Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Which is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world?

According to a news resport, there is a new entry in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, and that honour has gone to Hiltl, in Zurich.

I am delighted that my friends who own Hiltl have won this place in such an eminent league.

Now Hiltl may or may not actually be the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world (it opened in 1898).

Probably many Indian restaurants may be older!

But can they prove it?

Only if they can prove it, can they displace Hiltl in the Guinness Book of Records!

So there is a challenge...

Monday, 24 September 2012

Tackling a woman thief in London

For some reason, I am reminded today about an incident that took place in London many years ago.

Near the intersection of Holborn Viaduct and Farringdon Road, there used to be an Indian corner shop (perhaps it's still there).

As I was passing by, someone rushed out, followed by a very Indian voice shouting "Thief! Catch her!".

As she ran not too far from me, I chased her, tackled her, and brought her down.  Though she wanted to get up and run again - she was very strong - I had a grip of her legs and it became difficult for her to escape: a crowd had gathered round almost instantly, no doubt amused or scandalised at the sight of an Asian man dressed in a suit laid out on a Central London street with his arms gripping the legs of a much younger white woman also on the ground and dressed not too respectably.

It seemed like only seconds later that the police arrived.

Apparently, she was a thief who had earlier too purloined things from the Indian corner shop and the owner had rung the police as soon as she had come into the shop.

I slipped away quietly as there was nothing more for me to do, and I couldn't spare the time to be involved in unnecessary things - it was difficult enough for me financially in those days, as I had just started as an independent consultant then.

That was my closest encounter with a drug-crazed person.  And I hope not to have any other such encounter.  But I was reminded of the mixture of emotions in me at the time: anger at the white woman for having fallen so low, upset at the thievery (from a fellow Indian at that!), pity at a person on drugs....

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Comments on the paper by Mr Kaushik Basu, Chief Economic Adviser to the Indian Ministry of Finance, arguing that a certain sort of bribe-giving shold be made legal

I had heard about Basu's position, but not read his paper (though I guess I should have hunted it down and done so!). 
A relative sends it to me for my comments.  The paper is at:

Here are the observations I sent him.

1.  The spirit of his comments is closer to my proposals for abolishing black money in India than anything else I have seen by Indians or others

2.  The mechanism he proposes has some merit

3.  It does not address what I might call "long-term collusive bribery in the context of a network of relationships" but it could address what I call "individual transactional bribery"

4.  However,  it is extremely difficult to *prove* individual cases of bribery

5.  In reality, the distinction between what he calls "harassment bribes" and other kinds of bribes is not easy to make; and other kinds of bribes are probably much more economically and socially significant

6.  It is possible for a group of individuals to misuse the mechanism proposed in order to threaten even honest officials in a legal system such as ours where testimony can be included under proof
7.  Most Indians are not literate; even literate Indians are not necessarily intellectually sophisticated; and even those, who are intellectually sophisticated, are often culturally disinclined to read and to get into abstruse detail.  So there will be a widespread diffuse or general impression that "even bribery is legal now", which will further erode the will of Indians to resist *all* sorts of bribery.  And when the first convictions start appearing under such a new law, there will be even further confusion in the country about what is legal....

My conclusion is that a moral renewal of our country is the only thing that will reduce corruption, and not this kind of economic calculation of where self-interest might or might not lead - which is why I focus so hard on the question of moral renewal.