Pawan Hegde
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Storykaar

fiction
A blog of shorts
Zero-sum (Part I)

Freida Dantas stepped out of the queue to look around. The machine wasn’t that far from here–only a few hundred more. She looked behind. The queue went on for as long as she could see. She too had started from the end of the queue many hours ago. The machine took only a second to judge, so the queue had kept moving continuously. But she worried if there were more hopefuls in the queue than seconds in a day. She had been queueing up religiously for her pronouncement every day since she had died.

She’d learned of the system the day she had arrived at the purgatory. Learned is probably not the best word to describe the process. She had woken up in the purgatory a week ago knowing about it instinctively, with no recollection of her prior life. She knew exactly when and where to queue up for the machine. The machine would tell her if it was her time to ascend to the heaven yet. She’d witnessed thousands of ascensions on her first day. The ascendants one after the other had stood under the machine and a bright shaft of light had lit them up until they had become one with the light. This was what all of them in the queue were here for–ascension. It was expected that most of them would ascend, but there had been no ascensions after her first day in the purgatory. This was uncommon from what she knew. The Purgatory was supposed to only be a brief stage before ascension. The queue had kept getting longer each day as new hopefuls had appeared in the purgatory but the machine had chosen not to pronounce anyone through. The stability of the system relied on there being an equal influx and outflux. It was a zero-sum game. As the population of the purgatory exploded, she wondered if the whole system had stopped working.

Someone cut in front of her in the queue and forced her back into reality. She stepped back into the queue calmly. Knowing the rules didn’t mean that they made sense to her. In this supernatural world, the psyche was naked to the system and there were restrictions on feelings. Anger was a forbidden but self-serving wasn’t; passion was a forbidden but jealousy wasn’t. ‘What kind of a God makes such rules?’ she thought before stopping herself from thinking further. She didn’t know if doubting the work of God was a forbidden. ‘Maybe not,’ she thought. If it were, she’d already have been devoured by fire. She didn’t dare ask anyone.

Most of the hopefuls kept to themselves to eliminate the chance of a negative feeling. No one wanted to misstep this close to the finish line. There would always be a few hopefuls chanting the sacred verse–myn myn ryo mon kyln jin. Lately, there were more. Hopefuls had started spontaneously gathering to sing the verse together. The song resonated more around the purgatory during the week as the levels of anxiety soared.

The hopefuls had only two connections out of the purgatory: the machine and the liaison. So Freida was surprised to see no queue outside the liaison’s office. The liaison was also the only permanent resident of the purgatory and so she imagined would be a very important person. She wanted to ask the liaison for some information on the current situation. The liaison’s office was at the bottom of spiralling flights of stairs that descended from the ground like in a stepwell. A thick layer of mist had covered the steps. No more than three steps were visible any which way she looked. After descending for a minute, Freida arrived at a landing. Even as the stepped onto the landing, the mist disappeared and Freida eyed the most beautiful being she’d ever laid eyes on. The liaison sat in front of her in a white flowing gown.

The liaison smiled at her. “Welcome, Freida. I’ve been waiting for you,” she said.

Bog Standard

non-fiction
Thoughts, stories, and ideas
Came across an article[0] on Facebook written by the founding editor of TheWire.in, Mk Venu. I see lots of people sharing the link on Facebook, so there's a chance you'll come across it too. I found the article to be intentionally misleading and hence this post. The news is that Japan is loaning India at 0.1% interest rate payable within 50 years. This will cover 80% of the cost of the bullet train and the new track between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Following are some arguments from the article and my counter-arguments. 1. The inflation in India is expected to be higher than Japan, so Rupee will devalue against Yen in 50 years and India will pay much more in Rupees than the principal value. -> Current inflation rate in India is 3.36[1]. In the next 50 years, it's expected to average about 3%. This is indeed quite high compared to Japan’s. But, that’s because inflation and growth go hand in hand. The expected GDP growth rate this quarter is 7.0%. In 2020 it is expected to be about 5.7%. [2] In 50 years we will be paying more Rupees, but that amount will most certainly be worth less. Two lakh rupees in 2017 is numerically more than One lakh was worth in 2000, but it worth a lot lesser. Japan is giving us the loan at a loss. 2. Japanese short term interest rates (Tokyo Inter Bank Offer Rate) is 0.06%. The interest rate offered by ten-year Japanese government bonds is 0.04%. 0.1% is very high. -> Interbank interest rate is calculated between Tokyo banks part of a union. It will obviously be much lesser. The latest MIBOR rate (equivalent of TIBOR for Mumbai banks) is 6.17%[3]. Good luck finding a bank ready to lend you money at 6.17% in India. Japanese government bonds offer 0.04% interest rate because they don’t expect much growth. India offers 6.5% because the expectation is that investments in India would grow in value faster than 6.5% per annum. More importantly, generally, any such loan, even from other multilateral or bilateral development financing institutions, would cost between 3-7 per cent with a repayment period of 20-30 years.[4] 3. What would be your priority? After all, there should be something called sequencing of expenditure in a nation as poor as ours. -> A country as poor as ours cannot afford to lose this golden opportunity especially when it comes at almost no cost to us. This project is going to generate numerous jobs. The tech-transfer from Japan will improve our railway system. The super fast train route between Ahmedabad and Mumbai is going to boost trade. The return on investment on this project is going to be a lot! Refusing this would have been equivalent to a hungry person refusing food because they don’t want to waste energy eating. Japan is giving us such favourable terms only because it needs to compete against China and France's High Speed Railway industries and boost its own economy. This deal is beneficial to India as well as Japan. [0] https://thewire.in/177815/mumbai-ahmedabad-bullet-train-many-things-not-free/ [1] https://tradingeconomics.com/india/inflation-cpi/forecast [2] https://tradingeconomics.com/india/gdp-growth-annual/forecast [3] http://www.fimmda.org/modules/content/?p=1029 [4] http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/why-india-needs-a-bullet-train-china-abe-modi-ahmedabad-mumbai-4839143/