Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Bloghouse.. or Arbit Thoughts of An Arbit Fellow

Taking a leaf out of Tarantino's and Rodriguez's book/books, I will be featuring a double feature this time. What are presented below are further arbit thoughts of, as you know, a very arbit fellow. So lets get to them without further delay.

Thought I:

Dollar Bill Marxism, or Looping Right Back Round

There was this "Will and Grace" episode I saw once, where Jack (look him here, if you don't know) is astonished and distressed upon being aroused by a woman. When he tells Will, the latter proposes he's turned so gay as to "loop right back to straight".

I was in Boston two weeks ago. I got the air ticket from Northwestern Airlines - found through It was among a handful of airlines with varying fares in the 250-400 dollar range, and happened to have convenient dates. Print a ticket, go to the check in counter, and punch in your codes. Show somebody an id to prove you're you, and the job's done. You're likely to meet an employee of Northwestern only if some thing's wrong with your number or reservation, and far from smiling with pleasure bordering on sycophancy, he/she's going to be bleary eyed and irritable. No cheery "How can I help you sir ?". This is like "Bhainchod it's not my fault your maader e-ticket number isn't right. Why the fuck are you eating my bheja, bhosadeekey?" [If you don't understand any of the Indian words, I am NOT going to translate for you] Oh and something else. You'd better have landed at least two hours in advance. If you don't, you'll probably set next to the single toilet on board. Chances are, even, you'll lose your seat.

Get in the plane and more surprises in stock. For starters, chances are your flight isn't really Northwestern or America West or whatever, but run by a smaller service leased/hired by Big Air. Little Air, in effect. 'Little' is the leitmotif of the corridor, the seats, the single toilet on board, and overhead bag storage space (Which is why you want to (I) beat the shit out of anyone who (a) is ahead of you in line (b) has anything that might be put in the overhead bin (c) both or (II) print out your boarding card 6 hours before you arrive, beating out all the others who had enough initiative to print it out 5 hours before) The silver lining is that your flight lasts only a couple of hours.

Ok, you're gonna tell me, so it isn't Jet Airways. You're in the US, and you have to take the equivalent of Air Deccan there. Here's the thing. Northwestern isn't the only one that trades flight comfort for economy. The truth is, there just isn't a Jet Airways equivalent here. There's no such airline service at all, not unless you have your own private jet or all willing to shell out like 1000+ dollars to go from Chicago to New York. The cozy system, that is so much the addictive staple in India, is all but non-existent here. Low cost airlines have dominated airlines so much, that they are now the norm rather than the exception. So, except for the really wealthy, everyone travels extreme economy-class. Sure, there's 15 different airlines to choose from, but they all offer essentially the same features, given the price range.

I started to find the same thing applies to food. Unlike India, where McD's and Pizza Huts are meant for pleasure, a burger or slice of pizza are the everyday man's lunch. Arby's tuna melt at 5$, with fries and a Coke. The all new Wendy's Hot Pepper burger at 4.50$, with chipotle sauce, jalapeno peppers and chili cheese. On average again, meals fall into the 5-20$ range. They're the type you order at a counter, and pick up in a tray or plastic box. Ok, Taste of China and Shanghai Surprise may have varying decor and sure, their meals aren't the cheap 4.99$ things at Arby's, but they both offer 10$ General Tsao's Chicken with rice and vegetables. And General Tsao's stays General Tsao's everywhere. If you really want high quality General Tsao's, meaning "Fried breast and sternum of chicken served in a delicately spiced bean, nutmeg and pepper sauce with dill, fresh aubergines and courgettes and Jinpo Southern China Rice" (Incidently, I've just made that up) you'll have to go to Han's, where there are waiters, and in white coats at that, a tuxedoed maitre'd who explains the recipes to you, asks you if you'd like Evian or Irish spring water, and finally charges you close to 100 dollars for two. And guess what, even special Frank (as opposed to average Joe) doesn't go there unless he's proposing to his girlfriend or wants to discuss a really special business proposal with his boss.

The same goes for just about anything under the sun. Clothing - Between TJ Maxx, Burlington Coat Factory, Target and Macy's, you can pick up anything you need. But again, there's no real difference between a Columbia Sportswear and an American Eagle one (beyond functionality of course, you don't want to wear a rain jacket on a frosty winter or vice versa). You can get any number of Televisions for 100 - 500$, but again, no real difference. High Definition ones are different, but THEY are inaccessible to most.

With the exception of books and broadband, all the things we look on as luxuries in India are to be taken for granted here. But they're all the same everywhere. The vast class of everymen live lives wherein their material possessions, from an external view, are homogeneous. Note that word. They're homogeneous. Like they all had the same food, clothing, shelter and travel means. Like they were living.... in a Marxist society.

Which brings me to the connection to the Will and Grace thing. The US has long been hailed as the Mecca of capitalism - the place where free enterprise rules supreme, and the market is ubiquitous, omnipresent and near omnipotent. It's my view now, that the USA, in its never ending quest for capital has looped back to Communism - perhaps not in line with Marxist theory, but surely as practiced by people in Communist states. With the exception of an elite - there it was a class of senior politicos, here it's one of uber-wealthy dudes - people's lives are uniform, on a material basis at least. [And I'm not exactly a Political Science/Economics PhD type, so absolute deference to anybody who has clearer knowledge of Marxism and Communist practice/leftist leanings/both]. Perhaps it's the nature of human economics. The ideals of left and right are yin and yang, and to be 100% of either, is to be a little of the other.

What do you think?