About doubleipa

college student.

Nutrition and The White Tiger

Nutrition, or lack thereof, has emerged as an aspect that divides rich and poor, high and low caste, in The White Tiger, and it reminded me of an article I recently read in The Economist. Well, rather than an article, it is more like a blog by their Asian correspondent, Banyan.

The article is titled “The Indian Exception,” and can be viewed here:


The article covers several of the same areas as the book: village/city; government graft; caste/tribal division; rural/urban.


On Today’s Class

I just wanted to expand on a couple of issues raised in class today.

First: Someone mentioned the income disparity between women and men. This is a fallacy of the highest order perpetuated for reasons self-serving to today’s feminists.

Let’s just say for the sake of argument that there are two generic recent graduates of Ohio State, one male, one female. They took the same classes, got the same grades, and graduated with the same degree. They apply for similar jobs and are hired at the same rate. All other variables being equal, they will make about the same amount over their lifetimes.

Still, though, there is an income disparity in favour of the generic male that is more than statistically significant. He will make more money over his lifetime according to the statistics. I think 33% more was mentioned. Well, that’s true, but with a major caveat.

The income disparity arises in the statistics when women who leave the work force to raise children are still included in the wages/lifetime calculus. In other words; women who are not seeking or available for wage earning are still included in the larger group of female wage earners. Of course the statistics are going to be skewed if our generic female graduate takes several years off to raise children. DUH. (That is not to say that raising kids is not work–VERY HARD WORK, indeed, and often thankless, so thank you moms. It’s just not wage earning work.)

If the group of women that are not seeking work and raising children are excluded from the calculus, the wages/lifetime disparity drops to about 1%; i.e., barely statistically significant. That then can be eliminated when the fact that women often seek jobs in the voluntary or public sector where wages are just plain lower than in the more competitive private sector.

Second: East vs. West in regard to women’s rights. I will frame this argument in a way that is topical and maybe easier, then, to understand.

The current state of politics in the US is fractious, toxic and not all that productive. The recent debate over the debt-ceiling is a good example. Not only was it totally fubar, but the rhetoric got pretty heated from both sides (I can’t wait to revisit it after the super committee makes its decisions–yay). Enter Barack Obama and his claim that “both sides are as much to blame” in the ruination of the US’s fiscal situation. Obviously this is not true, and without getting into the specifics, I think it is pretty clear that one side owns the greater share of the blame for creating the situation.

But he is playing the part of the conciliator. He was saying that blame ought to be shared equally so as to spare the other side the embarrassment of admitting they were wrong. It is an expedient, and probably moved the situation in the direction away from the disaster it could have been. So, hooray for conciliation.

I, however, am not above assigning blame where blame is due.

To relate it to our discussion about East v. West and women’s rights: I think everyone shared in the opinion that both East and West share equally in mistreatment of women.

Certainly if we were to take the last 2000 years and hold an imaginary graph of East and West women’s rights side by side, for nearly 2000 years they would be equal. In the interest of not unduly embarrassing either side, we say that both sides are equally deplorable.

I agree, but with a major caveat.

The above would be true if we ignore the last 50 years of Western history. By any metric of freedom: income; voting rights; abortion rights; agency; clothing choices; driving rights; etc., we can say with confidence that the West has by far outpaced the East in terms of women’s rights.

I also do not think that it is Orientalist to say so.

We also said that there are debates over in the East among Easterners about the same issues, and that it was ok for them to be self-critical because they are not thinking through an Orientalist lens, but for a Westerner to be critical is somehow negative and wrong. I think the criticism is right and valid in this case, and there is evidence to back up the argument. For the sake of women everywhere, it ought to be pointed out publicly.

So, that was probably offensive on many levels. Just to clarify, I am being intentionally provocative.

I would really like to hear your reactions and comments.

Interesting Article About Indian Industry

Here is an article from today’s New York Times about the rise of India’s entrepreneurial class and their close ties to the government.


The Indian government is embroiled in an ongoing corruption scandal that involves everyone from the prime minister Manmohan Singh on down to the lowly local dog catcher.

One quote from the article that I don’t quite agree with is; “India in the 21st century is now often compared to the United States during the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, when robber barons dominated the American economy.”

Certainly it is an apt comparison in that there is an oligarchical aspect to 21st century Indian industry. One could compare Carnegie to the Tata Brothers, or Guatam Adani to Henry Morrison Flagler, and I would not object.(Those of us in the US ought to familiarize ourselves with the Tatas, as I believe we will here more about them soon.)

Perhaps I am naive, but I’d like to think that worker’s conditions are better in 21st century India than they were in 19th century America, especially after the Bohpal disaster. Although scenes like the one in The Shadow Lines give me doubts when Ghosh writes;

I saw that there were a number of moving figures dotted over those slopes. They were very small at that distance, but I could tell they had sacks slung over their shoulders. They were picking bits of rubble off the slopes and dropping them into their sacks. I could only see them when they moved; when they were still they disappeared completely – they were perfectly camouflaged, like chameleons, because everything on them, their clothes, their sacks, their skins, was the uniform matte black of the sludge in the pools.

But that portion of The Shadow Lines takes place in the past, approximately the 1940s.

Obviously in a country as huge and populous as India, there is going to be a disparity in terms of wealth. And certainly I agree that there is an oligarchic quality to Indian industry, and that industry is linked to the corruption of the government, but I’d like to believe that India is not two hundred years behind the US in terms of working conditions.

Any thoughts?

Wait a sec…

This may be a little late, but I’d like to share it with all of you nonetheless.

I ordered my copy of “The Quilt and Other Stories” from Amazon. The price was right at $0.01 and shipping was nominal, so what could go wrong?

Well, it took ages to be delivered as it was shipped to the US from England and had to go through US Customs. When the book arrived, I saw that it was a former library book from the Warwickshire County Library. The interesting thing about the book was not its origin in England as a library book, but rather it was a sticker affixed to the cover:

click to enlarge

BLACK FICTION?!?! Wait a sec…

I thought we were dealing with northern Indian/Muslim fiction here? I typically don’t think of Indians as African-Americans, i.e., the group often considered “black.”

I wonder, is this an English thing? Do they considered any one other than white people as “black?” Or is it merely an ignorant mislabeling? I went to Warwickshire Library’s website and searched “black fiction,” and the results were authors that were ethnically African. They didn’t have a copy of “The Quilt” on hand, so there was no way to see how it was categorized.

Any thoughts?

Sticky Situation

While cleaning out my car from July 4th weekend (yes, I am that lazy) today, I found among my camping gear a handful of stickers that someone handed me at a concert I attended over that weekend. Most of them were dumb and said ‘Rock On’ or some other banal saying. This one caught my eye, though. What do you think? Offensive, not offensive? Working to perpetuate various sterotypes, for sure.

My vote goes to offensive.

Etymological Meanderings

If any of us had brains we’d have skipped college altogether and started a college text book company instead. In what other business can you can you sell for $15.00, buy back for ¢.25, and then re-sell for $15.00. The logic behind the buyback price being that the books are used and may have wear, highlighting and/or writing in the margins.

I for one am adamantly against writing in books under any circumstance other than Mad Libs. Sometimes, though, buying a used textbook can be a boon to a student if the previous user was smart and highlighted all the important stuff and wrote helpful notes in the margins. That’s why when I started The Shadow Lines today, I was glad to see plenty of writing and highlighting. I was reading along when I encountered this:

I was like, okay, maybe there is some credence to this marginal note. Maybe this person has hit on something here. Maybe the previous owner was interested in word etymology and was a thoughtful, careful reader. If the word was Indian in origin that would certainly add a bit of depth to the novel, and show the Indian influence of the author; Amitav Ghosh.

My first instinct was that since this novel is in English and written by an English educated Indian, the word will probably have Latin roots. But given that Sanskrit is old and dead like Latin, and is part of the same Indo-European language family, and considering Sanskrit’s influence on modern languages like Urdu, Gujarati, Hindi, Bengali and others, it warranted further investigation.

My Latin dictionary and the OED confirmed lavatory’s Latin origins. Lavatory is from the Latin verb: lavo, lavare, lavi, lavatus-a-um.But as English words often have Latin cognates, Latin words often have Sanskrit cognates (in pronunciation) as can be seen here:

Latin:                                              Sanskrit:                                English:

pater                                               piter                                       father

frater                                               bhratar                                  brother

So I thought that the book’s previous owner might still be on to something. I searched a few online Sanskrit dictionaries and couldn’t find anything that resembled lavatory or lavo in either form or pronunciation. I was confident, though, that the previous owner knew something I didn’t. That is, I was confident until I came upon this note in the text:

Click to enlarge

Now I’m convinced the previous owner is an idiot.

However, if anyone has more experience with Sanskrit derived languages, any help in finding out whether lavatory has any relationship to other languages would be much appreciated.

Relics of Empires Past

I was reading an article about the war in Afghanistan in Foreign Affairs magazine yesterday when something odd caught my eye. Apparently, our soldiers are finding caches of small arms as they “sweep and clear” (read, seek and destroy) various villages in Marja, Helmland province. That came as no surprise as it is common knowledge that the CIA funneled Stinger missiles and innumerable land-mines to the Mujahideen in the 70s and 80s.

What was surprising is that the marines are finding ancient relics of empires past in the tiny opium producing villages in Marja. Among the shoulder launched missiles and other small arms, our marines are regularly finding .303 British Lee-Enfield rifles dating back to the WWI era. Many of the rifles were found to have been manufactured in India, some dating back to 1915. The ammunition they’re finding was manufactured in India up until the 1940s.

Unlike the ubiquitous Kalashinkov rifle (AK-47), the Lee-Enfield is a bolt action rifle that has a longer effective range making it well suited for amateur snipers to take pot shots at our soldiers. These rifles are nearly 100 years old and are still effective killing machines. No one knows how long they’ll last as bolt action rifles are well manufactured (especially the older ones) and have fewer moving parts than the semi-automatics that our contemporary armies are outfitted with today. With proper care and readily available surplus armory parts, these rifles could very well be in the field for another 100 years to come.

How’s that for irony?