Copying well-known brands is something of a cottage industry in India. I remember a young man in my childhood who bought himself a Phillips radio. When, on day two, it stopped working, he looked more closely and found it was actually a PhillOps. Not PhillIps. Or the Parker pen my uncle once picked up on the cheap. Only to find that it had, in a very tiny font just before the word "Parker", the word "Like". Which was probably why it didn't work like a Parker. Didn't work, period.
Like that only. I was told by someone who knew that "Fair and Lovely" is the country's most plagiarized brand, with some 140+ different copies available across the land. That only. ("Like" in front).
Last week in some tiny Assam hamlet, we bought ourselves a few Mango Bites and a roll of Poppins sweets. Very popular to each and every one in the family, these things. Size and wrappers of what we bought, indistinguishable from the originals. At least, indistinguishable at first glance. On closer examination, they were actually "Mango Best" and "Poopins" respectively.
All else being equal, it strikes me that the name "Poopins" is a tad unfortunate.
Assam Tribune of March 25 (I think) carried a long letter titled "Economics, religion do not go together". "In my opinion", wrote the writer, "religion and economics are not compatible in spirit and content. Religion in general is exclusive and economics in general is inclusive."
He says a lot else too. (It is a long letter). I'm not convinced it is an appropriate comparison, but never mind. About the same time I read it, someone I know -- trained in economics and a libertarian -- confessed that when the Babri Masjid was torn down in December 1992, he was "delighted". I detected a note of sheepishness in this confession, as if he had reconsidered that delight in the 16+ years since then. But even so, I was taken aback.
Because at least on the face of it, a libertarian outlook on life -- believing in the pursuit of free will, believing in the promise of economics -- seems to me incompatible with the destruction of a place of worship, with religious fervour and hatreds in general.
Am I right? Or am I missing something?
In the classifieds, the Assam Tribune also has an "Achievements" section. This appears to be a place where new PhDs announce their achievement. So it was that, some days past the ides of March, I learned of Bijoy Krishna Pachani, senior lecturer at DCB College Jorhat. The announcement informed all concerned, including me, that Dibrugarh University had just awarded him a PhD for his thesis titled "Child in Medieval Assamese Society". "He became", the announcement continued, "the first Asian and the second in universe to do research on past of the child."
Many pats on the back to Shri Pachani, but somehow I wonder ... did they check on Jupiter? Or the Andromeda Galaxy?
One of the first good views of the Kaziranga park comes at the Gajraj View Point, on the road from Guwahati some 25 km short of the main entrance. You get a good sense of the mixed grassland and forest pockets that make up the park, and you might even see some rhinos grazing placidly in the distance.
The viewing platform/gazebo here was built by the Army. A plaque on the outside says it was "Inaugurated by General VP Malik, Chief of Army Staff, to commemorate construction of ten high grounds by 4 Corps to safeguard wildlife of Kaziranga National Park from the fury of floods." A plaque on the inside spells this out: "This work worth approximately 2 crores was executed by 4 Corps, 7 Engineer Regiment, by employing 8 bulldozers, 2 excavators and 300 men over 46 days."
A nearby sign in Hindi says: "Kripya is ilake ko saaf rakhe aur avyavastha na phailayen."
"Please keep this place clean."
Seems a reasonable request, given that this is the edge of a wonderful park and given the great effort by the Army to construct this platform.
But clearly there are enough people to whom this request means zip. The slope down the hill from the gazebo (i.e. overlooking the park), it is a noisome mess of garbage, suffused with the charming aroma of urine.
Postscript: Within an hour of posting this, I received a message from the economist/libertarian mentioned above. Referring to our conversation a few days ago, he writes:
There was no "sheepishness" in my manner. You were completely mistaken. I remain delighted today that the Babri Masjid was demolished. I'd be obliged if you'd please put up this clarification on your post.