The Modern tale of Ant & Grasshopper: Global Inequality -Lessons for India

When I was in the engineering college I came across with a modern version of the ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’ from the Aesop fables. In short the story goes like this:

The Old Version: The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and Laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or Shelter so he dies out in the cold.

Indian Version: The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and Laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the Ant’s a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed. While others are cold and starving. NDTV, BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper Next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. The World is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor Grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Arvind Kejriwal stages a demonstration in front of the Ant’s house. Anna Hazzare goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter. Amnesty International and UN criticize the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper. The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt Support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance). Opposition MPs stage a walkout. Left parties call for ‘Bengal Bandh’ in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry. CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers.

The Ant is unable to cope its retroactive taxes, its home is confiscated by the Government and handed over to the Grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV. Arvind Kejriwal calls it ‘ A Triumph of Justice’. CPM calls it the ‘Revolutionary Resurgence of the Downtrodden’. UN invites the Grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly. The PM takes the credit for always caring about the ‘aam’ Grasshopper.

Many years later, The Ant has since migrated to the US and set up a multi-billion dollar Company in Silicon Valley, hundreds of Grasshoppers still die of starvation despite reservation somewhere In India, and as a result of losing lot of hard working Ants and feeding the Grasshoppers, India is still a developing country.’

At that time it made so much sense to me as why there is inequality in the world. I wondered why just people can’t be just like ants, work hard for themselves, save, invest and be wealthy. I didn’t realize the story of the world isn’t as simple as the above story. But now, after acquiring some basic knowledge of the world, I think there are few assumptions in the story which doesn’t hold true in the real world. First, Ants and grasshoppers don’t have the equal access to the resources in the real world. Secondly, they are not equally equipped to use those resources. Third the world doesn’t work in isolation. The ants are dependent on grasshoppers and vice versa. There is a certain kind of hierarchy in place which make this relation and the whole context a bit complex. Over that there are so many sociopolitical realities which can’t be ignored. Keeping all these flawed assumptions in mind, this story doesn’t capture the core problem of chronic inequality of India and the world. As Thomas Piketty said, “Intellectual and political debate about the distribution of wealth has long been based on an abundance of prejudice and a paucity of fact.” Thus, this phenomenon should be analyzed by more than mere stories, opinions and fantasies.

Thomas Piketty’s recent book ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ tries to that. His approach was simple. He collected the data on income and wealth and then defined the two basic categories, wealth and income, broadly and assertively but in a way nobody had really bothered to before. The book’s terms and explanations are utterly simple; with a myriad of historical data, Piketty reduces the story of capitalism to a clear narrative. Piketty’s argument is that, in an economy where the rate of return on capital (r) outstrips the rate of growth (g), inherited wealth will always grow faster than earned wealth (r>g). (Thomas Piketty, 2014)

Now, this huge wealth inequality where world top ten percentile controls the 90 percent of the world wealth, shows that there is something wrong with the way current world is operating. If we see most of today’s global system of production are capitalistic. And in Capitalism, there are two major players firms and the workers. Now the firms represent the demand and the workers as supply data. By way of combining different variables, which broadly cover the household, personal, labor market characteristics, the results of our paper tend to suggest that wage function in India is bound up with conventional variables predicted by human capital theory, personal and social dualistic identities, and human development. (Bino Paul, D & Krishna, 2012). But there is one important distinction here i.e. firms have capital with them and capital itself can earn generate income which cause the wage gap to grow exponentially. Whereas the workers’ only source of income is through jobs which are again dictated by the firms most of the time, and amidst the risk of the markets and without the proper social security nets, things become even worse for workers.

In India the inequality gap is as stark as US and the reasons are not that different. There is a huge disparity among the wages of the workers, supervisors, managers and top executives. And not only that the real wages of the workers didn’t increase much with respect to the inflation whereas the supervisors, managers and top executives earned huge premiums in formal manufacturing sector in India (Krishna et al., 2017). The wages of the workers has been defined as functions of different variables, which broadly cover the household, personal, labor market characteristics. The study conducted by Bino Paul and Krishna concluded that the wage function in India is bound up with conventional variables predicted by human capital theory, personal and social dualistic identities, and human development (Muralidharan, D, & Murti, 2014)

The lessons which can be drawn from Piketty’s book can be used be India. According to Piketty, there are forces of convergence and there are forces of divergence which acts on the inequality gap. Now India has a huge labour supply and as per Piketty there are two major forces of convergence for the huge inequality gap: The law of supply and demand and the diffusion of knowledge and skill. As the supply is already in abundance, it will be prudent to focus on diffusion of knowledge and skill. The education system from the grassroots level needs to be inclusive of people from the all different strata of the society. Education and opportunity to education is the biggest equalizer of all. Scandinavian countries have understood it well and we can see the difference not only in their wealth equality but also Human development index and other indicators. Thus, focus on inclusive public education system which helps in diffusing the knowledge and skills is one of the most essential step towards reducing the harrowing wealth gap.

Acting against the forces of convergence are the forces of divergence which are the inequality r > g, combined with the inequality of returns on capital as a function of initial wealth, and these can lead to excessive and lasting concentration of capital: no matter how justified inequalities of wealth may be initially, fortunes can grow and perpetuate themselves beyond all reasonable limits and beyond any possible rational justification in terms of social utility (Thomas Piketty, 2014).

To curb these forces of divergence, Piketty recommends progressive tax and as much as 80% to the top and present it as a utopian idea. He says,

“If democracy is to regain control over the globalized financial capitalism of this century, it must also invent new tools, adapted to today’s challenges. The ideal tool would be a progressive global tax on capital, coupled with a very high level of international financial transparency.”

IMG_3504Thomas Piketty is right about Progressive tax: It will be able to take away the undue advantage of the rich people compounding their wealth. Now progressive tax is a regulatory mechanism that can in some way reduce the gap but it comes with its own set of caution. It certainly allows to put a check on wealth accumulation but on the other hand, it start punishing some people for their work ethics and risk taking abilities. It takes away the motivation to work hard, to go that extra mile to acquire the skills which takes months or years. Thus, there has to be a fine balance in using progressive taxes because regulations curb freedom and as Milton Friedman has rightly said,

 

“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”

To conclude, ants and grasshoppers of today need freedom and equality of opportunities. Then the story of ant and the grasshopper will hold somewhat true in actual world. Because in the world there will always be some ants and there always be some grasshoppers and there should be something for everyone. Let us not punish ants for working hard and let’s not condone the laziness of the grasshoppers but before that we have a long way to go. First we need to achieve the equality of opportunity for all.

References:

Piketty, T., & Goldhammer, A. (2014). Capital in the twenty-first century.

D, B. P. G., & Krishna, M. (2012). Labour Market in Urban Agglomerations : A Case from an Indian Global City, 3, 453–478. https://doi.org/10.1177/097172181201700306

https://www.ft.com/content/202ed286-6832-11df-a52f-00144feab49a

Krishna, A. M., Bino, P. G. D., Indian, S., Relations, I., Issue, S., Krishna, M., & D, B. P. G. (2017). What Explains Wage in India ? Published by : Shri Ram Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources Stable URL : http://www.jstor.org/stable/23510794 What Explains Wage in India ?, 48(3), 487–499.

Muralidharan, T., D, B. P. G., & Murti, A. B. (2014). Should Real Wages of Workers Go Up in Indian Manufacturing ?, xlix(30), 153–162.

To wear or not to wear !

About three years back, When I was just into my first project in TCS,
I made one big blunder. In that youthful indiscretion, I did something that was so wrong!

I had asked myself so many times… To wear or not to wear … but I did eventually… I wore a round neck T-shirt to office…..
Trust me I didn’t know how big a mistake this was, until I was told that I had to go back and come in collared T-shirt. I mean really … Ask me to jump from this building I would do it …but trekking through traffic is worst in Bangalore ! This is even worst than listening to Tahir Shah’s Angel song.
All I wanted to do was to impress the female colleague in my team with my funky T-shirt. That T-shirt has all the words written on it which I wouldn’t have dared to say otherwise. And here, I wasn’t even allowed inside. Who the hell made that rule ?

Thanks to the Bangalore traffic … It was already the time for the lunch when I got back, and that pretty girl has already left for the lunch… with someone else. That day, She didn’t get impressed but I really got depressed. That day I really felt reverse gender discrimination and since then I have been meaning to vent out my frustration and I guess today is the right day… Why ?
You will get to know in a while.

First let’s talk about clothes !
I think there are two parameters in which women’s clothing range beats men’s clothing range hands down
Variety and Range of Colors ! Lets talk about variety …
I mean girls can wear any type, in many colors and whatever they want, be it salwar kurta, chudidaar-kurta, sleevless, leggings, jeggings, tops, skirts, saree, lehnga and trust five minutes will fall short for it. And the amazing part is they can label it so well, These are formals, these are party wears, these are for marriages, these for birthdays, these for anniversaries , these for toastmasters and what not !!
For us men it is pretty much one pair of dual purpose formals … Yeah ! We don’t mind wearing the same set of dresses to the parties even. (As if we have a choice)

Next is Range of colors – We men anyway know pretty less colors. Over that, bright colors are taken away leaving blue, black, white and their shades. How couldn’t we look monotonous. For Girls, life is so colorful. They carry rainbow colors to the office on their whims and fancies. I don’t think there is a color or shade which girls can’t wear to the office. The other day I saw a teammate wearing a multi-colored dress which we men can only wear in Goa and look cool but If we wear it to our workplace we would certainly be considered as fools.

As a matter of fact … Even in the most fashionable and expensive shirt, we would look as if we haven’t taken bath since the last winters.
Of course there are some exceptions such as Salman Khan .. but wait coz usually he doesn’t wear one.

And I don’t even want to start with accessories …
Women know how much is there to choose from and how different they can look by wearing all these clothes and accessories.
May be that’s why shopping is a therapy for women and a tragedy for men. Men are not even allowed to keep long hair or funky hair styles or not even experiment with their beards. All these differences and discrimination become even more stark at the workplace. What is the reason for such idiotic segregation? There should be some explanation for that. I am still waiting for those ‘Pajama Leaks‘ which will lift the viel from this mystery. I hope soon we will have our ‘Azaadi‘ … Azaadi of wearing whatever we want… Azaadi of keeping whatever hair style or beard style we want.
But at the same time let the differences be, coz Isn’t men are from Mars and women are from Venus !

Oh ! By the way …
Just few days back, after so many years !
I am asking myself that question again …To wear or not to wear my fav. round neck Tshirt which can say things which I can’t from my voice box.
And yes you are right. A new girl has joined my team !!

PS : Never let the truth come in between a good story :p

She dances in my mind

She dances in my mind,

Damn it,

It has kept her on rewind !

The poor fellow is smitten,

The moment it saw,

her cute movements like a kitten !

She dances over meadows,

In the lights,

She danced with the shadows !

Without wings, she flies,

To the blue sky,

She rise and rise and rise !

One day she will meet me,

Not only in dreams,

An eternity of wait, but let it be !!

~ Ace

You know my name, not my story !!

This post is the script of my ‘Ice-Breaker’ speech in Toastmasters Club. Here is my whole life in 10 minutes :

You know my name, not my story,
In the darkest failures, my shining glory,
You know what I’ve done, not what I’ve been through,
What was the lie and what all true,

You judge me from the scoreboard,
but you don’t know my game,
Maybe what I am doing make no sense,
but you hardly know my aim,

You are laughing at my efforts,
screaming all of them are in vain,
Listen, I’m not giving up,
I’m like a beast,very hard to tame,

You know my name, not my story,
In the darkest failures, my shining glory !!

~ Amit Chaudhary


Today, I am going to tell you that story of my life which you still don’t know. My life has five main chapters :

Chapter 1 – Hills to mills :

I was born in the lap of Himalayas, a village named Tharu in Kangra Dist of HP. It was a joint family and major occupation of the family was farming till my father got job in Indian Railways.

Himachali by birth

Son of Mountains

In around two years my younger brother was born and I was sent to my maternal abode which was a remote village in the hills of Himalayas.
It didn’t have a pakka road connecting to the nearby town and we used to get drinking water, supplied by trucks. I still have a fading memory of my great-grandmother with whom I used to go fetch water and used to spill almost all while reaching back home. My maternal grandfather was in army from whom I used to listen War stories. The life was simple and serene.

But then around 4 years of age my parents took me from a village in hills into the town of mills where my father worked. It was a place called RCF(Rail caoch factory) Kapurthala. Raliway coaches were manufactured there.This was my journey from Hills to mills.

From Hills to Mills

From Hills to Mills

Chapter 2 – The transformation :

Inspired from my maternal grandfather, I had a dream of being an Air force fighter pilot…
In class fifth I took the entrance exam to join Sainik School Kapurthala. It was a military boarding school. I cleared the written test, interview and medical and
joined it. Little did I realize the kind of trouble I was putting myself and my family into. Unknowingly I had put my family through financially hard times as it was an expensive school. I can’t forget their sacrifice and what they have done for me.
Not only that I had put myself in that ‘hell’. The school was ruthless, there was ragging, physical torture, a morning to midnight strict routine and then there was pain of separation from the family. I cried and cried till my tears ran dry. I still remember how I used to communicate through letters and postcards to home.
Slowly things got bearable and I adapted and learnt to live in that hell. I washed and stiched my own clothes, gave myself medication when needed, did almost
everything on my own and transformed into a self-dependent individual.

Journey in Sainik School Kapurthala

Journey in Sainik School Kapurthala

Another kind of transformation was brought in by my school teachers.
My school Principal inspired me to read good books and watch good movies, my art teacher brought out the artist in me. I didn’t want to join school band but my music teacher beat the hell out of me and made me join it. Serendipitously, our school band was selected to march on Republic day in New Delhi. Marching on Rajapth is one of the memorable moment of my life. I love music now.

Artist, Musician and Thinker

Artist, Musician and Thinker

Then, In the Xth board I was amongst the toppers of my class and my school registrar’s lecture on the day of result struck me. He said one should not only be good in studies but should be an allrounder.It had a great impression on me and in 11th class I started playing every sports be it basketball, swimming, squash, volleyball, football etc. I won Gold medals in my first 3000 mts and 1500 mts athletics races. I made a place in school Basketball team. I never believed if I could be a sportsperson.

Molded into an All-rounder

Molded into an All-rounder

It was then I realized I can do anything or anybody can do anything.
In hindsight all of this experience have made me stronger, not only physically but mentally as well and now I call it Heaven not Hell.

Saikapian Abode

Saikapian Abode

Once upon a time, I lived in heaven,
When I was a boy of age eleven,
I put my little steps into the heaven,
there was a glitter in eyes,
the excitement and frenzy of a new life,
the stage was set to transform,
a puppy into a lion n live the life of king size,
the golden years of my life were seven,
Once upon a time, I lived in heaven !!

Chapter 3 – Dream to Dust :
After seven years of transformation I was ready to realize my dream. I cleared NDA written exam and SSB interview but unfortunately I was rejected in medical. I had calcification which means, I had a mole of calcium on my liver. Although AIIMS, Dellhi cleared me but they didn’t take me in. It was a shock… I was broke and I was shattered. From cloud nine, I crashed to the ground. The pain was unbearable as I was rendered helpless by fate. Moreover I didn’t have a clue what to do with my life. I was lost.

Dawn became dusk and dreams became dust

Dawn became dusk and dreams became dust

Chapter 4 – Sweat and Shine :

I refused to lose in the hands of fate. I took admission in BSc NM in DAV college Jalandhar. There I got opportunity to be in college quiz team and we won Inter- college physics quiz there. That’s how I met a physics lecturer who suggested to me to do engineering. So along with my Bsc exams I took AIEEE and managed to get admission in Civil Engineering, GNDEC Ludhiana, One of the best colleges in Punjab.
As I had no particular interest in engineering, I did everything but studies. I was in my college Athletics, Basketball, Cycling, Cross-country, Quizzing and Cultural team. I won innumerable medals and trophies during college. I became national player in cross-country and cycling.

Just do it

Just do it

I had joined various clubs in college such as ISTE, NCC etc. I started writing poems, photography and video making. Surprisingly I was among toppers in my civil branch and became Student of the year in the final year of my college.

Student of the Year

Student of the Year

Chapter 5 – In search of the destiny :

By final year I had watched many true story movies such as October sky and Glory Road, watched many inspiring videos such as stanford speech of Steve Jobs and Harvard speech of JK Rowling, many inspiring books such as Stay hungry and stay foolish and connect the dots. All these in culmination gave me wings again to dream high and touch the sky. I dared to dream again. This time I dreamed of being someone who can make difference in the world. I decided to do an MBA.

In the final year I had offers from construction companies but I decided to join TCS thinking it would provide me learning and it indeed has.

Before joining TCS I taught in PT Education as a quant teacher for about six months.

Teacher @ PT Education

Teacher @ PT Education

Since joining TCS I have participated in events such as CSR initiatives, TCS 10K, TATA Crucibles, TBLA ( Tata business leadership awards) in which we were regional finalists and various other events. Besides that I have joined many clubs such as photography club, dance club, trekking club,quiz club and now the TM club.

Let's do everything

Let’s do everything

This April I appeared for TAS( Tata Administrative Services) and went till presentation rounds. It was then I realized that I need to improve my speaking skills and it is one of the major reason to join TM club. I have developed new interests such as singing, gyming, cooking, learning Spanish and playing chess.

Let's do everything - Part 2

Let’s do everything – Part 2

I like to be jack of all trades. I believe there is just one life to live and lets do everything one can do.

In search of destiny ...

Before winding up I want say few lines of my poem …

Jal jaane de khud ko, iss aag se kyu darna hai,
yeh aag aur davaab hi tuhje badalenge,
Abhi koyla hai tu, Heera tujhe banana hai,
Iss andhere ko cheer kar,
kirano se apni, jag roshan abhi karna hai,
Jal jaane de khud ko, iss aag kyu darna hai,
Abhi koyla hai tu, Heera tujhe banana hai !!

PS : I became the best speaker of the day 🙂


Edit : Due to shortage of time I couldn’t write about the support and motivation I have got from friends at every stage of my life. Whatever I am today is because of you all. The list is long and you know, you are in my special list. Kyunki …

Har ek Friend Zaroori hota hai … Love u all 🙂

MY ANGEL

MY ANGEL

There’s someone out there for me
I know she’s waiting so patiently
Can you tell her name
This lifelong search is going to drive me insane

How does she laugh, how does she cry
What’s the color of her eyes
Does she even realize, I’m here

Where is she,
Where is this beautiful girl
Who is she,
Who’s going to complete my world

I’m staring out at the sky
Praying that she will walk in my life
Where is the girl of my dreams,
I’ll wait forever, how silly it seems

I know you’re out there…..
Where are you,
I’m going to look all over the world baby
Because I know you’re out there
I know it might sound crazy

but I think I love you, so…..

Thank you in advance for the love you will give me
You will be there when nobody will believe me,
Thank you for all those times you’ll stand by me
Thank you for all the truth that you’ll make me see
Thank you for all the joy you will bring to my life
Thank you for all the wrong that you’ll make right
Thank you for every dream you made come true
I will be everything because of you.
Thank you for tomorrow
When you gonna call me
Thank you for the time
When you gonna see me
Thank you for the memories
We haven’t made yet
You have always been a part of me
Even before we met
You will be my strength when I will be weak
You will be my voice when I wouldn’t speak
You will Lift me up when I couldn’t reach
You will be my eyes when I wouldn’t see
You will see the best there will be in me
You gave me faith ‘coz you will believe in me.
I’ll be everything I am, because you will love me
I can see me looking at you
At the start of the day for all my life
I can see me dying to hold you
On the way when I âm driving home at night
I have got these pictures in my head
You make my songs alive from dead,
I have got these pictures in my head.
You’ll give me wings and make me fly
You’ll touch my hand I could touch the sky
I will lost my faith, you’ll give it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You’ll stand by me and I stood tall
I will have your love I had it all
I’m grateful for each day you’ll give me
Maybe I don’t know that much
But I know this much is true
I will be blessed because I will be loved by you
I have all, you hâve wanted all of your life
Thank you for every single moment
I hâve gone through it all in my mind
Thank you for the best times
Thank you for the journey of life,
Thank you for times u will make me brave
thank you for the roses you will put on my grave.
Thank you for this lovely inspiration,

without you it would not have been to compilation !!