Three things struck me as I walked in; the long corridor, a brass bell hanging about 6 ft high around halfway on the left along the corridor and a stick hanging by a leather strap a 10 ft ahead of it. Of course, the zero-th thing that must have hit me was the 2 queues along the walls of the passage. But the feeling of nostalgia was invoked faster than the 'Oh-Shit' feeling incited by the queues.

Probably every average school can be characterized by the long corridor and a hanging brass bell, and perhaps occasionally by the guard's stick. This wasn't my school, but memories like slideshow flashed my mind.

As I perspired in the queue, I realized that these corridors never have any fans. As I looked towards the ceiling my eyes fell upon the ventilation of the classrooms, secured by vertical glass pieces arranged alternately. My immediate sense was of pity towards the students who study in those classes. They did not have those traditional concrete vents in elaborate traceries. My school had ones with an interlocking diamond pattern. And reason I felt pitiful towards the students was that they probably would never have a memory as vivid and fun as I have of that vent, in which each diamond opening was stuffed with a white paper airplane.

What makes it even more memorable is the three teachers (I remember only one of that trio now - my Geography teacher) standing with the "LOOK AT THAT!" faces. Well, it were my seniors who had managed the feat, and to this day, I don't know how. One may hazard a guess as to how many notebook pages might have been torn, how many folds a pair of hands might have creased and how many throws a pilot would have needed, but those details aren't fun.

These chain of memories was now interrupted by the shrill long beeps which had grown louder as I advanced to classroom 3 converted for the day as polling station 146/224. Yes, I was at the polling booth, this time for assembly elections.

Standing in the queue, I was reminded of a joke of two economists who meet in a queue for voting and confess to each other that they are both there only on the insistence of their wives. They mutual consented to keep the knowledge that the other voted a secret.

Of late, even I have similar feelings about elections, which have nothing to do with the marginal cost-marginal benefit conditioning of economists, the premise of the earlier joke (Not that I am not conditioned, my job requires me to be). My frustration has more to do with the first past the post system of elections we have in India and more generally, with the fact that how much little information a yes/no kind of instrument (the ballot) captures about real socio-economic issues which polity has to ultimately address through its governance and provide a reasonably accurate comparative evaluation of capabilities of prospective leaders/policy makers as well as of different approaches presented by them to address the identified issues. Of course, these details aren't fun. Willingly alienating one's right to govern oneself isn't either.

These frustrations (augmented by the never ending queue - a result of only 1 ballot station per booth, a result of insufficient EVMs, a result of too many candidates*) with world's largest democracy, begged me to ask myself why was I (and others) here to cast a vote and endorse the system.

I don't know if the senior class was punished for the stunt they pulled with the paper airplanes and the vent openings. Probably, they were lectured on why it was not the right thing to do. What I do know is nothing substantial happened; for anything such would have become one school gossip which would never be forgotten.

I sometimes do wonder, why nothing substantial happened? Maybe our teachers chose to consider the act of indiscipline as a one-time mischief and ignore it. Maybe they didn't want to punish the entire class for acts of a select few. Maybe even with all the power to punish, they were rendered powerless by the senior class's desire (and commitment to it) to have fun, to be just kids: each stuffed airplane a testimony to that.

Perhaps, I and others were there in the poll queue to express our desire to be free, even with a dysfunctional democracy; and, hopefully, through this expression render those powerless who have taken it for granted. Or perhaps, we were just bored, or our mothers/ wives dragged us there.

* There were 19 candidates in total, 2 of which cared to campaign in my locality, party of another 1 campaigned and rest did not care.
P.S. I voted around 1:00 pm taking the voter turnout in my constituency to near 36%.
Guys are so much victims of perception. Of course, I have been one the worst affected victims of these perception. How I wish I could sue all those those who perceive so!

By the way, in case the guy's hair happens to shwet-shyamal, do what he may, the Perceived Age curve and Actual age curve will never meet! Sad but true (at least, I think it is sad, and it most definitely is true).

This one is inspired during the lunch conversations at Bombay House canteens.
During the IPL, there used to be a commercial aired by Parle 20-20 (clever spin on the name from 50-50 to 20-20) in which the team was awarded the cup on the win of the toss, trying to emphasize the “short me niptao” tagline of Parle 20-20. I personally liked the hindi commentator commercial of Parle 20-20 though.

The Parle 20-20 commercial kindled an old curiosity of mine to understand the effect of outcome of a toss on the outcome of the match. Of course, then I was not acquainted to the statistical methods, and even if I did I wonder where I would have obtained the data from; and so had no way to figure out the answer. Anyway, this time around with the superpower of statistics and cricinfo with me, I set out on the quest for the truth.

I chose the IPL2 dataset wherein it is said that anything can happen. This is what I found.

The 3 matches with no results were the 2 abandoned matches and 1 match which was tied and had to be resolved in a super-over. So, 33/56 = 59% of the time the match winner wins the toss. In terms of statistical probability, we can thus say that there is 59% chance that if a team wins the toss, it will win the match.

If a game has to be fair, all outcomes must be equally likely. The two most likely outcomes of a match are that Team A wins or Team A loses. I know of the tie outcome, but how many limited overs cricket games have been tied ever, less than even a 0.1% of all games? So, Team A wins or Team A loses is equally likely implies there should be a ½=50% chance of either happening. But, in cricket the toss changes the odds significantly towards the winner of the toss. Now, that is not fair. I really wish I had worked this math out before the bets I placed in T20 world cup – had to give a good number of chocolates to a friend.

On further analysis, I found something very interesting. Two of the four teams, which made it to the semi-finals of IPL2, were leading the tally in terms of toss-winnings also.

But then this could be one of those spurious correlations like the Redskins Rule. The real question is whether, the variables winning a match and winning the toss are independent or not. Of course, a more rigorous analysis is needed.

So, I googled and found this interesting paper: To bat or not to bat: An examination of match outcomes in day-night limited overs cricket which finds that winning the toss and batting first increases the probability of winning. The study conducted over day-night matches over 1979-2005 uses logit regression to prove the point. Though this does not actually address the toss-win implies match-win hypothesis and does not cover the entire ODI spectrum but does partly address the problem. I did not find a comparable study for test matches.

The cricket fans who ardently believe that “anything can happen in cricket” will argue about the role of strategic decision making on every ball, pitch & weather conditions, team composition, selection criteria, politics in cricket, racist attitude towards Asian teams, yada yada yada on the outcome of the match. To all ye, I say, prove it statistically!

I have to agree these results are not enough to make a generic statement that “Cricket is an unfair game”. But I have instinctive feel that any study would return toss outcome as the topmost factors that affect the outcome of the match. And hence on basis of my hunch, I claim: Cricket is an unfair game.

P.S. I hope I have the freedom of speech to make such a statement. These days, anything can happen: big media (proponents of free speech) can legally ask a blogger to remove his post, political parties can ask award juries to award only "deserving" people. Who knows, BCCI might take offence to this non-trivial albeit somewhat naive analysis of IPL2 or cricket and I might be sued to take it off blogosphere!
So, I visited the barber last week for the regular trimming and getting that clean shave, advertized in the Gillette Mach 3, Turbo Mach 3, Vector Plus, etc commercials, which I consistently fail to achieve by myself. There was this new chap there instead of my regular barber and his first glance at me was that of utter disappointment – not because I happened to drop in at his breakfast time or because it meant additional work. This was a different sort of disappointment – the kind that I would feel if I was asked to do a menial task like data entry – of being underutilized and more importantly under-challenged. Professional that he is, my thin shwet-shyamal hair offered him little challenge; little room to style and all you see.

The barber’s reaction was new because of his selfishness. But, I am not unaccustomed to reactions to my hair. I could fill libraries with volumes of books about the care and concern that people have shown towards my balding. Indeed barbers all over the country, from Mumbai to Guwahati to Chennai to Bangalore never fail to point out to me that “bahut safed baal ho gaya hai” or “bahut patla ho gaya hai baal”. Duh! And then there are those concerned friends, estranged school acquaintances, relatives, etc who on every meeting do not fail to suggest remedies ranging from wearing a topi to protect from dust, going completely bald so that the new fasal can grow, daily usage of some maha-bhringaraj oil, consumption of hair-growing tablets, visit to Dr Batra's Clinic, etc. Most concerned are my parents and first-cousins: “kes aahet tovar lagna karun ghey” (marry while you have hair). Indeed, this concern for hair is a proxy concern of not being thought of as handsome; (similarly, there are proxies for beauty in case of girls) and the indisputable importance of beauty (or handsomeness) with marital prospects of a girl or a guy.

This chain of thoughts reminded me of a beauty arbitrage, some friends had told me about. What is it all about? Let’s have a look at the marital prospects market. Each marital prospect will be valued based on different parameters including beauty like earnings potential, compatibility, etc. The mix of these parameters will determine the valuation. Thus, someone who may be beautiful but have low earnings potential could be equally valued as someone who is not-so-beautiful but who has earnings potential.

However, as the hair raising concerns described above show, beauty is perceived as a relatively more important parameter (especially when both parties are young). This perception distorts the marital prospects market. There is a greater demand for beautiful prospects. Two prospects, one beautiful and other not-so-much, who are valued equally (Vactual), will be valued differently because of the excess demand for the beautiful and the lack of demand for the not-so-beautiful. People will be over-valuing a beautiful prospect (by a premium p) and under-valuing the not-so-beautiful prospect (by a discount d). What will happen over time is that the perceived value of the prospect will approach actual value (consistent with my economic theory of relationships).

Herein lay the opportunity as Buffet would say. We have an undervalued marital prospect which not many want to engage with. If one gets engaged and stay so for the long term, while those who had paid a premium for beauty will see erosion in value of their relationship, one would see an appreciation in one's relationship value. This gap in actual value and market value is the beauty arbitrage.

So, to all those people and barbers who are interested in making someone not-so-beautiful or not-so-handsome into beautiful or handsome, all I have to say is this: They are good as they are, in fact they are the best marital investment opportunities around. If you are really care, then find them some intelligent investors.