Thursday, July 26, 2012

Moving mountains

In a post in August 2010, I had noted how the ancient Chinese had moved a 200-ton block of stone on ice over a great distance, and contrasted  it with the transportation of a 80-ton granite block by Raja Raja Chola in the 11th century by using elephants. 

Recently, a 340-ton boulder was transported over 100 km, in 12 days in California. No elephants were necessary. They used a 200 feet long trailer. This feat will now feature in the Guinness Book of World Records. (source)

Today, I read that the construction of the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia also involved mind-blowing logistics. As this report explains: 

The sandstone blocks from which Angkor Wat was built were quarried more than 50km away (from the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen) and floated down the Siem Reap River on rafts. The logistics of such an operation are mind-blowing, consuming the labour of thousands – an unbelievable feat given the lack of cranes and trucks that we take for granted in contemporary construction projects. According to inscriptions, the construction of Angkor Wat involved 300,000 workers and 6000 elephants, yet it was still not fully completed.

What was the motivation for these people to attempt such feats?

Friday, July 20, 2012

The nucleus of the Indian Army- 1628

The United Service Magazine (Part 3) in its issue of 1835 (Page 311), traces the history of the Indian Army set up by the British. 

The Indian Army forms, perhaps, the most extraordinary spectacle on which the eye of the philosopher has ever rested. Composed almost exclusively of natives, none of whom are ever permitted to rise to offices of rank or trust, it has ensured to England, for not less than seventy years, the undisputed sovereignty over a tract of country incalculably more extensive than herself, and divided from her by the distance of half the globe. Nor is it alone by preserving peace at home, and supporting a handful of strangers in the dominion which they there exercise, that the Indian Army has established for itself an illustrious name: whenever they have been employed in the field—whether against foreign or domestic enemies—whether against Asiatics or Europeans,— the Sepoys have done their duty, if not with the daring recklessness which characterises British soldiers, at all events with steadiness, with patience, and with courage. 

Such a body deserves, if ever an armed body did, that its merits should not pass unnoticed, and that they who benefit by its devotion and its truth should at least give to it the recompense of well-earned praise. 

There is nothing in the records of ancient or modern times more remarkable than the rise of the Indian Army. It has been, if we may so express ourselves, the growth of a day. It sprang up all at once from the seed to absolute maturity. 

For many long years after the trade with India had been opened, and the Copany had established factories at different points along the coast, the Indian Army had positively no existence. A few peons, armed, according to the custom of the country, with swords and circular shields, were the only species of guards which the factories admitted; and these never ventured to oppose themselves to the encroachments of the local authorities, however flagrant and however unjustifiable. 

The fact, indeed, is that when the English merchants first established themselves in the ports of Hindustan, they did not dream of the possibility of founding anything like an empire in a country thickly peopled, highly civilized, and accustomed to the working of regular governments. They were content to receive protection—they never thought of being able to afford it; and so long as the native princes permitted them to trade, their ambition soared no higher. The excessive caution with which they departed from this system is very striking, and we will endeavour to give of it a sort of bird's-eye view. 

On the 2nd of May, 1601, Captain Lancaster's renowned squadron sailed from Torbay. After touching at Acheen, in Sumatra, and trading there—after capturing in the Straits of Malacca a rich Portuguese ship, and receiving from the Moluccas large quantities of spices, Lancaster steered for Java, where, in Bantam, the first factory was established over which an English merchant had ever presided in those seas. This was in 1602. In 1612 we find new factories erected at Surat, Ahmedabad, Cambaya, and Goja. As these increased in wealth and importance, they drew towards themselves the notice not only of the native princes but of European rivals, who, sometimes by force, hut much more frequently by intrigue, endeavoured to ruin them. Against direct hostility, however, the English were content to guard themselves by appealing to the Nabobs and Naigs on shore; while at sea their ships maintained, as they best could, a struggle with their assailants.

But this state of things could not last for ever. Their rivals, especially the Dutch, gathered strength from day to day: they built forts, they sent out bodies of troops, and began to wage war with the powers around them. They conceived that they must in some sort follow the example, not indeed in commencing hostilities with the princes under whose protection they dwelt, but by assuming such an attitude as might overawe the Europeans, and hinder them from acting towards themselves on the offensive. 

In 1626, when displays of hostile intentions had become, on the part of the Dutch, more than ever frequent, and the condition of India, torn by civil wars, chanced to be peculiarly forlorn, the English merchants judged it expedient to apply to the soubahdars of the different provinces in which they were settled, for permission to enclose their factories with fortifications. Some time elapsed ere the desired sanction was obtained; and when it did reach them, they were too poor and too feeble everywhere to avail themselves of it; but at Armagon, on the Coromandel coast, a fort was erected in 1628, which mounted twelve pieces of cannon. 

The garrison of that fort—the nucleus as it may be called of the Indian Army—consisted of twenty-three soldiers,—Europeans hired by the chief of the factory, and of course subject to no species of military law; for the idea of establishing an armed force in the East had never occurred to any of the home authorities, and no provision could of course be made for its management. There it was, however, the foundation-stone of the hosts which now keep in subjection a population of one hundred millions of souls—a gallant army of twenty three burgher-guards, of which the chief of the factory was the commandant. 

Do read the rest of the piece here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Who will be missed?

What is about death of actors that makes people go irrationally sentimental?  People who have never even seen or spoken to Rajesh Khanna in person feel or claim to feel a sense of loss. There was a near stampede today as his fans thronged the crematorium. “He’ll be missed” says one of the media reports. Missed? The man had stopped acting long back. So the ‘missing’ is not something that arises from the news of his death. 

His fans knew him only through the characters he portrayed. So are they mourning the death of the characters that he played? That doesn’t make sense. The characters had a finite shelf life anyway- till that particular movie ended. And it was possible that one or two of the characters played by him would have died too. His fans did not take that so personally. 

Is it charisma? As I wondered in an earlier post, why should actors have a fan following at all? Unlike singers or cricketers whose real persona display their respective skills in real life, what is seen by the public in movies are virtual images of actors. It would be logical for the virtual character to be admired, but why the actor in flesh and blood? He won’t even be able to sing a single line of the popular song that his “character” had sung in the movie.

People do identify, vicariously, with the film characters and find an outlet for their fantasies through them. If they cannot – or do not want to- distinguish between the actor and the character he plays, his death could cause a deep sense of loss, as if a part of one’s self had been snatched away.  The ‘fantasy’ world gets shattered when the actor- the creator of the characters- dies.

Do you have an explanation?

Update 28-07-12

Sunil Gavaskar in his column last week ( online link not available) paid tributes to Rajesh Khanna and commentator, Suresh Saraiya and said that such heroes ought to be remembered. 

About Suresh Saraiya, he had fond recollections. It was Suresh who brought Gavaskar a photograph of his new-born son, Rohan, when he was on a long tour of West Indies. He also recalled the hard work he put in as a commentator and his passion for the game. It is clear that Gavaskar knew him personally and closely. Therefore, his sense of loss on the passing away of Suresh Saraiya is understandable.

About Rajesh Khanna, Gavaskar writes that his movies were very popular with the Indian team. In particular, Ashok Mankad was a great fan and would imitate the actor very well. Mankad would entertain the team, acting out scenes from many a Rajesh Khanna film. 

In the entire piece, Gavaskar provides no evidence that he knew Rajesh Khanna personally. He knew only the on-screen persona but seemed to make no distinction between the actor and the characters he played. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The early-morning flight...

Here I am, at 5.15 in the morning, suited, booted and waiting in a line to get inside the airport. The grumpy security guard wants some proof of my identity. I pull out my driver’s licence. He stares at it intently, trying to figure out if the person in that photograph is really me. I don’t blame him. I’ve had the same doubt for a long time. Even when I had collected my licence at the RTO I had complained to the person at the counter that my photo looked terrible. He had given me a curt explanation that just as they register cars on an “as-is-where-is” basis, they photograph people on an “as-is-how-is” basis. 

In one of his essays, R.K.Narayan describes a portrait done of him by M.F.Husain: “When I saw the portrait” writes RKN, “I remarked that I didn’t look like myself. Husain had smiled at my lack of taste and replied that I wouldn’t know my real self. I left it at that." It is the same with me and my RTO photo. I don’t know my real self. 

At long last, the security guard convinces himself that I have no immediate plans of blowing up the airport and lets me in. 

I make my way to the check-in counter. I wait behind four other passengers. Just when it is my turn, I get a tap on my shoulder from a chap who wants to check in ahead of me as he’s late for his Delhi flight. What audacity! 

Consider my state of mind. For my flight at 6.40 a.m. I had started from my house at 4.45 a.m. making allowance for traffic snarls, flat tyres (one each in the front and at the rear), CM’s cavalcade passing by, cranes toppling over during Metro Rail construction, Adyar River overflowing due to unexpected overnight rains and an assortment of other contingencies. I had carefully set the alarm for 4.00 a.m. but was woken up even earlier by my call-taxi driver. He dialed me at 3.15 a.m. asking for directions from a place that was a good 20 km away from my house. In these days of GPS, mind-boggling Google Maps and dozens of geo-synchronous satellites orbiting the globe, it is ridiculous that we should be woken up at ungodly hours by people wanting to know how to reach Point B from A. 

You can see that I have sacrificed my sleep and subjected myself to much misery just to be at the airport in time. And I am confronted by this chap who insists on jumping the queue after spending an extra hour in bed, though his flight is scheduled to leave 30 minutes ahead of mine. I am simply outraged by this brazen display of aggression. I allow him to go ahead only because I don’t want to pick up an acrimonious fight so early in the day with a guy who possesses the biggest biceps and the most menacing looks I’ve seen.

Brooding over the unfairness of it all I collect my Boarding card and join the serpentine queue for Security clearance. After 20 minutes, I reach the scanning machine but somebody in a pilot’s uniform brushes me aside to place his luggage first. Why am I being pushed around by all and sundry this morning? Who do these pilots think they are? Why do they need to be given this special access? And why do they need such huge suitcases? Damn it, they don’t even fly the planes these days. I’ve heard that the cabin crew comprises a computer, a pilot and a dog. The computer flies the plane; the dog is there to make sure that the pilot doesn’t touch the controls; the only job of the pilot is to feed an occasional biscuit to the dog. That’s all there is to flying a plane. Perhaps the large suitcases are used to carry the dogs inside.

Clearing the security check after an eternity, I bump into my old friend Govindarajan. Good old Govind. The veteran traveller. Spends more time at airports than at home. Holds more frequent-flyer cards than his wallet can hold. Looks the same every time I see him. As we chat, it occurs to me that my last four meetings with him have all been in the security area of the same airport. The truth hits me now. He must be an airport ghost. Yes, that’s what he is. Govind, the Ghost. No wonder he looks the same always. Wife and family must be under impression that he’s on yet another of his long tours while his ghost keeps restlessly hovering around the security area where he had spent half his life waiting for some plane or other. I notice that Govind (or his ghost) is looking at me in a strange manner. Maybe he feels the same way about me. Perhaps most early-morning travelers are just ghosts trapped inside airport buildings. You never see them outside. Just the right theme for a Night Shyamalan movie. 

I settle down in a chair and try to sort out the ghosts from the real people. Some of them look quite spooky. One tormented soul has his laptop open and is staring unblinkingly at the screen. Yet another ghost has been pulling his strolley all over the lounge without any sense of purpose. A third one has been yelling into his mobile phone and I suspect that he’s not even on a call.

The blasted announcements keep interrupting my thoughts and observations.”LAST and FINAL CALL for so-and-so, repeat, LAST and FINAL CALL.” Don’t they know that ‘last and final call’ can be given only once? If there’s going to be one more call after this, they need to call this the ‘SECOND-FROM-LAST and PENULTIMATE call.” Besides, where was the need to turn on the decibel level to an ear-drum shattering 120 dBa? Have they set the audio level to suit the hearing frequency of ghosts?

I rise from my seat once I realise that the so-and-so being called out is actually my name. I saunter through the aero-bridge muttering to myself that no society which inflicts these early-morning flights on its members can call itself civilised.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The singular case of the undug stretch of road.

The Chairman of the Committee To Ensure Continued Dissatisfaction of Chennai Citizens (CTECDCC) was a worried man. The situation was alarming enough for him to convene an emergency meeting of the CTECDCC.  A report had been filed by the Roving Audit team (RAT) that a serious violation had been committed.  On one of the roads in the southern part of the city, a continuous stretch of 10 metres had been spotted with the top surface intact and investigations showed that it had remained so for the last 48 hours. This was unpardonable.

The CTECDCC was a cross-functional task-force consisting of members from the departments in charge of water supply, sewage, storm water pipe, electricity cables, telephone cables, data cables and roads. The team members needed to coordinate their respective activities in such a manner as to ensure that, at any given time, any part of the city roads was kept dug up on both sides. If a given stretch was dug up by the Storm Water Dept and filled and paved after 4 months, the telephone department had to swiftly mobilize its resources and ensure that it was dug up again. After a few months when the re-filling was done, the electricity dept would take over and so on. The constant filling/re-filling was necessary to provide an element of surprise. Drivers shouldn't be allowed to settle down to a pattern for too long.

The noble mandate of the CTECDCC was to make sure that citizens did not get accustomed to or spoilt by paved or smooth road- which would unnecessarily increase expectation of service levels and put the system under strain. Moreover, keeping the roads dug and with potholes ensured benefits to the local economy and resulted in good GDP growth. Cars had to change their shock-absorbers more often, tyres had to be fixed for punctures and motor-bikes that had fallen into ditches needed extensive repairs. Injured pedestrians and disabled senior citizens boosted the income of hospitals, while vehicles consumed more fuel and provided revenue for oil companies. Besides, when each department dug up the road by turn and filled it back, a virtuous cycle was created. Workers could be kept continually engaged and diverted. 

The CTECDCC was an ISO-9000 certified organization and systems were in place to eliminate possibility of non-conformance. Roving teams were trained to alert them even if a small stretch of road was found undug.

Yet this lapse had happened.  And a full 48 hours had passed before the Committee came to know about it. 

There was only one thing to be done. The house owners on either side of the road and abutting the undug stretch had to be prosecuted on charges of willful and gross negligence in not bringing the matter to the notice of the officials.

Yes, only such a measure would prevent such slippages again and ensure that all citizens would discharge their duties as required of them. If rules were not enforced stringently, Indian society as we know it and take pride in being a part of, will crumble and degenerate. The CTECDCC could not be a mute spectator. 

Orders to that effect were passed by the Chairman and the meeting called to a close.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Law-breakers, unite.

A ‘good samaritan’ in my neighbourhood catches hold of all the stray dogs in the area and manages to tie collars around their necks. This, he explains, is to give them the status of ‘owned dogs’ and prevent them from being rounded up by the Corporation to be castrated or killed or whatever it is that Corporations do to stray dogs. 

The interesting thing here is that this good fellow doesn’t realise that the Corporation personnel are law-enforcers and that they could be removing these stray dogs for a proper reason. His compassion misguides him here. 

Same with the case of the driver fraternity. Seeing traffic cops waiting to catch helmetless drivers of two-wheelers, they are quick to alert and warn other drivers heading in that direction of the danger lurking in the corner and to take a different route. The police are trying to enforce a law here and punish the offenders. As law-abiding citizens, we ought to support the Police and help them nab the rule-breakers. Instead we reach out, in a spirit of brotherhood, to the defaulters. 


Is it because of a general cynicism that the law-enforcers are a corrupt lot and that the sole purpose of their exercise is to harass and demand bribes?  So, drivers as a community must unite and fight the system in whatever way possible?  Or there is something about ‘ authority’ that says we must defy and rebel?

The rise of the 'novel' and 'abstract art'.

The ‘novel’ in the form we know it now, and defined as an “extended fictional prose narrative with emphasis on character development” came into being only in early 19th century and gained popularity towards the middle of that century. Why or how did it suddenly become popular? One explanation is that the industrial revolution saved people a few hours of work a week and provided them more time for reading and entertainment.  A different perspective is provided by Orhan Pamuk in his essay, “ Who do you write for?” (part of his book, “Other Colours”)

We must remember that the rise of the novel coincided with the emergence of the nation-state. When the great novels of the nineteenth century were being written, the art of the novel was in every sense a national art. Dickens, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy wrote for an emerging middle class, who could in the books of its respective national author recognize every city, street, house, room and chair; it could indulge in the same pleasures as it did in the real world and discuss the same ideas. In the nineteenth century, novels by important authors appeared first in the art and culture supplements of national newspapers, for the authors were speaking to the nation. In their narrative voices we can sense the disquiet of the concerned patriot whose deepest wish is for his country to prosper. By the end of the nineteenth century, to read and write novels was to join a national discussion on matters of national importance. 

Today the writing of the novel carries an entirely different meaning, says Pamuk. But the origin of the novel was linked to a set of circumstances in the nineteenth century.

What about impressionist art? How did art mutate from being literary portraits into a more abstract form?  Jonah Lehrer provides this explanation in his brilliant chapter on “Paul Cezanne” in his book,” Proust was a neuroscientist”. 

The story of abstract painting begins with the photograph, which literally means “light writing”. That’s what a photograph is: an image written in frozen light. Ever since the Renaissance, artists have used camera obscuras (“dark rooms”) to condense the three planes of reality into two dimensions. In the nineteenth century, with the discovery of photosensitive chemicals, painting lost its monopoly on representation. Light had been captured.

Painters , still in the business of copying reality, saw the new technique as a dire threat. How could the human hand compete with the photon? J.M.W.Turner is said to have remarked after seeing a photograph that he was glad he’d already had his day, since the era of painting was over. But not all artists believed in the inevitable triumph of the camera. The symbolic poet Charles Baudelaire, a natural skeptic of science, reviewed a photographic exhibition in 1859 by proclaiming the limits of the new medium. Its accuracy, he said, is deceptive and nothing more than phony simulacra of what was really out there. Inspired by his writings, a motley group of young French painters decided to rebel. The camera, they believed, was a liar. Its precision was false. Why? Because reality did not consist of static images. Because the camera stopped time, which cannot be stopped;  because it renders everything in focus when everything is never in focus. Because the eye is not a lens and the brain is not a machine. 

These rebels called themselves the impressionists. Like the film in a camera, their idiom was light. But the impressionists realized that light was both a dot and a blur. If the camera captured the dot, the impressionists represented the blur. They wanted to capture time in their paintings, showing how a bale of hay changes in the afternoon shadows, or how the smoke of a train leaving Gare Saint-Lazare slowly fades into thin air. They painted what the camera left out. 

Thus the ‘novel’ and “abstract art” both rose in response to specific developments in the nineteenth century, and gained acceptance gradually. Writers and artists had to change with the times and adapt their skills to fit into a new context, if they had to survive and flourish.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

My team! My country!

Sachin Tendulkar has decided to opt out of the ODI series against Sri Lanka. Fair enough. If he wants to spend time with his family or wants to be at Wimbledon, that’s his choice. If the selectors feel that he has earned the right to decide when to play and when to sit out and want to keep humouring him, they are stupid, but we can’t do anything about it. And if Sehwag feels that “as Sachin is 39-years old, he should be given the right to choose when he wants to play”, he is entitled to his senseless views. We can only pity him.

It is only when this routine decision is given a different spin and made out to be a selfless and noble act, it gets my goat. 

Here is Sachin as quoted in TOI:

"You know if it is an individual sport you have various things to think of, if you are not in right frame of mind you know it doesn't affect your team, you are individual there but being part of team sport you have got to be absolutely on top of your game and especially when you represent your country then all these things are extremely important.”

So, if we are to believe his pious, sugary statement, he dropped out in the larger interest of the team, beloved country and Bharat Mata. 

What he conveniently glosses over is that his constant flitting in and out of the team means that someone like Gambhir has to keep unsettling himself by changing his batting position ( from opening to No.3 and back) just to suit the whims and pleasure of one individual. This could have an adverse impact on the team. If I were selector, I would rather invest on Gambhir ( as he has the potential to contribute for many more years) and ensure that he is not disturbed, rather than pander to the whims of a 39-year old batsman who has had a glorious past, but who wants to hang on forever on his own terms.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Do you rely on an expert,a monkey or superstition?

I have tried dabbling in shares at various times. but I have never been able to crack the system. I always end up losing money. One day, an investment agent came and gave me a long talk on how such sensitive matters ought to be entrusted to professionals ( for example, him) , how one needed to track the fundamentals, technicals,  sectoral trends,  dollar rate, RBI’s repo and reverse-repo rate, monsoon, agriculture, GDP and so on. A layman not equipped with all this information will be walking practically naked in the stock market, he said. 

So I trusted that chap and invested in some mutual funds that he recommended. His assurance of 18% returns sounded quite tempting. Only later did I realise that what he had meant was that I would get back 18% of what I had invested. 

I gave up convinced that the stock market obeyed no laws of nature or economics.  Dalal Street is littered with corpses of gullible investors who had hoped to see a bull run, but didn’t even see it walk. 

Many believe that the market works at random and there is absolutely no method in the madness. So, if you were to pick up some stocks at random and invest in them, the ‘returns’ will be no different from that on stocks recommended by professionals.  The Monkey Portfolio sprang from this premise. As this report explains:

The Monkey Portfolio is a portfolio created on a purely random basis. No deliberate calculations or analyses have been done to include or exclude any stock. In other words, any monkey could have picked the stocks!
However, it’s not 100 percent chance we are talking about. Like investing in index stocks, we have limited our random picks to stocks in two indices of the Bombay Stock Exchange — the BSE 100 and the BSE 500. Assuming that the indices are composed only of well-traded and relevant stocks, the randomness of the choices our Monkey makes relate only to stocks within these two indices.

We have created two portfolios of 10 randomly chosen stocks each and will track their performance against the two top indices, the Sensex and the Nifty, in the coming weeks and months.

We will also be shortly creating an expert portfolio comprising stocks recommended by professional stock pickers. We hope they will outperform our Monkey — or Monkeys, since we have two such portfolios.
 So far, the Monkey portfolio has done as well or better than the expert portfolio.

Another way of tackling the Stock Market is by requisitioning the services of astrologers. They are known to predict the future, aren’t they?  The “Superstitious Stock Fund” started by Shing Tat Chang in the UK, works on an algorithm controlled by human superstition. As this report explains: 

The fund trades stock based on numerology, astrology, and a self-taught logic built on its successes and failures. So, it’s a non-living entity that makes random decisions just like your average irrational human would. 

Chung invited people to invest a few pounds in the fund before it launched, and ended up receiving almost £5,000, which is now in play on the FTSE 100 Index. At the end of this year, the investors will receive returns based on the fund’s performance--or, you know, they won’t. He says he isn’t betting on whether his robot will ultimately put his investors in the red, but he’s already lining up investors for a second round in 2013. 

So, the Stock market can be used to test out different belief systems and make a proper comparison at the end of a year in the following manner. On Jan 1st of the year, invest Rs 1,00,000 each in the Expert Portfolio, Monkey Portfolio and the Superstitious Fund. Track the movement. On Dec 31st, compare and determine which of the three has given the best returns. The winning ‘belief system’ should then be upheld as the right and the most desirable one for the Stock Market. 

In fact, the results of the experiment can be extrapolated to other areas of life. Should we take decisions ( job, market, cars, marriage) based on cold data and analysis ( Expert), or randomly and whimsically ( Monkey), or place our faith in astrology, numerology and vastu.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The circle of prosperity

Household Worlds, a weekly journal conducted by Charles Dickens, has in one its editions in the year 1850 an article (page 590-596) that describes how managing India had been rendered simpler by the steam-ships, how India itself was at peace thanks to the British getting rid of the thugs and roadside robbers who used to harass the natives,  and then introspects, “ Have we done all we could for the welfare of the natives under our charge?”

While we have been brought up on stories that talked of British designs to strip India off its wealth and carry it back home, this article provides a different perspective. For the British East India Company, commerce was the principal interest. Yet, the export of cotton from India was seen not just as a means to get the vital raw material for the factories of England but also as a step to enable the Indian farmer to realise more revenue from his land, and have the wherewithal to buy manufactured goods from Britain to improve his quality of life. 

I’m not sure if the article was written by Charles Dickens himself, but here’s an extract.

India is at peace : no longer removed from us by the uncertain length of a sailing voyage, thanks to the enterprise of Waghorn, the steam-engine of Watt, and the locomotive of George Stephenson, we have recovered — shortened to thirty days—the ancient overland route between Europe and Hindostan; at no distant date we may expect to see the Isthmus of Suez give way before the pressure of advancing commerce, capital, and science, and to have cargoes forwarded from the Thames, the Mersey, and the Clyde, by the direct route of the Red Sea without transshipment. 

In the midst of the feelings of national pride and self-gratulation, which such a retrospect cannot fail to inspire, conscience, or common sense, or both, ask a plain, practical question, which we shall have some difficulty in answering satisfactorily: "Have we done all we could for the welfare of the native population under our charge ? ". Have we used the best means in our power to discover the wealth, develop the resources, and profitably occupy the industry of the inhabitants of these vast and fertile dominions? It is true that the Indian husbandman can now pursue his occupations without fear of seeing his fields laid waste, his children carried into captivity, by the invasion of hordes of Mahrattas or Pindarries, or by accidents of foreign or domestic warfare. Organised robber bands, which, under the dominion of the most powerful Indian princes, levied black mail, have been put down; and even the secret association of Thugs has been unable to resist our intelligence and power. Life and property are secure; and, in spite of occasional mistakes of the Local Government, there is every reason to believe, from the comparison of the taxes levied, and the prices of corn and of wages, in the reign of the Emperor Akbar, in the sixteenth century, (the Emperor whose wisdom, justice, and charity are to this day the theme of Hindoo and Arab minstrels,) with those obtaining under the British rule, the condition of the Indian peasant has in no case deteriorated, and in many instances improved.'

But this is not enough. We still find large populations, in the midst of vast parts of fertile, uncultivated land, naked and all but starving; we find famine decimating the inhabitants of one district; while in another, distant but two or three hundred miles, grain rots in the field for want of a market. We find the consumption of British manufactures, compared with the population open to us, insignificant and scarcely increasing; the supply of those articles of raw material most needed, and for the growth of which the soil, and the climate, and. the habits of the people are well fitted—such as wheat, sugar, hemp, and cotton —so far stationary, and with respect to cotton actually receding. To amend this deplorable state of affairs is not less our interest than our duty.

The great mass of the Indian population are poor; but intelligent, willing to labour, and anxious to purchase British manufactures, if they had the means. Our only hope of extending our exports to India rests upon being able to increase our purchase of their agricultural produce.

Quite specifically, the article argues,  it was important to ensure movement of cotton grown in the hinterland to the port in Mumbai for export to England. In 1850, the transportation of cotton was being done on the backs of bullock and this was creating the bottleneck as  the article explains later.  

The cotton in question is all brought down to Bombay on the backs of bullocks : for want of roads no other mode of conveyance is practicable. The expense, the loss of time, the damage by accidents of weather, and loss in bad packing, are enormous under the most favourable circumstances; but in some seasons, no sufficient number of bullocks are to be had; those employed are decimated by disease and drought. The merchants frequently find themselves compelled either to break their contracts, or to see their profit consumed in the cost of carriage. If tie discouraged merchant discontinues for a year his purchases, the natives in the interior find themselves saddled with crops of coitus which they cannot sell at any price: they cannot even consume it themselves, or feed cattle on it, as if it were grain. Hence, they abandon the growth of a crop which is not sure of a market 

At present it is calculated that one million eight hundred thousand bullocks traverse the few routes practicable across the Ghauts, in carrying the traffic between the interior and Bombay, of which one hundred and eighty thousand convey cotton. These animals travel in single file, at the rate of three miles an hour, over tracks worn by the feet of their predecessors, depending for food and water on what can be picked up on the way, sometimes delayed by torrents swelled with the melting of the mountain snow, sometimes struggling through morasses, sometimes driven mad by heat and drought, sometimes struck down in thousands by an epidemic, and left to rot on the roadside, polluting the air and poisoning the water, to the grievous damage of the droves that follow in their track.
Under such opposing circumstances, it is not extraordinary that our commerce with India makes slow progress. The grand instrument for effecting a peaceful, profitable, social, commercial and agricultural revolution in India, will be the railroad —that divining rod of the nineteenth centuiy —which not only discovers treasures, but creates them.

If these railroads could be constructed between the cotton-producing districts in the interior and the port of Bombay, the present minimum cost of conveying cotton by bullocks, (with all the risk and uncertainty,) of fourpence per ton per mile, would be exchanged for a fixed charge of twopence three farthings per mile, with security, certainty, and capability of delivering any quantity. As the Hindoo peasantry can afford to sell cotton of a quality equal to that which forms seventyfive per cent, of the English consumption, at from one penny farthing, to one penny three farthings per pound ; as land and labour are both plentiful in that district; a large increase of cotton cultivation would be certain, thousands would be able to live well and clothe well, who are now half-naked and halfstarved.

The chief tax in India is the landtax, the rent, in fact, paid to the Government. Wild land, cultivated, would become subject to tax, and thus, without an increase in the expenses of Government, Indian revenues would increase. But, not only revenues, imports would increase, too ; out of every ninepence of British manufactures consumed in India, fourpence consists of cotton goods. Thus then we arrive by railroad at a perpetual circle of prosperity. 

Commencing with a large growth of cotton, which affords the British manufacturer a constant ample supply of the staple on which the livelihood of some million and a half of our population depends, comes employment for shipping; while, buying what we so much need, we create in the cotton cultivators new customers for the goods, of which they supply the raw materials, as well as for the mixed goods of Yorkshire, and the hardwares of Sheffield and Birmingham. But it is not only cotton cultivators that will benefit from the construction of railroads in India j sugar, rice, indigo and grain, would all find employment for labour and a market ; and salt, so much.needed by the vegetarian Hindoos, would be distributed in the interior, much to the benefit of the Government revenues.

So, the circle of prosperity that was envisioned was: enable the Indian farmer to grow more cotton, create the rail infrastructure to move the cotton to Mumbai cheaply and efficiently, increase his income with which to buy manufactured goods from Britain andincrease the tax revenue for the Govt from the farmers to administer the country better.