Saturday, March 12, 2011

Disposable income, where art thou?

As I stepped out today, the air seemed different. It wasn't the same biting cold that it had been for the past wintery months. It was laced with a healthy yellow glow from the shining sun. The sky was just the right shade of light blue. The weather had changed. That was enough to remind me of all the things that have been changing recently. Life is at a peculiar stage right now, like a desert engulfed in a sandstorm everything is shifting and changing and what lies ahead is not so clear. I'll tell you one other thing thats changing. The damn prices.

Inflation is biting away at everyones heels right now and if our wallets were girls then they would be ecstatic because they are slimming down fast. I can't count the number of times me and my friends have walked into a nice looking establishment, sat down, looked at the prices and then had a brainstorming session on how to walk out without making our financial situation apparent to anyone. Usually it involves "I dunno, nothing on the menu strikes me as interesting, we'll be back in five minutes". Oh yeah, we've done that. Don't you dare judge me..... and stop giving me that look. A lesson to the uninitiated, walk in, ask for the menu, do not under any circumstance sit down, if the prices seem manageable given the funds at hand park your behind on the nearest table, else use the "5 minute" line mentioned above, remember to thank TAB later.

So while me and a friend (henceforth, Adeel) were discussing the trials and tribulations of the life of a trainee at work it was inevitable that the topic of our pay package (don't ask) and the prices today would come up. An idea hit us, both of us having studied economics vaguely remembered that time when we were half awake in class and managed to hear the teacher say "blah blah blah consumer price index blah blah blah inflation". For those who might not know about what the consumer price index (CPI) is, I'll try to wrap it up in a single line. A CPI is a list on which the prices of various items are listed and tracked over time to get an idea of the prevailing rate of inflation in the country. If you're the Sherlock Holmes type and thats not enough for you then you can always do this or this. Back on point; me and Adeel remembered consumer price index and decided to make our own little index, the Student Price Index.

And now the curious wonder what the Student Price Index is? Well, the Student Price Index (henceforth, the SPI) is a list on which items vital to the student/trainee are listed and their prices are tracked over time to get an idea of the prevailing rate of inflation the student/trainee must endure in his academic life. Driven to help students everywhere, we set out to create the SPI that as of yet existed only in our heads. After hours of interviews, calculations and research, the SPI was turned into reality. The fruits of our labour are shown below.

So there you go. Now you know what you're up against. Time to go to parliament and start a discussion on what to do about this grave issue. To explain a bit on whats going on above, the items selected are those that the student finds themselves dealing out cash for the most. The year 2010 is selected as the base year because well, no one remembered how much a roll paratha cost back in 2000 (Rs. 45, FYI). The prices of the same items in the year 2011 are listed as well and the change over one year is calculated to arrive at the figure for inflation. But it doesn't stop there. The items are also given a weightage according to how important they are. To explain the concept of weightage, items that are considered closer to being necessities get a high weightage. Luxury items get a low weightage. Why is this done? Well, a 50% increase in the price of a Bentley may not have everyone reconsidering sending their child to college but a 50% increase in the price of wheat is a surefire way to start a revolution in the country. The result of this economics lesson is that the inflation rate comes out to 27%. Fun fact, that actually is the inflation rate of our country at the moment (so you know we did a good job :D). However, after weighting, for us students the inflation rate is somewhat closer to 20%.

The SPI is something that just started out as a joke and the list is in no way complete. But it was a fun exercise and I'm actually interested making it into a proper index so I would love feedback on the matter. For one, having a full and proper list of items that students and trainees spend their money on is important. Second, this is actually the work of two guys, so the list doesn't take into account items that the girls would normally spend on. You can leave a comment or make a post on the forum (highly recommended).

The updated version of the SPI can always be found here. For now, tis time to wrap up this post and return to dreaming of that big paycheck that I'll hopefully be collecting someday.

Talha A. B.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Stop and Stare

This might sound entertaining but honestly what i'm about to discuss here is not short of being an epidemic itself. My dears, I talk about the one and only "STARING" habit which is such an inborn "value" that it sort of accompanies ethnic origin at birth. Face it, WE are a curious nation. We were born wide eyed and even now the existence of the opposite gender never ceases to amaze us. Of course the main problem is girls complaining about the full body scan rather than the other way around. I mean, face it, if a guy catches a girl looking at him intently, with a silly one corner smile he is more likely to puff up his chest than to tug at lose hair strands. BUT there are both sides to a discussion and boys, I will do you justice.

Every Pakistani woman is aware of the fact that when she leaves the house she will be scanned from head to toe by any male individual who frequents her path. If you think its because of wearing something provocative, well think again. I'm not saying thats not a big way to get yourself "hounded" but generally no beauty, height, weight or amount of layers has anything to do with it. And honestly who are we to define provocative; it is too relative. So yes take a walk and start the count; the security guard of the house up front, two teenagers returning from tuition, the regular uncle on a cycle, the guy fixing some phone line, the the shopkeeper, regular suited corporate guy driving down the road, etc. It is like this paranoia that the woman has come to ignore and even accept.

This was a sensitive issue to write on. Though common enough, Miss Q here had to search high and low for answers, talk openly to her male acquaintances as to the reason behind this predicament and observe others all the same being victimised herself. My question, "WHY?". The answer "instinct". The answer took me back to this article I read in the Readers' Digest once about attraction in general. Basically what that article said was, the guy and the girl "size" each other up. Any person, man or woman carries with them this compatibility criteria and when they come across someone who fits that criteria it creates this invisible thread of connection between them. Think about it, if the staring guy's good looking you're not THAT unpleased and well if he's not he's just a shameless loser with no respect for women isn't he? The thing is girls, half of the time you and me don't realise that we give out these signals of approval. I'm not saying such instinct is wrong. It is this instinct that is enabling the population to grow this rapidly.

But look here, there HAS to be something about Pakistan that's different right. What about, say the European countries. Did their hormones get exhausted? Its weird how we claim to be more loyal since most of us stay hitched to the same guy/girl post/pre mid-twenty's age till the time one of the spouses passes away. I get how the single generation scours the market but what I don't get is how every man AND woman doesn't become blurry for a guy/girl when he/she has chosen one to be there forever. It is outrageous, the crimes being done on the name of religion but noone knows the basics OF the religion. I might only be touching "looking" but we all know its an area open for creativity and physicality.

And girls, despite what i said about provocative clothing being a relative term, we all know our cultural limits now don't we. If we exceed those limits we are compelling the male population to to go gaga. Even though speaking from the sisterhood I know how inappropriately some female individuals have come to behave. Like, VERY inappropriate. If the girl deserves to be left alone and not harrassed then the guys deserve less impetus to invoke certain desires. Sometimes I feel its the lack of entertainment that this happens; either its too pricey or too scarce. Of course this somewhat justifies the labour, working class but NOT the "Burger bachay". "Poondi" as the guys like to call it is a social event held at strategic spots usually in large groups. They're easy to spot, mostly at "open" eateries, a bit dressed up, facing the same direction and they usually won't buy anything to eat since they might need to change location at some indefinite time. Then come the "Poondi approvers", girls, mostly young, giggly, basically what the audience is facing and having the silly notion that its because they are so hot/pretty. *sigh*. Oh and they too shall refrain from eating since they consider it a turnoff. What as waste, pass me those fries!

So here i am taking everyone's side. Im so great aren't I? The thing is God created the woman to be loved and respected , not pieced down by body proportions. That's the way it is; the woman needs more respect in this regard than the man because of who and what she is. See, I cannot under any circumstances open my gate at 12 am and walk down to some corner shop 5 minutes away while maybe a guy can. So yeah, just because a woman is apparently admiring someone's bulgy muscles doesnt give the muscle man the same right. (Oh please don't whine, you guys get to do more fun stuff ALREADY). The gist of it is, admire the beauty of the human being, single them out but be DISCREET, or else very soon you lose respect and ultimately credibility. There's admiration and then there's harrasment. Of course the labouror breaking down the road will never read this but maybe some high-ups will and thus serve as an example. Now run off my kids, I pronounce you brothers and sisters. Kidding! :P

Until next time, this is Sara Q thinking of getting some well deserved sleep!