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”

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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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”

Sundays with Shankar

The life, work, and times of Shankar, father of Indian cartooning

cartoonist shankar
Shankar in a pensive mood

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Abdullah Yusuf Ali: Triumph and Tragedy

The year 2021-22 marks the sesquicentennial of Allama Abdullah Yusuf Ali. His remarkable life, caught between many worlds, was chaotic and turbulent, with its triumphs and tribulations, and a lasting legacy.

Abdullah Yusuf Ali (licensed from National Portrait Gallery, London)

In December 1953, six months after Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, London experienced another severe winter. The same time, previous year, the city had suffered the Great Smog. Wednesday, the 9th, was freezing cold. Movement was difficult. In the evening, in Trafalgar Square, Westminster, the police found an old man in tattered clothes, destitute and disoriented, on the steps of a house. He had a suitcase full of papers, but no money in his pockets. They admitted him to the Westminster Hospital, which discharged him the next day. A London City Council home for the elderly, in nearby Dovehouse Street, Chelsea, took him in. The same day he suffered a heart attack, and was rushed to the St Stephen’s Hospital. He died soon thereafter. Continue reading “Abdullah Yusuf Ali: Triumph and Tragedy”

Sidney Wadsworth: A Judge in Madras

Caroline Keen, A Judge in Madras: Sir Sidney Wadsworth and the Indian Civil Service, 1913-47, Harper Collins, 2021. Rs. 699.

Most British (and Indian) officers of the Indian Civil Service diligently maintained copious diaries filled with detailed accounts of their working life in India with the hope of turning them into one or more books after retirement. Only a few of them successfully sustained the habit throughout their service. Fewer still turned them into books. One of those who wrote a manuscript after retirement, but never published it, fearing lack of demand and publisher interest, was Sir Sidney Wadsworth. Born in 1888, Wadsworth joined the ICS in Madras in 1913. Also posted to Madras, from the same batch, was Benegal Rama Rau, later Governor, Reserve Bank of India. Sidney retired in 1947 to the Isle of Man, where his father in law, Sir Robert Clegg ICS, also of Madras, spent his last years. “A Judge in Madras” is based on the draft memoirs of Sir Sidney Wadsworth. Continue reading “Sidney Wadsworth: A Judge in Madras”

Everyone’s MKK, our MD uncle: A Centenary Remembrance

MKK Nayar

This is a centenary remembrance of Late MKK Nayar (1920-1987), my father’s boss, who belonged to the first batch of IAS. Though belonging to the Tamil Nadu cadre, his significant contributions include construction of the Bhilai Steel Plant, modernisation of FACT fertilizer plants, and to the world of sports, arts, and culture, in Kerala and beyond. Continue reading “Everyone’s MKK, our MD uncle: A Centenary Remembrance”

The Tharoor I Knew

A young Tharoor Parameshwar

When I was in school, in the early 1970s, one occasion that we four brothers looked forward to was an annual visit by Param Uncle, as we used to call him. His official name was Tharoor Parameshwar, editor of Reader’s Digest for over two decades from the mid-1950s. Param Uncle came every year, usually by December/January. Continue reading “The Tharoor I Knew”

CFO 001: Rasam or the essence of the spices

This is the first post in a series of brief cooking notes that I started writing for a friend, who was at a loss at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown. He had lost his mother, his ailing dad was 92, his maid had stopped coming, no food of any kind was available, and he had not clue about cooking.

Reading recipes or watching cooking videos has been a hobby for long, even if I had no intention of making that dish. Continue reading “CFO 001: Rasam or the essence of the spices”

Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer: My first boss

VR Krishna Iyer in his office

Only very few of my friends know, or now remember, that my career, so to speak, started with a stint working for Late Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer.

Before I joined the Reserve Bank of India, I nursed for long the idea of doing my Ph.D. in Environmental Economics. With that in mind, I had been reading up on the environment, and environmental economics, apart meeting people connected with environmental issues. Continue reading “Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer: My first boss”

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