby villagers who will be able to hire the cooks soon after getting to the town. Finally a smaller piece of swamp land near the bus top was granted to the society. This was on August 23, 1991 on the occasion of Tanguturi Prakasam’ birthday, a day that I still remember. Unfortunately, this was also a piece of valuable real estate and the cause of some future problems.

Three weeks before, I had a major operation but immediately got in to the swing of things. The swamp was full of thorny shrubs and one could not even enter it. We collected some money and drained the swamp and cut down the shrubs. Soon, a few pieces of high ground showed up and we built a few huts on the high ground and started cooking facilities for all on a larger piece of high ground. I stayed with the cooks and ate with them. The huts were full of mosquitoes and we had to keep covering the children with bedsheets during the night. It was also the cause of some friction at home. Though my husband Kumpalli Balakrishna generally encouraged me in social work, he did not appreciate my long absences and also felt that living in these unhygenenic conditions was not good in my state. But I could not stop once we started since there were problems every moment that had to be solved. We worked day and night , used to sing songs part of the time and brought to some shape the land with dirty water around.

Then, trouble came in the shape of a person from the municipality. This representative said that the Revenue Department granted the land without the permission from the Municipality and that if we wanted to avoid trouble we should grease some palms. We were already hard up with financial problems building the colony and much more work had to be done to fill the swamp and construct at least temporary residences. In any case, the land was sanctioned to us and we did not have the resources to pay bribes. The Municipality went to court against the Revenue Department and we went to the court as third party in the litigation and Karavadi Raghavarao argued on our behalf. The court ordered to maintain the status quo since we were already in possession of the land. Once the order came to maintain the status quo, we started efforts to fill up the swamp. But there were more problems ahead...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The colony of cooks-1

in a series of posts, I plan to describe the work of Aruna Tella in establishing a housing colony of cooks. This time, I have the benefit of some notes given by her. I will describe the work in her own words.
It was possibly 1988. I was 33 and undergoing some training camp in politics with a wing of the communist party, it is another matter that I shifted to Telugu Desai Party later on. Political parties were not that important in my life. Wherever I went I used to try to meet the poor and working classes and there was a desire to help them. During this sojourn, I met one of the cooks at the camp by name Sesharatnamma and got in to a conversation with her. She described some of their problems. Their work seasonal and during periods when there was no work, they used live on borrowed money. The workers came from various castes since the work consisted of several parts from cutting vegetables to cleaning vessels and actual cook(ing. They all lived together during the work season. But they had problems getting to their temporary homes since there both men and women in the groups going home at odd times and there was harassment by the police. She said that if they had a union and fixed residences they could escape these problems and requested me to find a place through the government agencies for their residence. I was impressed by her demeanour, gave her my address and asked her to meet me at a convenient time. In due course, this led to the establishment of ‘vantapanivarala samshe a sangham’ ( which roughly translates as ‘The society for the welfare of cooks’).
Things stood still for a while until I suddenly had a phone call from Sesharatnamma. She was arrested allegedly for prostitution and asked for my help. I went to the police station, argued with the police and got her out. Then I reminded her that if they had Association and leaders, they could have possibly avoided this kind of problems. She immediately gathered many in her profession for a meeting and invited me to the meeting. All agreed to form a society and named it ‘Prakasam Jilla Vantapanivarala Samshema Sangham’ this was in 1991. We then organised a meeting in our house ( those days, we had our own house) to register the society

New findings about memory

Light-Triggered Genes Reveal the Hidden Workings of Memory “Neuroscientists gained several surprising insights into memory this year, including the discovery that the brain creates multiple copies of memories at once — even though it hides the long-term copy from our awareness at first.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A mental case

I have been staying near the Short Stay Home of APMAS ( Andhra Pradesh Mahila Abhyudaya Samiti) (addressMIG-163, Housing Board,Ongole 523001)and go there daily to eat with Aruna Tella and others. I have been listening to the stories of hundreds of women who passed through the home who came here to escape abuse at home. Many end in temporary reconcialation, others get some training and help to look after themselves. There are also some cases of mental instability caused by problems at home. These may end up with temporary or permanent problems. One such case was described in A dedicated lady, where the lady’s condition has improved but delusions remain. Most of the girls I have seen look better than average looking girls and that may be part of their problem. I will refrain from giving actual names or photos for obvious reasons. Here is a traumatic case from this year.
The story started around 2009-2010 in a small town nearby called Giddaluru. A girl in eighth grade, who was living with her father who worked for the military and a step mother, started absconding from classes and wandering around the town and forest nearby. The indications are that she was sexually abused by several people. Then, one day this year, her father found her unconscious in the forest and brought her to a hospital in Giddaluru. Her condition was quite bad, body full of various infections and head full of lice. As soon as she recovered consciousness, she accused her father of sexual molestation. A case was registered against him and she was brought to the Short Stay Home ( now called Swadhar Gruha) in Ongole since that is the only centre around which caters to such unfortunate women. She started getting treatment for her infections and her head had to shaved off to get rid of lice. There were also signs of mental instability and she used to pass urine wherever she liked. Some of the other girls took care of her cleaning her and around her and these included the dedicated lady above who had her own mental problems. She also started getting treatment from a psychiatrist in a government hospital and showed improvement on all fronts. But in a few months ( her total stay in the Short Stay Home was for approximately six months) her condition deteriorated again and she also started hitting people who went to assist her, though sometimes she exempted the dedicated lady. Aruna Tella felt that there were no chances for permanent improvement and that she should be sent to a regular mental hospital. But the doctor felt that her condition was improving under his treatment and refused to recommend such an option. This lasted until she attacked the doctor and he had to hide behind a table. Finally the doctor recommended her to be taken away to a hospital.
At this stage Aruna Tella attended a public meeting and spoke of her frustrations running the Short Stay Home ( now called Swadhar Gruha). One of the audience was a retired police officer from Giddaluru and he immediately phoned the current C.I. who responded by sending an ambulance at his own expense (apparently the government does not provide finds for such expenses to the Short Stay Home or the police). This process took about a week and they needed the permission from the magistrate to transport her to the mental hospital in Vizag. But the magistrate wanted a new certificate from a doctor again because of the delay. The C.I. took the trouble to wait at a doctor’s place until he returned from an assignment and finally the girl who is 21 now was ready to be sent to vizag. The dedicated lady and another lady went along with lots of clothes to change whenever the girl urinated and finally took her to Vizag where the hospital refused to admit her since it was a Sunday. Again the C.I. From Giddaluru had to intervene through police connections to get her admi
That was about a month and half ago and there is another twist to the story. The girl’s condition seems to have improved vastly in Vizag and she made a confession. Apparently, infidelity among military wives is suspected because of their long absences from home. Such suspicions were raised in her father’s case. One day she came home and saw her mother’s head split by an axe, allegedly killed by her father and that started her trauma. And when her almost lifeless body was found by her father and taken to a hospital, after partial recovery she accused him to revenge for her mother’s murder. The case is still going on. The father may escape one accusation and face another.

This seems to be the kind of problems that people face when they run Short Stay Homes. As it is, they develop reputations as brothels since the girls are usually better looking than average girls. There is shortness and delay of funding and no funds for medical needs. Generally public is not sympathetic to such places as the girls have shown some pluck and independence. I think that they deserve more sympathy and help.

There is another evolving story of delay in funds, government officials imposing arbitrary rules for new certificates of verification and so on for delayed funds which are already sanctioned. When I suggested to Aruna Tella that newspapers should take up such stories, her response was that pro-government papers do not publish such stories. But in general, there seem to be several schemes in place by the government with usual delivery problems and red tape.

Sent from my iPad

Friday, December 15, 2017

Iran next?

Iraq, Syria, Iran…Are We To Destroy Iran Next? From The American Conservative

Bryan Caplan on college education

About driving

It’s time to start thinking of driving like smoking “People still smoke, but it is controlled and expensive and those who do it are looked down upon by those who do not. People were told that smoking was sexy and fun and even good for you. We learned the truth and changed; it is time to do the same with cars. Driving is not a morally neutral act.”

On globalisation

Monday, December 11, 2017

Some recent activities

I have interacted a little with various NGOs during the last couple of days at * మానవతా మిత్రమండలి - 5 వ సమావేశం B. C. T. / Bhagavathula chharitable Trust - ( యలమంచిలి దగ్గరే వున్న వెంకటాపురం గ్రామం ). This is in Visakhapatnam district. The activists from here, Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam districts; there are also some from Vijawada and Ongole. The impression I get is that these organisations, some old and some new, are in the process of developing self sustainable communities of various sizes based on cooperating groups of people. The first requirement seems food security. Then various other activities like providing employment within or near the community, communal activities like music, dances. The basic aim seems to be to develop self sustainable communities with outsiders playing some role with funds, stimulating activities both cultural and economic emphasising on cooperation. There seems to be emphasis on ’proper’ education from preprimary stage. They also try to use children to influence parents and community in activities like farming, group dynamics, stopping open defecation, drinking etc. For some reason, these seem more prevalent in this area, perhaps due to large number of tribals. With emergence of new groups, lot of them apolitical and prepared to work with government and other aid agencies, during the last few years gives some hope. But I am a new observer and have not really understood the range and scope of these activities.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Steven Mithen reviews ‘Against the grain’ by James Scott

interesting review Why did we start farming?
His account of the deep past doesn’t purport to be definitive, but it is surely more accurate than the one we’re used to, and it implicitly exposes the flaws in contemporary political ideas that ultimately rest on a narrative of human progress and on the ideal of the city/nation-state..... Why hunter-gatherers passed up their affluent lifestyle in favour of far more onerous and risky existences growing a narrow range of crops and managing livestock is a fundamental question to which we have no good answer. Was it by choice, or was that first sowing of seed a trap, locking people into a seasonal cycle of planting and harvesting from which we have been unable to escape?
In Scott’s picture, the barbarians and the city-states were entirely dependent on each other for their existence. They rose and fell together: the Huns and the Romans; the ‘Sea People’ and the Egyptians. And for the vast part of recorded history the majority of people lived in the barbarian world. Scott’s view is that the barbarian Golden Age ended as recently as four hundred years ago, when the power of the state finally became overwhelming, partly due to the invention of durable gunpowder. Which is, of course, a means to make fire sparked by flint – a return to the ‘moment’ 400,000 years earlier which marked the beginning not of the steady rise of civilisation, but rather the muddled and messy affair that is the human past.“

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A marriage organised by APMAS

From November 20: APMAS (Andhra Pradesh Mahil Abhyudaya Samiti)organised the marriage. The family are quarry workers from Tamilnadu. The girl’s family spends some time in Tamilnadu, particularly the girl’s mother. The girl has a degree B.C.A and the boy has middle school education. They married in a temple without informing the parents and came to live with the boy. When she was around eight months pregnant, the parents offered to take the girl home from delivery and aborted the baby. They tried to marry the girl off. The girl escaped again and APMAS organised the marriage today. Meanwhile the mother registered a kidnap case against the boy and there is pressure from the police in her village to come back. It is not clear what will happen if they go back. The boy is from Kondtruthur and the girl from Dindivanam which are 120 kilometres apart. The case is now with Dindivanam police. I think that it is still a complaint and not registered yet. The fear is that if they do not go back soon, it may be registered. Meanwhile, the police here are trying to call her mother’s brother to warn him but so far, he refused to come. 
Update: It seems to be reaching a happy conclusion with the help of DSP who seems to have taken the police officer who was giving trouble to task. The name of the pair Sathiyavelu and Sandhiya, may be approximate. I attended the marriage and am looking forward to their arrival here.


I was talking to a friend in Hyderabad who is currently undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer. She was very upbeat comparing the corresponding costs in US and here. According to a knowledgeable relative of hers, there is hardly any difference in the treatments and it costs less than one tenth in India. When she goes for treatment in Hyderabad, she gets to interact with other patients and she is very pleased that person with monthly salary of 11,000 rupees is essentially getting free treatment under Aarogyasri scheme. I do not know how it works in other states.
Here is the Wikipedia article Aarogyasri

A dedicated lady

Aruna Tella has several formal and informal positions related to women’s welfare, short stay home and long ago women’s self help groups before they became organised. More than a few thousandwomen passed through these organisations, perhaps in the range of 3-5 thousand, including those who found housing through the organisations. I found a lady who comes to clean one of our places and inquired about her. It seems that she was a married woman with two children. At some stage, her husband got in to drinking habits and to cover his expenses introduced her to a friend of his. The affair continued and the new couple had even a sort of marriage in a temple. But the affair started drying up , and with his source of money gone her husband started abusing her. She finally gave up on her marriage and came to live opposite to the house of the person who she considered her new husband. But he too refused to marry her and started abusing her. After a while, her parents took the children away and she lives in one of the homes still obsessed with the new husband though both the men married again. She still celebrates her second husband’s birthdays and such occasions and in spite of treatment her obsession has not completely gone. She seems very dedicated in her service to other abused women and continues her work with them.

Half a day with Aruna Tella

Before breakfast, she started telling me about her struggles with Vantavari colony (colony of cooks) which started in 1991. when she had to sell her jewels, stay in the colony for some time when it started as a swamp. Meanwhile a couple from Tamilnadu turned up. They had an intercaste marriage (Oops. It seems they are relatives but there is a family feud) in a temple and somehow landed in Ongole. When the lady was about eight months pregnant, her parents persuaded her to come home for delivery, aborted the baby and tried to marry her off. She managed to escape. She quickly made arrangements to handle it and had to attend a meeting. Meanwhile, she told me me a bit more of the story of the colony where all of the political parties seemed to be against it at some stage or other and the help came from some benevolent officials and friendly police officers. The police still seem to bring destitute ladies automatically in one of the houses managed by her and her friends. While she was attending the meeting, I went to the Vantavari Colony and checked as much of the story as I could. The youngest of the ladies is onLy 42 now and apparently in one of the houses organised by Aruna and saw me before. The colony is next to the Bus Stand, it is a prime location and a case is still going in the High Court. There are about 150 families in the colony now from a mixture of castes. Some have sold their houses and left but about forty of the original fami.ies are still there following their original profession of cooking. Since it is located next to the Bus Stand, it is easy for people from outside villages to meet them and arrange cooking engagements.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Domestication of rice

Rice so nice it was domesticated thrice  “Rice is unique among wild plants for having been domesticated independently on three continents: Asia, Africa, and now South America, researchers have discovered. The New World variety, tamed about 4000 years ago, apparently was abandoned after Europeans arrived. But its genetic legacy could potentially help improve Oryza sativa, the Asian rice species that is now a dietary staple for half the world’s population.”

In Ongole now

I continue to be impressed by the splendid work that Aruna Tella has been doing for the past thirty five years. Eventhough one of my aims is to learn about education, I hope to gather some information of her work over the years. At the moment she is busy with several projects, one of which is running a short stay home for women. Some of them have stayed long, she adopted two of them. One of them is married and another soon. Some of these daughters will probably carry on her work. She runs the only such home in Ongole area ( among several other projects). I hope to collect some stories of her work and write about them off and on. The government only the bare minimum needs of the people in these houses. She provides good food borrowing money and lost a lot of her property by paying interest on these loans. The government grants come after years. Anyway, off and on I will post stories about this lady who is very little known outside Ongole area. She is the main reason for my coming here.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Leaving for Ongole.

After a week in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, leaving for Ongole tonight. The only vague aim is to visit a few schools and villages and learn how things are if possible. The plan is to spend about three months there if health permits.

A nice article on Shyama

From Shyama, the Impish Girl in the Dungarees, Is No More The article has links to some of her popular songs.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The trouble with scientists

The trouble with scientists by Philip Ball
Razib Khan write “.... have come to the conclusion most people are decent, but they’re also craven and intellectually unserious outside of their domain specificity when they are intellectual. Many of our institutions are quite corrupt, and those which are supposedly the torchbearers of the Enlightenment, such as science, are filled with people who are also blind to their own biases or dominated by those who will plainly lie to advance their professional prospects or retain esteem from colleagues.” In
The rising waters of human tribal nature 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Going on a trip to India


Paradise papers

If you think the Paradise and Panama papers are bad, wait until you hear about Delaware from Yves Smith quote from the above:
In fact, the US is one of the largest recipients of illicit financial flows from developing countries—money often smuggled out by corrupt politicians, drug dealers, or everyday criminals…
Just as small countries tend to breed the political culture that allows corporate secrecy, sparsely populated US states have competed in a race to the bottom to attract corporate investment through lax disclosure requirements. The tiny state of Delaware, called an “on-shore tax haven” by critics, garners more than a quarter of its public revenue—just over a $1 billion—from its business registry.
This probably factors into the World Bank’s assessment of the US as one of the worst offenders (pdf) when it comes to corporate secrecy. In fact, a 2012 academic study reports that it is easier to form a shell company(pdf) in the US than it is in Panama—or indeed, anywhere else but Kenya. At the top of their list? Delaware and Nevada.”
What the Paradise Papers Tell Us About Global Business and Political Elites  from Naked Capitalism

Two on neoliberalism

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Wastelands vs commons

From Forlorn Wastelands to Thriving Commons in India
“What the villagers think is their land, the government says isn’t,” says Jagdeesh. “What the villagers see as useful land, the government calls wastelands.” This dynamic, common to many agrarian societies, is a holdover from the colonial era. Land that appeared to have little potential to generate revenue for the queen was given this relegated status.
The villagers depend on these marginalized lands for food, water, firewood, timber, and medicine to meet their daily needs. The government has rules and regulations for the land, but it has neither the reach nor the grasp to manage it effectively. “Villagers have no right to this land, so they have little interest in maintaining it,” says Jagdeesh, Chief Executive of Foundation for Ecological Security (2015 Skoll Awardee). “Eventually the land becomes degraded, and that is the tragedy.” The wasteland label becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy—a squandered and valuable resource that falls victim to competing worldviews.”

On revolutions

I am one of those who believe in resistance and not revolutions since according to my limited knowledge, revolutions tend to replace one corrupt regime with another. Still, my heart skipped a beat when my plane once landed in Moscow. I think that I stepped down to touch the ground but am not sure after so many years. Just remembered
100 Years Since the October Revolution Russia's Unloved Anniversary from Der Siegel:
The schoolchildren couldn't tell him who Lenin was. When he asked them if they knew the name of Russia's last Czar they replied: "Putin."”

The charter of the Forest

Why You’ve Never Heard of a Charter as Important as the Magna Carta
Eight hundred years ago this month, after the death of a detested king and the defeat of a French invasion in the Battle of Lincoln, one of the foundation stones of the British constitution was laid down. It was the Charter of the Forest, sealed in St Paul’s on November 6, 1217, alongside a shortened Charter of Liberties from 2 years earlier (which became the Magna Carta).
The Charter of the Forest was the first environmental charter forced on any government. It was the first to assert the rights of the property-less, of the commoners, and of the commons. It also made a modest advance for feminism, as it coincided with recognition of the rights of widows to have access to means of subsistence and to refuse to be remarried.
The Charter has the distinction of having been on the statute books for longer than any other piece of legislation. It was repealed 754 years later, in 1971, by a Tory government.”

Razib Khan on Saudi Arabia

The end of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia links to an article by Peter Turchin on elite overproduction.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

A very old machine

Hi - I'm reading "A Very Old Machine: The Many Origins of the Cinema in India (SUNY series, Horizons of Cinema)" by Sudhir Mahadevan and wanted to share this quote with you.

"No technology dies a predictable death in India. Nor does it undergo an ordinary birth. Both are evident in the contraption I have just described. This book demonstrates how this axiom applies to the emergence of the cinema in South Asia. The title of the book therefore alludes to the Bioscope as an assemblage that is emblematic of film culture in India and how its history has been shaped. The Bioscope is a combination of past and present. It represents a key symbol of early cinema brushing against new and not so new media. It is the result of the refashioning of an “optical device” of still pictures well pre-dating the cinema in the nineteenth century, into a source of moving images with the help of domestic home viewing technology and digital formats. Finally, the assemblage performs and demands a public space and publicity for its viability. The embedded temporalities of just a single contraption capture I think, the complexity of India’s visual cultures, especially those centered on the cinema.
A Very Old Machine searches for antecedents to—or previous versions of—the imaginaries that have informed the cinema’s place in everyday life and the practices that have sustained its manifestations, both mainstream and idiosyncratic, in India. I investigate the emergence of the cinema in India from a variety of perspectives: as a screen practice that became viable as much through makeshift technologies as through capital intensive practices, as mass culture whose legitimacy was won in the nexus of commerce, culture, and the global traffic in images, as hybrid media that in tandem with photography and print culture registered the experience of modern life and thus established itself as a medium of topical relevance, and finally, as a form of social and cultural memory that has been particularly suited to a cinema whose many origins have made a single archive and a singular narrative impossible to produce and sustain."

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Been music from Nagin 1954

Been music from Nagin by Shyamanuha from the blog’Nothing to declare’ via D.P.Rangan at ‘Songs of Yore’:
Nevertheless, I could not resist asking the question to the maestro himself when I met him in November 2011, just a few months before his death. (I actually did a post, Ravi: The Master of Situational Songs, based on some interesting perspective that I got from that interview). He, of course, vehemently denied any major contribution from Kalyanji and reiterated that the music was played on Harmonium by him, while acknowledging that Kalyanji did accompany on Clavoline.
But then he added something that caught my attention. “Actually, it was created by Lucila. But it sounded a little Western, so I changed it like this,” he said demonstrating it immediately on the Harmonium which accompanied him right through the entire interview, “to make it sound more Indian.””

On plant intelligence

The most balanced seems to be this 2013 article by Michael Pollan
The intelligent plant
A 2012 article on the work of J.C.Bose:
Stephanie Manusuco Ted Talks 

Kenneth Rogoff on the voice of federal chair

Kenneth Rogoff in Project Syndicate Donald Trumpt’s Federal Reserve “For example, so-called quantitative easing involves having the Fed issue short-term debt to buy up long-term government debt. But the US Treasury owns the Fed, and can carry out such debt purchases perfectly well by itself.
Some argue for “helicopter money,” whereby the Fed prints money and hands it out. But this, too, is smoke and mirrors. The Fed has neither the legal authority nor the political mandate to run fiscal policy; if it tries to do so, it runs the risk of forever losing its independence.”
The difference between fiscal and monetary policies
A maverick in the area Stephanie Menusuco Ted Talks One And slightly shorter Two

Eadu action, trust and economic measurement

Elsewhere in political economics, this handy 2012 analysis of the European Social Survey found that levels of education are correlated with trust in institutions — except for countries with high levels of corruption, where more education was correlated with mistrust. That’s a pretty compelling argument for education, unless you’re a corrupt politician.” from Education, trust and economic measurement ( registration or google search may me needed).

We need new rules for the internet economy

A song from Gilda 1946

Choreography by Jack Cole 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

A strange article by Lant Pritchett

Is he really saying this or have I misunderstood him?
 The Perils of Partial Attribution: Let’s All Play for Team Development 

How food banks use markets in USA

The economic consequences of Martin Luther

“ Five hundred years ago today, Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the Wittenberg Castle church door critiquing Catholic Church corruption, setting off the Protestant Reformation. This column argues that the Reformation not only transformed Western Europe’s religious landscape, but also led to an immediate and large secularisation of Europe’s political economy.“

The previous quote comes from this section of Tristes Tropiques

Thursday, November 02, 2017

A quote from Tristes Tropiques

 " My hypothesis, if correct, would oblige us to recognize the fact that the primary function of written communication is to facilitate slavery. The use of writing for disinterested purposes, and as a source of intellectual and aesthetic pleasure, is a secondary result, and more often than not it may even be turned into a means of strengthening, justifying or concealing the other. (p. 299)"
P.S. A response from Ramarao Kanneganti to the above post on Facebook:
The initial written communications were for accounting, to support private property. It also is used for organizing and governing people. As such, it supported and enabled the existing governance structures: slavery, monarchy, feudalism, colonialism, imperialism etc.

It also enabled opposition to the existing governance. Which is why, it was controlled in the olden times. For example, reading and writing were controlled in Egyptian and Indian civilizations. In Sumerian times, it was controlled by a guild.

Incidentally, in Sanskrit, writing is considered inferior and looked down upon. It was the elaborate oral traditions that sustained the memory of the traditions, not writing. It exerted more control over dissemination of the information than writing ever did. 

When the control was challenged, say like Martin Luther (with the advent of printing press), it led to fight against the existing governance structures. What we see with twitter and FB is exactly that. Brexit, Trump is the outcome of challenge to the existing controls and traditions.

Next, we understand there is a secondary purpose to writing: literature, preserving history, culture, arts and such. The big question is, are they intertwined with the primary? That is, does Indian classical music support caste system?

The facts look indisputable. Like any German alive during the WW II are guilty either by action or inaction, any literature that does not talk about slavery (or caste system) is complicit in it. Anything positive that art does reflects positively on status quo, which is built on a hierarchical system that is exploitative. That is what Sri Sri meant, perhaps “గతమంతా తడిసెను రక్తంతో కాకుంటే కన్నీళులతో”. 

Still, it is a difficult question. We have only one history, even if we interpret in radically different ways with the current day assumptions. Most reform movements are about changing the primary function, retaining and embellishing the secondary function of writing. For example, when we retell Mahabharata from the perspective of Ekalavya, or from the perspective of Chitrangada, we are trying to change the primary function of writing. 

I see the conflicts between marxists, Progressives, and Dalit intellectuals on these separation and acceptance of primary and secondary functions of written communication, in particular its history.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

In Srikakulam, fifty years ago

An interesting site for Telugu podcasts

Debating where tech is taking finance

Debating where tech is taking finance, a dialogue between Tyler Cowen and Matt Levine via Marginal Revolution which has comments and a brief description:
Matt: …I think the possible surprise here lies in the connection between finance and identity. People are sort of inchoately aware of it now; we use the term “identity theft” to mean “someone using your name and Social Security number to get a credit card.” But most people don’t really think of their credit report as being central to their identity. Really ambitious proponents of blockchain technology, though, envision a world in which a lot of identity information — your citizenship and marital status and college degrees and employment and certifications and whatnot, maybe your fingerprints and retinas and DNA, as well as of course your credit information — are encoded on a blockchain and used in every aspect of your life. (India has a governmental system a little bit like this, and China is building one, though the blockchain vision usually involves decentralized non-governmental systems.)
I think that the idea that financial intermediaries should be the keepers of identity is pretty uncomfortable, but then, the idea that Facebook would be the keeper of identity seems like it would be uncomfortable, and in fact Facebook has quickly taken over a lot of the work of verifying identity, at least online. One thing that we might see in the next 20 years is a fight between financial institutions and social networks and decentralized blockchain builders over who gets to be the keeper and verifier of everyone’s identity.


Kudumbashree: How Re-Thinking Poverty & Gender Changed 5 Million Lives in Kerala

Today, nearly 5 million women are a part of Kudumbashree, making it the world’s largest women empowerment project. And all this in a state one-tenth the size of California.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

UNCTAD report

UN Study Warns: Growing Economic Concentration Leads to “Rentier Capitalism” Michael Hudson has been warning us about this for a long time. He calls it the FIRE sector.
P.S. Related  Accounting fact of the day by Gulzar Natarajan

Small farmers in Indian agriculture

Dan Little reviews a new book How do small farmers fare: Evidence from village studies in India by Madhura Swaminathan and Sandip Baksi. Excerpts from the book:
The levels of income received by small farmer households were low, in both absolute and relative terms. The average incomes received by small farmers were not much higher than the minimum wages in agriculture stipulated by State governments. Minimum wage in India is defined as subsistence wage; hence incomes received by small farmer households were inadequate to meet investments or any requirements other than daily consumption needs. 
While small farmer households are the worst off among the peasantry, there exist disparities and differences within the class of small farmers on the basis of social identity. The analysis presented in this chapter shows that SC, ST, and Muslim households among small farmers are far more deprived in terms of housing and access to basic household amenities than households belonging to other social groups. This points to the fact that in Indian society, and more so in rural society, deprivation is not merely economic but social as well. Even though a uniform criterion was used to define small farmer households, we find that higher levels of deprivation among SC, ST, and Muslim households are an outcome of the historical exclusion and accumulated disadvantages faced and inherited by these social groups. Continued practices of untouchability, physical and residential segregation, and isolation shape current outcomes for these groups.”
Reviewer’s conclusion:”This volume is a very important contribution to development studies in India and other parts of South and Southeast Asia. The dynamics of agriculture remain a critical factor in the social progress of these countries, and this careful and detailed research will provide a basis for constructing more effective development policies in India and elsewhere. And the data suggest that the situation of the rural sector in India is in crisis: incomes for small farmers and landless workers are extremely low with few indications of improvement, and measures of quality of life mirror these findings.”

Pandukal people

From The stone bead industry of Southern India
“This burial practice is believed by some scholars to be intrusive to India and these people were
possibly outsiders. They may have entered what is now India early in the second millennium B.C. and were settled in the central peninsula by the middle to late second millennium. Another early date for them (905-780 B.C.) is at Korkhai, at the very tip of the peninsula, once the center of pearl fishing (Moorti 1994:4-5). 
As the Pandukal people moved into South India, they introduced several traits : horsemanship, iron and gold technologies, and stone beadmaking.”

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

The battle between public and private money

Where is money headed? “As US policy analyst Pippa Malgrem observes, governments are scrambling to control the new forms of currency; there is a battle looming between private and public control of money. What governments fear is that transactions will go offline and be invisible to their oversight.........The total value of cryptocurrencies is currently only about $US100 billion, so it is still small. But the threat is nevertheless real. There is a very high chance that what we mean by money will become very different in the future and it will threaten current power structure.”

Friday, October 20, 2017

Australia’s Mine Games

Michael Hudson on socialism

Michael Hudson: Socialism, Land and Banking: 2017 Compared to 1917
As usual very readable. There is along discussion on failures in Rissia and ashorter one problems ahead for China. He seems to be focussing mainly on land rents. He also responds to questions in the comments section.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Romans and multiplication

Roman Numericals and Arithmetic “Multiplication using roman numerals is not particularly easy or obvious. You can do the trivial thing, which is repeated addition. But it should be pretty obvious that that’s not practical for large numbers. The trick that they used was actually pretty nifty. It’s basically a strange version of binary multiplication. You need to be able to add and divide by two, but those are both pretty easy things to do. So here goes:
Division is the biggest problem in roman numerals. There is no good trick that works in general. It really comes down to repeated subtraction. The only thing you can do to simplify is variations on finding a common factor of both numbers that’s easy to factor out. For example, if both numbers are even, you can divide each of them by two before starting the repeated subtraction. It’s also fairly easy to recognize when both numbers are multiples of 5 or 10, and to do the division by 5 or 10 on both numbers. But beyond that, you take a guess, do the multiplication, subtract, repeat.“

Monday, October 16, 2017

An oldish article about Alexander Marshack

I thought that I already posted this.
After the Ice Age: How Calendar-keeping shaped Early Social Structuring by Michael Hudson

New book again

It seems that I have been reading the dissertation. The actual book can be downloaded from here.

Language of the Snakes

Prakrit, Sanskrit, and the Language Order of Premodern India

Andrew Ollett (Author)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Interesting new book

For a few days downloadable, check rightand top corner.
Language of the Snakes: Prakrit, Sanskrit, and the Language Order of Premodern India Andrew Strand Ollett
Language of the Snakes is a biography of Prakrit, one of premodern India’s most important and most neglected literary languages. Prakrit was the language of a literary tradition that flourished roughly from the 1st to the 12th century. During this period, it served as a counterpart to Sanskrit, the preeminent language of literature and learning in India. Together, Sanskrit and Prakrit were the foundation for an enduring “language order” that governed the way that people thought of and used language. Language of the Snakes traces the history of this language order through the historical articulations of Prakrit, which are set out here for the first time: its invention and cultivation among the royal courts of central India around the 1st century, its representation in classical Sanskrit and Prakrit texts, the ways it is made into an object of systematic knowledge, and ultimately its displacement from the language practices of literature. Prakrit is shown to have played a critical role in the establishment of the cultural-political formation now called the “Sanskrit cosmopolis,” as shown through a genealogy of its two key practices, courtly literature (kāvya-) and royal eulogy (praśasti-). It played a similarly critical role in the emergence of vernacular textuality, as it provided a model for language practices that diverged from Sanskrit but nevertheless possessed an identity and regularity of their own. Language of the Snakes thus offers a cultural history of Prakrit in contrast to the natural-history framework of previous studies of the language. It uses Prakrit to formulate a theory of literary language as embedded in an ordered set of cultural practices rather than by contrast to spoken language.

Friday, October 13, 2017


V.B.Sowmya on her wall:
After all these years, the first thing I could think of when I face some issue is: "ask mom", irrespective of whether it is something relevant to her life experiences or not.”
remember back around 1958-59, I was rusticated because I was too interested in mathematics, stopped attending classes since I felt they were teaching too much rubbish. I was home with a few math books, one on abstract algebra and the other ‘Introduction to mathematical philosophy’ by Bertrand Russell. In the village, there was nobody to discuss mathematics. I often sat in the kitchen and used to tell my mother about all these exciting ideas. Much before that she had her own life, reading, drawing singing and so on. But now I was thrown out of college, she became very protective and used to listen to me. And talking to somebody helped some. Finally I had to go back to college to get credentials and facilities to do mathematics. But the empathetic understanding from my mother, whether she understood the mathematics I was telling her about, helped me at various stages. Now I see the same with my wife and children.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sai Padma

Noah Smith defends Richard Thaler

Defending Thaler from guerilla resistance But I keep getting this doubt expressed in one of the comments:
"Aren’t nudge advocates forgetting the minor detail that, given that governments (and nudge units) are made of people, they, very much as the people they want to nudge, are not immune to biases in the first place? Who will nudge the nudgers?"
P.S. some articles from Australia Articles on Nudhe Unit The most recent article in the series 
Government behavioural economics ‘nudge unit’ needs a shove in a new direction

Demise of the dollar, perennial topic

Extreme virtue

Meet R.Jalaja and K.Janardhanan, a rare couple, living on a quarter of their income so they can spend the rest in changing lives of others.”
A case of extreme virtue in The Hindu.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017