Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In-flight WTF

I was on a plane a couple of weeks back, from lovely, pleasant Madras to freezing, gray as the Tirpitz Amritsar. The in-flight magazine had one of those travelogue things, this one about a home stay type place somewhere in the Western Ghats in Kerala, on a cardamom/clove/other spice estate.

The family that owns and runs the place apparently used to live in Bombay and this was an ancestral estate of sorts that they were planning to get rid of. When they visited the homestead, they were enthralled by how beautiful and quiet and un-city like the whole setup was; so instead of selling the plantation, they sold their stuff in Bombay and moved lock, stock and barrel back to Kerala and went about the business of reviving the thing.

All well and good. The article had liberal doses of numbers in it. Some paper napkin arithmetic follows, bear with me.

Total acreage: 20 acres
Plant density: 400 / acre
Yield per plant per annum: 5 kg
Market price of said spice: Rs. 275 - Rs. 1700 per kg, depending on market conditions etc.
Revenue p.a. = Rs. 4 crore (at a sale price of Rs. 1000 per kg)

Then the gentleman goes on to reveal some of his costs. Apparently they have 6-7 full time workers, and hire another 10-15 during picking season. These people are paid Rs. 150 per day, apparently.

Total outlay on labour, generously speaking = 365 days * 20 workers * Rs. 150 ~= Rs. 11 lakh p.a.

Finally, in a somewhat rueful manner, this stunning comment:

"Everywhere from villas and townships, to the new airport that's coming up, construction pays way better for a far worse standard of living. None of my workers' children want to get into farming."


You're making 4 crores a year, you spend 11 lakhs on labour, and this is your biggest crib?

I hope they replace the entire estate with a strip mall and (i) the workers get paid something approaching a fair wage and (ii) we get to work on the project.

Readers are invited to acquaint/re-acquaint themselves with this tale.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Glory of Rails

Tony Judt (who we have had occasion to admire before) has also written 2 superb pieces on the railways. The Glory of Rails starts with this absolutely lovely Monet.

The man's prose is just lap-uppable. Bring Back the Rails is a plea to...well, bring back the rails. En passant I learned about Brief Encounter, which seems superb, and also resulted in a half hour spent in desultory viewing of clips from Ijaazat, including this one.

Finally, we leave our devoted readers with 2 videos and suggest that some inspiration may be involved.

Finally, finally, this is always fun. Especially live.