Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Anandabazar reported this today. Echoes what I wrote earlier. But describes it from a very different angle. Interesting.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ashami (The accused)

Biswanath Halder
Case Western Reserve U

60 yr old in 2003

Nikhil Dhar
U. Mass Lowell
22 yrs old in 2005

Both are Bengalis. Both are from Kolkata. Both accused of culpable homicide. Both had a life centered largely on a university in USA. Both allegedly chose their victims from the university. But there is nothing else to connect them. The differences are overwhelming, based on the reports by the media. So similar, yet so different.

Update1: Something is odd. Biswanath got admitted to CWRU at the age of 58 for a MBA. Now, from whatever li'll I know of US Business Schools, thats like 30 years above the average age of a MBA class ! I'm surprised there is no mention of this not insignificant anomaly anywhere. Biswanath must have written some very compelling essays. What were in those essays ? Why did CWRU admit him ? Where are the admissions staff who admitted him ?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Housewives are expensive

This rather Bengali obsession with a mishti Ghorer Bou is in practice extremely corrosive. Not to say it reeks of male chauvinism.

Consider the effects:

1. Huge financial loss. I cannot overstate this. Let’s say women earn 80% of men on average. So 8000 saved over 45yrs compounded at 8% interest = 3921057. This can mean the difference between one kid or two. A residence in a bad part of town or good. Kids going to a private school or a public one. A lifetime spent cocooned in a tiny flat or widening your horizons from lots of traveling. All very important life choices that not only affect the couple, but also their kids, and hence future generations. It’s often argued that men can earn all that is needed and therefore women don’t need to earn. But can they? I beg to differ. Even if the guy is super qualified, unless he is in the top percentile of his income bracket, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a man to earn the equivalent of a man + a woman's salary. For example, let’s say a man earns 100000 and a woman earns 80000 for a total of 180000 per annum at the outset of their career. How many men do you think will be able to earn 180000 from the first day of his career? This will hold true for all subsequent years also. Suppose that our man indeed starts earning 180000 after 20 yrs experience. But by now the wife also earns 140000. What is the likelihood that the man will earn 320000 after 20 years experience? Salary structures in the organized industrial sector are normally range bound. These ranges are hard, impossible to transgress in government jobs (and very very difficult, though not impossible, in private sector jobs) no matter how big a star you are in your work. For salaried professionals, who most Bengalis are, it’s a must to have a working spouse.

2. One-stroke-destitute. With the husband as the only bread earner, imagine what would happen if the husband were to become incapacitated or die due to an accident. With living conditions as they are in India and accidents all too common, I wonder how many families have met this terrible fate. Dual income families have the insurance of a second income to sponge up the debilitating effects of say, a malfunctioning machine or a drunken lorry driver. Short of that, a single accident is enough to destroy your life, your kids and your entire blood line.

3. Long loneliness. Age differences of up to 10 years in these marriages are routine. Now, with women's life expectancies far outstripping men's, they are typically widowed, and lonely, for a good 16-17 years. Without having spent a life in the workforce, the housewife is bereft of the social networks that develop at the workplace and which can sustain one even when her spouse is no more. These twilight years become a curse on her physical and mental wellbeing. Loneliness is a curse for the aged. Its no wonder our grandmothers are never role models for our daughters.

There is of course the not-to-little effect on the woman’s self esteem, women’s rights issues (which come with self reliance and a steady pay check), healthy exchange of ideas at work, learning opportunities for women that I am not going into for the moment.

But if you are still hell bent on getting a housewife, then you have the following options

1. Become rich the old way. Inherit it. Be lucky by birth to have so much money from your family that you will not need to work a day of your life. Then you can extend that privilege to your spouse as well.

2. Marry a rich girl (in practice this often means - with a rich father). Like Athina Roussel Onassis.

3. Be in some profession where income is dependent on your performance. E.g. be a businessman, a stock trader, a sports star, or on a commission-basis pay. Here there are potential huge upsides to your income could offset the lost income from your housewife spouse.

4. Don’t have kids.

In summary: Housewives are a luxury. Be sure that you can afford them.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Citizens of tomorrow

This happened last Christmas. There is this place in my neighbourhood which is nicely decorated with a lot of lights and interesting stuff during Christmas and New Years. The weather was really bad the evening we went there. People were generally keeping to themselves, greeting only people they knew. The bitter cold and howling wind demanded too much of an effort to extend the normal greetings to strangers. A white christmas, in a predominantly white town of a predominantly white country. Along comes this family with two kids, the kids must have been really diehard fans of Christmas, for they wished everyone "Merry Christmas" vigorously. It was pure magic. They changed the mood of the crowd instantly and everyone broke out of their shells. The fun part is that the family was Indian. And not Christian. Times are changing.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

NRRIs' winter migration

Everyone knows that NRIs prefer to visit India during Nov - Feb because mild Indian winters are better than scorching Indian summers or the disease & flood ridden Indian monsoon. Recently I noticed a growing subcategory among them.
  1. They are retired. Full scale mass emigration of Indian professionals to western industrialized countries started during the 60’s. With the retirement age being 65 +/- 2 in most western industrialized countries, that first batch is now retiring in large numbers.

  2. Many are from Europe. Even though the US is home to an equally large diaspora, for some reason, US-based NRIs are conspicuous by their scarcity. My guess is that US is much more diverse in terms of winter climate than Europe (1st world Europe has universally bad weather during winter) hence US based NRIs have choices for a place under the sun right there in the US.

  3. They stay for a much longer time in India. Typically NRIs spend between 3 to 4 weeks in India. But the retired folks spend almost 3-4 months (!) Free from the shackles of free-market dictated holidays, they choose to camp for a longer period. And, a longer stay in low cost India helps them stretch out their fixed retirement income by that much.

  4. Many live by themselves. Age brings inflexibility. Their parents and elders are already dead. Trespassing on their brothers’ and sisters’ families will mean sacrificing too much of privacy, which they get accustomed to after a lifetime in the western world. Plus they have already planned for this scenario and invested in properties in nice parts of town (it has long been an open secret that those empty mansions in Salt Lake and snazzy apartments by the side of EM Bypass are owned by NRIs – native Calcuttans, excepting some Marwaris & Sindhis, just don’t have that kind of money).

  5. They demand quality medical care at a cheap cost. This is understandable and, frankly, bothers me enormously. There seems to be a shared belief that India is a top provider of “quality” healthcare. Having lost 2 grandparents to uncaring doctors, I am no stranger to the widespread medical malpractice prevalent in India today. This organization lends credence to my conviction. I hope the NRIs know what they are doing.
By now you must have guessed it correctly. No, the Title is not a typo. NRRI = Non-resident Retired Indians.