Friday, February 11, 2005

The Free Radio Experiment

Not so long ago there was foundation team who was trying to teach birth control in India.They gave an incentive in the form of a free transistor radio to anyone who attended their educational lectures. Despite their best efforts the birth rate remained at a steady average of 4.6 per family. This unchanging fact was a source of great dismay and perplexity to the team of Americans who were about to deem the project a failure. The solution to this mystery illustrates the counter intuitive behavior in social dynamics of the Welfare State.

They discovered that in India there are no retirement benefits, social security or unemployment benefits. The retirement system is based on three sons. It takes an average of 4.6 births to produce three sons, so guess what?

There is a nice short story plotting around this by Salman Rushdie in his book East,West: Stories .He subtly twists this to show that people who got the Radio, had access to information other than the state media (e.g Radio Ceylon) and thus defeating the purpose of the state's propaganda.(or so I understood)

If you are really into the these kind of tragico-comic character tales of the Welfare State, I wholeheartedly recommend Upamanyu Chatterjee's sequel to "English, August" titled "The Mammaries Of the Welfare State". (Warning: The sharpness of Agastya may be a li'l too good for comfort)


Primalsoup said...

Ki Holo? Very nice post. Average of 4.6 births to produce 3 sons?! Hmmm... Funny and sad in the same breath...

And Rushdie totally rocks I think... is God! :)

Paddy said...

Hey! Thanks.

>Average of 4.6 births to produce 3 sons?!

Stats are nice when they are applied like this.

>Funny and sad in the same breath...

Thats why I call it Tragico-Comic

>And Rushdie totally rocks I think... is God! :)

We are in the same boat then.(Apart from being the chosen children of Murphy though).

BTW if Rushdie is god then Upamanyu Chatterjee is an archangel..

Primalsoup said...

Archangel? :))
So, are you Murphy's chosen one too?
The WWW is the place for spotting kindred souls or what!! :)

Paddy said...

Yeah! Remember the controversial book of Rushdie had to deal with a major religion that had initially a layer between God and people called Archangels (Gibreel Farishta, equivalent of Archangel Gabriel) and later the culture seems to have done with it, allowing direct access to god.

I believe I am a chosen one of Murphy;s too.

The manifestation of WWW was due to a bunch of kindred souls, so I wouldnt be terribly surprised to see it a medium for spotting some :)

Geetanjali said...

Am reading Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories right now - a friend who's done her thesis on the East-West conflict in his works, has been encouraging me to discover Rushdie beyond Midnight's Children and The Moor's Last Sigh. East-West Stories is next on my agenda :-)

Hirak said...

Rushdie rocks, though East-West were not so good. I think he is better with the novel than short stories.
The Moor's last Sigh and Midnight's Children are quite abstract at some places. In my opinion, The Ground Beneath Her Feet was his best so far, and also the most accesible. Perhaps because it was about rock 'n' roll and I may be biased.
Check the Helicon Post on it

Paddy said...


I found some stories like this one quite thought provoking in East West.

Abstractness was neccesary rather than being contrived because he wanted to generalise from that specific instance he was narrating.

I love Ground Beneath her feet too. Thanks for the link.I am checking that now.