Category: Public Policy

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.

#TIL Matthew, and Matilda Effect!

As I’m currently reading a paper by Robert K. Merton, a sociologist, on the Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action (cough *demonetization* cough), I decided to look him up on Wikipedia.

imagesAmong other things, he is credited with the Matthew Effect: “the phenomenon where “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”[1][2] In both its original and typical usage it is meant metaphorically to refer to issues of fame or status but it may also be used literally to refer to cumulative advantage of economic capital.

Also credited with the Matthew Effect is Harriet Zuckerman  (and the Wikipedia article notes that she is credit thus by virtue of the Matilda Effect).

The Matilda Effect is “the common bias against acknowledging the contribution of woman scientists in research, whose work is often attributed to their male colleagues. This effect was first described by 19th century suffragist and abolitionist Matilda Joslyn Gage in her essay “Woman as Inventor”, and coined in 1993 by science historian Margaret W. Rossiter.[1]


Gage seems like a really incredible person: “.. was considered to be more radical than either Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton (with whom she wrote History of Woman Suffrage and Declaration of the Rights of Women).[4] Along with Stanton, she was a vocal critic of the Christian Church, which put her at odds with conservative suffragists such as Frances Willard and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Rather than arguing that women deserved the vote because their feminine morality would then properly influence legislation (as the WCTU did), she argued that they deserved suffrage as a ‘natural right’.