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Murder in Penny Lane

Years ago, when I was a wee little thing, obsessed with The Beatles, I wrote this play along a bunch of other friends who shared this obsession. Here I reproduce it in full. We first did it in Marathi, then made this English translation to perform in front of the science liason from the British Embassy who was visiting our school… This, of course, is the english version.

 

 

G l a s s   O n i o n   p r o d u c t i o n s   p r e s e n t s :
Murder on Penny Lane
Cast and crew
Music: The Beatles
Vocals and Sound: Mandar Phatak
Lights: Yatin Diwakar
Director: Mandar Phatak
Choreography: Shefali Ramteke
Story: Chinar Patil
Mr. Walrus: Mandar Phatak
Max: Chinar Patil
Dr Robert: Ajinkya Yele
Joan: Sharvari Sathe
Chief: Mihir Metkar
Lucy and Mrs. Rigby: Shefali Ramteke
Jude: Swapnil Ghanawat

 

Scene 1:

Song: penny lane. (Mr. Walrus singing)
In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say hello
On the corner is a banker with a motorcar
The little children laugh at him behind his back
And the banker never wears a Mack
In the pouring rain, very strange
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass
And in his pocket is a portrait of the queen
He likes to keep his fire engine clean
It’s a clean machine
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
A four of fish and finger pies
In summer, meanwhile back
Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout
The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
And though she feels as if she’s in a play
She is anyway
In Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer
We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim
And then the fireman rushes in
From the pouring rain, very strangePenny lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
Penny lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
Penny Lane

Scene 2:
Swapnil: Why does the barber show photos?
Mihir: Why doesn’t the banker wear a mack, even in the rain!
Chinar: Why does the fireman carry a portrait of the Queen in his pocket?
Shefali: Was that nurse a little crazy?
(Everyone speaks at the same time)
Walrus: Shhh Shhh….
Sh.
Why is the water wet?
Why does the Sun set?
Huh?
Tell me,
Why is 1+1, 2?
Why is the sky blue?
Some questions have no answers.
They are just, umm, very strange.
[Every one shrug shoulders.]
Walrus: Like Max.
All: MAX?
Walrus: You don’t know Max?All: no
Walrus: You don’t know the story about Max from penny lane?
All: NO!
Walrus: meh. It’s not that famous anyway…
[ everyone WTF! And TCHACH!!]
Walrus: it’s not famous, but you know what, it is very strange…
All: strange?
Walrus: would you like to hear the strange story of Maxwell from penny lane?
All: well, ok.
Walrus: well, once upon a time in a land far faar away…
No. not far away, right here on penny lane…
[blackout]

Scene 3:

Song: Maxwell’s silver hammer

Joan was quizzical; studied metaphysical
Science in the home.
Late nights all alone with a test tube.
Oh, oh, oh, oh.
Maxwell Edison, majoring in medicine,
Calls her on the phone.
“Can I take you out to the pictures,
Joa, oa, oa, oan?”But as she’s getting ready to go,
A knock comes on the door.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon her head.
Clang! Clang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that she was dead.
Back in school again Maxwell plays the fool again.
Teacher gets annoyed.
Wishing to avoid an unpleasant
Sce, e, e, ene,
She tells Max to stay when the class has gone away,
So he waits behind
Writing fifty times “I must not be
So, o, o, o..”
But when she turns her back on the boy,
He creeps up from behind.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon her head.
Clang! Clang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that She was dead.
P. C. Thirty-one said, “We’ve caught a dirty one.”
Maxwell stands alone
Painting testimonial pictures.
Oh, oh, oh, oh.
Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery
Say he must go free
(Maxwell must go free)
The judge does not agree and he tells them
So, o, o, o.But as the words are leaving his lips,
A noise comes from behind.
Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon his head.
Clang! Clang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that he was dead.
Silver Hammer Max.

Scene 4:
Max: I am innocent! Dr. Robert, please help me, I haven’t killed any of those
people. They are going to hang me for something I haven’t done. You have solved
many complex cases. Please, please only you can help me now.
Dr Robert: Hmm. Let us have a look at your case. 3 people dead.
ONE. A student, Joan Smith.
TWO. A teacher, Mrs. Eleanor Rigby, A teacher in the mental institution you
were admitted to.
THREE. A judge, the same one who was trying you in the court.
All killed with a blow to the head with silver hammers, found beside their
bodies. A photo of you and your friends next to the body of the teacher. Your
fingerprints on all the hammers.
The entire sequence of events similar to the Beatles song “Maxwell’s silver
hammer”. You, Maxwell, a singer in a band that performs Beatles songs. Hmm…
The common link here seems to be THE BEATLES.
Max: Yes. The Beatles. Ever since I first heard them, I was their biggest fan.
Later, the four of us, Jude, Lucy, Chief and me, we formed our own band,
The Aficionados. We used to perform only Beatles songs. We got quite famous
too…Dr Robert: and then drugs, madness1. You have a long history of mental illness
Max. You killed the very teacher who cured you.
Who will believe you?
Max: Dr Robert, please, you have to believe me. I did not kill Mrs. Rigby, or the
Judge. And Joan? How could I have killed Joan? Joan… I love her.
Dr Robert: what? Joan? Wait. Let’s start from the very beginning. Tell me
everything.
[blackout]

Scene 5:

Song ensemble: Love Me!
What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends
Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love
Would you believe in a love at first sight?
Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time
What do you see when you turn out the light?
I can’t tell you, but I know it’s mine
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Oh I’m going to try with a little help from my friendsDo you need anybody?
I just need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends
Oh I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends
I’ve just seen a face
I can’t forget the time or place
Where we just meet
She’s just the girl for me
And I want all the world to see
We’ve met, mmm-mmm-mmm-m’mmm-mmm
Had it been another day
I might have looked the other way
And I’d have never been aware
But as it is I’ll dream of her
Tonight, di-di-di-di’n’di
Falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling
Me back again
Falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling
Me back again
I’ve just seen a face
I can’t forget the time or place
Where we just meet
She’s just the girl for me
And want all the world to seeWe’ve met, mmm-mmm-mmm-da-da-da
Falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling
Me back again
Falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling
Me back again
Oh, falling, yes I am falling
And she keeps calling
Me back again
oh yeah i’ll , tell you something i think you will understand
when i’ll say that something, i wanna hold your hand
i wanna hold your hand, i wanna hold your hand.
oh please, say to me, you’ll let me be your man
and please, say to me, you’ll let me hold your hand
now let me hold your hand, i wanna hold your hand
she loves you yeah yeah yeah!
she loves you yeah yeah yeah!
she loves you yeah yeah yeah! yeah
i wanna hold your hand
and when i touch you, i feel happy inside!
its such a feeling that my love,
i cant hide!
i cant hide!
i cant hide!
If you let me take your heart I will prove to you
We will never be apart if I’m part of you
Open up your eyes now, tell me what you see
It is no surprise now, what you see is metell me what you see….
Listen to me one more time, how can I get through?
Can’t you try to see that I’m trying to get to you?
Open up your eyes now, tell me what you see
It is no surprise now, what you see is me
tell me what you see…
To lead a better life I need my love to be here…
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with the wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there’s something there
There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking but she doesn’t know he’s there
I want her everywhere and if she’s beside me
I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her everywhere
Knowing that love is to share
Each one believing that love never dies
Watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there
I will be there and everywhere
Here, there and everywhere

Voice over (Max): me and Joan, Joan and me. We were living in a dream land.
Our own dream world where we spent every second of our lives together. But,
real life intervened. I had to go on a tour with the band. It was the first time
we were to be apart. It was a three week cross country tour.

Song: Something

Something in the way she moves,

Attracts me like no other lover.
Something in the way she woos me.
I don’t want to leave her now,
You know I believe and how.

Voice over (max): Finally! I was on my way back home! Back to her, back to
Joan! Soon, I would be back with her in my own dream world. But, when I
returned,

Song: yer blues
Yes I’m lonely wanna die
Yes I’m lonely wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why
Here I stand head in hand
Turn my face to the wall
If she’s gone I can’t go on
Feeling two-foot small
Everywhere people stare
Each and every day
I can see them laugh at me
And I hear them say
Hey you’ve got to hide your love away
I need a fix cos I’m going down
Down to the bits that I left uptown
I need a fix cos I’m going down
Happiness is a warm gun (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun, mama (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
When I hold you in my arms (Oo-oo oh yeah)
And I feel my finger on your trigger (Oo-oo oh yeah)
I know nobody can do me no harm (Oo-oo oh yeah)
Because happiness is a warm gun, mama (Happiness bang, bang, shoot, shoot)
Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun If the sun don’t come
You get a tan from standing in the English rain
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen
I am the walrus, goo goo goo joob goo goo goo goo joob
Expert textpert choking smokers
Don’t you think the joker laughs at you? (Ha ha ha! He he he! Ha ha ha!)
See how they smile like pigs in a sty, see how they snied
I’m crying
Semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower
Elementary penguin singing Hare Krishna
Man you should have seen them kicking Edgar Alan Poe
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen
I am the walrus, goo goo goo joob goo goo goo joob
Jooba jooba
Jooba jooba [fadeout…]

Voice over (max): After Joan, my life went from bad to worse. I started taking
drugs, and then the drugs took over. My life would have vanished in a
psychedelic haze of hash and cocaine, but for her. The guiding light that was
Dr. Eleanor Rigby.

Song: Here Comes The Sun.
Little darling, the smile returning to their faces.
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here.
Here comes the sun,
Here comes the sun,
And I say “It’s all right”
Sun, sun, sun here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun here it comes.
Sun, sun, sun here it comes.
Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting.
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear.Here comes the sun,
Here comes the sun,
And I say “It’s all right,
It’s all right,
It’s all right”
[Song fades into…]

Scene 6:

Dr Robert: oh. So that was your story. [Picks out the photo]. Hmm. so these are
Jude Lucy and chief. Wait a minute. What is this? There is something doodled on
the back. I can about make out a number, 3 8 9 5 6.
Anyway. Max, do you have any idea where can I find your friends?
Max: Sorry dr., i have no idea. After Joan, the band broke up. But yes, Jude
lives on penny lane. He might be able to help you out.
Dr Robert: Yes. I will find it out. You should meet your friends before they hang
you. I am convinced now, you are the culprit.
Max: Dr. Robert, please, Dr.! DOCTOR!

Scene 7:
Max: Thank you guys, for coming, I just want to say sorry, for everything,
before they hang me.
Lucy: I knew that girl was trouble. Why did you go after her max? And how
could you kill someone? They are going to hang you next week.
Max: Lucy, Lucy. Please. I have not killed anyone! Somebody is trying to frame
me…
Jude: But max, weren’t you going to ask Dr Robert for help?
Max: I did. But even he is convinced that I am the murderer
Lucy: Can’t anyone do anything? Can we do something?Max: Yes you can. Yes you can. Get me out of here. Get me out of here. Just
get me out of here, I am innocent. I haven’t killed anyone. I am innocent.
Jude: How can we max? Even our hands are tied. All the evidence points at
you. The fingerprints…
Max: Yes. The evidence! How did my bloody fingerprints get on those blasted
hammers? And our photo! Why was our photo lying next to Mrs. Rigby’s body?
Chief: Calm down max. It’s simple. Without the photo, how would the police have
caught you and only when tried would you get a chance to kill the judge…?
Max: w…what do you mean…?
Chief: see, it is a simple story… [Goes to pieces narrating the story]
Dr Robert: (Clap Clap Clap) Thank you Chief. You have implicated yourself and
saved me the trouble. Chief you are under arrest. Max, you can go free.
Max: Dr?
Dr Robert: Yes max. Chief is the real culprit.
Chief: But Dr! It is obvious that max is the killer. Lennon himself says so!
Dr Robert: He has Beatlemania.
All: What?
Dr Robert: yes. Beatlemania. He lives in an alternate world, where, for him,
every Beatles song is reality.
When I read the details of the case, I saw that they found max’s fingerprints
only on the hammers and nowhere else. A bit suspicious, I decided that there
might be some merit in max’s claims and they were worth investigating.
You see, that is why I came to visit all of you. If I assume max is innocent, the
three of you are the only remaining suspects.When I visited all of you, in search of additional clues, on the pretense of
inviting you to see max, chief’s house struck a wrong note from the very
beginning. His house was full of Beatles relics; every single thing there was
related in some way or other to the Beatles.
But the biggest clue of all was a framed wax imprint bearing the hand
impressions of all the members of the aficionados, all of you. A number scrawled
at the bottom in place of a signature reminded me of the number at the back
of the photo. 38956. The significance of which dawned on me later.
Every serial killer has a subconscious urge to place his signature on the scene of
the crime. 38956, using a simple substitution code, where a=1, b=2 and so on,
actually stands for C-H-I-E-F
All: Chief?
Dr Robert: yes. A story in which a Maxwell doesn’t commit his share of murders
did not sit well with Chief. So, he hired Joan to do what she did to Max. But
this, instead of leading to the cascade of murders he planned, lead to max
going mad.
So, chief took the matter in his own hands. Good planning and planted
evidence meant that he was almost successful. Max’s bloodied silver hammer
would have made a fitting addition to chief’s collection.
So there you have it, chief is the murderer.
[blackout]

Scene 8:
[Walrus and the guys]
Chinar: Yes indeed, some questions are…
All: VERY STRANGE!
Shefali: Mr. Walrus, where is max now?
Walrus: Right in front of you…[Everyone looks at walrus]
No no, there… [Points to the audience…]
[blackout]

Credits and song:
Let’s all get up and dance to a song
That was a hit before your mother was born
Though she was born a long, long time ago
Your mother should know (Your mother should…)
Your mother should know (…know)
Though she was born a long, long time ago
Your mother should know (Your mother should…)
Your mother should know (…know)

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Cliched Fantasy at its best

The Belgariad:
1 Pawn of Prophecy
2 Queen of Sorcery 
3 Magician’s Gambit 
4 Castle of Wizardry 
5 Enchanters’ End Game 


Chanced upon this slightly older gem. Starts off simplistic, young boy and a band of adventurers caught up in an old prophecy which leads them across the world which is modelled after the fantasy favourite ‘medieval england’ theme. Super cliche. The story follows mostly expected and predictable lines. Each individual novel is short and action packed. 

The seductive part of the whole series is that somehow it sucks you in. There are small twists and turns as you go deeper in the story that keep you hooked. deviations from the cliche plotline. In the end, it is 
the simple fast paced reading from the point of view of a young stubborn hero [and sometimes heroine] who do not understand much of what is going on but play crucial roles in the story results in a few hours well spent. 

no wonder this guy was #1 on  the best seller charts.

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Stormlight in a teacup, of massive proportions

Back to my very favourite-estestest author in recent years, Mr Sanderson. 

After penning many trilogies [mistborn, Rithmatist, Steelheart] and one off books [Elantris, Warbreaker] that are excellent in their own right, he has turned his eye to his magnum opus, a 10 book series, the stormlight archive. 

I just read book two, so most of my thoughts are from there. 
All in all, the series so far combines all the brilliant sanderson qualities we have come to admire, gripping pace, mind-blowing plot twists, strong commentary on social hierarchies, and best of all, insanely innovative and creative magic systems. I wont even attempt to detail all the magicks described in the Stormlight archive, there are many small things that make up a cogent whole. 

You may not be aware, but almost all of sanderson’s works are all set in the same universe, the Cosmere. this is not apparent, as ll worlds have wildly different physics and magicks, but the underlying thread revealing the existence of the cosmere is becoming apparent in the stormlight archive. This is mostly important and exciting for sanderson fans, who have devoured all his books [written at a ferocious pace, all books since 2004] . 

Go check out the extensive wikis that these books have spawned for reviews [and spoilers] and you will see for yourself the intense fandom that has evolved in response to some very finely written extremely well thought out books. [one of the best wikis is called Coppermind]

I really cannot recommend these books highly enough, especially to SFF fans. The sprawling story has just begun, with the first book starting slowly, setting the stage for what seems to be an involved conflict set in a crumbling world. The second books ramps it up to a crushing pace with no respite and seat-gripping action. Reminiscent of the heady days of the first few books of the Wheel of time, this one promises to be just as big. 

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Kingkiller

Yet another fantasy book. does it go down the same beaten path? I think not. 

Rothfuss writes more in the GRR martin style of meandering, history type writing. However, where GRRM tries to push the envelop on linguistic rules like character development and story linearity often devolving into boredom, Rothfuss maintains your interest throughout. 

Marrying the cliches of the genre, an unknown magical genre, an orphan seeking vengeance, a mysterious barman telling the stories of his storied past, to innovative new ideas, rothfuss manages to bring about a good mix of a solid story line with many interesting tangential sub-plots. 

The crux of the matter is though, that the protagonist here is niether warrior nor sorceror [yet] , he is just supremely, even supernaturally intelligent. We start with the barman recounting his tales, presumably his stories take 3 days to tell, hence the 3 books. 

In this, the first day, we follow the exploits of a boy who grows up with a performing circus, learning all manner of trades and acting techniques. Armed with native intelligence and some training from an alchemist, he manages to get into The University, the city cum learning center at the heart of the country. 

We follow his exploits in the university as he goes from bad luck to bad luck, navigating the complex world full of spiteful aristocrats, beautiful but unfathomable women, close friends and quirky professors. All this in a fantasy background


rothfuss maintains interest throughout, piquing interest in the sequel, which I am due to read in the next few weeks. 

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A vast trove of quotable bits

The gone away world: Nick Harkaway

A writer’s book, a readers tale. This is a brilliant exposition of storytelling, laden with satire set in the most creative of dystopias. a super twist on the narrative structure, it is more a story about interpersonal relationships in times of crisis then anything Sci Fi. Or not just interpersonal, within yourself too. 

A nicely crafted tale, that can be meandering at times, you find yourself surfing the awesome flights of fancy withiin Harkaway’s mind. Filled with some pretty sharp and exquisite one liners, this is one book that is worth reading again later too… 

The overall premise is a dystopian future where everything depends on one pipeline encircling the globe and spewing out some gas that keeps the darkness at bay. The people who built it, including our narrator, must go and fix a new leak that has developed in this unbreakable pipeline. We plunge into a flashback of their childhood through adolescence, getting a glimpse of the humans who cause the massive collapse of society, the rebuilding process and the final twist that renders the story complete. Littered with satire and hilarious outtakes, the story becomes secondary as you marvel at the extraordinary skill with which Harkaway presents his tale.


If you like some dense, thoughtful reading, do read this one. 

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Fantasy or sci-fi? Detective thriller!

Zoo City, Lauren Beukes. 

Slotting in between some kind of dystopian sci fi and urban fantasy, this book is unabashedly obtuse. 
here is the back page blurb: 

“Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty online 419 scam habit – and a talent for finding lost things. But when her latest client, a little old lady, turns up dead and the cops confiscate her lastpaycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job: missing persons”

The premise is that there is a segment of unwanted people in the dark underbelly of Jo’burg who are always associated with an animal. We find out [to an extent] what is the story behind this. Our protagonist, Zinzi, battles her personal demons with her own brand of morality blundering through a conspiracy that doesnt really make sense on the surface. Thats not a problem, because on the surface, nothing in here really makes sense in the light of day. However, as we run with Zinzi in the dark through the seamy catacombs of a hypocritical society, it is clear that making sense is not the point of the book. The state of affairs is itself with all its chaotic mess is a snapshot that we are possibly meant to take home with us.  

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Maddadam trilogy begins…

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood. 

the meat of the story is a flashback of a guy who is at the edge of his sanity, possibly the lone survivor of some apocalyptic event brought about by biotech and gene splicing. He remembers his only friend Crake who is somehow intricately linked tot he cause of this apocalypse and Oryx, a mysterious girl. as he grows up in a dysfunctional house in a world ravaged by environmental collapse, society it seems is constantly on the brink. This tension is evident throughout the book, and contributes hugely to the dark tenor of the book. In a good way 🙂

To biologists the science seems a bit wonky, but the ideas are sound. Like all sci-fi this is an extrapolation of the biotech optimism and dreams of playing God about a decade ago. Atwood has certainly thoguht this through, and she has a really masterful style, maintaining a great balance of suspense and emotion in the story to keep you going along, supported ably by her superbly lyrical prose. The new yorker article reviews it much better, but i would say definitely worth a look, this book. 

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A surveillance tale

The Anderson Tapes: Lawrence Sanders.
[Movie adaptation marks the debut of a certain C. Walken]

the debut novel of one of my favourite author [of the McNally fame] is one in a completely different style and genre. 
The format of the book is interesting, it is a series of interviews and surveillance tapes that tell the story of a daring heist on an upscale apartment complex in New York. At the end, there is a short introduction of Sanders’ future hero Edward X Delaney. 
As far as procedural dramas go, this one is up with connelley’s best. a nice little piece of fiction from the late 60s, marking the start of the electronic surveillance era in an interesting format

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The Alcatraz Smedry series, by Brandon Sanderson

I became an instant Sanderson fan after reading the last few books he wrote int he wheel of time series, after Robert Jordan died. He has a sure hand, funny asides to keep you hooked and a very detailed, thought out magic system in each of his universes that he somehow manages to describe without it getting boring. 

The Alcatraz Smedry series is the only time he has tried his hand at young adult fiction or sort of the Harry Potter genre of a kid thrust in a magical world he [and we] know nothing of and we find out along his journey of awesome adventures. Only difference, this one is kinda funny. Very funny. 

Alcatraz smedry is a clumsy foster kid who breaks things. Turns out, he is a very powerful scion of the smedry clan from the free kingdoms, and he has a Talent for breaking things.  Every Smedry has a Talent, which is a superpower. the world is divided into Free kingdoms and the Hushlands. Hushland include the five major continents of Asia, the Americas, Europe and Africa and are governed by the evil Librarians who have brainwashed all the hushlanders into a primitive, ignorant lifestyle. These books are the autobiography of the hero who saved the free kingdoms, Alcatraz Smedry [all powerful free kingdomer names are used as prison names in the hushlands, alcatraz’s female interest is Bastille] who writes using the pen name Brandon Sanderson, and publishes books under the kids section to avoid librarian intervention

The magic system in this world is divided into two things. Smedry Talents are magic, and give certain people certain powers [like being late, or being bad at dancing or math, or like Alcatraz, breaking things]. Then there is Silimatic technology, which ascribes certain properties to certain types of glass, like the warrior lens gives the wearer better physical capabilities or the truthfinders lens behaving like truth serum or special boots that allow you to be spiderman and lots of other cool stuff. read the books. 

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Fair Play

Taken from my old blog, dated November 23, 2012
 
Long time! I have never used this space to talk about society and economics, a subject that is close to my heart. Have spent many a long night discussing or thinking about the symptoms and remedies of this complex and intricate net of 7 billion disparate souls connected, it seems, by six degrees each. I was prompted to think about one particular situation by a discussion I had earlier, and nothing helps spur the thought process better than writing it down. So here goes. 
The situation as it stands today, is that many first world capitalist countries have governmental policies that encourage their industries to outsource labour intensive jobs to populous third world countries. Almost everyone is publicly against this mode of operation. The people of developed nations have long decried losing lucrative jobs to cheap labour, whilst enjoying the fruits of cheap consumer goods. The social activists of third world countries, the only people who can be bothered to spend time on this and raise their voice are against this as ‘cheap’ labour usually translates into inhuman sweatshops harking back to the industrial age. It is especially horrible when you see underage kids yoked into driving this cart of 20th century progress. Is it really progress if the majority of the world population works its heart out for less than minimum wage? What can we do about it, if anything. Is it time for us to abandon the free market system? Abandon that turn of the century buzzword, Globalisation?
One reason for this dichotomy in standard of living is the dichotomy in governmental policy. Developed countries demand a certain standard of care and benefits for employees. Developing countries have no such qualms and will take any work they can get. In a way, this is history repeating itself. I mentioned the industrial age before. It set the stage for us to learn the ill effects of pure capitalism. What is happening today is something similar, only over a larger scale, worldwide.
So what is the root cause of this situation? Why are we repeating our mistakes? I believe that we dont really learn from others mistakes. We make them again, possibly on a different scale, and progress quite slowly. Human memory is not much longer than a generation. This is why trends cycle in 3-5 decades, as newer generations re-invent the wheel, again and again. What helps with having made the mistake before is that you tend to know what to do in times of crises. The first time this happened, it gave birth to hugely successful worker unions. They became, over time, too successful, strangling growth and losing direction themselves. The power see sawed, leading to an unsteady balance prevalent today in industrialized nations. What history taught us, lead to a shorter refractory period in the newly formed nations post world war. They did the same mistakes, tried to avoid them, overcompensated, went back the other way etc etc. We are at a stage when people are sacrificing much to the altar of industrial development. Some say way too much. 
In my opinion, public policy should not directly tell anyone to do something. Like tell companies that that give your employees this this and this, mandatory. Or that you cannot outsource or something. 
One thing you can do is tax unseemly practices. If labour is too cheap, tax it and make it not so cheap and unfeasible. But this doesn’t always work when companies are global conglomerates. All people are equally ingenious and it becomes a lawyers arms race of regulation and loophole exploitation. 
In my opinion, the best way to tackle this is to tackle the social aspects of this problem. Why is there cheap labour in Asia? There is a huge untapped resource, population. Supply and demand skews the wages to a ridiculously low amount. Apart from governmental regulation to fix wages to a decent amount, what we can do is educate and empower everyone. Yes, thats my one thing fixes all answer. Education. 
Whenever I pull out education, people give me facts to the contrary. Look at all these educated people who are still stupid. Education can teach you but it is up to you to learn and so on and so on. Yes, I agree that a man who can read write and do math is not necessarily more intelligent then someone who cannot. I agree that a woman with a degree can be colossally stupid. Education is no guarantee to rationality. However, I doubt that anyone would agree that being learned enhances your chances of thinking for yourself and knowing your options. First world nations face similar problems with their poor people, who spiral in a cycle of debt and drug addiction. They do not know that there are people and organisations out there to help them out of this. They do not know anything outside of their circle of violence and addiction. Ditto for uneducated people. They do not know that there are options to that money-lender. They do not know that they can go to a higher authority, tall them about the sweatshops and with some effort, shut it down. Yes, it is possible. 
People who are stupid are stupid, and people with wit will always have that. Education merely opens the door to possibilities that are there for you to exploit. This is one thing governments can do. It is exceedingly sad to see developing nations in Asia and elsewhere not spending enough on education. It seems obvious to me that if your most valuable natural resource is Human, with such a large untapped demographic advantage, that should be the focus of whatever you do.
I recently heard that the job of a high school teacher is the most highly sought after job in China. One of the reasons is that it is very highly paid. Everywhere else primary and secondary teachers are underpaid. When I went to an interview for a teaching position at KV, in Pune, I got the shock of my life. This was one of the premier school systems in India. There were about 30 odd positions to be filled. More than 500 people had come for the interview on the final day. As far as I could see, I was the only, the ONLY person with a masters degree. If we cannot attract more qualified people to schools, to teach, what are we teaching? I had taught in KV for 2 months before the interview. I was so ridiculously overqualified for the job of teaching Science to 13-17 year old students that I was selected for all the positions I had applied to. On the basis of a 2 minute interview. I am not bragging here. Just want to illustrate the dearth of good qualified teachers. Surely, I thought, there are tons of experienced teachers out there. Not apparent from what I saw.
Why dont we have courses that teach how to teach? We have all seen how people who know a lot arent necessarily good teachers, and sometimes those who may not everything may be the best teachers. Why dont we have a system to nurture this talent? Surely a teacher’s job is equally [if not more] important that a doctor engineer or scientist! Why not incentivise it?
Look at the situation in India. School fees are spiraling. I wont even go to the current fads and trends in school teaching today. It is so horrendously difficult to get a kid admitted to a decent school. How do you suppose an average child from a poor country like ours is supposed to get educated? If s/he is not, surely you are condemning him/her to a life time of low wage unskilled labour. There lies the crux. Increase the amount of skilled personnel and you will get a better life style, a better economy. No one opposes the software sweatshops where people work 18 hour days and develop software solutions for companies in the US. No one except the Americans. This is because this is skilled labour, that you are paid a lot to do. 
This may seem too simplistic, but a rock solid education system will start a cycle that will slowly but surely tackle all the problems we have. More educated people, more progressive the economy and manufacturing base. More the manufacturing and infrastructure base, more job creation. More job creation, better the economy, better the standard of living. Better the economy, more resources diverted to education.

We need to somehow make education and science and know-how cool again. Too many folk tales warn against the narrow minded hubris of the learned man versus the simple wit of a salt-of-the-earth fellow. It is true, a valuable lesson, however not the full story. Education may not give you wisdom, however it surely gives you the tools to do so. Makes it a lot easier. Makes it more likely that you better yourself in life. 

 
I know this is a very slow process. People need to be aware of it, it needs to percolate through, public policy needs to change. Even after this, it will take a whole generation or two for the good cycle to emerge. However, once this wheel starts rolling, there is no stopping it. 
All inequality stems from the inequality of means. If everyone is guaranteed an empowered chidlhood, we can eliminate one of the inequalities and go forward.