Recurring Decimals…..

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Wednesday morning double-takes

with 4 comments

There should be warning signs or alert notices with news such as these – otherwise when you are reading them way early in the morning, you are liable to spill the coffee.

First, via Slashdot, a story about the Kerala goverment ‘actively encouraging’ its schools to use Linux and other such free software instead of Microsoft products.

As part of a drive against “monopolistic” organizations, schools and public offices across the state are being encouraged to install free software systems instead of purchasing Microsoft’s Windows programs.

(via NYT, free reg’d required)
Now don’t get me wrong here, I hate Microsoft1 and love free stuff as much as the next guy, but its the reasoning that caused an inward gasp.

“It is well-known that Microsoft wants to have a monopoly in the field of computer technology. Naturally, being a democratic and progressive government, we want to encourage the spread of free software,” M. A. Baby, the state’s education minister, said by telephone.

This from a goverment that actively pursues monpoly of the state in every sphere of life and tries to stifle free market competetion.
(btw, cannot help but giggle at the name of the education minister. Imagine him at the cabinet swearing-in ceremony: “I, MA Baby,…..”)

Second, via Amit Varma, another example of ignorance and ineptness in the main stream media. Some dude named Stephen Thompson reviewing Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games for the Scotsman on Sunday begins with this gem:

There are certain books that are so similar to one another they almost beg to be grouped together. This is largely true of Indian novels. Look closely at the ones published in the past, say, 25 years, and you’ll see that they’re virtually identical, in theme if not in style and content.

For me, Midnight’s Children is indivisible from A Fine Balance, which in turn cannot be separated from A Suitable Boy. Directly or indirectly, all three books – and there are other notable examples – are concerned with the same thing: the state of Indian society in the wake of independence and partition.

As Varma says, the idiocy and the fallacy in these statements are pretty much self evident. Apart from nitpicking that Thompson should mention ‘Indian novels written in English’, given the vast repertoire of quality literature in other Indian languages, I could question how many of the so-called ‘Indian novels’ this guy has read. I am sure Chetan Bhagat’s ‘Five Point Someone’ (lacking as it might in literary merits) deals with post-partition trauma – actually I can see that – IITs came about after independance and so on 🙂 !

Moreover, has he ever bothered to read, at least the synopses, of the novels he cites as examples of being similar ? A Fine Balance deals with emergency and a particular section of Indian society, while A Suitable Boy and Midnight’s Children are much more sweeping temporally (not to mention the wholly different issues tackled in each of the latter novels). Additionally, if a novel is set in modern India, what the fug could it’s theme consist of if not independance and partition? Same as saying all mystery novels are about murder and such and all sci-fi novels are about the future. Of course, he also conveniently ignores Chandra’s own earlier epic ‘Red Earth and Pouring Rain‘.

Such use of broad brush strokes and sweeping generalizations could be construed as racism, as this person does. To me its plain laziness, combined with incompetence.

1: With Bill Gates recent philanthropic ventures, my MS hatred has become a bit muted.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 30, 2006 at 11:29 am

4 Responses

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  1. I hope you did not spill the expensive Star Bucks Coffee!

    heh. Great point about the kerela government, they don’t mind monopolies as long as it is state owned. 🙂

    And as Amit said, what happened to Byomkesh Bakshi?


    August 31, 2006 at 12:06 am

  2. I have often heard that Gates does the philantrophic work to balance the bad image that some of his business activity generates.

    As for linux, one appreciates the love of labor of the founders of linux but one wonders how far can one rely on free software and what is the reliablity in the future against various hazards. There is no free lunch and it is better to pay and be secure.


    August 31, 2006 at 1:17 pm

  3. man, dont even get me started on the absurdity of some of the things the kerala govt has to say. i saw an interview on Manorama TV with the agriculture minister here on the continued use of endosulfan even after it was banned two years ago. his response is “well we banned it, now its up to the sales tax authorities and border guys to make sure no one uses it”.

    also, you got to check out my story about SIDCO, the kerala small industries develoment corporation.

    If I Were Dictator

    September 4, 2006 at 4:12 am

  4. Btw, Baby is a very popular name in Kerala, it is also very likely that you will meet a husband and wife, both whose names are Baby.

    If I Were Dictator

    September 4, 2006 at 4:15 am

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