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Cities, Planning and freedom!

 As I glanced through this article on my newsfeed, the picture caught my eye - so elegant, so mesmerising and so neat! Wow! What a view of Paris - the city of Love. Compare this image of Paris to any Indian city and the Indian city will look ugly, disorganized and pitiful - you'd probably use these images to label cities as First World and Third World countries.  But scratch under the surface of your reactionary thoughts, you will realise that the pictures reveal a very different story. Paris or for that matter any city which looks well organized are usually a result of one regime, one ruler being dominant at the time of development of the city - such that the ruler could convert huge swathes of land from private ownership to state ownership, and then develop them into planned cities. A chaotic disorganized city, on the other hand, is a result of common people having exercised their individual rights, their ingenuity, their individual personas, their likes, dislikes to create a ch

How Covid-19 will expedite the march of humans to Mars

The Covid-19 pandemic rages on - a new fast-spreader strain was discovered in the UK last week leading to a fresh round of lockdowns and flight bans across the globe, but the good news is that a vaccine is on the anvil. News reports say that it's been approved in the UK and even if the vaccine is delayed but launches by Q2-2021, this will be the fastest developed vaccine in the history of mankind. This is not surprising - medical science has been making rapid progress since 2003 when the Human Genome Project got completed. Since Covid-19 impacts different people in different ways , its vaccine development also needs to take this into account. In fact, this is true of almost every vaccine and while there may not be a direct correlation between the Genome project and Covid-19, but the completion of Human Genome sequencing along with other medical strides has helped our ability to react to diseases and come up with cures faster than ever. What has happened in medicine is but an indic

Need for Compassion in politics and its relation with success of countries

7 years ago today, Nelson Mandela left us - committed to ending differences in human race and a keen follower of Gandian values, Mandela is a powerful role model for leaders in the 21st century.   But before there was Mandela, there was Robert Mugabe, the Premier and later President of Zimbabwe who was heralded as the statesman of Africa and the model for good governance. [ 1 ]. As history tells us however, Mugabe and his politics failed miserably.  The reason why Zimbabwe became a failed state and South Africa a successful one was because of the Gandhian values, mainly ' Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner ' imbibed by Nelson Mandela, and a contrasting revengeful reign by Mugabe in Zimbabwe (especially in the 1990s). The story about how Mandela used the Rugby World cup [ 2 ] to reconcile and reach out for his erstwhile oppressors is a case in point [The subject was used in the movie Invictus , which is titled on one of Mandela's favourite poems - and mine too!]. Mugabe vs Ma

Taxation and the Principal-Agent problem

The principal-agent problem [PAP], in political science and economics, occurs when one person or entity (the "agent"), is able to make decisions and/or take actions on behalf of, or that impact, another person or entity: the "principal". This dilemma exists in circumstances where agents are motivated to act in their own best interests, which are contrary to those of their principals, and is an example of moral hazard. One of the relatable cases of PAP is sales - the sales executive is likely to motivate you to buy those products where s/he earns more commissions, rather than those which are cheaper or beneficial for you. This problem occurs in any kind of a sale whether its a kitchen appliance or insurance product. Maybe you've already guessed where I am going with this - the PAP with taxes. The government is an agent which levies a charge (taxes) on its people - possibly the strangest of principal-agent relationships [in all other cases, the agent is usually pa

The future of Education .... post Covid-19

I had surmised four years ago that the future of education was clear to me, just that the path to get to this future wasn't clear then. The future I predicted was - and I quote:  Take a leap into future, learning could be transitioning back to the heydays of Indian Gurukul system - just that these Gurukul's will be online. What will be known is not universities, colleges or degrees; what will be known is teachers and professors of repute (the Guru's) and the subjects they teach. Thanks to the ubiquitous nature of the Internet, Guru's could be running a course on several platforms or several courses on one platform. People will take courses from Guru's of repute to learn what they want to, not because they want a degree from the platform which they represent! I believe the path to get to this future of education has been found and it runs through the Pandemic zone called Covid-19. Covid-19 is a warp zone which has accelerated the transition from the brick-and-mortar

Is Humanity Diverging into two civilizations?

v/s I've written earlier about my musings on Clustered cities vs Suburban Sprawls being the two contrasting futures mankind stares at. I concluded in the 3 part series that the future of humanity, at least until the developing world gets to a median level of development, will be to be present in clustered cities. The other alternative which I envisaged for the longer term was to set up a colony on Mars. However, since then we've had many developments and Covid-19 impacting the whole world. While Covid-19 has been devastating on economies across the globe, its impact on climate has been benign  - fall in economic frenzy has only led to a reduction in carbon emissions, a civilizational realization about the value of boosting natural human immunity and end to wasteful ways of living .  The other side of Covid-19 is the realization that the pandemic is also an impact of human activities much like climate change itself. And as Covid-19 rages on forcing people t

हिंदी दिवस के उपलक्ष्य में एक ट्वीटमाला

A thread on Hindi Diwas; for the last few months I have been influencing my daughter to learn Hindi by telling her greatness & elegance of Hindi हिंदी दिवस के उपलक्ष्य में एक ट्वीटमाला; पिछले कुछ माह से मैं अपनी बेटी को हिंदी की महत्ता और लालित्य के बारे में समझा रहा हूँ| She is in Grade 2 and just started learning the Hindi alphabet and grammar.  वह कक्षा २ में है और अभी हिंदी वर्णमाला और व्याकरण के पहले पाठ पढ़ रही है|  Yesterday, she asked me why I think Hindi is a great language. Context being India has so many languages and our mother tongue is Marathi.  कल उसने मुझे पूछा कि मैं हिंदी को एक महानतम भाषा क्यों मानता हूँ - जबकी भारत में इतनी सारी भाषाएँ हैं और हमारी मातृभाषा मराठी है|  My answer - No doubt Hindi is a rich language in terms of literature, vocabulary, variety and its script Devnagiri is very scientific in nature...  मेरा उत्तर था की यद्यपी हिंदी साहित्य, शब्दावली, विविधता से परिपूर्ण हैं और उसकी प्रमुख लिपी देवनागिरी वैज्ञानिक है, ...  ... But then these virtues des

The natural order of things!

I just finished watching all 4 seasons of Mr. Robot - the cyberpunk TV/Web Series about a fictional sequence of events where a vigilante hacker group fsociety (styled on the  Anonymous group ) attacks E-Corp, the world's largest conglomerate (think GE + JP Morgan) and brings them down through a Ransomware attack.  The objective of the attack is to free millions of people from massive debt which they are running - the fountainhead of debt across the US being E-Corp. With the hack, millions of loans become unserviceable because data for them is no longer available, but it also leads to E-corp being unable to dispense cash to its depositors and freezing of further lending, ultimately the entire hacking episode leads to an economic collapse! While my initial interest in the series arose due to its cyberpunk lineage, my interest post Season 1 was retained more because of its depiction of the interplay between epochal events and the nature of human society. Eliot / Mr Robot's origin

How will travel industry transform post-Covid

Unlike philosophers, journalists and teenagers, the world of entrepreneurship does not permit the luxury of gazing into a crystal ball to predict the future. An entrepreneur’s world is instead made of MVPs (Minimum Viable Product), A/B Tests, launching products, features or services and gauging / measuring their reception in the market to arrive at verifiable truths which can drive the business forward. Which is why I have never written about my musings or hypothesis about travel industry – we usually either seek customer feedback or launch an MVPised version and gather market feedback. However, with Covid-19 travel bans across the globe, the industry is currently stuck – while a lot of industry reports and journalistic conjectures are out, there’s no definitive answer to the way forward. Besides there is no way to test your hypothesis since even the traveller does not know what they will do when skies open. So, I decided to don my blogger hat and take the luxury of crystal gazing

A mundane interpretation of ज्ञान योग [Gyan Yog]

Today is International Yoga day - a day on which the whole world 'celebrates' the ancient practice of Yog / Yoga, albeit in a much-simplified form as a mere 'exercise' regimen. Unlike its popular format - the Hath Yoga - the term Yoga denotes a set of practices which can be used by a human being to take the path of salvation - Moksha [मोक्ष]. Background There are mainly three pathways to salvation - Karm Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Gyan Yoga. The three paths are not mutually exclusive. Karm yoga is the path of unselfish action without being attached to the fruits or consequences - the path taught by Lord Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita. Bhakti Yoga is about attaining salvation through extreme devotion towards a god - some examples are those of Meera and Varkari devotees of Bhagwaan Vitthal in Maharashtra. [You can look up more on these online - a lot of information is available on Wikipedia and blogs about these] Gyan Yoga means that one can achieve salvation by gaining knowledge

The good things about Covid-19 outbreak

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus - Mumbai Unprecedented Lockdown Its been a month and 10 days of the lockdown here in India, an attempt to contain the outbreak of Covid-19; the deadly virus which has engulfed the whole world and caused the death of thousands - possibly the most deaths mankind has seen in a span of few months since the Second World War. [I mean this only in the global context though, locally we have had wars, calamities and similar viral outbreaks which have outnumbered Covid-19.] As the founder of a travel startup, I was initially terribly shaken at how life has been thrown completely out of gear by this deadly virus. Travel is the worst affected sector; suddenly 2020 which we had planned to be the 'explosive growth' year for us has thrown us into an existential crisis. The situation has taken such a wild turn that I've grown comfortably numb only shifting the timeline of our 'explosive' growth to the next calendar year [or potentially even furt

We are living in a dystopian world!

As I sipped my cutting cup of of tea at the tea stall, I couldn't but help notice the guffaws of the sabzi waala (vegetable vendor) sitting right next - from what I could overhear in the cacophony of street traffic, he was watching some Bhojpuri standup comedy. The chai waala (tea vendor) noticed my scrutiny of his neighbour, smiled and then said: Jio ने सबको बीज़ी कर दिया है! ग्राहक आए या ना आए - ये अपना भोजपुरी इन्टरटेंमेंट में ही लगा रहता है! 😆  With the economic headwinds strong, and no sight of respite - it amused me to notice the scene I was in. The poor vendor was not disappointed or dejected; he wasn't looking forward to his job or future either - notably, food inflation has remained at its lowest levels in the last few years due to efforts of Modi government and the vegetable vendor has surely not had or expected higher earnings. Other forms of inflation - housing, transport (fuel) etc - are moderate and hence his savings, if he has any, would not have grown,  r