Sunday, July 22, 2012

मैंने उससे यह कहा

Few days ago, i heard Laal Band's song Maine usse yeh kaha -  . Not only the lyrics seem catchy, they were very political. Some googling resulted in the lyrics with translation which can be found here - 
"Maine usse yeh kaha" is a satirical poem written by Habib Jalib. In the poem, he is talking to some govt. bigshot explaining him that you are right and the public in general are morons. I loved how the lyrics play out. The idea of a satirical poem inspired me, so here is my edition of  "मैंने उससे यह कहा". In my version, i am speaking to the common man. 

मैंने उससे यह कहा

मैंने उससे यह कहा 
मैंने उससे यह कहा
तू काहे को है परेशान
जब तक है तू , ख़ुशी मना इस दौरान 
आयेंगे हमारे बाद जो,
उनकी फ़िक्र हमें क्यों 
यह है उनका इम्तेहान 
खुद ढूंढेंगे वे समाधान 
मैंने उससे यह कहा 
मैंने उससे यह कहा

ग्लोबल वार्मिंग एक मिथ्य है
सारे यह प्रदूषण असत्य है
भ्रष्टाचार न जाने कौन सा तथ्य है 
विश्वास है मुझे मेरे राम पे
पार कराएँगे इस संताप से 
घर बैठ के तू विश्राम कर
सुबह शाम दो माला का जाप कर
मैंने उससे यह कहा 
मैंने उससे यह कहा

देश तरक्की है कर रहा 
FDI, GDP आज सब है बढ़ रहा
भूल जा तू किसान को
हर छोटे बूढ़े उस इंसान को 
यह है एक नया दौर 
तू तेज़ रफ़्तार से दौड़ 
अपने आप का सोचना भी है इक कला 
तेरे भले में ही है देश का अब भला 
तेरे भले में ही है देश का अब भला 
मैंने उससे यह कहा 
मैंने उससे यह कहा

हम लोग हैं बड़े होशियार 
छोटी चिंता पर न हो तू बीमार  
सूर्य शक्ति हैं अपने आर्ड़ 
परमाणु भी हैं अपने पास
गला देंगे पलास्टिक को
जोड़ देंगे ओज़ोन परत को 
अगर फिर भी संतुष्ट ना हुए हम 
मार्स पहुँच कर जायेंगे जम 
मैंने उससे यह कहा 
मैंने उससे यह कहा

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book review: Small is Beautiful

Small is beautiful: Economics as if people mattered.
By E.F. Schumacher

Thanks Parul for giving the book. A one line review would be - Must read!

Published in 1972, this book pretty generations ahead in its ideas. It was one of the first few who rang the warning bells.  Many ideas in recent books can be traced back to this one. So, while reading this one, a lot of sections were familiar. What was fascinating was the ingenuity in that time and age,  the surprise that so much of those warnings have come true and how bad it is going to be.

I think you can find several reviews on web that talk what this book is about. Hence, i will not be a "me too". Instead i will talk about ideas that were quite fresh to me.

Unemployment - Unemployment is bad, everyone agrees it but the reason that is generally cited is that it leads to so much of economic loss. Atleast that was the reasoning that i had heard the most and i agreed with it. In Small is Beautiful, Schumacher argues that employment is not limited to economic productivity. Employment results in an individual's growth, his/her own development. This development is completely qualitative. Unemployment takes away this development, quantitatively this is more significant loss than just the economic one.

Nationalization - I have always known that nationalization was bad. Why shoudn't I, ofcourse we Indians have experienced this. But Schumacher offers couple of interesting points - (a) A nationalized company will always offer lesser profits than a corporate company. A nationalized company tries to maximize multiple objectives not just the profit margins. So, it is futile to compare the profit returns and make a case just on that.  (b)  Nationalization has to be de-centralized. Schumacher argues that everything has to be decentralized but it is more so important here. For reasons, you should read the book.

Education - Education should be scientific, it should be mathematic.  But, Schumacher claims that it should not be limited to this only. It should include humanities - how did things come into existence and metaphysics - what are our convictions, purpose and what do we want. This reminded me of Dr. Seth's comment that education should always have some room to respect the abstract. If everything was reduced to tangibility, then something has gone amiss.

 Reading this book, i felt a lot sad and depressed. All that he warned against is coming true now. The question in my mind was - is it too late now? With so much of natural resources already depleted, even if we start implementing his ideas today and by the time we even achieve 50% coverage, it would have taken decades and will there by anything left by then.

Schumacher raises various topics such as migration to cities, urban consumption, nature exploitation, modern economics and economists. His central thesis is that we need to rethink our strategy. The notion that we will figure things out as we progress forward is very optimistic and naive. His solution is de-cenetralization, think small, think collaborative and think people.

Based, on the book, it got me thinking what are the use cases around us where we can see the benefits of small is beautiful. Here are a couple of use cases that came to mind immediately -
(a) Water Harvesting - In Bangalore, pretty much every apartment society is now implementing water harvesting and recycling. This reduces their dependence on fresh river water. By this small-small initiatives, it can lead to a sustainable water cycle for urban population. A large scale initiative would require investment in water transportation, central location, huge energy etc etc.
(b) Composting - If every househould starts composting, it would lead to less garbage, less energy wastage in recycling, more manure for more plants. 

Finally, small should not be misinterpreted as individualism. If every farmer tries to grow crops on his small land, and if that crop fails, he ends up in debts, poverty trap etc. The solution here is cooperatives where a bunch of farmers come together, grow different crops and share the yield/profit.  Similar arguments applies to self-driving, aka we should carpool or use public transport. Small is bigger than tiny and every usecase will require its own scale, one size does not fit all.


This book was discussed as part of the July meetup of Bangalore Politically Inspired book club. A very interesting discussion followed. There were a couple who thought that this book was too idealistic/impractical and were optimistic that we will find a way. It was great to listen to counter-views. But in the end, one can not do anything when the argument comes as "I believe... that X will happen".  Everyone gave their views on how society would be 100 years from now. It was a very interesting thought exercise for everyone. My view is inclined towards "Natural selection" - aka things will get really bad before they get better :)

Update: I wanted to add this also to the list of things that i want to remember from this book.
The author argues that there are many processes in today's world which help us to live the way we are living now but they come at a cost. Right now, we are paying the cost and hoping that we will figure out the solutions to do these processes in a sustainable manner at some point in future. Often "need of the hour" is the term best described to take the shortcut and live. There is no way to measure(quantitatively) the impact of this cost for future generations and current economics conveniently ignores to do so, hence the proposition appears very profitable currently. Example is energy from nuclear power when we do not know what to do with the waste. Massive deforestation for 'n' reasons. Pollution caused by thermal power plants or excessive dependence on oil or its by products.
Schumacher argues that this has to stop. He says that we need to change our entire outlook, the way we look at things. Merely punting solutions to future generations is a very bad idea and we are just shifting the consequences on them. He argues that any solution/process which requires such assumption should not be implemented unless it becomes sustainable. If it takes time, we should be patient for the science to catch up. The economics has to change to incorporate this. It requires a radical overhaul of over thinking process and approach to problem solving.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A response

Early this week, i think it was Monday when my facebook stream had this article shared by someone.  Later on, many people in my network had read it and either liked it or shared it. The article that i am talking about is titled - A dust over India. You can read it here -

In summary, the article talks about Mark Manson's (presumably first) visit to India and his experiences during the visit. In the article Mark talks about Indian poverty, pollution, garbage, people trying to rip him/others, tourism and other scams. He also talks about how spirituality is an industry now, how there is piracy, people ogling to tourists. He also highlights a few good points saying that there are definitely good people, people who helped him for no reason, people who did not scam him. In general he is remarks at the Indian virtue of tolerance and non-violence.  But needless to say, the negatives dominate more than 80% of the article.  There is one line that sums up the entire article - "The place is a fucking mess"

After reading the article, the comments section was equally interesting. Most of the readership are Indians living abroad who agreed with most of the facts in article and were very sad about it. There were few Indians who started saying abuses against the article and there were few non-Indians who also experienced similar feelings on their visit.

This blog entry is a response to that article. In my personal view, i do not refute any facts, i acknowledge them. But i think the article by itself is incomplete. It is not because of any fault in the author's writing that makes it incomplete. The author wanted to share his experience and feelings and he has done that. But as a reader, the article raises a few question which needs to be answered and this post is an attempt towards that. What are the questions, you may wonder? As an Indian, the question that came to my mind while reading the article was  simply this - How do Indians live in India when so much is wrong here? In other words, how do you live with yourself given such a situation exists? The other question that needs to be answered is - How did things come to this?


Point 1 -  The expectation issue.
I think there are two perceptions of India out there (for the external people). One comes from the pre-liberalization era  (before 1991) and one after that. In the pre-era, there were a lot of institutions that were not commercialized. During that time, India was a land of spirituality, and when John Lennon's trip coverage romanticized this thought, it was indeed true. In the post liberalization era, as the money started pouring in, India became the land of opportunities both from outside and inside. We started the "India shining" campaign to attract foreigners both in terms of investments and tourism. But the latter era has brought commercialization into the system, every simple thing is a money making opportunity. Moreover, with the lack of proper checks and balances, every person is an entrepreneur now, defining his own rules, some of them are not quite legitimate.
 To somebody coming from outside, there is both an expectation of "India shining" image and at the same time, an image to see serene spiritual, yoga-rooted India and this is where a big shock comes up.  What somebody does not know is that in the post-liberalization era, the income diversity has gone up exponentially and there are  more  people living below poverty lines now  than ever. But unfortunately, this fact is not known and the expectation is not set.  Homeless, hunger live side by side the rich (middle class) is a shock.
The concept of "spiritual tourism" is a blatant example of application of capitalism to the realm of spirituality. In United States, capitalism has been internalized to quite an extent. Yoga, meditation and spirituality are instruments that help people to reach inner peace. But actually inner peace is nothing more than a detoxification from day-to-day capitalism, to strive for something greater than mere existentialism.   Something like capitalism can creep into spirituality and people will make money off it is considered a scam. This is where the expectation meets reality and creates anger which comes out in the form an article.

Point 2 - The Scale of things.
I was amused when i read the para about him doing math on giving 500$ money to the poor. As Mark writes, the magnitude of poverty is unbelievable. He also acknowledges that his own country has its own share of problems. I would like to build up on both of his observations and bring up the point of scale - as things grow.  While walking on the streets of San Francisco (or NY), one can see homeless people but if one turns in some other direction, they are gone. The state of some of the homeless that i have seen is comparable to the state that is described in the article. In other words, one can always turn a blind eye to them and forget about it. But unfortunately in India, they are everywhere. The sheer scale of such people is so big that one has to confront the reality. 
Along the same lines, Mark mentions that he wanted to go to Agra to see the countryside to avoid the city pollution and mess. The cities are polluted everywhere. What defines a city is very controversial subject but looking at population per sq km numbers, everyplace in India is a city. With a land 1/5th of US and with a population seven times more, we are struggling to deal with the scale.  We were always over-populated, even before independence but we our consumption rates were very low. We were quite close to nature in terms of giving and taking. In the post industrialized era, our consumption has gone up and we are unprepared to deal with it in this scale.  The garbage, the pollution, the homeless are a result of a poor marriage between the industrialization and our scale. Many claim globalization to be a big success, the biggest achievement of our times, for us the verdict is still not out. If an average Indian starts to consume at the same rate an average American consumes, we would be under a pile of trash and carbon cloud the very next day. Yes, we acknowledge that it is a problem, one whose solution we have not found yet.

Point 3 - Swept under the rug.
What is the largest export of US to China? Trash. Yes, the same trash that fills the Indian streets is exported from US to third world countries including India. US with one of the lowest people per sq km has a lot of empty land space yet it is being exported. And most of the Americans are unaware of it. At the same time, India which does not have the adequate capacity to process its own waste is also importing more because it gets money. My point is that there are many things in US which are swept under the rug and hence average citizens do not worry about it. Chief among them are gas fuel, trash, ewaste and nuclear waste. For us, there is no escape, there is no rug for us. We are out here in open trying to figure out what the hell we have to do with this mess. We do not have any solution yet, we do not have the money to offload it to some other country, forget that, we do not even have the money to pick it up from everybody's door step. What we see is the result - lot of trash everywhere.

Point 4 - Dog eat Dog world.
Indians are yet another proof of Darwin's theory of evolution - Survival of the fittest at the expense of the weak.  Indians never question this theory,  for us it is the way of living our lives.  All the scams, the rip-offs are manifestations of somebody's survival at the expense of somebody. We complain when we are at the receiving end of a scam but what about the time when we are the ones benefitting from it. Our involvement may be indirect, may be involuntary but ignorance is not an excuse here. 
The balance of man to nature has been tilted. There are more people, less resources. Thus, only the one who is strong can survive. Only the one who knows how to game the system will emerge as winner. It is indeed sad that it has come to this. 

Point 5 - The Identity Crisis.
Every "thinking" Indian right now is grappling with an Identity crisis right now. Who are we and where are we going? By every "thinking" Indian, i mean only those who are fortunate enough to have Maslow's physiological needs satisfied. For others, survival is the only thought. At one end is the rich cultural history, the sanskars, our dharma (morals), all of which, in a nutshell, teach us righteousness. Righteousness that shows us how to be content, how to be happy. At other end is the new age individualistic thought combined with the capitalistic ideals. In this new age world, through advertisements and marketing we have been led to believe that human dignity involves living in a certain way.   One has to be globally connected, one has to be cosmopolitan. AC, Washing machines, microwaves are now basic requirements. In this new age, we want more things which need more money and we get money at the expense of others. Money is becoming the measure of success, measure of happiness and almost everything that can or cant be measured; and we are struggling to figure our way out of it.
We have a strong identity crisis in our hands - everyone of us know deep down that it is a downward spiral but nobody has any alternatives. A nation can be content if all its citizens are content. But if i let an opportunity go, someone else will take it and it will be his gain-my loss, his survival-my weakness. The strange question in front of us is - should i be right or should i survive?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Life in June 4 - July 14

A lot of things happened in the last 40 days. Small, small things but when counted in all, it is a big sum.

~ Theater :
Tumhari Amrita featuring Shabana Azmi and Farooq Sheikh. Very simple play but very good. All the strength lies in the writing, the script and how they voiced out. I could have watched the play with my eyes closed and would have enjoyed it all the same. I loved listening to such good pure hindi after so long.  At its 20th year, it surely was way ahead of its time when first produced. I can not see any difference in Farooq sahab after all these years, but i wonder how Shabanaji would have portrayed Amrita so many years ago.
Vinay Pathak is not King Lear featuring Vinay Pathak. This one i went just to see Vinay sahab. Good acting, but didnt quite like the play a lot. Or rather didn't got the play completely, i think mainly because i have not read King Lear. Knowing King Lear would have made the play more appreciable. But still some jokes were good,  and watching Vinay is always a charm!

~ Travel:
 One day trip to Nagpur on my birthday to meet parents . Liked the fact that Nagpur has almost no traffic compared to Bangalore.
One morning trip to Nandi hills with Parul.  The idea was to see the sunrise so we left bangalore at 4 am. We reached there at 5:30 only to find that it opens at 6. Nandi hills point was covered in clouds, very breezy, it was a typical hill station. Fun! Should plan more and take food and books next time. Dosa at vidyarthi bhavan was indeed great!
Hyderabad with Gurshi: It has been blogged before.

~ Runs:
Getting more regular now. Ran 14k today morning. training for 21k. HM.
Runners High  is a great group too!

Drift: Finished audiobook - Drift. Well, its not finished yet, about an hr is still remaining but i am tired of it now. Its a decent book, Rachel Maddow definitely is raising a worthy point - How can a country go to war and still (a) citizens are not involved (b) there are tax breaks and (c) Privatization of the army. Good research but after 5 hrs of listening, it gets quite repetitive. Also, since i am not in US anymore, it again feels distant to listen to this book.
Reread Song of ice and fire - book III while in Hyderabad. That HBO season had a addictive effect on me.
The spy who came from cold - Blogged before.

~Movies -
 Shanghai was good, GOW1 was simply brilliant.
As a build up to the Dark knight rises, i saw Memento and Batman begins. I am now full in Nolan mood now :)

~Played poker in three meetup events. Need to slow it down.
~Went to see aparmtnents in Bangalore. It was a disaster, i dont know how people can afford such expensive places.
~Volunteered for a day with Mentor Together. Liked the group and organizers.
~My Nephew  stayed with me for 20 days. Didn't go as planned. People need to be independent when they turn 18 :)
~Work is going decent.
The Bflat restaurant had good Thai food and not that expensive.
The rice Bowl had good Chinese but it is not close to the chinese places in Mountain view.
Will review the dosa places in bangalore
Zuri had great Chinese food but it was crazily expensive.
Madural idli is an awesome place!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Statistical Anomaly

The Statistical Anomaly

To the gang who keeps Church street clean,
day after day.
To the traffic policeman who was there at 6 am,
at that chaotic junction close to my office
To the guy who covered the three potholes
near my house,
To the auto driver who agreed to charge metered fare,
irrespective of my destination,
Take a bow, i salute you.
You are now a rare breed of people,
who work efficiently, with ownership and with dignity,
with pride.
But i hate to break this to you,
You are now a statistical anomaly.

To the one who held the trash in his hand,
until he found a trash bin.
To the one who controlled the pee pressure,
cause a public space ain't the place.
To the driver who drove on the left lane,
because he was slower than the rest.
To the commuter who got up from his seat,
on seeing that old man.
To everyone who refused to pay a bribe,
To anyone who refused to accept a bribe.
I know you know this but please listen
You did the right thing, you are a hero.
They said - "Everybody else is doing it! "
"Not me", you told everyone. 
There will not be any brave tales to tell your deeds,
no songs will be sung in your honor. 
But don't be bothered. 
I know it. You know it.
You are now a statistical anomaly.

To that dude who thought it was cool,
to jump a red light,
to talk inside a movie theater,
to come late to a concert,
to smoke weed,
to drink and drive. 
Grow up! 
You are a burden, you are a shame,
on me, my people and my culture.
You do not belong here, 
You are a statistical anomaly.

To the one who volunteered to mentor
a stranger's kid
To the teacher who teaches in a tribal area
by his own choice,
To those villagers who planted trees,
every time a girl was born,
To anyone who left his high paying job,
for doing what he believed in
To all those who ran a full marathon,
because you believed in a cause.
Kudos to you!
You are my inspiration, you are my hope.
I am glad you exist, even though
you are a statistical anomaly.

The Spy who came from the cold

The Spy who came from the cold
By John Le Carre.

Imagine that you are reading the best spy fiction novel out there and wondering - why? Am i not getting it or what? Why is this so special? This loser protagonist who is just ranting that what he did throughout his life has been a failure - how could this novel be so exceptional to be picked by Time as one of the All time Top 100 novels (since 1922). Yet it is and this is exactly how i felt while i was reading the book, up until 80%. 

There are two points here - One. In order for a book to be judged the best spy fiction novel, you have to compare it with other spy fiction novels (famous being James Bond series) and then declare that this one wins. Unfortunately this was my first novel in this genre. So, i had no notes of comparison. Second, when you think of a spy, because of popular fiction out there (again, in particular James Bond), they are so much ingrained with fiction, in terms of spy being a perfect hero, the philanderer where girls are falling over, the dashing hero with fancy gadgets and car, that you seem to believe that it must be true even when you know that it is impossible. 

Thus, when you have pre-conceived notions about a genre mostly by the new age media such as Burn notice, Spy game and James bond series. Along comes a novel that provides a realistic portrayal of the genre, a novel that provides the human side of things - that spies are regular people who are disillusioned,  they often find it difficult to switch between their true identity and the one they are trying to pretend. Spies who find it difficult follow any ideology, who find it difficult to fall in love, have trust issues etc etc. This is what The Spy who came from the cold gives us - a fine grained close view of a life of a spy who is playing and getting played at the same time. It takes some time to realize this but in the end, when all the plots are revealed, you get a sense of the entire story and now it all makes sense. 

I picked this one after watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and instantly fascinated by Gary Oldman's portrayal of George Smiley. A few searches later, i got to know about this one and when it was called the best, i just had to go through it. I felt cheated when the novel said that it is a George Smiley novel even though George Smiley only comes like on 10 pages. 

But the novel shines in the end, when pieces get together and you know that the player is a pawn and nothing else. I would not re-read this novel, will not put in my top list but it was a good read. It is definitely more realistic than generally other fiction novels that i have read so far. 

The movie review post

Its been a long time since i wrote about the movies that i have seen. Here is a long due one.

Directed by Dibakar Banerjee (of Khosla ka Ghosla fame), Shanghai is his entry to the genre of political thriller. In terms of plot, Shanghai comes out as predictable application of a well known formula in a different problem, in this case the issue of Special Economic Zones. There are activists, corrupt politicians, govt. officers working for corrupt politicians and in dilemmas of their ethics, grass root level local thugs or wanna be thugs who crave for lime light and media reporter who get access to truth by sheer luck. Jaane bhi Do Yarron morphed this plotline into a comedic-satiric take, Rajkumar Santoshi focussed more on the political duplicity, Shanghai mixes to create its own cocktail. What works in its favor is the cleverly engineered screenplay, cinematography and direction. It is definitely engineered, a lot of emphasis on tracking shots with an engaging background score to create tension that runs throughout the movie. The difference between a good and bad movie in this genre is how you can make the audience believe of the magnitude of plunder yet show case the grassroot level details, the trick of balancing the two is the key and Shanghai does a fabulous job. The local goondas are believable, their craving for money, limelight and more power is evident. Right in the first scene you can see them in action by painting black color on a local shop-owner's face.
Shanghai is good but its not excellent. The problem with Shanghai is that even though you know that all that is shown is happening in present day India, yet you realize that it is fiction trying to stand on reality. The movie is not able to transcend itself from fiction to reality because so much is happening to those few characters that it creates an artificial feeling. I remember listening in a DVD commentary of a great film where the director explained that certain scenes were deleted to give a touch of reality even though they were all real. 
But overall Shanghai takes Indian cinema a step closer to where it should be and it is really a good viewing experience. 

My thought while watching the movie - "Kashyap kamina hai".  Even though it is 160 mins, even though it will not be in any of my top lists,  yet this movie deserves to be seen. GOW makes me proud that it is a movie coming out of India, that an Indian has made such a movie. Do you know why?  Because of its sheer creativity, because of what Kashyap is daring to do. He is trying to make a movie about how time affects a town, how things change and yet rivalry is passed down generations and how the finer details are filled with sheer creativity both in terms of story telling or disrupting well defined things such as item numbers.  I do not remember any Indian movie which tries to spans over a 50 year period. All i can think of is those Amitabh movies where something happens in his childhood and ge groups up to take revenge :)
My favorite is the Yashpal Sharma sequence where he presents an item number by lip-syncing to a female voice while standing and wearing a bright red colored lipstick. The male portions of the song are   heard over a dream sequence where two love birds communicate while wearing a dark goggles during night. In another sequence, there is an intense rivalry happening between two strong players, "keh ke lenge",  and yet in the same shot, there is a disco dancer mimic artist dancing to bappi lahiri tunes but with its own lyrics. There is a total hippie fusion band singing about guns and girlfriends in a railway train while the actor is trying to hide guns. Often i found myself asking why is he doing this and the only answer was - "Kyunki Kashyap kamina hai" And you know what is the best part - I liked it. While we are at it, the movie opens up with the Kyunk saas bhi squence which is followed by bullets, bombs and more bullets. Why?
GOW is an ingenious movie, very very creative and is indeed pleasure to watch despite of its length. It is like Inglorious Basterds, very pleasurable to watch, creative and yet it does not feature in top lists of anyone. The part two is awaited dearly by this one. 
(I also watched this one in PVR gold class, so sitting on that lazy boy chairs with food, it adds more the whole experience even though its more expensive)

Vinay Pathak is not King Lear
This was a play not a movie. I had gone to see it for only one reason - Vinay Pathak. I have never read King Lear, yet the desire to see Vinay Pathak in any theater is overwhelming after Blue Mug.  Directed by Rajat Kapoor, VPINKL tries to spoof Shakespeare yet in a Shakesperian way. It is a tragedy, comedy, non-linear and very jumpy. I think my experience would have been much better had i read King Lear but i have heard a few bits about the story, so i had some idea. It is a monologue and it is performed brilliantly by Vinay Pathak (nothing new here) . But yet it does not feel a long lasting impression as one does not fully get what the end goal is or for that matter the theme. Abstraction is good but as long as one can understand the theme, sadly  VPINKL does not do a convincing job at it. 

Justice by Michael Sandel

Justice by Michael Sandel.
A book review.

Consider a hypothetical scenario when you are in your home and a murderer with the intent of killing everyone in the house walks in. Your friend is hiding somewhere in the house. The murderer asks you if there is anyone else in the house. What should your response be? Should you lie to save your friend? Or should you always speak the truth? Now suppose you are living in an ideal world, there is no greed, everybody is happy, people treat each other with respect, there is fairness, equality and no discrimination and all good things that you can think off in this ideal world. Will your response now be different to the above question? 

Michael Sandel takes several examples, some hypothetical and some based on real life events, to give us an idea of justice, its meaning, its motives and its aims.  In the book, Justice, the author gives an overview of various ideologies (or rather view points) that are proposed to provide a framework for Justice. Every ideology is followed by a discussion on how the ideology is applied,  what are its benefits and then followed by its shortcomings. Both pros and cons are shared with related case studies which makes one think, which makes one apply and it brings out the notion of justice. 

What makes an action Just ?  If i pose this question, the majority answer would be - it depends. But it is not an acceptable answer in a practical world where two different parties can reach to a totally opposite conclusion by following their reasoning.  I strongly believe that there should be objectives that we as a society should strive for and a just action is one that helps us realize that ideal. But what should those ideals be? Michael Sandel explores this question by examining  theories of Utilitarianism, Kant's, Rawls theory of  justice, Aristotle's theory of telos, libertarian , egalitarian and many such principles. 

Justice does a good job in conveying the essence of most theories. It is very accessible to lay men who as it breaks down complex notions into ideas that are quite tangible. Even though it is quite an academic subject, Michael does not come out as didactic. With the help of practical case studies, the listener is forced to think through as Michael observes different explanations. In terms of tone, one can feel the bias of the author while explaining some principles but if you agree with him, like me, it doesn't bother much.  

Coming back to the murderer case described above, a careful observer will object that if there is indeed an ideal world, it will not have any murderer, so that is a contradiction. But that is not the point. The point is that do we all agree that Justice should take us to an ideal world? Should we forgo our principles of speaking truth in case of an extremity. Where does it lead us if we chose such a path? In my personal belief, i regard that the just path is not an easy path. A just path often poses more difficulties in short term but it will pay out in long term. A just decision even though is a hard one, we must still take it because it is the right thing to do. What is a right thing is indeed a big question but i believe that if each one of us imagine an ideal just world, we will all end up to the same world and the right thing is the one that helps us move towards that world. 

Read Justice if you want to know about the leading ideologies that has been practiced till present day.  Read the book if you want to know where you should invest your energy for an in-depth study. The audio books runs little over 6 hrs and is a fabulous way to spend time while commuting to office or going on a long distance road trip.