The axiomatic method: its origin and purpose

This article is written by Prof. S. D. Agashe. I greatly enjoyed it when I was a graduate student in department. I hope, some of you will enjoy reading this too.

Euclidean geometry and the axiomatic method

Euclid’s Elements constitutes the earliest extant substantial presentation of a body of material in the axiomatico-deductive form . Through it the subject of geometry got permanently associated with axiomatico-deductive formulation which was then viewed as a method, so much so that the expression ‘more geometrico’ (the geometric way) became synonymous with axiomatico-deductive formulation. Thus arose the general belief, especially in methodological quarters, that Euclid’s Elements and, in particular, Euclid’s geometry were merely instances of the application of a previously thought out/discovered/known method, and, thus, that the axiomatico-deductive method existed prior to the axiomatico-deductive formulation of geometry. Using Euclid’s Elements as my principal evidence, I want to suggest that the true state of affairs is the other way round. The axiomatico-deductive formulation of geometry emerged out of a successful attempt- most probably by some of Euclid’s predecessors – to solve some geometrical problems. Once this was done, it was seen by these geometers and also, of course, by Euclid as an instrument of open-ended discovery. Only, then, could the germs of a method be seen in it. My view of the genesis of the axiomatic method emboldens me to suggest further that in general a method, which is something consciously conceived, arises as the result of reflection on an activity that is already being pursued ‘intuitively’. Again, once the method is consciously conceived, it can engender new activity being pursued consciously in accordance with the method, i.e. methodically.

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The curious case of happiness

What good is happiness if it cannot buy you money!

                                 – Attributed to Zsa Zsa Gabor

In 2008, New Scientists, summarized the results of a survey covering 65 nations to show the largest proportion of happy people lived in, of all places, in Nigeria, followed by Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and Puerto Rico. Last year, some other survey identified Bangladesh as the happiest country in the world, and perhaps a year or two before that, it was Vanuatu (heard the name before?). Going by Human Development Index, one can argue that they should be among the least happy nations on the planet. They say that money does not make people happy and they also seem to say that poverty does not make anyone sad; perhaps it makes them happier. What are those ingredients these surveyors thought essentials for happy life? These Ingredients can be measured, compared and contrasted!

Continue reading “The curious case of happiness”

Comparing Left and Right Politics

Following table is an outcome of notes taken for sole purpose of generalising Left and Right politics. Left politics is usually confused with ideology of some political parties. Such views of politics in popular media are confusing if not contradictory. The distinction made between Left and Right was of French origin where the Left is called “the party of movement” and the Right “the party of order”. To be sure, there is no black-and-white distinction between these two political culture. It is often the case that a Right wing party takes a Leftist stand on one issue and a Left-wing party takes Rightist stand on another. However there are differences between these two culture which can not be denied.

In India, parenting and childcare is not perceived as something which can have socio-political colours. We include it here. In our media, the idea of politic is poorly debated. The popular belief – that ‘politics is what a politician does’ – is widespread. It should not be surprising since the idea of ‘politics’ is often confused with its Hindustani word ‘Rajneeti’ (codes of ruling).

Left Politics Version 0.6 Right Politics



Progressive, Liberal Overall Nature Conservative, Traditional
Looks to the Future
Looks to the Past
Egalitarian
Meritocracy
Idealism
Pragmatism
Equality
Equity
Holier than thou
Political Discourse Self Congratulatory



Regulated Economy Economy and Trade Deregulated Economy
Industry and Business
Business and Industry
Fair Trade Prefer Free Trade
Tax and Govt. Spend
Don’t Tax and Let Them Spend
Workers Support Employer
Farmers
Corporates
Personal Freedom
Economic Freedom
Society Focus on Individuality



Interfere Society and Culture Don’t Interfere
Community based on ethics
Community based on morals
Inclusive, Multicultural, Evolving
Exclusive, Established, Nationalistic
The world must be improved
Protect good things
Utopianism, (R)Evolution
Preservation, Status Quo



Better Ethics Parenting Better Morals
Nurturing Love Parents Shows Strict Love
Empathy and Moral Diversity Parents Instill Moral Strength and Absolutes
Self Nurturing Child should be Self Reliant
Learning Education is about Skills
Ask Questions Education Motivates to Succeed
Co-operate
Compete
Relate Child should Learn to Compete
Create potential Education must instill morals
Service to People Vocation Authority
Teacher
Judge
Scientist
Business
Professor
Stockbroker
Architect
Military
Media
Police




Beliefs
Scientific, unconventional Religion Theistic, conventional
Others must observe Rights Others must not interfere
Social and Economic Victim Criminal By Choice
Victim of System Homeless No Shame
Lack Opportunity
No Work Ethics
Protect minority Citizen Immigration Control
Equality Society Freedom
One for all and all for one Motto Each to their own
Is level playing field Equality Is opportunity
Is Freedom from Abuse and Power Freedom Is the Chance to Achieve or Fail



Equality Preference Freedom to Succeed
Diplomacy
Aggression
Pacifism
Militancy
Doves
Hawks



Fairness Vote for Upholding Order
Who can’t help themselves Help Those Who can help themselves
Positive Role Models Strong
Downtrodden Champions of Opportunity


Dilawar

Obesity : Killer combination of fat, sugar and salt

In 2010, Guardian published an article written by Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) commissioner Dr. David Kessler. This article is no longer on Guardian since their copyright on it has expired.  A simple googling will still reveal some other sources. SOME EXCERPTS:

THE LIE

For years I wondered why I was fat. I lost weight, gained it back, and lost it again – over and over and over. I owned suits in every size. As a former commissioner of the FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration), surely I should have the answer to my problems. Yet food held remarkable sway over my behaviour.

MORE LIES

The latest science seemed to suggest being overweight was my destiny. I was fat because my body’s “thermostat” was set high. If I lost weight, my body would try to get it back, slowing down my metabolism till I returned to my predetermined set point.

SOME FACTS

But this theory didn’t explain why so many people, in the US and UK in particular, were getting significantly fatter. For thousands of years, human body weight had stayed remarkably stable. Millions of calories passed through our bodies, yet with rare exceptions our weight neither rose nor fell. A perfect biological system seemed to be at work. Then,
in the 80s, something changed.

During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the  United States. What had happened to add so many millions of  pounds to so many millions of people? Certainly food had become more  readily available, with larger portion sizes, more chain restaurants and a culture that promotes out-of-home eating. But having food available doesn’t mean we  have to eat it. What has been driving us to overeat?  

A REASON

“Higher sugar, fat and salt make you want to eat more.” I had read this in scientific literature, and heard it in conversations with  neuroscientists and  psychologists. But here was a leading food  designer, a Henry Ford of  mass-produced food, revealing how his industry operates. To protect his business, he did not want to be identified, but he was remarkably candid, explaining how the food industry creates dishes to hit what he  called the “three points of the compass”. 

The ultra-high levels of fat make food easier to chew, whereby faster bypasses normal feelings of satiation. People addicted to the such foods tend to  gorge. Sugar, fat and salt make a food compelling. They stimulate  neurons, cells that trigger the brain’s reward system and release dopamine, a  chemical that motivates our behaviour and makes us want to eat more. Many of us have what’s called a “bliss point”, at which we get the greatest  pleasure from sugar, fat or salt. Combined in the right way, they make a product  indulgent, high in “hedonic value”.

So when McDonald ad says, “I am loving it”. For once, they are not lying.

****

During the past two decades, there has been an explosion in our ability to access and afford what scientists call highly “palatable” foods. *By palatability, they don’t just mean it tastes good: they are referring primarily to its capacity to  stimulate the appetite. * Restaurants sit at the epicentre of this explosion, along with an ever-expanding range of dishes that hit these three compass points. Sugar, fat and salt are either loaded into a core ingredient (such as  meat, vegetables, potato or bread), layered on top of it, or both. Deep-fried tortilla chips are an example of loading – the fat is contained in the chip itself. When it is smothered in cheese, sour cream and sauce, that’s layering.

****

Combined in the right way, sugar, fat and salt act like a drug. They stimulate neurons, cells that trigger the brain’s reward system and release dopamine, a chemical that makes us want to eat more. Take Kentucky Fried Chicken. My source called it “a premier example” of putting more fat on our plate. KFC’s approach to battering its food results in “an optimised fat pick-up system”. With its flour, salt, MSG, maltodextrin, sugar, corn syrup and spice, the fried coating imparts flavour that touches on all three points of the compass while giving the consumer the perception of a bargain – a big plate of food at a good price.

****

Initially, KFC meals were built around a whole chicken, with a pick-up surface that contained “an enormous amount of breading, crispiness and brownness on the surface. That makes the chicken look like more and gives it this wonderful oily flavour.” Over time, the company began to realise there was less meat in a chicken nugget compared with a whole chicken, and a greater percentage of fried batter. But the real breakthrough was popcorn chicken. “The smaller the piece of meat, the greater the percentage of fat pick-up,” said the food designer. “Now, we have lots of pieces of a cheaper part of the chicken.” The product has been “optimised on every dimension”, with the fat, sugar and salt combining with the perception of good value virtually to guarantee consumer appeal.

****

This kind of food disappears down our throats so quickly after the first bite that it readily overrides the body’s signals that should tell us, “I’m full.” The food designer offered coleslaw as an example. When its ingredients are chopped roughly, it requires time and energy to chew. But when cabbage and carrots are softened in a high-fat dressing, coleslaw ceases to be “something with a lot of innate ability to satisfy”.

****

This isn’t to say that the food industry wants us to stop chewing altogether. It knows we want to eat a doughnut, not drink it. “The key is to create foods with just enough chew – but not too much. When you’re eating these things, you’ve had 500, 600, 800, 900 calories before you know it.” Foods that slip down don’t leave us with a sense of being well fed. In making food disappear so swiftly, fat and sugar only leave us wanting more.

****

According to food consultant Gail Vance Civille, of management consultants Sensory Spectrum, fat is crucial to this process of lubrication, ensuring that a product melts in the mouth. In the past, she says, Americans typically chewed food up to 25 times before it was swallowed; now the average American chews 10 times. “If I have fat in there, I just chew it up and whoosh! Away it goes,” she says. “You have a ‘quick getaway’, a quick melt.

A deep fried Snickers bar, another popular American treat. The Snickers bar, Civille says, is “extraordinarily well engineered”. Unlike many products whose nuts become annoyingly lodged between your teeth, the genius of Snickers is that as we chew, the sugar dissolves, the fat melts and the caramel picks up the peanut pieces, so the entire candy is carried out of the mouth at the same time. “You’re not getting a build-up of stuff in your mouth.”

****

The complexity of the stimulus increases its association to a reward. Elements of that complexity include tastes that are familiar and well liked, and the learning associated with having had a pleasurable experience with the same food in the past. When layers of complexity are built into food, the effect becomes more powerful. Sweetness alone does not account for the full impact of a fizzy drink – its temperature and tingle, resulting from the stimulation of the trigeminal nerve by carbonation and acid, are essential contributors as well.

“The complexity of the stimulus increases its association to a reward,” says Gaetano Di Chiara, an expert in neuroscience and pharmacology at the University of Cagliari in Italy. Elements of that complexity include tastes that are familiar and well liked, especially if not always readily available, and the learning associated with having had a pleasurable experience with the same food in the past.

****

In theory there’s a limit to how much stimulation rewarding foods can
generate. We are supposed to habituate – to neuroadapt. When Di Chiara
gave animals a cheesy snack called Fonzies, the levels of dopamine in
their brains increased. Over time, habituation set in, dopamine levels
fell and the food lost its capacity to activate their behaviour.

But if the stimulus is powerful enough, novel enough or administered
intermittently enough, the brain may not curb its dopamine response.
Desire remains high. We see this with cocaine use, which does not
result in habituation. Hyperpalatable foods alter the landscape of the
brain in much the same way.

I asked Di Chiara to study what happens after an animal is repeatedly exposed to a high-sugar, high-fat chocolate drink. When he’d completed his experiment, he sent me an email with “Important results!!!!” in the subject line. *He had shown that dopamine response did not diminish over time with the chocolate drink. There was no habituation.

Novelty also impedes habituation, and intermittency is another driver. Give an animal enough sugar-laden food, withdraw it for the right amount of time, then provide it again in sufficient quantities, and dopamine levels may not diminish.

Rewarding foods are rewiring our brains. As they do, we become more sensitive to the cues that lead us to anticipate the reward. In that circularity lies a trap: we can no longer control our responses to highly palatable foods because our brains have been changed by the foods we eat.

I wanted to know how much the industry understood about how the food we eat affects us; about what I have termed “conditioned hypereating” – “conditioned” because it becomes an automatic response to widely available food, “hyper” because the eating is excessive and hard to control. I turned to Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics.

“Does the industry know that what it feeds us gets us to eat more?” I asked. The industry has jacked up what works for it,” Stiglitz said. “The learning is evolutionary.” Practical experience has been its guide – it does not need lab rats when it can try out its ideas on humans. Its decision-makers do not have to analyse human brain circuitry to discover what sells.” There’s still a lot we don’t know about the relationship between the dopamine-driven motivational system and our behaviour in the presence of rewarding foods. But we do know that foods high in sugar, fat and salt are altering the biological circuitry of our brains. We have scientific techniques that demonstrate how these foods – and the cues associated with them – change the connections between the neural circuits and their response patterns.
 
****

XXXXXlearned a basic lesson: make enticing food easily and constantly available, keep it novel, and people will keep coming back for more. With food available in almost any setting, “the number of cues, the number of opportunities”* to eat have increased, while the barriers to consumption have fallen, says David Mela, senior scientist of weight management at the Unilever Health Institute. “The environmental stimulus has changed.”

Of course, when food is offered to us, we’re not obliged to eat it. When it’s on the menu, we don’t have to order it. But this takes more than willpower. As an individual, you can practise eating the food you want in a controlled way. As a society, we can identify the forces that drive overeating and find ways to diminish their power. That’s what happened with the tobacco industry: attitudes to smoking shifted. Similar changes could be brought about in our attitudes to food – by making it mandatory for restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus; by clear labelling on food products; by monitoring food marketing. But until then few of us are immune to the ubiquitous presence of food, the incessant marketing and the cultural assumption that it’s acceptable to eat anywhere, at any time.

Call it the “taco chip challenge” – the challenge of controlled eating  in the face of constant food availability. “Forty years ago, you might face the social equivalent of that taco chip challenge once a month. Now you face it every single day,” Mela said. “Every single day and  every single place you go, those foods are there, those foods are cheap, those foods are readily available for you to engage in. There is constant, constant opportunity.”

UPDATE :

In U.S. McDonalds was asked to put calories in its menu which it  did. There has been some hostility towards it in government. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/sep/14/us-health-ad-targets-m…  Now, McD is aiming towards India and other countries where lack of knowledge and pressure to emulate Western culture is significantly high. India media has taken a agnostic view over it alltogether. Partly due to ‘no one care’, and mostly due to ‘advertisements’ revenues.

END NOTES :
[1] A few indian newspaper have devoted space for food related issues.
Though there are not mainstream. I am a reader of Hindu so my knowledge about other papers are limited. Hindu has been writing about ‘salt intake’
http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/article62167.ece  which increases blood pressure and causes heart attacks.

[2] In India, emphasis of public debate has been on ‘food security’. Nothing
much is available in learned journal about the ‘food policies of gov. of India’.


Dilawar

An excerpt from a journalist’s story

Aman [Brigadier Amanullah, secretary to Benazir Bhutto and former chief of Pakistan’s military intelligence in Sind, bordering India] noticed me looking at the painting and followed my gaze. …

“A rocket ship heading to the moon?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “A nuclear warhead heading to India.”

I thought he was making a joke. … I told Aman that I was disturbed by the ease with which Pakistanis talk of nuclear war with India.

Aman shook his head. “No,” he said matter-of-factly. “This should happen. We should use the bomb.”

“For what purpose?”

He didn’t seem to understand my question.

“In retaliation?” I asked.

“Why not?”

“Or first strike?”

“Why not?”

I looked for a sign of irony. None was visible…

“We should fire at them and take out a few of their cities — Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta,” he said. “They should fire back and take Karachi and Lahore. Kill off a hundred or two hundred million people… and it would all be over. They have acted so badly toward us; they have been so mean. We should teach them a lesson. It would teach all of us a lesson. There is no future here, and we need to start over. So many people think this. Have you been to the villages of Pakistan, the interior? There is nothing but dire poverty and pain. The children have no education; there is nothing to look forward to. Go into the villages, see the poverty. There is no drinking water. Small children without shoes walk miles for a drink of water. I go to the villages and I want to cry. My children have no future. None of the children of Pakistan have a future. We are surrounded by nothing but war and suffering…”[1]

END NOTES :
[1] Peter Landesman, ‘The Agenda: A Modest Proposal From the Brigadier: What one Prominent Pakistani thinks his Country should do with its Atomic Weapons’, The Atlantic Monthly, March 2002. Quoted in Ashish Nandy, “Narcissism and despair.” There is more on this but putting later part of his argument here will weaken the central point he was making.

Trust and Indian Society : A very short note

‘Game theory’ has it’s most unforgiving situation known as ‘grim’. If two parties A and B are dealing with each other under some norms and if one of them breaks these norms then other once can accept ‘grim’ i.e. B will never do business with A again or vice versa. This is very much established that ‘trust’ is the prime factor among the individuals and organizations which enables them to do business together smoothly. Game theory tries/should try its best to predict how the situation will turn out to be under the changing dynamics of trust.

It is also being established that societies in which ‘trust’ among people is higher are better off (see works of Partha Dasgupta). In relationships, trust is perhaps one of the most important factor a sustainable relationships. In low-trust society, people generally do not accept grim. The first few instances of trust-breaking serves as eye opener rather than something enough for accept ‘grim’. They think, “We’ll be careful next time.” In these societies, breaking trust does not attract as big a penalty as it could have attracted in the land of puritans. For instance, if one cheats on his/her life partner, other generally does not ask for divorce (a situation of ‘grim’ here). They might easily become careful, vigilant etc but they do not go for the most extreme. While puritans will cry inside himself/herself and will not get satisfied without asking for the extreme penalty i.e. divorce. Which by the a way is the most suitable option for him/her. A puritan (with high and non-negotiable set of ethics) just can’t live with compromises. This may or may not make his/her life easier or his/her behavior might not be approved by the society per se but …

In India, southern states must be having a higher level of trust among them than the northern counterparts. Cases of road rages in outer Delhi at any given day can easily surpass the whole of the Tamilnadu. Well this may be an overstated argument. I have lived in Delhi and Chennai.

Indian corporate media has played and is playing a very grim role in decaying the whatever trust we have between our teenagers of different genders. Most of the stories/news we see in media are generally are the stories where the trust is being broken. The graphic details of these incidence as well as the hypes by media increases the suspicion among the young girls and boys and this is more acute in girls since they are at the receiving ends, mostly. Though this is the job of media to report the incidents but the priorities and the restrain from making is spicy is missing. We too like to read them hence a vicious cycle is made. The assholes on the street demand drugs so the gentleman sells them. If you argue with him why he is selling drugs to them then you know, He is a nice guys, the assholes on the street demand it, what can he do?
 

The social dynamics plays a crucial part in an individual life if one like/is tempted to be a part of it. In society which is approved of compromising behavior (like easy on corruption or violence), a life of a puritan may be really hard.  This is a well established observation that any system is not kind for non-complying entities. In Indian Police, by and large, a non-corrupt policeman is a laughing stock. In a same way, a capitalist is a thing to ridicule among the Marxists. A hardworking farmer may be considered fools by entrepreneurs. But these are the larger pictures and need careful attention of a sociologist.


Dilawar

Indian Middle Class : A rant

March 24, 2010.

Who is middle class?

Definitions are the most important thing to ponder when one tries to bring about an idea. India was able to define herself when she was liberated, thanks to a number of thoughtful scholars she produced. Pakistan was not fortunate enough. He never had a definition of his own. To define himself, He needs to define India first and then He declares, “I am whatever she is not.” That is his biggest misfortune. It seems that He may commit suicide if India choose to depart. In economic matters, India is witnessing a similar tendency vis a vis China. Her planners always invoke China first to define her financial goals. China has defeated us again. This time rather badly and much deeply.
I am not a journalist, sociologist or economist. I define Indian middle class as “a collection of ‘citizens’ of India who have much more resources than most of the Indian have. These resources which I am concerned here are capital or monetary. In a very simple way, a citizen belongs to this class if she earns more than 10 times of per capita income.”  Let’s define the ‘other’ now. Who is not in middle class?
According to Indian government own data 770 million Indians (3 out of 4) earns less than Rs 20 a day – enough to buy a bottle of 1 liter bottled water  and one cup of tea from a road-side tea stall. Still government says that only 33% Indians are below poverty line. Indian middle class has come to believe that the number of poor has gone down significantly since 1980’s.  We’ll get to this.  Lets do the tough thing of definition first. So I define, 80% of Indian do not belong to middle class from any point of view. According to FICCI, only 1.12% Indians has any stake in stock market – this includes the uppermost section of middle class and ‘riches’.  Almost 10% of them are big or medium size investors. We define them as ‘rich’. That leaves us with about 20% of Indians who earns more than Rs 1500 per month.  But with that much of earning, I don’t think that they are eligible to be in middle class. Almost half of them must be poor and given the obscene food prices, they must be struggling to cope with family life.
So roughly, about 10% of Indians is middle class. That is 100 million, larger than any European county, save Russia. Still a giant!
Middle Class: A bird view
My encounter with this class is rather new. First 16 years of my life I’ve spent, were in a village which mostly have poor people and lower-middle class farmers. I was born in lower-middle-class – still much fortunate than 95% of kids. A family of six was earning less than Rs 5000 a month and growing its own food. Actually, for a famer monthly salary has no meaning, there is a harvest time and no one can be sure when the sugar-mill will pay them their own money. There are cash crops like rice and wheat which can be sold in local market. Fortunately if you ran out of money, you don’t have to commit suicide; you can eat rice and wheat. But our poor brothers who grows BT-cotton (supported vehemently by the white collar middle class rather than the farmers) and have more lands than us committing suicide since they can not digest it. Even their cattle dies if they eat it. If farmers in wheat and rice belt are not committing suicides, does not matter that ‘all is fine there!”. The suicide rate among farmers is alarming if not life threatening, with a rate of one suicide per 30 minutes. In the same time government gives Rs 30 crores to much-much well off citizen as corporate subsidy (or should I call it incentives)! After Government was embarrassed by P. Sainath and likes, then there was a loan waiver. In India, and perhaps elsewhere also, poor never gets whatever is rightly theirs. In fact, poor never gets support as the citizen of this nation. Government and others behave like they are doing a pity on them. There is a layer of middle class in between the money and the poor.  While a section of middle class eats poor’s money, upper section of this class feels really bad about it and blame government and politicians for corruption. Then the question arises whether it is really government money or snatched away from poor in systematic manners.
For last 6 years, I am doing my field study with this upper section of middle class – as an undergraduate and postgraduate engineering student and now as a working engineer. In academics, middle class students are easy to read since they express themselves quite openly (and often, quite verbosely) during their student life. There is no fear of retaliation for almost all of them are from a same class and you can not find more homogenous ideas than that which can be found on educational institutes of India. If poor Indians make group when they migrate to work outside, intellectuals do the same to either to avoid penetrative opposition. If you see the pattern of ideas among a group of Bihar’s migrant laborers or among the students of most of the educational institutes (save politically charged campuses like JNU), both of the groups will have certain homogenous patterns. It is almost impossible to survive in an Indian group with a different pattern of thoughts. It may be true for other countries.
Middle Class: Its Education
“Education, you must die if the soul purpose of yours is jobs.” – Indian National  Poet, Methli Sharan Gupt 
A crucial ingredient in building individual psychology is the education one receives. This is perhaps the second most important factor after family (and local society) since these days, young girls and boys spend much more time on campuses then they used to be.[2] The most prominent and powerful section of this class is generally enrolls in professional courses, such as engineering, management, commerce etc. Professional courses are notorious for their lack of social awareness and people who are highly trained in these skills, find it hard to attach with other individual. My own experience was that professors of pure sciences, in general, were much more sympathetic and polite than the teachers of engineering subjects.  In fact, this class seems to be very hostile towards the humanities, social sciences and arts. HSS departments in Indian universities are the last to receive funds as well as students from merit list. The irony, the best university in India in research output, Indian Institute of Science, never had a department of social sciences (Now it hosts NIAS)
It was really crass if not obscene to see the professors of IIT/IIM’s protesting like much hated ‘labor unions’ for higher wages even after sixth pay commission. True, others earn much more but they do not get that kind of independence and peace in life which an academic institute can provide. In IIT Bombay, my institute in post graduation, as well a prominent Indian university, used to boast that it had produced the largest number of millionaire in the world. Perhaps, IIT’s are the only (great?)Institutes in the world who takes pride in their students (almost UG’s) who has an abysmal and declining record in being actively attached to the IIT’s non-financial well being, rather than the scholarly performance of its professors or its Ph.D.s. These are few things other great universities cherish. This not to say they are not good institutes, they have produced a large technical pool which played its part in creating jobs in India (really?). Awesome thing to do in India any day. But they have been on back-foot lately given the behavior of their students cutting across all the department and courses. Its UG’s, much celebrated by Times of India and its PG, much ridiculed on campus, seem to have nothing to support their mental supremacy, if any, other than their fat pay packages – mostly in non-technology field. They are fast becoming a consumer of jobs rather than the producers. If the pattern in the past was different, I do not know. While this is also true that in 50 years its hard to produce a Bose or Raman, but the way they are going, its hard to see if they can produce professors like they have produced. Most of the young professors joining the IIT’s are simply pathetic, either can not explain things or do not have enthusiasm for the teaching. But these are only particular examples, to get a view of complete picture; we have to look back in history.
Indian universities are very young institutes and going through changes (mostly bad) as almost all of universities had gone through sometimes during their lifetime. Unlike western universities, at the time of inceptions, who used to grant admission only to a certain class (baronis filius (sons of noblemen), equities filius (sons of knights), armigeri filius (sons of esquires), generosi filius (sons of gentlemen), plebe filius (sons of commoners), and clerici filius (sons of clergymen) and no daughter of anyone, Indian universities were quite open to all [2]. First Indian universities were stabilized in 1857 in the three presidency capitals of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras and they took the London’s university their model – teaching based rather than research based [3]. Since teaching is largely the dissemination of the common wisdom of that time, we see the same pattern these days for research seem to be very alien to most of the Indian universities. The products of these universities sing the same tunes. As someone has argued that the job of universities is to support and nourish radical ideas no matter how different they are from outside world, rather than putting the established things into the brain of its habitat. Not surprising, that for few people who really come to learn, their education is stopped once they join a school. And I still have to meet someone from middle class who claims that (s)he is more intelligent or sharper after joining a university. 
Poor people when gets educated seems to enjoy and cherish it the most. Indian universities did a remarkable job by keeping the price low – with state support – and hence a lot of people were able to get educated which would otherwise been impossible. This class seems to support the view of National Knowledge Commission that the fees of university should be raised. Why? When demand increases, prices should rise! Why? May be, so that no ugly (poor) looking girl or boy can even try to join them. It can not be supply-demand curve insinuating this price rise. Education is not like production of oil which can not be increased easily. 
Though we have a lot of universities, India’s prominent universities can only accept 1-2% of the applications they receive (Worldwide, top notch university are able to accommodate 10-15%). Writing his ‘statement of purpose’ a batch-mate of mine joked, “What should I write on SOP? That, since I am not getting a seat in a good Indian college, I am applying here.” Resources are not limited in education as in the case of milk. Education can be produced as demands soars. True, professional education needs more money but what about primary and secondary education? And my dear educated friend, what could be the best place other than education to invest public money? Missiles and bombs?
Given the per capita income of India, Indian education is at the verge of being declared costly. Only JNU, Himachal Pradesh University are the central universities which could maintain their fees at the same level. Both of the universities have a very active student life especially in political debates. In JNU, during the elections, you can get killed by the contesters talking only, the most democratic way to conduct elections where every voice is heard. But these kinds of elections are not supported by state. Lately, Lyndoh commission banned the elections on JNU. But election commission has nothing to do when money and liquor is distributed during the general elections. And if you ask a middle class student about it, student politics is bad! Why? Well… ummm… politics is dirty (unless they do it?)!
Once the great university of Bombay, Kolkata and Delhi are now reduced to regional colleges. This process was supported by middle class consumers and its intellectuals alike since it was beneficial for them. The intellectuals who ridicule the low rating of Indian universities on the ground that they give too much credit to foreign students present on the campuses fails to acknowledge why great universities around the world put a lot of premium on cultural diversities on their campuses. In fact, the best universities around the world have the habit of having faculty from different nations. In India, universities are very slow to change. Bu themselves, they do not do anything. Whenever government try to bring about something, look them being so active discussing the ills of the change. The rule should have been, “Innovate or perish.”
Giving a state quota is nothing less a regional reservation. Mandal I and Mandal II touch the deepest chord among the majority of middle class (mostly from upper caste). While the regional pattern is so acute in our institutes and very much the doing of middle class, caste based reservation is not supported by the same middle class since it is not good for their own benefits (How many low-caste belongs to middle class?). The pinnacle of completions, IIT/IIM’s knows very well in advance how  many students  will come from Delhi, how many from Kota, How many from Bomaby Sanil M. N., an alumnus of university of Hyderabad, has information to share, “According to journalist S. Anand, ‘ironically enough, some of the beneficiaries of reservation in education were the Brahmins. In Madras Presidency College, the British Administration noted that the most natives (only upper caste that time) failed to clear the final examinations in second division (40% marks that time). To ensure that more candidate passed, a third division (33% marks) was introduced in the mid-nineteenth century.’ Now descendent of these incompetent upper caste who benefitted from initial reservation today celebrate the value of merit, while attempting to deprive Dalit students of such reservations.”[5] 

In spirit, he is not wrong. He could be in letters, since reservation is not relaxation of marks. The anti-reservation stand is very selfish. A state Tamilnadu has a long history of giving reservation (69%,  before Mandal II). One could have expected that in Chennai, you will see same kind opposition what we saw on AIIMS. It was the most mindless agitation I have ever seen. In Tamilnadu, the difference between GEN and ST categories marks are now is as low as 10% in 2005. This difference has vanished between GEN and OBC a long ago. It does not matter now. My advice is to upper caste dudes and dudettes, “stop cribbing and start living!”

Enough about professional courses lets go to humanities and art studies. Martha C. Nussbaum, a professor of gender and ethical studies at University of Chicago has this to say, “.. I fear that many democracies around the world including our own [India], are gone down this road, through a lack of emphasis on the humanities and arts and an unbalanced emphasis on profitable skills. Europe has already moved a long way down this road. US has some resilience still, thanks to tradition of local control in public education and thanks to a liberal art system at the university level that sends a message to school that all children should come to university with a broad-based preparations in the humanities….
… The humanities and arts are not the idle entertainments. Even in business world, at least within its top leaderships, it is generally recognized that success depends on cultivating businessmen and businesswomen who are both imaginative, ready to innovate and envisage new possibilities, and also critical, willing to blow the whistle on an ineffective or corrupt corporate culture… [4]
In India, these are the qualities a university seeks to kill. Can you find a program in sociology in Indian Institute of Management (save Kolkata)? IIM’s boast themselves in producing great managers of future while ignores the fact that they are being used by the top management of the firms. No examination in business (and in life) life comes with 4-5 options and a guarantee and one will work. In fact, their job seems to do the same thing. Given 4 options, pick the best. May be someone from IIM would like to comment on this, if (s) he has read till here. 
In India, the middle class puts a lot of premium on profitable skills. The over obsession of Indian schools (middle class schools) with PCM (Physics, Chemistry and Math) and PCB (B for Biology, others same) has done a lot of harm to the education sector well being of India since the products of these schools are in the prominent public services who finds its very hard to digest that India is that much poor and different from their perceptions. They still seem to believe that Math is the ultimate test to judge a person I.Q., and there in no problem greater than their own.
Middle Class: Its thoughts
Politics : 1. The activities associated with governing a country or area, and with the relation between states. 2. A particular set of political belief. 3. Activities concerned with gaining or using power within an organization or group. – Pocket Oxford English Dictionary, XXI impression 2009
If one tells you that one is not political, one is the biggest liar. The one who claims to be apolitical has no hesitation in indulging in activities which will give him/her promotions. If someone is opposing a political view means he has one. In fact, it has been argued that the language evolved because it was a very useful tool in influencing others for one’s benefit, i.e. to do politics.
That the trinity (Indian Prime Minister, Indian Planning commission, and Indian Finance ministry) is pro-Indian middle class is a truism. If there was any doubt, it was removed by the budget-2010. Since the global reform started in the 1990’s we’ve seen an unprecedented growth in middle class purchasing power as well as their support to neo-liberalism. The hypothesis, that the Indian middle class is bigger and fatter than it used to be, and rather more hostile to poor of this country that it had ever been, seems to be justifiable given the pattern of its opinion in last 10-15 years.
First and foremost, middle class plays a dirty politics on poor people – mostly in pathetic ignorance. It is still struggling to come up with a number of poor people. Government own data says that 80% Indian are below Rs 50 a day. The official poverty line is Rs 14 in Mumbai and Delhi, lower in villages and still one third of India is poor by these standards. But middle class find is really hard to digest that this indeed is true. Some believes that India is going to be a superpower in next decade. You can have a section of it population flying around. It’s easy to put few of its citizens on Forbes list than pulling out 850 million of its citizen out of extreme poverty. [See government report on unorganized labor sector, Page 02.]
Basically, first question should have been put first. Who is poor? The Asian representative of UN has something to say on LOK SABHA TV on March 26, 2010. He says that after collecting the opinion of thousands of people in 50 countries the definition of poor is “The one who has no voice.” This is the main reason that they are poor. Else how could one explain the richest lands on India have the poorest people? During my university days I have heard a preaching like almost all of us who sometime speaks, “Either do or don’t speak.” But our problems are not made by us and we do not have police or judiciary on our side. Powerful people can do what you they like with all this power, they do not have to argue or speak. Poor can only speak!  And this is also not appreciated. It is still considered ill mannered to speak about your problem in front of a civil officer. And if they don’t want to listen to their misdoings, why would one not support Naxals – even of they have not bring about any change in people life other than the price of tendu leaves? Actually half of Indian districts are under Naxal control, this much might have not been possible without touching a deep nerve somewhere among the people – the promise of having a voice. They have killed far lesser number of people than Indian police does in its single district. But the voice has to be suppressed. For middle class media, Naxals mean Kishenji, not the tribal who is thrown away from his hut so the Vedanta and other corporate can use their lands. It chants ‘go and crush them’ not the debate on ‘why these people have taken up arms?’ Whom we seek to kill, “Aren’t they our own family member –even if they look ugly?”  
This is the same class who put a lot of premium of personal property but mocked at tribal’s right on their own land. Our home is our property but their forests are of government – and in the process, ours.
The voice is the thing that is denied by middle class to poor. The rich do the same with middle class. But since they are consumer and protector of the ruling elites from a hostile lower class, they have to be pleased by media who is run by the riches. Their interest will be kept safe by riches for they want to survive in power. Middle class seems control the 80% poor. If they protest, the middle class police are there. If they talk, middle class start preach a lot, sometimes with data, sometime with morality, sometimes with ethics; and most of the time in the name of ‘national interest’ and ‘development’. No newspaper of them talks about rural area in real terms, though a lot of them seem to make them believe that they are getting very rich. They are not interested in reality. They still believe that the last election had no issues at all when whole nation was burning with issues. The media is more concerned about Lakme fashion week in which model shows the clothes made by cotton rather than the cotton farmer committing suicide 300 km away from the same place. If P. Sainath was not born in this country, we would have not known any of it. How many newspaper have a rural-affair page, The Hindu got P. Sainath as its rural affair editor. Does your newspaper have any? Are you not interested in rural folks? What you like to read about, ABC (Advertisement, Bollywood, and Cricket/Corporate)?
The opinion is in favor of neo-liberalism. Globalization has been a success story in India and China. IMF and World Bank, impose this globalization on Africa and Latin America by citing Indian and Chinese example to loot them. The East Asian crisis and their misdeeds in African continent does not make them to believe that globalization has done a lot of harm in other countries and their policies have been really dirty.  Argentina and East Asian economy are back on their foot, after they refused to bow down to IMF. The same Stockholm-Chicago Express seems to be the train Indian middle class now wants to ride. Middle class markets are globalised but the poor’s wages are not globalised. Leave alone wages, even the basic facility like toilets are not provided at working sites. You should not be surprised if you find people relieving themselves in open in cities – a common site near one of the biggest mall in Noida, the great Indian place. There is construction going on in nearby Atta Market.
Unlike in East Asian countries, in India, labor wages are not indexed. If inflation raises the food prices, it does not increase the wages of laborer. With the prices rising, they start consuming less. So after a time, inflation eases out for a lot of people are eating less. Then comes the PM and FM to take credit that their policies are sound since inflation has reduced, our economy is better than other nation since they are having large inflation. It is not like that they do not know what is happening, but appeasement of the middle class is necessary for their very survival, else their newspaper like TOI and HT will go scathing. 
One could have expected from this budget that with the rising money, government will do something for poor people. Instead they reduced the taxes of well off citizen and increased the fuel prices. This will increase the food prices and the labor will eat lesser. Now come to the food-security-act, named to brain-wash the whole issue. First of all, who gives you right to food? I tell you. it’s the farmer who gives you right of food. Politicians can only take it away. Farmers of this nation are in stress and committing suicide (a crime, as Maharashtra CM told HT. Suicide is crime in India, if you do it they will make sure you don’t do it again, and if you survive somehow, then they will make sure you live to regret it.) So middle class and its political masters and its media play an obscene game. India has the largest food stock in the world. As Jeane Dreze pointed out, if you make a line by putting a grain by grain, this line will go to the moon and will come back. Same time 44% Indian children are undernourished or stunted and half of the women are amnesiac. Then how come you have such a large stock and at whose costs? The farmers who belong to middle class and have a strong political voice pressurize government for high minimum support price. So it’s the government who has to buy the grains. This could have been a tool in the hand of government to give foods to their citizens who are in dire need as well as to maintain a floor price for farmers. But alas, they are now killing the PDS (public distribution system). Rather than making a system like Tamilnadu they are going to release this grain in open market and promise poor people to give coupons to buy it. What an idea! The middle class think. Now let me unpack it.
Releasing this much of food in market will ease out the food prices in cities.  The middle class will be happy and it would be termed as a feather in the cap of this government. According to the government, the poor, if they are able to get the UID (unique identification number) of a BPL (below poverty line) will be given food-coupons. These food coupons can be exchanged in open market for food. Since no one will sell the food-coupons, Right to food is given. Q.E.D. The UID seems to be the panacea for all the ills. One should take the note if any of these kinds of system were successfully ‘implemented’ (e.g. Brazil and Mexico) they did not replace the already existing schemes. UID was an addition. There are a lot of studies states that this kind of sytem will put the money in the hand on the male member of the family. The children and the females will not get their share. It might end up in anything but food – e.g at liquor store. In fact the new scheme grants 120kg whereas PDS, in spirit, grants 130 kg. True the implementation of PDS is so bad (leave Tamilnadu) but the new scheme is also not a law so that poor can seek court help if the right to food is not granted by corrupt officials (again a middle class).
 
Everyone seems to believe that it’s the farmers (and bad monsoon) that are responsible for this food price rise. One thing one should understand that even if monsoon was bad, the prices could have not doubled or tripled. No one seems to worry about freezers are being imported into this country. These freezers are not given to farmers; one has to have more than 60 lacks of organization to get subsidy for these freezers. The farmers have to release their harvest as soon as possible in open market. They can not store it. Now comes in picture the middlemen, now going to be big corporate like TATA and Reliance. These guys will buy the food from government stock and they will sell them in the most beautifully designed packets.  Then, may be, we can have the richest man on the planet. Jai Ho!
Food prices concerns everyone since everbody needs to eat it. Recently corporate media took on the sellers of vegetable as they are responsible for this price rise. Now the target is that ugly lady with a vegetable basket on her head and with ever-hungry children. No one seems to wonder; of they are making so much money why they are still living on footpath?
As told by the mainstream media that the salary are on rise for last 10 years. For what purpose we need to earn. Consider the most basic necessities, roti, kapda and makan. We have talked about the roti (food). In kapda (clothes), you have choice. Makan (Home) is the next big thing. These days having a home is the costliest thing. Let alone buying, renting a decent accommodation will tell you how sufficient is your salary.
Middle Class: It’s family and the other half
If you look at a typical India family (all classes – I havn’t seen super rich families), there is utter disregard for independence and privacy of individuals. Power is not distributed but rather concentrated into a male member. Kerala has a different pattern at a very large scale. There are lot of family in which female is head of a family. Indian families are largely oppressive. Children are beaten by parents; wife is beaten up husbands (a new study shows a fast declining trends in approval of this among the male members). The right of free speech is not granted in family by the ‘alpha male’ to others. In this regard, middle class is much better than the poor class on India. The level of independence is maintained. This is not to say that this change is granted in spirit or because circumstance demand from it. Why they allow women to work outside is really due to their mind-set change or due to economic pressure? Or whether they send their young daughter for far away campuses with the belief that education is must of female or because there is pressure from ‘marriage market’?  Whatever is the reason, there are changes in middle class which should happen in lower class also. Thanks to ‘Doordarshan’ and ‘all India Radio’ reaches to the rural area which keeps them connected with the fast changing world. 
If someone believes that only literacy (education?) can solve the entire social problems, one can be mistaken. For example, some well of state of India, Haryana, Punjab are notorious for killing female fetus. In fact whole of the north India and west India kills their daughter. East and south India have a healthy male-female ratio. This is not to say they do not have missing females but they are much better off. India , as a whole is still better then China and Korea but fast catching up. (See, Amartya Sen : Men and Women – The argumentative Indians.)
One thing is more surprising that in Indian urban area, this ratio is lower than her rural area. Does it imply that Indian middle class is a bigger killer of girls (or just they have easy access to anti-female technology?).
This is true worldwide that poor people have sacred opinion about family and marriages. The number of divorce is much higher in Indian cities than in Indian villages.
If you look at the number of rapes in India, level of domestic violence, sexual abuse of children and mistreatment of poor people by police, one can easily claims that Indian do not have any feelings towards their females. Winston Churchill once called Hinduism a beastly religion. But for a evolving society and given a fact that society does not change overnight, once could have expected in last 50 years Indian could have evolved in some humanly directions. And with all of these money being put in a section of its population, once could have expected that now at least the better off citizen will be more ethical. Well, one should not expect morality from a hungry stomach!
True, that India has done some remarkable jobs like maintaining a democracy, a free press, women representation and an educational system which is working Ok. Democracy is showing its weakness these days, not in India only, worldwide – citizens faith in state is all time low. Free press had exploits the freedom granted to it by the founders of this nation, but there is hope for media for it is still a new phenomenon.
Indian women are a curious case. Such a huge country still has not produced a mother Teresa, or Anne Besant. The female politicians of India do not seem to be different from male counterpart for example Mayawati, Vasunhra Raje, Jayalalitha etc. If a female journalist is murdered, a female CM blames her for being over adventurist? The only one who seems to be concerned about poor Indian is an Italian, Sonia Gandhi who has worked very hard for NREGA, Right to food, 33% women reservation. Some leading feminist of India also have their issues with working class Indian females.
Middle Class: Abroad
I have no freaky idea. But there are reports that Indian are notorious abroad for their disregard for public hygiene, ogling over girls in public and reluctance to merge with the local community.

Middle Class: Its cinema
Perhaps this class could be best understood by its cinema. I have very few things to say here since I do not watch movies much. Whichever movies I have seen, I am going to draw my conclusions from there. When I was a kid, there was famous villain, Gullu mostly played by Gulshan Grover. This Gullu have certain features, US returned and have a habit of mistreating heroine of the movie.
For last 10 years, this Gullu is not longer a villain. All heroes are either US returned or too handsome (fair?) to be Indian, and what about mistreatment of heroine? You all watch movies. These days, The pressure to westernize (see, M.N. Srinivas, Social Change in Modern India for the concept of Sankritnisation and Westernization, do not take clues from name. Do read) it too much on Indian mind. A well stabilized actor Shahrukh Khan had to go to gym to get a six pack abs so he can be cherished by middle class youth – that too in last stage of his youth. Acting does not seem to be a big concern for them. 
There was a time when poor people found themselves on screen. Mother India, Purav and Paschim and a lot of stuff those days used to romanticize villages. This pattern is absent in Bollywood these days. They are not consumer of movies so no one makes a movie about them. But does that mean that middle class wants to see only themselves on screen? Surely, yes! True, there was a movie Swadesh, but it revolved around a US-returned guy while the village was set up to boost his character/image. Sometime we get sprinkles like ‘Welcome to Sajjanpur’.
If middle class taste in cinema is awesome then we could have seen the revival of Satyajit Ray – one of the remarkable film makers of 20Th century.
Middle Class: Selfish Giant? 

That the middle class is selfish was accused by many anthropologists around the world and India is no exceptions. But in India, all of the critics of this class belonged to this class only.

In India, you can not be sure when you will have a black out since production of power is less and power is scarce. One could have expected that the well of citizen will show their concerns here. But they buy ‘inverters’ rather than ‘solar panel’. An inverter is a device which stores power when electricity is available. So you have a middle class which is so ruthless for its own benefits that it ignores at whose cost this power is being stored – it does not add up any recourses. This pattern of ‘inverter rather than solar panel’ can be found in other sphere also.
Take education, the well of citizen could have used their influence to support the public education rather then putting their support for private hands. Now we see costliest and exclusive schools which are largely out of reach from 99% Indians. Had people shown enthusiasm in public participation in education, India’s record in education could have been much better. Government do not suffer from any popular pressure for improving primary education. It gives a huge expansion for university which it the castle of middle class. Who can survive village-primary-education? What about public health? They think that government hospitals are bad, but when there is a disaster (seemingly) like Swine Flu, they throng them.
And despite of all this every budget is termed as farmer friendly. This is the first line of budget speech and inside there is nothing farmer friendly. Gee.
The only sane party which talks about poor people and ground realities seems to be the much hated left parties. But interestingly, when they talk about the middle class problem also, suddenly the issue disappears from the right-wing media. They are more or less accused of being maintaining a slow growth and ignored for their social achievements like communist and Nair society contribution to Kerala Education. Kerala is state which has a life expectancy largest in India and equal to United States. Well, this has been established that if you hate someone and the same hated guy speaks in favour of some idea, the approval rating of this idea drops. These rating are found much higher if the hated-guy does not support them.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation about middle class is its most celebrated movie, “Three Idiots” which talks about rat race, don’t run after success, go for values  and other stuff. But in the end, it’s main character Rancho’s empathy for rural and poor Laddakh kids has to be judged by his US patents and being the head of a super big corporate (How, no one cared?). That’s what Indian middle class is all about – A class with double standards – rather obscene if not life threatening.
dilawar
[1] Dilawar’s own life.
[2] Rashdall, The Universities of Europe in middle ages, vol 1, p. 470. Available on Google book.
[3] Andre Beiteille, The pursuit of equality and Indian Universit : An essay. The Dhur memorial lecture 1980. Published in the book, “The idea of natural inequality and other essay’ by the same author.
[4] For full essay, read The little magazine, Volume VII, issue 3 and 4, pp 24.
[5] The little magazine, special issue on Reservation, ‘The die is caste’. Volume VI, issue 4&5. p97.