Category: Misc

Pettai Rap Basket of Goods Price Index

tldr: Pettai Rap is a cult phenomenon. We (@teninthemorning, me and @beamboybeamboy) made a basket of consumer goods using the items from the song. Calculated prices for 1994, 2016 and 2020. Calculated inflation. WIP. Feedback welcome. All errors mine, BeamBoy and TenintheMorning are impeccable wrt stuff.)

<a href="http://<iframe src="">Excel here but looking at the numbers I don’t have confidence in what I’ve calculated. WIP.

If we compareStart YearEnd YearInflation
(this is a …lot!?)


If you were alive and well in the dusty sweltering 90s in Madras (that is Chennai, that is Chennaimetras), then you would have been a part of the zeitgeist of the social and musical phenomenon called Pettai Rap.

No? Misfortune! But it can be easily remedied. Listen to it here. NOW.

Pettai Rap is a song from the popular Tamil movie Kadhalan. The movie has not aged well in my opinion, but the music is lovely. In particular, Pettai Rap stuck with me, its one of the first pieces of rap music I heard – and is an enumeration of the travails and costs of living a not so privileged live in TamilNadu.

tldr – Pettai Rap is about how much a certain set of things cost and how there’s never really enough money to pay for everything the heart and mind want and need.

In 2016, @beamboybeamboy and @teninthemorning and I were hanging out and we got to talking about Pettai Rap, and we all loved the song, and so we decided to create a basket of goods using the items listed in the song. It took us 3 years (and so much life has happened between then and now, but I had some spare time tonight and decided to finish v1).

For those not aware: A basket of goods is a set of commonly purchased items that is used to keep track of prices and inflation. The basket of goods is typically decided by the government – here’s a quick piece in Livemint on consumer price index, basket of goods and tracking inflation.

We made a list of the items in Pettai Rap. Guesstimated some prices for 1994, 2016 and 2020. I made some final calculations using this video. See our excel sheet here. Some notes below.

Mourning at 4S #Amma

(Or why this dingy, tiny pub is where some of us tamilians-ish went in search of solace) 

Yesterday evening, as it became clear that Jayalalithaa, the successful and spirited Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was likely to die, a group of Madras-Tamilian-South Indian-ish expats in Delhi decided we needed to meet. Our whatsapp group was aptly named “Amma Feelings”. And as it increasingly became clear that she wouldn’t survive this bout of ill-health, everyone in need of a drink knew there was really only one place that was appropriate (and close by).


For those unaware, 4s, a bar in Defence Colony Market in New Delhi, inspires apathy and fervour. It has rabid supporters who refuse to meet anywhere else on Friday night, a subculture of its own on Twitter, and a sense of urbanpoor-ness that is comforting to retreat into when all you want to do is go back to a time when you were young, stupid, and Donald Trump was just a TV star. More importantly, it has that elusive quality that all bars crave – network effect. My friends go to 4S. The people I can discuss politics with, sensibly, sans outrage, go to 4S. The people who recommend good reading, and essays, and tell me about the best journalism that is happening, and the best legal arguments, and the most interesting policy interventions, and the most interesting Delhi gossip and brunch recommendations (ok because it is Delhi come on yaar) – they all go to 4S. So do I. We’ve safely discussed Dreze, and PDS, and maternal mortality rates over the years, smug in TN’s infrastructure, and its impeccable administration of welfare, and the impact of a well-fed, socially secure population on the economy – and really what was the Gujarat model when compared to the TN model  (and also a ton of the bad stuff from TN but now’s not the time).

Yesterday however, we went there in search of solace and kindred spirits. Each a little shaken, and relieved, to know that our cynical self could still be affected. That out there in this world, was one politician, who made that role desirable, and not dirty. Someone, whom everyone at the table wanted to meet, and someone whose success most of the women (and some men) wanted to emulate. Political roadmaps for the future were drawn at the table in 4S – and nowhere else would have seemed appropriate. In the safe spaces where discussion of RCTs and digital media and fake news and consent layers flourished, so too did clandestine confessions of political ambitions.

The evening ended around 12, with the official announcement giving us the closure we were listlessly hanging around for. Beers were raised, to a life well lived, and a rousing rendition of “Adho Andha Paravai Pola Vazha Vendum”.  None of the staff batted an eyelid. Neither did the patrons.

To Jayalalithaa – because what else can you want out of life, except to know that it inspired otherwise armoured folks to wear their hearts on their sleeve and turn out to drink to your honour and pledge to be inspired by the best in you.  #urimaigeetham

Whats worth reading

My friend Sroyon, who writes a funny, gentle and very thoughtful blog asked on his FB page if there were websites that people learnt useful / interesting stuff from:

(“Are there any websites which you’ve learnt a lot from (apart from the obvious ones like Wikipedia)? It can be about anything – general knowledge, or knowledge on some specific subject which interests you. This is not a survey, I’m just asking out of personal interest.”).

Some of the responses surprised me and made me smile! As with any such combination of the two, I felt this was a question worth taking to Twitter as well.

As of today, here are the responses that Sroyon and I have received (tagged FB and Twitter respectively). Are there more such places on the interwebs? Tell!


  5. Discretion advised though
  6. ZenPencils
  8. John Green’s Crash Course series. Start off with the Crash Course series on World History
  13. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  14. The school of life on YouTube



  1. How Stuff Works
  2. Newyorker (+ archives)
  3. NY/London Review of Books
  4. Kevin Kelly’s 50 greatest magazine articles
  5. Top rated posts on various subreddits such as ELI5, AskReddit, etc.
  6. Postsecret for life lessons
  7. for annotated lyrics. Especially for rap.
  8. Goodreads for books and IMDB for movies.
  11. gohighbrow and datamonkey
  12. xojane
  13. khan academy and MIT for technical subjects, w3schools for coding, and Google ofc
  14. stackoverflow is google for developers

100 of the best articles I read in 2015


SO much to read; So litle time


100 things I read and loved in 2015 (and a few  from 2014 + 2013)

The list is in no particular order but my favourite ones are starred**.

  1. Bernie Sanders’s speech on democratic socialism in the United States – Vox
  2. Paul Ford: What is Code? | Bloomberg **
  3. Postnatal care in France: Vagina exercises and video games
  4. The Nanda Devi mystery – Livemint
  5. If an Algorithm Wrote This, How Would You Even Know? – The New York Times
  6. 10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn – Role Reboot
  7. If Game of Thrones were in the Middle East – The Washington Post
  8. xkcd: Terry Pratchett **
  9. Multi-tasking: how to survive in the 21st century –
  10. The Earthquake That Will Devastate the Pacific Northwest – The New Yorker **
  11. If we can learn while asleep, when will we ever swit…
  12. An Obscure Hedge Fund Is Buying Tens of Billions of Dollars of U.S. Treasurys – WSJ
  13. The New Romantics in the Computer Age –
  14. Can Marxist theory predict the end of Game of Thrones? | Television & radio | The Guardian
  15. Table of Contents –  Matter –  Medium**
  16. Yes, androids do dream of electric sheep | Technology | The Guardian
  17. The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy – The Atlantic
  18. Harvard Law Library Readies Trove of Decisions for Digital Age – The New York Times
  19. The Futurist: Human DNA modification – The Daily of the University of Washington: Opinion
  20. Destined for War: Can China and the United States Escape Thucydides’s Trap? – The Atlantic
  21. California capitalism is starting to look a lot like Polish communism – Quartz
  22. Is Silicon Valley in Another Tech Bubble? | Vanity Fair
  23. [IRFCA] Indian Railways FAQ: Travelling by train in India
  24. World War E: How ebola turned Liberia into a zombie movie –  Medium
  25. Gird Up Your Loins: An Illustrated Guide | The Art of Manliness
  26. Five Statistics Problems That Will Change The Way You See The World – Business Insider **

    Taken from:

    Tl;dr shelves

  27. Crash-Only Thinking
  28. The birds of Bharatpur and the babus of Delhi – The Hindu
  29. If You Commit to Nothing, You’ll Be Distracted by Everything: Lessons from the Marathon Monks – The Buffer Blog
  30. The Invention of Sliced Bread**
  31. On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs – STRIKE!**
  32. China Has Overtaken the U.S. as the World’s Largest Economy | Vanity Fair
  33. Cass Sunstein on the constitution in the 21st century | Harvard Magazine
  34. Win or Lost – A history of voting math – The New Yorker
  35. Neutrino Communications: An Interstellar Future?
  36. THE CODE: A declassified and unbelievable hostage rescue story | The Verge
  37. The World’s Greatest Counterfeiter: Frank Bourassa
  38. What happened when I confronted my cruellest troll | Society | The Guardian
  39. Press release: It is now 3 minutes to midnight | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
  40. The Cheater’s Guide to Love – The New Yorker
  41. Meet the man who could own Aviva France | FT Alphaville**
  42. A Nice Cup of Tea by George Orwell**
  43. How Today’s Computers Weaken Our Brain – The New Yorker
  44. My dog – the paradox on 9GAG
  45. 23andMe receives patent to create designer babies, but denies plans to do so | The Verge
  46. Why Developing Serious Relationships in Your 20s Matters – Medium
  47. How much can an extra hour’s sleep change you? – BBC News
  48. Tea Party Politics: A Look Inside the Republican Suicide Machine | Rolling Stone
  49. Polywater history and science mistakes: The U.S. and USSR raced to create a new form of water.
  50. Pakistan’s Man in Washington – POLITICO Magazine
  51. Baba Shiv: How Do You Find Breakthrough Ideas? | Stanford Graduate School of Business
  52. A List of Reasons Why Our Brains Love Lists – The New Yorker
  53. Why ‘The West Wing’ Is a Terrible Guide to American Democracy – The Atlantic
  54. I Tasted BBQ Sauce Made By IBM’s Watson, And Loved It
  55. Tetris: how we made the addictive computer game | Culture | The Guardian

    Taken from:

    Press any key

  56. What Xi and Putin really think about the west –
  57. Abstruse Goose | Bizarro
  58. I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me | WIRED
  59. We Have a Rape Gif Problem and Gawker Media Won’t Do Anything About It
  60. Slack is killing email | The Verge
  61. Kara Swisher: Tech’s Most Powerful Snoop — NYMag
  62. Technology’s foremost fortune teller: Why Intel has an anthropologist on its payroll | Features | Lifestyle | The Independent
  63. Reddit is a failed state | The Verge**
  64. When MIT Publishes Science Fiction, You Should Pay Attention | Motherboard

    Taken from:

    They’re everywhere!


  65. Riding Beijing’s subway end to end: 88km of queues and crushes on a 20p ticket | Cities | The Guardian
  66. We Can Handle the Truth – The New Yorker**
  67. Why is Singapore in the Wrong Time Zone?
  68. Sept. 26, 1983: The Man Who Saved the World by Doing … Nothing | WIRED
  69. Code as Law: How Bitcoin Could Decentralize the Courtroom | Motherboard
  70. The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS – The New York Times
  71. The Dish: Parkes Radio Telescope in NSW, Australia
  72. My roommate didn’t replace the toilet paper, so I wrote a Shakespearean tragedy dedicated to him. – 9GAG**
  73. AI Has Arrived, and That Really Worries the World’s Brightest Minds | WIRED
  74. Ikea has killed off Expedit, leaving me sad, angry and confused | Peter Robinson | Opinion | The Guardian
  75. Your Elevator Pitch Needs an Elevator Pitch
  76. Welcome to Colon, Magic Capital of the World | The Verge
  77. New Zealand’s Crusade Against Mammals – The New
  78. The Moon Landing: An Undelivered Nixon Speech
  79. The Extraordinary Persistence of Social Hierarchy in Westeros |
    Bleeding Heart Libertarians
  80. Do Scandinavians Have It All Figured Out? – The New Yorker
  81. The War Nerd: Who Won Iraq? Answer: Anyone Who Stayed Out – By Gary Brecher – The eXiled**
  82. Delhi:A City Without Time: The Indian Quarterly; A Literary & Cultural Magazine
  83. Before I go | Stanford Medicine
  84. Special Forces Innovation: How DARPA Attacks Problems
  85. The Problem with Easy Technology – The New Yorker**
  86. Why can’t we read anymore?  Medium
  87. 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature

    Taken from:

    We were infinite


  88. India-Bangla land swap: was the world’s strangest border created by a game of chess?
  89. Why We Can’t Solve Big Problems | MIT Technology Review
  90. Acknowledging Privilege
  91. The Economics of Using Uber in India, For Drivers, Passengers and the Company – Capital Mind
  92. Latex condoms are the worst: Why, after all these years, don’t we have a better condom?
  93. Why Self-Driving Cars Must Be Programmed to Kill | MIT Technology Review**
  94. How the father of Indian nuclear bomb stalled strike on Pakistan’s nuclear sites – The Economic Times
  95. Mindy Kaling’s Guide to Killer Confidence:
  96. The Moral Bucket List –
  97. One Night at Kachka | Eater **
  98. Why I Am Addicted to Friendship Affairs, And Why it Has Nothing to Do With My Marriage – The Ladies Finger
  99. The long, incredibly tortuous, and fascinating process of creating a Chinese font – Quartz **
  100. Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think – Wait But Why

Source 1: Pocket (curated largely from SM feeds I follow)
Source 2: The email thread

In 2013, I received an email from a friend, proposing an exchange of articles everyday.

The purpose of the thread was simple: read outside our respective bubbles. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your reading is often restricted, whether by sector, content, or provider, we certainly did. My friend’s remedy? The thread, which went back and forth, carrying reading material chosen for its ability to stand out amidst all the noise and the similarity.

This thread was a joy because it was restricted to 2 people, and lapses in sending articles were easily remedied by a quick reminder. Over the last two years, this thread has thrown up over 107 articles, ranging from the mundane, to the truly bizzare. From commentary on current events, to cartoons and videos. This thread has been epic.

Even with the thread striving to provide newness, we’ve lapsed to sending each other more and more articles on tech, sociology and politics, and less and less on art and science and music and food and stamps and cakes and a million other things that make life worth living, in my opinion. We’re revamping the thread in search of diversity, and I’ve memorialised the best of the contents as a gift to humanity.