Beyond Reach

June 20th, 2009

I often end up tearing my hair in frustration when I am reading something or find something to read online and I am ‘told’ to pay up to continue reading. While it makes perfect economic and business sense for the content provider, I am left wondering if the world is flat only for some people, and not all.

I may be stretching things too far when I try to extend the concept of the flat world to accessing the content on the world wide web. But, the affordability factor cannot be ignored. This must have been because many an article I wanted to read had to be paid in dollars or pounds when I earned in the humble rupees.

Five dollars may not be too much for an American or a Canadian, or many a European to read an article. But, for me, $5 is nearly Rs 250. It’s not a price I can afford to pay for a single article. It is what I may pay for a novel.
I had thought the future would be brighter for those who love to surf the Net for information and knowledge, when more and more content from magazines and newspapers were being made available for free.

But, costing pressures of the content providers i.e. magazines and journals is catching up it seems with free-riders like me. Despite all those cost-benefit analyses of free content online, I seemed to throw logic out of the window when surfing the world wide web looking for information or to read. This, when I am always trying to spread the ‘gyan’ on why we pay how much we pay for whay we use.

In social sense and commercial sense the world is indeed flat. A schoolmate, on his way to work in Toronto pings me to ask how I am doing while I am at work or am winding up my work for the day. Now I can ping him when he is on his way to work to enquire how a common friend was doing in Naples, while an ex-colleague pings me from Hong Kong to ask if my job is safe.

Wish the world would become flat in the sense of affordability too.

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Kick in my stomach…

June 14th, 2009

Shezan, which had been my saviour for the last five years (especially when it rained cats and dogs), is now under threat of ditching me. The restaurant, which has stood there for well over a decade, is now in danger of passing into history.

Being not more than just a hop, skip and a jump away, Shezan was a blessing for many of us in desperate times. But, it is the fickle-minded and illogical real estate market that is strangulating it now. Notwithstanding the economic slowdown, the landlord wants the restaurant operator to pay double the rent he is paying now. “Pay up… or vacate” is the ultimatum for him. (The restauranter was a contemporary of mine in college).

Every other day, there are news reports that speaks of rents crashing or correcting. But, the landlord thinks otherwise. He is sure of getting a much better or much bigger tenant. He seems to be preparing for the take-off, of the economy. He wants to keep the space vacant and grab the best deal that will come along.

This is not a one-off case. All landlords seem to be taking this view unless, of course, the tenant is in a position to “arm-twist” the landlord into accepting your arguments.

My friend is in a fix. But, he is not ready to vacate. The landlord is trying to figure out more ways than one to squeeze him out of the building. He has banned parking for the customers of the restaurant.

In fact it has been a double whammy.Takeaways and home deliveries or office deliveries were a major source of income. But, while the number of orders have not fallen much, the average revenue per order has plunged … that is over 50%.

He has had to raise the prices of his dishes. Thanks to the increase in the input costs… not to mention the energy costs. With fewer people visiting the restaurant to spend some ‘quality time’, he is not exactly laughing his way to bank.

But, the real estate fundas, if there exist any, it seems, may drown him sooner or later.

The landlord only needs to look to the left and right of the building to see what is happening. The building to the right of his has two tenants while he had four just a couple of months ago. The much building to the other side was vacated months ago and remains vacant with no signs of a tenant coming.

Meanwhile, I am keeping my fingers crossed about the fate of Shezan. I am too lazy to walk half a km to grab a bite, and that is point.

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Artist’s Life Redesigned

June 5th, 2009

Babumon, the roommate from university who I always called “the mad guy”, called on me while in the city to organise an art exhibition on behalf of a Lalit Kala Academy. I refer to him as my guru, at least in appreciating art forms (including music, movies etc). He had taught me to appreciate Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ for instance or for that matter ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’.

How is ‘Modigliani’ pronounced, I learnt from him.

He never called himself a Cubist, but wouldn’t mind if someone else called him so.

He tried his hand at trying to infuse some aesthetic sense into someone whose sense of beauty was not up to the mark for him. He tried introducing me to Cubism and the underlying philosophies.

He didn’t think money was necessary. But thought art was all, and that sky was the roof. But now, he had learnt the wordly ways forced by circumstances. Market forces had smartened him.

He explained post-modernism and, the post-modern artists and their works. But, I could never traverse the fourth dimension — which is time. I was probably too caught up in the present to be able to enter the fourth dimension.

After his masters in fine arts, which he did just for an opportunity to work with an artist he admired, he took to farming hoping to paint in all peace and quiet in a village away from the madding crowds.

But, alas, the vagaries of the weather and the wildlife (mostly elephants) dashed his hopes. Pure economics took over. He realised, his revenues did not match his expenditure. Many a times he had to face losses. Also, the paint/pastels and canvas or paper too cost him a lot. Instead of falling into the hands of money lenders, he became a teacher.

He had a girlfriend of eight years and decided to get married. Now he was forced to step into the real world. He had to run a family and he has landed a job with Lalit Kala Academy. With that vanished his opportunities to paint.

I still get to interact with painters and other artists, he insists. But, says, he misses painting by himself because he has no time. He takes a few weeks together sometimes to complete a work.

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