Thursday, January 26, 2017

Who is to blame for Tamil music and dance fading out in Mumbai?

There were three distinct events last week which provoked me to write this post

  1. The lament of the Mulund Fine Arts Society that they had to cancel their annual program because of inadequate contributions to fund the extra expenses due to unavailability of the usual rented hall which is now undergoing renovation. The Society has three main revenue streams, music/dance classes(~40% of revenue, but hardly 10% of this revenue is a surplus), minor entry fees/subscriptions(~15% of revenue) and interest income(~45% revenue). Total budget ~Rs 2 Mn. For a place like Mulund with a sizeable population, this is a pity. That too in a place where stand up comedy/multiplexes routinely fill up despite costing ~1000-2000 for a family. 
  2. My wife's dance senior from Chennai had a Bharatnatyam performance at Chembur FineArts society (a premier hall). Despite this being a free performance (thanks to Mahindra Finance which sponsored it), the hall was just 1/3rd full at starting time, though it did fill up to capacity by 30min into the show. This would not have happened in Chennai.
  3. I read a book on how memorizing is important, and why distributing our memory to the cloud makes us struggle to remember. I connected the dots and realized its implications for performing arts, which needs time devoted AWAY from the screen along with memorizing dance steps
I suppose addressing this topic needs conceted actions from community organizations, venue owners and citizens. Those further interested in this topic can see

Uber/Ola surge pricing proves that we need a regulated public transport

In Jan-17, Uber euphemistically announced 'price adjustments' as their communication of  increased fares. With them earlier having abolished time/distance pricing and surge multiplier in favour of 'flat fares', there was no new benchmark or way to compare the impact of this adjustment. If a government agency had done this, there would have been a hue and cry about opaque rule making, edicts etc, but when private companies like Google/Uber make decisions using Black Box algorithms, they cloak their rationale or data under the guise of 'proprietary business secrets'. Anyways, while regulation is usually considered bad by those negatively impacted, it is essential to address market failure which happens in public transportation. Imagine your fire safety, water supply, and utilities tariffs being determined opaquely and with time of day pricing. Would you accept it? Answer is probably no. A player with deep pockets(eg Uber) can sweep into a city, under cut the existing public transport systems by cherrypicking profitable business, and then increase tariffs and profits instead of expanding supply. This is my apprehension with allowing 'innovative' startups to operate under a non level playing field, in such an important field. Those with private cars or ability to afford taxis can probably cope with surge pricing, but the vulnerable folks who rely on public transport which eventually hollows out to Ola/Uber, would not have any back up option. I have covered some of these problems in another blog post here

So what is the solution? Regulations like below are a good starting point once refined in the consumers favour.

But the fact remains is that unless the new age startups address age old problems of access, discrimination, non refusal of rides, regulated tariffs with surge limits, we risk later issues

Lessons from Bollywood movie Kaabil

Yesterday, I watched Kaabil, a movie starring Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautam, which centred around the story of a blind couple whose married life is shattered by two hooligans who have political and police backing owing to one of them being a corporator's brother. This ends up in Hrithik Roshan taking revenge, and finally (as in any Bollywood movie), committing the perfect crime and remaining free. Following thoughts came in:

  1. Quit when you are ahead/Dont gloat: Hrithik discovered the suicide note of his wife due to a chance remark from the corporator. If that guy had not mentioned it in his sarcastic effort to rub salt in his wounds, the plot would have been quite different
  2. Public places hardly 'accessible'  Crowded malls are a difficult place for the blind, and this was evident from the way Hrithik struggled to find Yami when they got separated in the crowd.
  3. One can profit WITHOUT giving back to the cause: The producers could have given a symbolic profit share to the NAB(National Association for the Blind) to promote welfare of visually impaired people, but they did not. So this is one lost cause unlike say Paa, Anand etc which threw light on otherwise neglected segments
  4. The motivation to succeed: The title name comes from the fact that Hrithik wishes to become 'capable' enough to fulfill the dreams of his beloved. Often, PWD(People with Disabilities) have more motivation than their non challenged peers, simply because they need to try harder. 
  5. Importance of a support system: The couple is able to lead a normal life due to their close friends and neighbours. Each of us has the responsibility to help PWDs 
Watching the movie needs one to suspend some belief in mobiles phones(who uses PCOs these days), DNA testing etc, but it is a feel good. With 2.2% of Indians disabled, with just 40% of them in the workforce, and 54% overall literacy rate, PWDs lag the general population on several indicators. If such movies increase empathy for PWDs and narrows this gap, it is goo.  Data is sourced from below link