The pedestrian is cross

The importance of sidewalks and a call for a manifesto or bill of rights for pedestrians. I wanted to avoid the word ‘pedestrian’ for its obvious pedestrian connotation. But, I also did not want to marginalise the pedestrian who has historical rights to entire roads to a mere sidewalk by using the word ‘sidewalker.’ So, I use both interchangeably.

Photo by Ibrahim Rifaith on Unsplash

 ‘Think of a city, and what comes to mind? Its streets. If a city’s streets look interesting, the city looks interesting; if they look dull, the city looks dull.’ – Jane Jacobs

“When people say that a city, or a part of it, is dangerous or is a jungle, what they mean primarily is that they do not feel safe on the sidewalks.” – Jane Jacobs

“I will [tell] the story as I go along of small cities no less than of great. Most of those which were great once are small today; and those which in my own lifetime have grown to greatness, were small enough in the old days.” – Herodotus

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Spending wisely at supermarkets

Or how not to fall prey to hidden persuaders and fill your trolleys at supermarkets

Super market
An edited version of Photo by David Veksler on Unsplash

Diogenes, the cynic Greek philosopher who lived in a barrel, was having bread and lentils for supper when Aristippus, the hedonistic philosopher, saw him. A student of Socrates, Aristippus charted a different course, living comfortably as a courtier to King Dionysius singing his praises. He asked Diogenes to submit to the king to avoid having to survive on bread and lentils. Diogenes replied that only if Aristippus had learnt to live on bread and lentils, he would not have had to be subservient to the king. Continue reading “Spending wisely at supermarkets”

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Vance Packard and The Hidden Persuaders

The continuing relevance of Vance Packard and his warnings against unbridled consumerism

Vance Packard's Hidden Persuaders has lessons for assessing supermarkets
Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

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To Tip or Not to Tip

The practice of tipping and its motivations, and how it might be promoting a culture of bribery and corruption

To Tip or Not to Tip

Around 1990, a colleague shared a real story of a bank branch manager in remote rural Punjab. A borrower wanted to give the manager a gift. It was expensive. New to the job, he resisted. But, the borrower rationalised that he was only sharing in the happiness of having become rich thanks to the loans the bank sanctioned his firm. The incident points to the progressively fine divide between gifts, donations, kickbacks, bribes, extortion, and so on. Tipping is a related, though socially accepted and frowned upon, practice of sharing a monetary equivalent of perceived excess of value over and above what you paid for. Continue reading “To Tip or Not to Tip”

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The Official Language: Lessons from Europe

Whose official language is it anyway?

European Union
Flag of the European Union

On 23 March 2006, when French businessman, Ernest-Antoine Seillière, started speaking at the annual business summit of the European Union (EU), Jacques Chirac, the French President, walked out. As he gathered his papers and reached for the exit, Philippe Douste-Blazy, his foreign minister, and Thierry Breton, the finance minister, joined him. What provoked these gendarmes of political correctness was that Seillière spoke in English, an official language. Chirac could be mollified and brought back only after Jean-Claude Trichet, the French President of the European Central Bank, started speaking in French. Continue reading “The Official Language: Lessons from Europe”

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The Lions of Odesa

The lions of Odesa are a reminder of the ravages of war as it looms over Ukraine.

Odesa steps
Odesa Steps. Photograph: Dave Proffer

Odesa (single ‘s’ in Ukrainian) on the Black Sea shore of South-Western Ukraine is the country’s largest port city. About 300 km away, as I write this, the capital city of Kyiv (changed from the earlier Russian Kiev) is surrounded by Russian troops. It reminded me of the lions of Odesa in the classic montage sequence of Eisenstein’s 1925 film, Battleship Potemkin, one of the greatest ever made. Based on a real-life event of 1905, the crew of the battleship had staged a mutiny against their officers. The citizenry of Odesa was welcoming the ship and its crew with cheers and supplies sent on boats. Continue reading “The Lions of Odesa”

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Who will be the next President?

Ramnath Kovind, 14th President of India
President Ramnath Kovind (presidentofindia.nic.in)

The attention of the political media is currently focused on the five states going to the polls during February/March. I am jumping ahead to speculate who will be the 15th President of India to succeed Ramnath Kovind whose term will expire on 24 July 2022. As we will see, the outcome of the five state elections will play a critical role in who the next President will be.

Those who are/were in high positions fall into two broad categories. At one end are those who are/were a decoration to their posts and continue to be so in public memory. At the other end, the designations are a decoration around their neck. Some such indicator would be required to remember who they were. In between are those whose positions rub off on them over time, and they grow to become distinguished personalities. Presidents of India are no exception. On the brighter side, barring a few, the rest have done the nation proud.

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The Benegal Brothers

Radhabai and Raghavendra Rao

The collective contribution of the four Benegal brothers, Sanjiva Rao, Narsing Rau, Rama Rau, and Shiva Rao, to the idea and making of India has few parallels. Sons of Radhabai and Dr. Raghavendra Rao, a medical doctor, they are a fine example of what being rooted in Indian tradition and values, but being open to modern and progressive ideas can achieve. Despite their conservative upbringing, two found their spouses from another country, and a third from another community. All could have achieved much more than what they did only if they had been ambitious, or compromised on their values or ideals. But, every one chose to serve the country in their own humble ways. In an era of credit grabbing and blame passing, the Benegal brothers remain relatively unknown and under appreciated. Continue reading “The Benegal Brothers”

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