Recommended Shorts

A collection of short stories that come highly recommended from a trusted source (me). Will continually update.


Arthur C. Clarke’s The Nine Billion Names of God


George R.R. Martin’s Sandkings


No Strings Attached

Most of my friends seem so attached to something or someone: a devilish sportsteam, a stuttering moviestar, an author and her fantasy series, a film director or his chainsmoking sleuth, a band of coleopterine Liverpudlians, a northern mythological universe, a brand of dark rum, a saffron political ideology, a crimson economic paradigm, and so on. You certainly get the drift; the object of single-hearted devotion can be virtually anything. Something similar is even characterised by venal opposition to one (or more, in the case of generally visceral people) of the above that becomes too popular or too fanboy-ed in the hater’s eyes. Consider the pejorative ABU common on football discussion fora. (It stands for Anything But United, United here standing for the Mancunian kind.)


However, my sense of attachment, if any, is never too strong (relative to what others seem to feel). It ebbs and flows whimsically. I have favourites, but they generally remain that way, and do not lead me to the zenith of zeal or zest (this is not just tacky alliteration, only people from school will get what is meant). When I compare, I conclude that I’m perhaps afflicted by a perpetual sense of detachment. But that is probably where the problem lies, the instinct for instantaneous comparison.

Joint A/c Kholne Ka Procedure Kya Hai Bhaiya?

I think the first thing that we need to do is to agree (at least aggregate our preferences) on what we want from the Washing Machine Enterprise (WME from now).

Expectation A: One unhindered washing-spinning-drying experience of a bucketfull of clothes every x days on a semi-annual payment of Rs. y (where both x and y are to be simultaneously minimized as much as possible.)
Perhaps a not unreasonable expectation. First some background.

x is currently set at 8:
The Old Hostel and D-block flats accomodate 64 and around 15 boarders, respectively. Of these many Dilliwallahs primarily reside at home, and do not give two Surf sachets about the WME. A (very liberal) maximum of 65 would avail the WME’s services. Actually, only 47 people registered in 2015’s Spring semester. 6 (=3*2) slots are available every day; that works out to 48 slots every 8 days. (More than 3 washes per day would lead to inordinate wear and tear of the machines.) If more people want to laundry, the frequency has to go down. Buying another machine for the WME is not an option. (… or is it?)

y is set at 200:
Surf recommends using 60gms of their detergent powder per wash and the relevant powder (Surf Excel Matic Front Load) comes for Rs. 413 for a 2kg pack: Rs. 12.40 per wash or Rs 2230 per month at full operation. For less than 5 months every semester, (late July- early December and January- early May), the machines work at near full capacity. At other times, many people are at home, the rounding off to five months takes care of that. Detergent costs of the WME every semester: Rs. 11150. Machine repair and maintenance costs are borne by the Institute. (There is some confusion regarding the monthly bleaching’s cost incidence.) At more reasonable assumptions about usage (5 washes per day on average), the cost is Rs. 193.75 per person if 48 people register. Taking into account that we do not work with robotic efficiency when loading the powder, Rs. 200 is the best estimated per capita cost of usage. (Another route is to ascertain the average number of washes per person per semester: 16 gives us Rs. 198.) (Do we really want to take into account the fines that are collected?)

After that lengthy bit of background and establishment of the reasonableness of the current values of x and y, let us look at the (interesting) question at hand, which surfaced over a series of emails: should two (or more) people be allowed to share a registered slot? (Let us call it the Joint A/c policy.) Having just Expectation A at hand currently, let us see how this policy fares according to this criterion and compare with the status quo. However, we must be careful, not only should we think of what happens if this is ideally followed, but also what would happen because of misuse. We must foresee possible rule-bending and downright rule-breaking.

Let us first be sure what we are NOT talking about:
Suppose Aloo and Kachaloo are best buds. During the placement season, Aloo needs to wash his blazer, on which he dropped the strawberry-jelly filling of a Nomura-sponsored doughnut, for a looming Goldman Sachs interview. But he had just booked a slot two days ago. What can he do? In such a rare emergency, Aloo can avail the services of a Katwaria Sarai dhobi or of the prohibitively expensive QuickClean laundromat at the Chocolate Room (Rs. 1900 for a month of home-delivered laundry, or Rs 200 per 4kg load). But Kachaloo has an idea: why can’t Aloo put in his blazer with Kachaloo’s clothes, which he’s going to launder during his registered slot. But isn’t that against the rules, Aloo wonders. Kachaloo dismisses his concerns on grounds that the WME rules are not that unreasonable.

So what ARE we talking about:
Suppose Monu and Sonu are best buds. Both are lazy dolts who incessantly repeat their clothes for days and only need/want the WME once every 15 days. What actions do they have recourse to? They can register separately and pay Rs. 200 each. Or if the Joint A/c policy is in force, they can register jointly, and take up a joint slot every 8 days: to facilitate quick checking of bookings under a commonly-agreed name. (If they use their respective names, it becomes difficult for a manager to ascertain instances of ultra-frequent use.) On an individual level, joint a/c’s don’t have any prima facie adverse impact on the fufillment of Expectation A.

But this was just a partial analysis. Taking cognisance of this, if lots of such joint a/c’s are registered, what’d happen? The anti-climactic answer: nothing much would change. While revenue would fall, usage and costs would fall commensurately: the cost analysis makes that clear.

What about misuse? Would overloading become rampant? If overloading is already a problem, there is no apparent reason why it would be further aggravated: if people who use the machine after long intervals overload, they will continue to do so. Other forms of measures are required to correct that. If it isn’t, then well, it won’t suddenly appear because of the change. There are certainly no additional difficulties in implementation, apart from the added condition that a common name be used by the joint account-holders.

One vote for joint a/c’s.

Aur haan, yaad rakhna, daag acche hain.

(What was the point of this long note you ask: well, dunno, but we must establish a general principle on which we evaluate what we manage, something akin to the proposed Expectation A. We should not become unthinking rule-making-bending-breaking fun-hating un-loving un-caring inflexible isolated isles of dismal whatevers…. you get the point.)






I want to write a thoughtful and thought-provoking article but I can not because I have no ideas. Zilch. Zero. Bilkul bhi nahi.

But I know that I must write; something, anything. The Amazon-forest-annihilating mountain of literature, both serious and more serious, that exists in the social sciences is intimidating. Have you seen Ariel Rubinstein’s website? Take a look if you want, and of course, tata, because I know you’re not returning to read this dabble once you click on that link.

Praesent consequat luctus dui, interdum aliquam est maximus vel. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. . If you’re still reading, don’t. Integer porta et est eget porttitor. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Nunc vestibulum pharetra quam, nec tempor enim. Ut sagittis lacus a libero sollicitudin, eu finibus lorem convallis. Sed varius, ipsum non imperdiet lobortis, ligula tellus rhoncus tellus, a pretium ipsum neque sit amet arcu. Nam congue, nisl quis gravida faucibus, velit libero cursus diam, in congue urna neque id dui. Nunc finibus vulputate mauris ut congue. Sed vel laoreet nunc, ac elementum ante. Seriously, go! Sed sit amet erat vel arcu tempus varius at eget diam. Ut iaculis leo sed diam egestas blandit. Mauris accumsan ante nisi, in luctus neque efficitur a. Fusce elit justo, vestibulum sagittis sem vel, sollicitudin suscipit orci. Maecenas nec tempus orci. Integer sit amet eros libero.

Quisque lacinia risus a tincidunt lacinia. Enough, boss! Nulla facilisis convallis condimentum. Etiam hendrerit faucibus lorem, a commodo mauris ultrices eget. Phasellus sit amet massa nunc. Fusce quis cursus risus. Praesent vitae finibus lacus. Phasellus volutpat erat vitae tellus luctus pellentesque. Bas bhi karo! Curabitur posuere tincidunt condimentum. Duis finibus vitae sem sed finibus. Sed quis lectus porttitor, molestie ligula sit amet, imperdiet quam. Sed lorem mi, egestas eu commodo in, sodales vel ex.

Fusce fermentum nibh porttitor, posuere urna id, consectetur quam. Proin sagittis, urna eu volutpat luctus, felis dolor elementum felis, sed finibus justo turpis eu orci. Fusce id turpis a est lacinia condimentum. Nullam sed odio laoreet, malesuada sapien ultricies, condimentum urna. Maecenas accumsan metus ut orci malesuada, a finibus diam commodo. Vestibulum viverra ultrices venenatis. Vestibulum lorem risus, pellentesque facilisis mollis eget, lobortis in velit. Vestibulum tempor ante eget tempor feugiat. In lectus tellus, tempus gravida semper a, iaculis ut mauris. Aliquam in pellentesque arcu.


I want to write.

… a piece where the random and the deterministic coalesce into sheer delight, and all readers spontaneously combust at the final full-stop. A piece like Monty Python’s Killing Joke that helped the British win the Second World War when a German translation of the joke was broadcast over the enemy lines to devastating effect. But I fear that it will remain a far-fetched fantasy.

… a piece so potent that a horde of sapiosexual women ambush the writer as he walks on the pavement on a foggy evening blissfully unaware of the damned embraces that await him, not unlike what happens to regular users of Axe deoderants. A lot of women claim to be sapiosexual on Facebook. I fear that we’ll never know. 

The Computer

I sometimes feel so lazy that I don’t even like stretching my arm a little and reaching for the keyboard. The mouse is closer to me, so I just start the on-screen keyboard to type stuff out. And it’s not like I’m going to be writing a novel, probably just a username-password, so that works.

My mother was the one who forced my father to buy a computer for me and my sister. It was supposed to help us study. I was in class 2 or 3, when my father finally got one home. At that time, he also used to dabble a little in the computer assembly business. It had a Celeron processor, even though Pentium 3 and 4 were already out, but it worked fine.

All I used to do was play games. Age of Empires mostly, and especially the Rise of Rome expansion pack. It wasn’t the full version though, just a demo off those CDs that used to come packaged with the magazines. I loved the game, but there were only three levels on the demo. And all the time, the soundtrack of Saathiya used to play; I know all its songs by heart.

First, the machine was in my parents’ room, on a trolley that we had. Actually, I don’t remember much about that and I think I am confusing two totally different objects. Hmmm. Later, it sat in the hall under the bookshelves, and there it has stayed ever since. I mean, the machine has changed: the CPU cabinet, the monitor, everything, but the computer has sat there.

Another permanent fixture has been the red revolving chair with armrests that is the computer chair. My father and uncle had taken up a franchise of STG, a sort-of NIIT knock-off, and the computer centre was on a floor in my nanibari. But it wasn’t very successful and they lost a lot of money and had to shut it down. (Shut it down, see what I did there?) And so the red revolving chair is perhaps one of the last surviving members of that establishment. The two armrest-less chairs in my (and my sister’s) room also trace their heritage to that defunct haven for people to wanted a Java course to their sorry CVs.

And a couple of days back, one of the armrests broke. The left one. It’s not really broken because it’s some sort of rubber-plastic material, but the screws that attached it to the main body of the chair came off. The rubber-plastic stuff is also in pretty bad shape on the right armrest. It’s completely worn out in the middle, and the steel bone is almost exposed. It’ll do.