opinion

Better Read my Open Letter

Two things occurred. A major in the Indian army (Gaurav Arya) wrote an open letter to the deceased Hizbul commander Burhan Wani. In it, he displayed machismo that made me remember Veeru, my childhood bully companion who would mock me with things like “Dekh yaar Saif, tu yahaan aayega to pitega to zaroor. Faltu mein tension kyun le ra hai, ghar mein baith, TV dekh. Mere ko bhi bura lagta hai tujhe dekh ke.” In response, Wasim Khan (a film director I think) wrote a fitting reply that served to stabilize my rage at Arya’s letter and after reading Wasim’s letter I could breathe a little easier. I have thought about it now for two days. The thing is, this silsila of open letters and responses is good for us to see a piece of the action and also to a degree to wake us up out of our stupor but it doesn’t move anything forward. The patriots take on side and the rationalists take another. But the truth is, while I feel no sympathy for Major Arya, I do think that an army major who is willing to engage in dialogue even if that dialogue is basically a threat, is actually trying to think through his actions. He is not yet a zombie. He is a human being still. We cannot demonize a member of our own army, or else all of us a hypocrites. Note that Wasim, while enraged did not abuse Arya. He was controlled in his response. He gave him the dignity of a human being. And if behoves all of us to do the same. I felt in his letter and maybe this is pathological optimism, that somehow Arya wanted the carnage to end. He wanted it to end a certain way, on his terms. He wanted to emerge as the unquestionable and heroic winner but he did want the whole thing to end. That was the point of the letter. To end the thing. What might be very nice if Wasim and Arya were to sit down face to face and have it out in words and maybe a few fists too. A good fist-fight never hurt anyone too badly unless they were on the other side of Mike Tyson. And for the rest of us to see what comes out of that. What understanding can they arrive at, if any. And if they cannot arrive at an understanding, then why expect the government of any country to be able to do what we ourselves cannot do. The government is after all, us. The open letter can be read here: http://www.mensxp.com/…/31469-this-indian-army-major-s-open… and Wasim’s response here: http://www.thequint.com/…/this-kashmiris-response-to-an-arm…

And what I believe (based on the name, it could be someone else!) is Major Arya’s blog can be read here where we see with our own eyes that he tries to think things through and has some reasonably good theories to offer about the conflict: http://majorgauravarya.blogspot.co.uk/

Naked Shirtless Religion

A couple of my friends have made an excellent and co-incidentally named documentary film on Salman Khan fandom, “Being Bhaijaan.” It is playing at the New York International Film Festival right now. I watched it at a private screening in Gurgaon and the filmmakers honored me by placing my review on their blog.

Jai Salman. Naked Shirtless Religion

by Saif Ali

“I had a knack for impressions as a teenager. It was a handy tool to win friends and sometimes influence people. Performances were arranged, thug-style, in the schoolyard away from the anticipated wrath of the subjects being imitated. A mob of kids stood around while I belted out impressions and improvisations of selected pedagogues. Sometimes a peer would request an impression of a particular person and I would have to say no. The thing of it was that I did not choose the subjects of my impressions…”

Read the whole review here. If you’re in NY, go see the film.

AAP is not it

I am not a fan of Arvind Kejriwal. Only a fan of what he has made possible for Indian politics. I am a fan of his chutzpah and screw-everything attitude. People are hollering on about the ouster of Prashant Bhushan and Yogendar Yadav from the political affairs committee. I am sad about this. I absolutely adore Yogendar Yadav. If AAP leaders were put in a museum he would continuously attract the maximum visitors despite Arvind Kejriwal being on the brochure. Honestly, I don’t care about the Aam Aadmi Party. A political party as far as I am concerned, is a campaign vehicle to get the right people and the right ideas into power. After they’re in the house, the political party is no longer my primary concern. They are free to re-organize and restructure till kingdom come. Our eyes should now be on the people in government who we voted for. We have to watch them like hawks and demand that they stay true to every promise or else give us damned good reasons for deviating. This is where “not being a fan of anyone” is important. Personal admiration aside, I am decisively not a fan of Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister. I have high hopes from him and I believe in him but make no mistake, he is a public servant and I will demand to be served, muffler or not. I am elated he resigned as the national convener of the party. He is the chief minister for Ganesha’s sake, he has a lot of work to do. Delhi is a consummate shithole of pollution, population, corruption, crime and general filth. I don’t want him sorting out his political party. I want him sorting out my city so I don’t have to build a house in Dharamshala.

This brings us to the painful realization that AAP is not a shortcut. There are no shortcuts in the sustainable the transformation of nations. The AAP has brought to the fray a value system for the polity. This system is based on directness, candor, accountability, transparency and simplicity. Most importantly, it has conjured up the intoxicating dream that elections can be won by common people. It has turned social media, blogs, YouTube, local musicians into powerful tools of political battle. The kind of government that Kejriwal has brought into the assembly may work to remove some systematic corruption and offer slightly more generous infrastructural support to the aad aadmi so we can expect some changes. I don’t expect these changes to be dramatic. The sea change, the dormant deluge lies in the political awakening of the middle class. A phenomenon that we owe to the efforts of Arvind Kejriwal in the AAP. If the landslide majority win for the AAP in Delhi is mirrored by a shift in perspective of the common people across Delhi, then we have game on. Here is what I mean. I mean that people on the streets are already citing the Kejriwal regime for not accepting dubious behavior from the police, from shopkeepers, from autowallahs and from each other. There is the “ab yeh nahin chalega” attitude that is setting in. I said it to an auto guy the other day when he demanded some unearthly sum to take me to Lajpat Nagar. I will go further to say that if the AAP government is to work at all, we have to see this transformation in the consciousness and mentality across Delhi.

We all have to realize that we cannot expect any government to police us, to babysit us, to hold us accountable, to respect women, to drive while sober and tell us to pay our bills on time. Unless we want some hostile surveillance state with CCTV cameras everywhere a dozen sting operations a day. If Kejriwal is able to legislate successfully, with 67 seats I don’t see how not, then we can fully expect more power to be shifted to the hands of the common people. The very model depends on the responsible and competent conduct of the citizen body.

I fully anticipate the formation of new parties. There is already dissenting voices in the AAP party ranks and all kinds of hell is breaking loose with people going off road and making party meeting details public. This is a great thing. The AAP mission was to change the rules of the game and if you bring in new game you have to expect new players. I mean what kind of person would want to see a carefully planned expansion of AAP across the entire country with landslide victories and seas of those white caps. That is not Swaraj, its a hegemony of a party that is clearly imperfect. Besides, those white caps are boring beyond a point. I want to see new parties come up and challenge AAP with even higher standards for transparency and candidate selection, with better plans for rural development, with awesome ideas about green energy and local handicraft. Why stop at AAP, bring on the SAAP and the BAAP and while we’re at it even a PAAP. My ideal situation will be a set of AAP-like parties with different ideas battling it out all over India and getting all up in each other’s faces about every issue. That is decentralization, that is democracy, that is Swaraj. How banal for the AAP to just duplicate the Delhi-model in other states. That whole “duplicating state model in the whole country” schtick has already been tried and the jury is out on how awesome it really is.

Democracy is dirty. Delhi is a five year experiment. If you are between the ages of 20 and 35, you should be watching very very very carefully. The AAP has done what they set out to do. They have changed the rules of game. The Delhi Vidhan Sabha as of now is rapist-free unless one of those three candidates has something in the closet. We have leveled up. It is a new world and it is wide open. It is painful and unacceptable that we don’t have an amazing opposition who could keep the Kejriwal machine in check. Get off your asses. Stop using Facebook as a selfie-repository and ask for a password reset on that 10 year old blog you had started while slacking off before maths exams. Start a community radio station, don’t for God’s sake bribe anyone, get in line, get out of your head. You could be Chief Minister in 5 years. It’s time. Game on. Jai Hind.

What history feels like

Ever wonder what it feels like to be part of history that will be taught in textbooks? It feels like this. And it looks like this.

7070

I am history. I am stuck to the Delhi election website.

The AAP is leading in 65 seats in Delhi. Out of 70. Delhi is waking up. Power to the people. Jai Hind.

After 10 years of being away from home I am returning in 19 days to live among my own once again. A momentous time to return. I have spent the last 3 years watching the slow yet steady rise of the fundamentalist right wing in India and at time have been overcome by anxiety. I watched Narendra Modi’s aggressive speeches and felt sick to the stomach when my own friends started to drool over him. Ending in the historic landslide win giving total control of the Lok Sabha to the BJP. The fear of losing my home as I knew it became all too real when recently just a few miles away from my flat communal riots broke out in Bawana and Trilok Puri.  The government was silent. Delhi felt like a pressure cooker blowing off steam. I saw a chilling photograph of police drones flying over the riot stricken area taken by my friend. Two things struck me. The police use drones? What was my friend doing in riot affected areas two days after the violence happened?

Leading positions in 66 seats. The Congress is at 0. Is this real?

This told me two things. First, India has changed since I left. Second, my contemporaries have the courage and the means to question the system. 10 years of separation is a lot. I am 33. I cannot state verbally what the difference is between a 23 year old and a 33 year old but for the first time I can feel it in my bones, in my heart. I have lost that kind of scared, wide-eyed look. That amalgam of fear, wonder and curiosity. It has been replaced with a steady gaze. The gaze of observation and responsibility.

My father just called. He says Arvind Kejriwal ne inka raita phaila diya.

I still remember the day I saw the picture of man with spectacles and a Delhi-Uncle-Ji moustache in the papers. He was smiling and waving to the crowds surrounded by cameramen. Arvind Kejriwal. I scanned the article headline. Something about an Aam Aadmi Party. Without knowing anything about either the person or the party, some very muted ray of hope emerged for a second deep in my psyche and died out. I read the article in a trance. I couldn’t understand what was going on. This man had broken away from the Anna Hazare movement and started his own party to battle corruption. The rest is history. I devoured his interviews, his speeches and everything about him on YouTube. Not a day would go by when I didn’t type “Modi news” in Google and spend half an hour getting depressed as more and more ridiculous news poured in about changes in school curriculum, crazy demands by the saffron right, ghar-wapasi and perpetual stony silence from the Prime Minister. This morning routine changed. I would now type “kejriwal news” in to the text box and watch him tackle interviewers, have egg thrown on him, get slapped, be ridiculed.

The Aam Aadmi Party became a permanent fixture in my life. To my delight, I saw more and more of my friends become interested. I saw people me age giving interviews on television. This was nothing short of revolutionary. Ever since childhood I had seen these angry, violent people in my neighborhood be associated with politics. The jobless, loud son of the uncle-ji who lived downstairs and mysteriously owned a Honda Accord when most people had two-wheelers was a member of the Congress party. When I was in college, the guys in the youth wings of political parties were people that you basically never saw on campus. Smarmy, oily faces and you’d see them sometimes waving from a truck full of hooligans. For the first time, I saw “politicians” who were professors, social activists, journalists.

One day I watched Yogendar Yadav give an interview on television. He told a story about how he was called Salim when he was born. The story went that his father watched his grandfather be butchered to death by a Muslim during communal riots. His response was to give his son a Muslim name because he refused to accept that an entire community could be violent. Yadav ji cried when he told the story. For the first time in my life, I felt what could be termed inspiration from something a political figure had said on television.

Still leading in 66. It is the age of absolute majorities. Our family friend just called from College Station. He is a long time BJP guy. He conceded gracefully and said he was happy. He invited me to come stay with him in Texas. I should go.

I am an emotional guy. I am an actor. It goes with the territory unless you’re Christopher Walken. But the AAP is more than just hard-hitting personal stories. They have hired some very smart people in the last 8 months. They’ve got people from IIT, from CSDS, from the entertainment industry, lawyers. They already had amazing people from the street movement. They have redefined what social media means to Delhi politics. Kejriwal has tempered his words, he gives one knockout interview after the other. A new era has begun. In Delhi politics and as it happens, in my life. I am so full of hope. I don’t fear the right wing juggernaut as much. Apparently, Modiji has called Kejriwal to congratulate him and promise support from the Center. A fitting response. Modiji is smart, no denying it.

Down to 63. Any bets for the final tally?

Its all new. Its all for the very first time in Delhi, not since Independence, since forever. 67% of Delhi turned out to vote. A record. The Pandavas would have been envious. It is like music in my heart. Sweet music. If you are a young person (0-40 years), never again underestimate your voice. The AAP will come to power but it is not on them. They are only 60 odd people, by the looks of it. We all have to commit to reforming ourselves beginning from the core. No more bribes. No more littering. We will demand governance and we will ask questions because no government is perfect (even if they have an opposition of 7 Vidhan Sabha members). It is a thing of the past when blogs were just a hobby. When YouTube was just a novelty on the Internet. They are now tools of transformation. There is a lot of work to be done. The work has begun now.

Sitaaron se aagey jahaan, aur bhi hain, Abhi ishq ke imtihaan aur bhi hain. 

Come, let us dream together. Imagine Lajpat Nagar without all the encroachment and illegally parked cars. Imagine the slums in Okhla Tank turned into flats and the people who have worked in our homes as domestic helpers have real homes and water and 24×7 electricity. Imagine when you get into a fight on the street and you call the police and they come and help. Imagine if the guy who has sold vegetables to you for the last 20 years can send take his sick wife to the government hospital without coming and asking you to put in a good word. Imagine when a church is attacked and vandalized in the capital, the government takes action and issues a statement. Imagine, not being helpless. Imagine, being served. Imagine. And work for it. It will take years. There will be a lot of mistakes. There might even be abject disappointment and shock at times but mistakes are better than ennui and helplessness.

You gotta feel for Shazia Ilmi. You know, I feel bad because I know she means well. I think she got steamrolled in the Arvind Kejriwal parade but Shazia ji, this has got to say something to you about a process called delayed gratification. If you can learn from mistakes, you will remain a leader in my eyes. I think you will do well. I feel like I should say something to Kiran Bedi ji, but I don’t know what. She is a strong lady.

Just saw this headline. “Gloom descends on BJP offices in Delhi.”

Yeah, no shit. Delhi is not Gujarat. Today I feel like Delhi is the Capital with Capital C. Like the people from Delhi cannot be played and like the bad rap we’ve got for being badtameez and loud and stupid can finally take a chill pill. Oh my word. I just saw Sambit Patra on TV. It is honestly, the best thing I have seen … basically ever. Crap, it was live online streaming and I can’t take a screenshot. Probably for the best. Some things are best experienced once and laid to rest.

They’ve won in 3 seats and leading in 60. That’s 63/70.  90%. Its still not as good as Harshita’s board exam score. The thing is why are they trailing in 7 seats. What happened? I just heard someone say that unlike Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi’s performance is at least consistent. I can’t sleep tonight.

Perform or Die

A slight shift in gear. Today, I want to talk about a previous lifetime. I had just graduated from an undergraduate program in computer engineering and was floundering in terms of next steps. It seems odd to me that when we are not engaged in studies or profession we experience the sensation of floundering even though actually, we are on perfectly stable ground. In fact, one can argue that life in the absence of professional engagement is as stable as it can possibly be. When one is employed, one is traveling on the rather rocky boat of performance ratings, HR appraisals, scalability into other roles, availability of positions and overall company strategy. Yet, this volatile situation of employment is what we call stability. It earns us money after all and without money, we can’t take vacations from employment. If you want to see real floundering, listen to this leaked termination interview from the legendary Tata Consultancy Services company.

If you ignored that and are reading on (or if they deleted the clip), the sound clip contains some sort of HR manager (I imagine) explaining to a female employee (I hope she’s female) that she “will not be able to continue” after 30 days. He then explains how it will all be handled and what kind of compensation they will offer her etc. He also adds that she can ask him questions if she has any. Probably shouldn’t have done that. She takes him up on the offer. That is when the floundering begins. He flails desperately, pulls out obscure corporate jargon like “reasons you can correlate” and “parameters” and some of the terms that make up the rocky corporate boat I talked about earlier. The shocking fact is revealed that the lady has worked for TCS for nine years. She defends her performance ratings and offers what I thought is some really good advice about how to conduct exit interviews. At this point, the HR manager is all but drowning in his own little pond and then (the Bollywood moment), you hear another voice. A surer, more confident voice. Also female. Who basically tells this lady the truth, finally. The truth being that that they retained their best people according to performance ratings and she didn’t make the cut and they are not at liberty to discuss any more specifics. Thank God for complete, cold honesty.

“Where do I sign?” says the baffled employee.

Now, it is achingly enticing to create a martyr out of this lady who is getting fired and brand the management as evil. After all, she worked honestly for nine years and got some reasonable ratings all the while trying to live her life so why should she be cut? She’s a victim. Maybe, but that’s not important. There is only one difference between the employee and the managers. They have embraced the corporate TCS value system and she has not. That’s it. Other stories about morality are valid but not practical.

So, is practicality and reverence for numbers the TCS corporate value system? From the testimony of the more confident female manager in the interview, it seems that’s how TCS is run. Stone cold practicality for the sake of profit. Perform or die. Those who embrace the profit motive unabashedly will be seen as competent and those who question it or seem hesitant are gradually marginalized. Which is why, If I were managing the guy who is conducting the exit interview, I’d have a serious conversation with him and probably drop him a C rating for the current appraisal period. The way to get ahead is to fall in line and look sharp while you do it. Ok, so we agree. TCS is run on a system that values performance as the most important thing. Everything else being secondary but still important. Fine. If you are a youngster who is about to sign on to a job at TCS, Infosys and other clone companies, here is what you can expect. You are agreeing to compete to obtain the best financial outcomes. Everything else is secondary. Being a team player, a nice person, having professional etiquette, whatever else. Its all in the service of getting results.

Not really.

Back to my previous lifetime. After some floundering, I accepted a job with TCS and went to Kerala to attend their training program. At the end of three months, they gave me a Top Performer’s Award. A week after that, I quit.

Wait, what? A management hired for the choice purpose of promoting competence could not retain a person who according to their own evaluation, was among the most competent people to enter the company. How? Why? The reason I eventually quit is because I ran into a roadblock with what they call the MATC, the Management Allocation Task Committee. An organization of spectacular rigidity with a militaristic adherence to policy. They refused to let me work in the branch office of my choice just because someone at another branch deemed me more suited to work there. And they had already made their allocations, sorry. Please reorganize your life so we don’t have to reorganize out spreadsheets. The reason I say “eventually” is because the training program was basically a series of red flags. A military colonel was hired to run it. Ok. Maybe he understands that civilians expect different kind of leadership. No, he didn’t. One day they searched all our hotel rooms and removed irons and hair dryers from our closets because the wiring was not strong enough to take the voltage and it was policy that we had to use the hotel ironing services. Breach of privacy? Completely unethical and borderline illegal? They didn’t care. By the time the thing with the MATC happened, I was already through.

I don’t see the corporate management at TCS as evil. I see it as corrupt, lazy and incompetent. Corrupt, because they do not uphold their own value system of promoting competence and results. Lazy because they adhere blindly to policy bringing no discretion, flexibility or intelligence to the decision making process despite years of experience and/or MBA degrees. Incompetent because they apply an outdated, defunct pyramid structure that is only superficially different from feudal fiefdoms in the Middle Ages or British colonial systems for administering the Raj. So, that is what you are actually signing on to when you join one of these behemoth corporate enterprises. You are signing on to an apparent commitment to competition and results oriented atmosphere all the while being administered by an outdated system of evaluation and managed by lazy, corrupt people who do not themselves bring to the table a zest for results, efficiency and innovation and merely lean the way they have to to keep the boat steady. In effect, you are signing on to nothing. There is no value system other than a sycophantic zeal to please your superiors and basically do whatever it takes.

Why this crisis of management? I have no idea. I can’t say because I quit after three months. Here is what I can say. If you are signing a corporate agreement of employment, please do your homework. Talk to people. Know what you are getting into. Ask yourself if that is the type of thing you want to get into. If you are a fresh graduate engineer then like me, I’m sure you received no education in ethics, meditation or strategy. Please use the Internet, personal role models and literature to develop a practice of personal reflection. Know that not having a job for a while is perfectly fine. Getting laid off is not a big deal, just like flunking an exam is not a big deal. It says nothing about your innate worth or chances of survival. All it says is that you failed to embrace an arbitrary value system. If you can’t find a job that satisfies your personal value system (this is highly highly unlikely btw in this global economy), start your own company. Propound your own theory for how the world should work. Ponder whether profit is really what we need. Does efficiency trump all? If you are the lady in the exit interview, I wish you the best. Thank you for standing up for yourself and asking questions without being rude or aggressive. You are now a personal role model for me. I know you will move on to better things.

Drop the Act

I’ve been through a lot of different reasons for why I love to act on stage. Simply because as a kid I dreamt of being in the school play. I do it because as an adolescent my impressions of the meaner variety of teachers were spot on. It was a way of meeting new people for an Indian immigrant in a land so desperately lacking the warmth of humanity. I do it to invoke the man inside me. I do it to get girls to pay attention. I do it to get attention. Being in therapy has told me that I get on stage because I need the admiration of others to survive. It is a way for me to express anger and suppressed emotion from childhood. I’ve spent a large sum of money training and getting good at it so might as well keep going. I’m good looking and its a waste unless people look at me. I’m talented so its a waste unless I use it. God, I even thought I do it because I think theatre is important to society. As if I care. There was a time I thought I did it because it made me interested in people’s stories. That one came pretty close. I still haven’t discarded it completely although it definitely is not it.

When the lights go off and all that remains is the world on stage and the breath of the audience, then I can relax. In my daytime job I work in 3D computer graphics and the reason I love it is because everything is possible inside a computer graphics window. There are no laws of physics. Similarly, anything can happen in a play. It dawned on me that somewhere deep down inside me I believe that the world is not enough. My sense of self-importance is so monumentally large that I need to continuously inhabit magical places of the imagination to make it tolerable to be alive in this drab world of second-rate mediocrity. This abominable streak of perfectionism made my stint in the theatre a virtual nightmare. The world of the theatre was a consummate hospital for wretched souls sick with mediocrity. They were not dedicated enough. They didn’t think deeply. They were doing it for the wrong reasons. They were late. They drank and did drugs when they should be rehearsing. I came to a screeching halt. I couldn’t take it any more. The competition, the sexual games, the mendacity. Oh God, the mendacity.

Another possible theory for why I do it is that in it, I have found a problem that I deem worthy of my attention. It presents sufficient complexity and it makes me feel validated that I dedicate my life to such a profound mystery. No, thats not it either. In fact, I cannot tell you with confidence that any of these reasons are IT. I keep doing it because I am propelled by forces beyond my control and honestly, that is totally peachy as far as I’m concerned. I need not have reasons for why I do stuff. But I will say that my relationship to theatre has taught me an awful lot about myself. And I mean that, a disgustingly awful lot about myself.

Recently I have discovered meditation. Meditation, to my rational mind, is the very opposite of theatre. It takes you away from any balmy worlds of your imagination right into the center of the very real world of your awareness. With sufficient practice I’m beginning to learn that the world IS enough. What a stroke of absolute genius! This meditation. The world is beautiful. Life is beautiful as it unfolds in your awareness if only you stick around to witness it. Now, here is the insight that I secretly believe will make me famous after I die. I suspect that meditation and the theatre are the same thing. You heard it here first. No cheating. I further suspect, that my rational mind is a piece of cardboard furniture. I’ve been doing it all wrong. Practicing theatre is not some escape from the perceived melancholy of the world. It is the embodiment of life itself, moment by moment. If I practice it that way, I stand a chance of lasting it out without going bonkers.

Digesting Dubyaspeak

As Bushisms pile up, Dubya seems to want to finish his term in spectacular form. Latest offering being the man’s take on the food crisis, which cuts across all-o-that scientific doo-daa and analytical mumbo-jumbo. The matter you see is simply this. Some other people somewhere are eating all the food so theres not enough for everybody else. (This is of the “some other people somewhere are letting too much smoke into the air and the icebergs are gonna melt coz of them” vintage).

Well, I be damned.

After hours of deliberation and deep thought about this cerebral assertion I present the following rejoinder, with the help of the magnificent Sir Bill Bryson. He says in a n-times-readable column in the New York Times:

“I recently read that the average American eats 17.8 pounds — 17.8 pounds! — of pretzels every year. And that, remember, is the average. Somebody somewhere is eating most of my share as well.”

So there. You’re it dummy. And quit with all the farting.

This comes mind you, from the leader of a nation battling a historic obesity epidemic. Never mind that the assertion is completely absurd and just plain wrong, never mind that it is the most mind-bogglingly infuriating incident of double standards, In fact, the speaker probably actually thought he was making perfect sense. What enrages me is the audacity to imply that the some other people somewhere do not deserve to demand better and more food. That ordering a double whopper with extra cheese and the large fries is a privilege (actually, whoppers are gross) reserved for Americans.

When you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food.

Sacrilegiously, lets look at facts and figures. (Source: FAO Stats, http://www.fao.org/corp/statistics.html)

Nothing much, just two tables, minimal cognitive load is the key remember.

Food Consumption by Group in 1000Tonnes – India

Food Consumption by Group in 1000Tonnes – USA

Now. We eat more cereals (not Frosted Flakes). Population of India =

1,129,866,154

. Population of the USA =

301,139,947

So, 3.75 times the people are eating 5 times the amount of cereal. Unreasonable I agree. But somehow, they are only eating 1/7th the amount of meat (whoppers I suppose), drinking only 0.913 times the amount of milk, using 1.28 times the vegetable oil and only 1.23 times the sugar. By weight, a country almost 4 times as populous consumes only 1.6 times the amount of food. In 2003, an average Indian consumed 2440 calories a day as compared to 3770 for an American (not surprising what with the pretzels).

But here’s the thing, an American eats 25 times the amount of meat compared to an Indian. 25!! So if I eat a kebab, Mrs. Doubtfire will level me in style by gobbling up the hind legs of a sheep.

Astonishingly, India imports only 1/4th as much food as the US by weight. Talk about self sufficiency. So, we may like 5 rotis with ghee for dinner but we find that we don’t have to destroy the agricultural landscape of a minor Latin American country for the treat.

Consumption is of various kinds. Here’s how. The US military has an energy budget equal to Nigeria. And most of it is used to install trackers on camels in Afghanistan. But what do I know.

Now if you’ll excuse me its time for my bi-hourly snack. And then I must prepare a stellar introduction for my “Vote Bill Bryson for President” speech to the nation.