The problem with the likes of RSS

RSS – Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – and all the other organisations of it’s kind – the various senas and dals and sanghs – whether affiliated to RSS or not represent bigotry and close mindedness. They take pride in traditions and despise the modern liberal values. I read an interesting article recently which concluded that people with low IQ tend to be more conservative.

The inference is that what we call conservatism is a symptom of limited intellectual ability, signified by fear of the new and of outsiders, a retreat into tradition and tribal loyalty, and an unsophisticated disgust at sexual mores that deviate even slightly from the norm. Put bluntly stupidity correlates with insecurity, hatred, pessimism and fear, intelligence with confidence, optimism and trust.

Fear of new, outsiders, anything that deviates from what is considered norm are trademark qualities of right wing organisations. That is exactly what RSS espouses – jingoism, religious chauvinism, adherence to tradition and moral policing. They draw lines of us versus them based on country, religion, language and culture. For them their country, their religion, their culture is automatically superior to other countries, other religions and other cultures. Why? Because they say so that’s why!

moral-police

I am not exactly sure why do these people tend to take pride in ancient mores and traditions of the land. Agreed the Indus valley civilisation is very old and rich and in ancient times it has contributed significantly to the enhancement of human knowledge. But they were not alone. There have been many ancient civilisations which also have a rich history. And if you want to take pride of ancient discoveries and inventions that happened to take place in the same geographical area that falls within the borders of today’s modern day nation state – you can do so – even though you had absolutely nothing to do with it. And I think that is what the right wingers do.

The RSS types probably have a pathological urge to feel superior about something, anything – to feel better about themselves. So what can they do? Their nation is not economic or military superpower, it is poor, not many scientific inventions are coming out from this land these days, standard of living is no match to “developed” countries – so what can we feel superior about? Vedas, of course! We might be poor and illiterate and unscientific and hungry these days, but in the ancient times our intelligence level was over 9000! I mean our ancestors made so many discoveries while the rest of the world was living under rocks! I mean we discovered nuclear weapons, and flying machines and we could calculate the distance to Sun precisely and write it in one line in a poem (and on the next line describe that a flying ape god from Earth swallowed the Sun like it was some fruit!) – in short we were cool before it was cool to be cool! But then something happened and the Muslims and British attacked us and ruled over us for like thousands of years and stole all our knowledge and left us poor!

So RSS is out there to reclaim the glory days of ancient India! And they plan to do so by teaching it in schools. Instead of teaching children the wonders of science they propose to teach them that yoga is the solution to global warming. They want to spread the non-evidence based placebo and other non-medicines at the expense of modern evidence based medicines – because Ayurveda is our tradition baby! Let’s do things the way they were done 2000 years ago!

Is this a tool to gain power? They did not get power at the center on the promise of upholding the culture – they did so on the promise of economic development. So what’s the need to propagate their ideology of fearing everything that is not traditional? They seem to have a problem with everything – what we wear, what we eat, what we watch, listen to or read. They are looking for partners to share in their fear but the younger generation is embracing the new ways of life with both arms. May be the oldies fear that they will be sidelined…. but may be they just have a low IQ.

About privilege

Privilege – A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

We are not equal. Some of us are born to rich parents, some to poor parents. Some who are born in poverty make it big in life and become rich. We think its merit, its our efforts. To a certain extent – yes it is true. But a major factor is privilege. Privilege of being born to well to do parents, being born into a peaceful place, being born to parents who can afford to get you quality education, just good genes. Privilege of being born into a specific race, skin colour, gender, religion, caste. Even your looks or physical abilities are a privilege. Just being a man is one of the biggest privileges, even in 2014 and even in the most developed countries of the world!

Right now I am sitting here in an air conditioned office, typing this post on a laptop sipping coffee. The way that I make money doesn’t involve me doing a mundane job where I don’t even have the liberty to take a loo break whenever I wish. I see people all around me who if they decide to take a break from there work for a day or two, they loose income for those days. Why is that so? Why don’t they deserve the life of comforts that I have? And I am not even at the top of the pyramid, I am somewhere at the middle of the middle may be. Life at the lower levels is a daily struggle.

These days its mostly education that makes a lot of difference in what sort of work a person ends up doing. Better education usually affords one a better job and a higher quality of life. Why does some people have better education and others don’t? Simple – privilege. Those who have a better education had parents who understood the value of education and had sufficient means to educate their children. That’s a privilege. Now now now, we see all around us poor people working hard to educate their children – again they are the parents who are intelligent enough to understand the simple truth that education pays. They limit the number of children, work extra to educate their children. It’s a privilege for the children. Also that the parents happened to be living in a country/society which is relatively peaceful and has institutions that provide good quality education for an affordable price. A child born in some poor country in Africa or in a war zone of Gaza, Syria or Afghanistan will not have that privilege. And then we pass on the privileges to our children. So if I am educated and make good money I will make sure my daughter also gets a good education so she will carry that same privilege.

There are some other privileges that are not as obvious – like gender based privileges or caste or race based privileges. A lot of people don’t realize this. Being a woman automatically closes a lot of doors for you. In many of the conservative societies women are reduced to nothing but home makers and child bearers. All in the name of protecting them or even giving them a comfortable life! Being a girl reduces one’s opportunities drastically. So if you are born as a man you already have an unfair advantage over half of the population just for being a man!

Should you be ashamed of your privileges? No. We don’t choose our privileges. We just happen to get them, we don’t have to be ashamed of them, but we do have to be aware of our privileges. Be humble. Don’t brag. If you got a job at a multinational company then it’s because you had parents who could get you good education, you had a good intelligence because of your genes – factors that are totally out of your control. So be humble. Do not look down upon those who are not as privileged as you. You aren’t better and they aren’t worse.

This video of a speech by Tim Minchin is relevant

Do not use CCAvenue for international payments. It does not work!

I wasn’t completely happy with PayPal and was always on the lookout for a real payment gateway.

I don’t remember how but on the fateful day of 23 May 2014 I ended up at CCAvenue and signed up under their Privilege Scheme. They have two schemes one where you do not pay any setup fees but pay higher in card processing charges, second is where you pay one time setup fee and pay less in charges. And the stupid fuck that I am I chose the other one. I paid the setup fees on 27 May. Rs. 37,415.88.

I wanted USD processing. I asked for it specifically before paying the setup fees. I confirmed it with one of their reps from marketing department.

And the fun began. I had to provide them a list of documents, 13 to be precise. Even the Indian government doesn’t ask these many docs to issue a Passport!

Any way I provided the documents and my account was activated, I came to know I can not process USD!

Then I was told USD has a higher charge than what was promised to me earlier. I agreed. USD was enabled.

But it did not have MasterCard only Visa and American Express!

I contacted compliance team and I was informed on that it would take 15-20 working days to activate MasterCard.

After a long wait, some tweets, few phone calls and emails later MasterCard was enabled.

During the integration I realised the USD wasn’t actually enabled, again after a few emails and phone calls that too was enabled eventually.

And finally I went live with CCAvenue.

And first transaction failed! Card bin stop listed was the error I got. I asked one of my US based friends to test a payment and again the transaction ailed with same message.

When I asked CCAvenue about that I was told they are blocking certain international banks for fraud prevention. Perfectly valid cards are being denied just like that! Blanket ban all in the name of fraud prevention!

Fortunately the customer whose transaction failed later made another transaction using PayPal and it went through.

I asked CCAvenue to disable the BIN check for my account at first they just told me to ask my customers to pay using some other card!

Anyway after some haggling over phones and emails and after I demanded a refund of my setup fees, they switched the acquirer for my account. Previous it was ICICI then they switched it to something else Electra or Citi may be. I asked my friend in the US to try paying again and this time the payment went through. I thought finally things have been sorted out so I put CCAvenue live again.

And in last 2 days 7 transactions have failed! Only 2 went through, one paid on the third attempt, the second one paid using AmEx after his first attempt to pay using Visa failed. Rest all paid successfully after I routed them to PayPal. So 2 months and 37000 in setup fees later I am still sending my customers to PayPal.

I really don’t know what to do at this stage. All I wanted was ability to accept payments from my genuine customers who happen to be based outside India. I was using PayPal and I thought India’s oldest and largest payment gateway will make things easier and cheaper for me. But all I have faced is troubles. And my money that I paid as setup fees is stuck.

I don’t know who is at fault here, is it RBI and it’s stupid rules? Is it the paranoid acquiring banks or is it CCAvenue?

Paulo Coelho said when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it, but it seems in India if you just wish to accept payments from international customers the Indian financial system conspires in stalling you!

Where is “she”?

Yaashi has started playschool from this Monday. On Saturday we had a parents induction meeting at the school. They gave a nice presentation covering wide range of things but one thing stood out. In the presentation and conversation whenever a child was referred, it was referred as “he”. He will learn this, you should not say this to him, he will observe… and both me and Bijal were wondering where is “she”?

Now that the classes have started, out of 14 kids in the class 10 are girls. In the nursery out of 27 kids 14 are girls. If we stop killing our girls we’ll have a feminine population as we see in most of the developed countries. And yet we continue to assume the person in question will be a male.

I have seen similar thing happening when writing software requirements or documentation. The user is assumed to be a male. And when he clicks the button a new window will open where he can select blah blah…

We need a gender neutral pronoun to address people in the English language. I have seen Facebook using they and them when a gender is not known. They liked it instead of he liked it sounds better.

Any ideas?

India needs Congress

Elections over, Modi won and how! Congress is reduced to its lowest tally of seats in history. And that’s a sad news. Although I am an AAP supporter, I think India needs Congress.

The dangers of a one party state are real and for everyone to see in the form of China. Modi’s idea of Congressmukt Bharat is frightening. As of now apart from Indian National Congress there is no other national political party that can balance out the force of BJP. Every other political party be it regional or National stands for something, Congress doesn’t stand for anything! Which makes them unique. It is nobody’s party and hence it is everybody’s party. Everyone can relate to it. And it can take up any issue and make its own. AAP is another party that has in its character to be everyone’s party but it will take a long time for them to mature and matter at national level. In the meanwhile we need Congress.

We also need BJP to keep Congress in check. Being a Congress only state for a good part of history hasn’t been good either. What I am trying to say is we need two major political parties at the national level. In the long run I would love to see AAP replace either of the two. Chances are it will replace Congress because BJP has its core fan base which will not be swayed by another party.

The time has not yet come for a Congressmukt Bharat.

Idiot

Hey you, yes you! If you really think some ball of gas or rock somewhere in the space affects your life in any way or you being born on a certain day after a certain number of days of some random point in human history and the assumed position of objects in space at that particular moment has any bearing on how your life will turn out to be or that you can somehow change all that by wearing some ornaments made of specific kind of material or doing silly things like throwing random stuff into fire and chanting loudly cryptic sounding nonsense, not a single word of which you understand…. then let me tell you, you are an idiot! Yes I D I O T, idiot.

Thank you.

New laptop Lenovo Y510P

My old Dell finally gave up a couple of weeks back. I used it for almost 4 years. Pretty good considering that my previous Compaqs barely lasted two. So I needed a new laptop. Unlike a mobile or tablet there’s not much variety in laptops. The new one was going to be pretty much the same as my last one. However I had only one thing on my wishlist for the new laptop – full HD (1920 x 1080p) display. It’s amazing that my phone which has a 5 inch screen has a full HD display, while laptops with 15.6” screen were mostly limited to 1366 x 768. So I thought maybe I can get a laptop with a better resolution this time.

My Dell experience had been good but I wanted to try out another brand this time. HP was strictly out of question due to the bad memories of Compaq. Lenovo and Asus were consistently rated as sturdy laptops online and I had heard some good things about Lenovo too. My wife had a Lenovo in her old job and that looked like a solid machine.

Z510Searching online I came across Lenovo Z series laptops. Z510 looked like a stellar machine with i7, 8GB RAM, 2GB graphics and full HD display. It was for around 60K (INR) and I got a 3000 off coupon from ebay so I purchased it, and my transaction failed! For the first time in my 50+ transactions on ebay a transaction failed. Money was debited from my card but ebay did not receive it because of a technical fault at the gateway level. After a few phone calls and emails to both ebay and my bank I was able to get my money back, but that meant I now had to place a new order.

Now since I had time on my hands I decided to check out the model personally at a store. A few reviews on FlipKart had mentioned that Z510 did not have a full HD display after all, so I went to a store and checked the machine and yes it was not full HD! That was an i5 model. I called up an authorised Lenovo shop and asked them if i7 model of Z510 had full HD and they confirmed to me that Z series did not have full HD, but Y series had. So even though it says so on Lenovo India’s website as you can see on the screenshot Z510 actually does not have full HD resolution.
So I looked at Y510P. The i7 model was very expensive at 84K+. I did not want to spend more than 60K on the laptop, next best was the i5 model, and searching online I found a great deal on FlipKart for 59,750. So I bought that one.

Important specs –

Lenovo Ideapad Y510p (59-389687)
Intel I5-4200M
15.6 FHD LED GLARE
8G RAM
1TB 5400 RPM HDD
N14P-GT1 Graphics with 2G RAM
2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB 2.0
Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit LAN, WiFi, DVD writer – standard stuff
JBL speakers

Looks
The laptop looks damn sexy with the red backlit keyboard and trendy looking speakers. I haven’t put speakers to much use yet, but they are way better than my Dell. USB 3.0 is really fast. I can tell the difference when I copy files over on to my WD backup drive.

Y510P
With the new laptop comes the usual pain of installing all your software and setting up things as they were on your old laptop. But this time I have decided to install the software only as and when I require them. After 4 years of use my last laptop had so much of stuff just lying around…. It’s good to start from scratch.

Now this laptop has some kick ass graphics power with 2GB dedicated graphics RAM. I haven’t played games on my computer in a long time. Actually I have never been a big gamer. The only genre of computer games I ever enjoyed playing was RTS games and Age of Empires series of games and its offshoots is all I have played. Now I am looking for some games to play on this new laptop though.

Okay Full HD resolution. This one does have full HD, AND now I know why laptops mostly don’t have higher resolution – the 15 inches screen is just too small for full HD. Things are super tiny, I set the display to 125% and that makes fonts blurry (Mac like) in many applications and images in browsers look funny. Only if I am watching a 1080p movie will the resolution be of any use, but I’d rather watch that movie on my TV rather than laptop! So full HD on laptop is not really worth it.

The only problem that I have faced with this laptop is that on the touchpad instead of having buttons for left and right mouse click, it has clickable surface. And it is hard. You have to press is hard as opposed to a gentle press on the buttons of Dell. I mostly use a mouse so it doesn’t affect much but without mouse things get a bit difficult. The touch pad also has gestures and other such gimmickry which I did not find very useful. Come Lenovo on it’s not a Macbook.

Macbook, did I consider Macbook? I did. Macbook Air. But then most of my productive money making work happens on Windows. For a couple of weeks when I did not have my laptop I was using the Mac mini, I liked a few things and I did not like some other things. But my productivity took a real hit. I am so used to Windows and there are software on Windows which I have customised according to my needs, I have even created a bunch of apps that help me manage my business. I felt handicapped without them. Now I can make a dual boot system on Mac but then why should I pay the exorbitant price of a Mac if I am going to install Windows on it! So no Mac.

I am hoping this one lasts for another 4-5 years.

In conversation with Arvind Kejriwal

You have seen Modi’s fixed Adalat, you have seen farcical interview of Rahul by Arnab. Now here’s an interview or rather interrogation by an openly hostile anchor and frequently asked questions asked directly by the people.

He’s not running away, he’s not blabbering unrelated things. He answers every allegation and clarifies every doubt. Do spend an hour and watch this. You may or may not vote for him but at least watch it.

A song dedicated to feku

Sun lo sari duniya walo

Kitna bhi tum zor laga lo
Karenge fekugiri hum
Jhadu mein dum hai to band karva lo

Feku all night, fekna all right
Fekna our right, fekampatti all night

Aaj trishul khulne do
Chaku talvaar chalne do
Tharre ki bottle pa ke
Dange shange karne do

Bajate raho pungi
Bajate raho pungi
Bajate raho pungi
Bajate raho

Danga all night, murder all night
Rapes all night, we do riots all night

Jisne bhi encounter karna
Aa jao mere state ke bheetar
Police lekar, sabki dhoko bindaas hokar

Jab media bajega loud, to sarkaar CBI bula legi
CBI se keh denge ye police walo ki chaal thi

Encounter all night, goli all right
Kadak image ke liye bhaiya everything is right

Bijli peena, road khana
Development ka gana gaanaa
Daddy ko tu kar de message
Vibrant Gujarat mein aana

Vikas ho raha bot bhayankar
Vikas ke gajab nazare
Dikkat hai bas ek baat ki
Debt mein doobe Gujarati bechare
Nikkar wale sangh ne yu lathiya utha rakhi hain
Aur kuchh to aata nahi hai narebazi laga rakhi hai
Nache dekh re kaise Modi Modi laga rakhi hai
Contribution to ghanta hai, aafat macha rakhi hai

Joothe daave all night, galat history all night
Radio, TV pe kehte we’ll set everything right

Feku all night, fekna all right
Fekna our right, fekampatti all night

ShopClues return policy is a sham!

My friend wanted to buy a new mobile and I convinced him to buy it online. I have been buying electronics online for many years now. So we bought the phone through ShopClues and received the phone. A Nokia Lumia. In a couple of days my friend complained to me that the proximity sensor of the phone wasn’t working properly. The phone wouldn’t lock while talking and it would disconnect if it accidentally touched his face when the call was in progress. ShopClues promises 10 days return policy in case you have a problem with your purchase. So I wrote them and asked for the phone to be replaced.

ShopClues said since it’s a manufacturing defect we have to take it to the service center and get it repaired. No returns or replacements. If we want replacement we need to a get a letter from the service center saying the device was dead on arrival. Which it obviously wasn’t. So essentially we were told to fuck off. The replacement is provided only if a wrong item has been delivered or the item was broken. They have a dropdown box on their return form which asks reason for return and manufacturing defect is one of the reasons. If I can not return an item having manufacturing defect why are you asking for it in the form? Oh and the letter from manufacturer – that has to be procured within 7 days from the date of purchase. And I was informed of that exactly on the seventh day!

Some years back another of my friends had purchased a pen drive from Croma. After about a month the drive stopped working. We went to Croma. They checked it in their computer, checked the invoice and immediately gave him a new pen drive. No fuss. My mother in law purchased a TV from the same Croma store. When we tried to set it up, we found it was dead. Brand new TV, out of the box was dead. We called Croma, initially they asked us to contact the service center, but after we insisted, they gave us another TV.

Some recent bad experiences of other people with online shopping, especially while returning goods bought online has shaken my confidence in online shopping. It looks like the sunny days are over and we are going back to the Indian way of selling. Sell and forget. Customer service, what is that?