A Moral Justification for Progressive Taxation

I argue that we progressively use more tangible and intangible resources from the government to acquire your income, and therefore, one ought to pay taxes at a higher and higher rate if they make more and more money.

If you google “justification for progressive taxation”, you will see plenty of arguments in favour of and against progressive taxation. I have listed some of them below. While I am mixed opinion about them, I found none of them to be compelling enough to pick any side. In this blog post, I will provide a new ethical justification for progressive taxation with which I hope even libertarians will agree (ha!).  I will first explain how much taxes you should pay for tangible services from the government, and I will then elaborate on intangible services from the government. I will then argue that the exact money you owe to the government is incalculable due to the intangible services, but this lead to a conclusion that a progressive taxation system is closest to being a fair system.

The most common (utilitarian) arguments in favour of progressive taxation are as follows:

  1. The rich can afford to pay more, so they should pay more. (completely disagree)
  2. It spurs economic growth because the rich do not spend all the cash they make, but the poor do. (partially agree)
  3. It enables social mobility. (partially agree)

The most common (libertarian) arguments against progressive taxation are as follows:

  1. It unfair because everyone should bare the responsibility for providing the revenue equally. (disagree)
  2. It punishes success. (partially agree and partially disagree)
  3. It is income redistribution, and therefore, theft. (partially agree and partially disagree)

Why taxes? A flat tax, to be specific …

Everyone know that you pay taxes in order to provide for the services that the government. Simple! Everyone uses roads, bridges, communication networks etc. in order to earn their income. Since everyone uses them, you ought to equally pay for those service.

Why a flat tax rate?

Your income does not get deposited into your bank account out of the blue. Every dollar you earn comes from someone (you or someone else) has used the resources provided by the government. For example, the same road takes you to Walmart and Circuit City. Part of the reason for Walmart making more money than Circuit City is that more people used the road to go to Walmart rather than Circuit City. Therefore, Walmart has to pay more taxes; it used more resources from the government to make that money. Thanks to Walmart making more money, the government had to spend proportionally (assumption) more money to build and maintain the infrastructure.

Sublinear, linear, or superlinear spending: An argument for taxing consumption:

In the paragraph above, I assumed that government spending on the infrastructure to enable your income is proportional to your income. One can critically examine the claim. Because of economies of scale, one an argue that the cost to build and maintain an infrastructural setup is a sublinear function of the number of people using it, i.e., it takes less than twice as much money to build and maintained a road if it is being used by twice as many people. On the other hand, one can also argue that with a greater number of people using the roads, there are additional needs for maintaining law and order, traffic signals, etc., which do not follow necessary conditions for economies of scale to apply.  For instance, a Wall St. trader benefits immensely from the stock exchange, but a cook woking in a restaurant next door doesn’t.  Therefore, it makes more sense to tax consumption rather than income. Perhaps, we could have a system that taxes consumption alone, or we could have a system with minimal flat (or regressive, due to economies of scale) tax rate for basic resources and additional tax for consuming certain specific resources, or we can have a progressive taxation system. I believe these options do not make any major difference if the number are chosen properly. If statistics can prove me wrong, I would be glad to look at them.

Intangible services

In addition to the infrastructure and law and order maintenance for which an exact dollar amount may be calculated, government provides other services such as the protection of intellectual property rights, copyright laws, bankruptcy protection etc. Without these services, the industry in which you work would not have succeeded in making more money than others. Intellectual property rights are, perhaps, the most important factor in enabling companies to make money. If you happen in work in such industries (pharmaceutical, oil, information technology, finance, medical, mining, etc.), you make money than the rest of the population because you use such services provided by the government. The construction worker who makes less money does not need those services, and therefore, should not be held accountable to pay for them. In today’s system, if one makes a lot of money, it is almost certain that they benefitting from those intangible services way more than the rest of the population. Unfortunately, an exact  dollar amount may not be calculated for those services. This is exactly where progressive taxation system makes sense. One can argue about the exact rate of tax and how they should grow, but a progressive system is more fair than the rest.

On Fairness

In which I describe how my idea of fairness is different from free market principles.

In this post, I talk about the definition of fairness in the context of economic transaction. Many of you may have simple framework based on free market principles to judge a transaction as fair or unfair. I have a different framework that is based on equality. This post should be read from a philosophical standpoint and not from a practical or enforcement standpoint.

Two Transactions

I will present two transactions to you. Both of them follow free market principles. I would like you to judge if these transaction are fair. First, a rich businessman approaches several equally rich engineers and arrives at $200 as a price for a job, which is given to least expensive engineer. Second, knowing that the price of the job was $200, the businessman goes to a poorer, desperate (for tangential reasons) engineers. The businessman uses the poorer engineers’ lack of bargaining power to establish $50 as the price for the same job. All the engineers are equally skilled and efficient at the job. My question is: do you think the second transaction was fair? If the businessman goes to the poorer engineers first and then to the richer ones, are the same transactions fair?

Fairness

If you argue that the all transactions were fair because they were all mutually agreed upon by the parties involved (free market economics), I respect your judgement, but I disagree with it. I think that fairness and free market principle are different entities altogether. I think that free market is just one of the many possible systems to distribute capital and resources.

My framework to judge fairness is based on equality. If the businessman *knowingly* exploits the lack of the bargaining power, which has got nothing to do with the job, I think that he is being unfair. You may ask me how I know that $200 is the “real” price for the job. The key term in my definition is “knowingly.” If the businessman genuinely thought that $200 was too much, and that $50 is reasonable, I wouldn’t call it unfair. In the second case, where the businessman approaches the poorer engineers first, he does not really know the price of the job, and so he negotiates the best he can. I wouldn’t call that unfair either. We assume here that the businessman used his bargaining position, which had no relation to the job, to treat people in different ways. Fairness goes the other way too. If the engineers were to treat different businessmen differently, I would call them unfair too.

What if it Happens to You?

I would like to put the same question in the context of your employer. Suppose your boss knows that you and  your colleague are both equally productive and equally valuable to the company. And he also *knows* that you are desperate to keep this job. Perhaps, you and your spouse  just had a baby, and cannot afford to change health insurance plans, while your colleague  can afford to quit the job and look for a new one because he has a richer ancestry. Or, perhaps, your colleague may be as desperate a you are. If your boss decides that only your colleague gets a bonus for no reason (your boss tells you so), would you still call that fair? Remember that reason why he decided to treat you unequally had nothing do your job, but other tangential reason, and everything here follows free market principles; you are free to walk away from your job if you don’t like the salary.

Personal Confession

I knew that the previous owner from whom I bought my car was going out of country in a few days. So I used that information to lower the price I paid for the car. In my opinion, I was being unfair to him because the value of the car had got nothing do with his going abroad. Will I be unfair next time I am a part of such transactions? I think I will be. I am not taking a moral highground. I think that the social cost of my unfair actions is not very high. I hope I will be less selfish if the social costs are high.

Relevance to Foxconn, Walmart and Apple

Clearly, everyone knows that Chinese workers are more desperate for work. The companies use this to exploit them. I have read many posts online that explain that it is fair because it follows free market principles, and that their life is better off as a result. I have to disagree with that reasoning. No one would complain if the employees has a decent standard of living. But we all know that condition of workers in Foxconn (link) and Walmart (link). The companies are not doing the worker a favour by giving them the job. It is business transaction in which the workers are being treated worse thay should be (based on my framework on fairness). The social cost of their actions is very high. That is the reason why their practices are frowned upon.

Practical?

I realise that enforcing my idea of fairness is not practical. Walmart can simply say that they genuinely believe that their worker do deserve health insurance. This is where government mandates come into play. I am not a fan of ideas that imply fairness if all rules are followed (government rules or otherwise). How would you decide if the rules are themselves fair? I think a judgement on what is fair should not have external dependence because it is a personal moral compass.

Other Frameworks

I have not had the time to read any of the following wiki links or books to which they refer. If you happen to know other frameworks (described in the links below or otherwise), do let me know.

a. Justice as Fairness: John Rawls conception of Justice

b. A Theory of Justice: A book by John Rawls.

c. Justice as Fairness: A Restatement: A book by John Rawls

d. The Theory of Moral Sentiments: A book by Adam Smith

e. The Idea of Justice: A book by Amartya Sen

Comment Policy:

If you diagree with me, provide your framework, and let me know what you think about the transaction with your employer.  It’s a simple “is it fair” question. Keep it to the point. Please do not explain free market principles to me in a hundred possible ways (willingness to pay, current value of the job to the engineer or businessman etc.). I have a different framework. Please respect it.

Holier Than Thou

Where I relate wars, capital punishment, environmentalism and feminism.

It was rather unpleasant to watch Gov. Rick Perry being applauded for overseeing capital punishments in Texas during the Republican presidential debate last year. Even a supporter of capital punishment usually agrees that it is not carried out with pride but with a disappointment that such punishments are necessitated in our society[*].

I noticed on wiki (link) that US is in really bad company with China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen in awarding death penalties. The rest of the “western” world (i.e., other than the US) does not see as many death penalties. China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen are some countries that are hated for their domestic policy. Countries with large number of capital punishment victims are usually totalitarian or dictatorial. US, on the other hand, is proud of being a “free nation.” Something was amiss. But then, the US is hated for it foreign policy. It has broken its own laws many times when they are deemed a threat to national security (link). There should be a factor that reconciles all these facts. I believe that it is the holier-than-thou attitude that reconciles the facts.

Before I elaborate, I stress that I am not using holier-than-thou with a negative connotation. Holier-than-thou is usually associated with hypocrisy. My use is more generic.  If you expect a better pay at work for reasons such as race, caste or nationality, that is holier-than-thou attitude at play, and it is frowned upon for its hypocrisy. If you work harder then your peers, and then expect a better pay, it is reasonable, but it is also a holier-than-thou attitude at play. There is nothing bad about it in this context.

Now, let me explain how the holier-than-attitude relates harsh punishments and domestic or foreign policies. The US is notorious for waging wars all the time. War is imposing your idea of what is right upon others. Similarly, harsh punishments are awarded to those whom we deem unfit to live in the society and deny them some of the basic rights that the rest of us enjoy. Both of them have elements of the holier-than-thou attitude. I see capital punishment as a tangible manifestation of that attitude, which brings people to believe that those who have done something terribly wrong are not worthy of living anymore.

I checked out punishments in some of the kingdoms. Larger kingdoms have obviously waged wars and expanded from smaller-sized kingdoms. Are the punishments for crimes in those kingdom equally harsh? I found that the Chola dynasty, a small dynasty, had very little punishment such as fines even for crimes such as murder (link). The Rashtrakutas (link) were a little bigger dynasty. The punishments were harsh, but some “high” caste people were excluded from such punishments. When we get to really big empires such as the Roman empire or the Mughals, the punishments were “cruel and unusual” (link, link, link). Execution by elephants were common. In the British Empire, I could not find examples of cruel punishments during its “glory” days in England. Some links (link, link) do indicate that punishments were harsh before the fall of the empire. There may be exceptions to the rule that ambitious empires also practise cruel punishment, but I would like to see some more study on the correlation (religion may also offer more information).

Few years ago, I answered a survey questionnaire in which a few questions about our opinion on women’s rights and environmental policies were asked. At the end of the questionnaire, I was informed that those who support equal rights for women are also likely to support strong policies to preserve the environment. This brings us to Ecofeminism (link), which has its roots in the belief that “the social mentality that leads to the domination and oppression of women is directly connected to the social mentality that leads to the abuse of the natural environment.” I think that this is just a fancy way to explain that the holier-than-thou attitude (or lack of) is responsible for many of our views.

[*] In the same way, military might is something that is forced upon us because we have enemies; displaying military might  (as during India’s Republic Day) is not something I am comfortable with.  Most agree that public hanging is unhealthy for a society. I don’t think that display of military might, similarly, is healthy. I think the US did the right thing by not releasing Osama bin Laden’s picture.

On Swaminomic’s Post on Inequality

This is a reponse to Swaminomic’s post, where he talks about economic inequality in Indian states (link). I will briefly present his views first and then present some flaws in his argument by providing some facts.

He suggests that India should not be worrying about economic inequality as much as worrying about the overall growth because actions to promote overall growth will benefit a state more than just targeting inequality. He argues that according to Gini Coefficient (link), which measures economic inequality in a region, Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Gujarat are the most unequal states, but the same set of states are are more prosperous than the rest of the country. Thus, he concludes that inequality is not a good measure to assess well-being of Indian states. He implies that the Gini coefficient is meaningless because overall growth brings more people into a prosperous state and skews the wealth distribution. And also, because of presence of rich folks in Gurgaon, a fairly secure landlord in Haryana is counted as poor in the Gini Coefficient. The wiki article on the Gini Coeffieicnt (link) discusses the weaknesses in the measure. Swaminomic’s post says that some of the weaknesses are applicable in India’s case.

Against the harsh reality of farmer suicides, I am led to believe that the weakness do not play a role. This presentation (link) and this wiki article (link) indicate that Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra and Punjab see some of the highest cases farmer suicides in the country. The claim that the inequality measure falsely indicates a fairly-rich person as a poor because the presence of richer folks is untrue in these cases. Inequality and poverty are very real in this case. Clearly, spending effort on the overall health has not benefited the very poor. Inequality needs as much attention as the overall economic health. A disguised trickle-down-theory (tried, tested and failed) argument will not convince me.

I do realise that the farmer’s suicide is an incomplete indicator. I am willing to look at other indicators, if any of you can provide them. Given an agriculture-based rural economy, farmers forms a major chunk of the population. So I think it would be hard to find indicators that support the contrary. The post says that GDP is an incomplete indicator, but it uses GDP to make arguments against Gini coefficient as an indicator (I assume. If not, then what?). There is a structural flaw in the argument, too.

Onions and Oil: Flawed Analysis

I came across a blog post (link, and also a column: link) that talks about the effects of futures market on the oil and onion market. Many think that futures market is responsible for the oil price fluctuation (link). The author notes that despite the absence of futures market in the onion markets (due to Onion Future Act (link)), the price fluctuations are more severe than that is seen in oil trading. The authors uses this example to argue some academics’ belief that futures markets control extreme price swings. I think the analysis is poor for the reasons I describe below. I am not an economist; but, being trained as an engineer, I can say that their analysis is flawed.

First, the statistical analysis of price fluctuations in the posts is poor. The author of the blog post compares the monthly changes in the price of onion to that of oil. We have seen that oil prices have a two- or three-year cycle. Obviously, the monthly changes in oil prices is not as big as the changes in onion prices. A better statistical analysis is needed. Also, volatility of onion prices before and after the Onion Futures Act was passed is open to debate (link).

Second,  it is not a controlled statistical sampling of commodity value because there are a number of factors that affect each the price of commodity. The oil market has a seasonal supply-and-demand cycle, whereas the onion market experiences abrupt supply issues due to inclimate weather. There are plenty of other factors, including the price of oil, that determines the price of onions. Oil prices are globally uniform while onion price vary geographically. Future trading is not the only factor that differs between the two markets.

Third, if the cycle is two to three years long, ten-year data of oil prices fluctuation is not enough to statistically conclude anything about futures trading. We either need a different form of analysis for the data from the limited time period or need data from a larger time period. But it is hard to control all the factors when the time period is large. Thus, statistical analysis would likely be meaningless.

The authors may be right about their conclusion, but they have not provided sound evidence to back it up.

Indian Summer Ads

Over this summer, I had access to what we usually don’t, television. Being kept away from television, I hadn’t seen ads for a year. This post is a sequel to a post of mine about a year ago. This year, I was surprised that Pepsi and Coke did not come up with ads lashing out at each other as fervently as they did years before. Also, the quality of ads were not as good as they used to be. I can only name a handful of ads which are worth a mention.

Monster com’s ad about ‘being caught in the wrong job’, in my opinion, is the best ad of the summer. Unlike jobsahead’s rather pessimistic ad campaign of taking about its site when a batsman gets out, both naukri and monster have chosen an optimistic (a better) outlook. Naukri’s “Hari Sadu” ad (H for Hitler …) is a close match to the monsters. Over the years as well, these two companies have come up with good ads like “Aladdin: he is gonna be rich” among others. I think positive tone to the ads is very important in luring people to such sites.

HSBC’s ‘world local bank’ ad and the slogan ‘understanding your needs better’ is yet another example on how abstract advertising is a great idea. A simple issue like torn jeans being stylish for the daughter and a completely opposite view of the mother brings about the idea that the bank changes according to your need. Earlier this summer, HSBC floated another ad (animated) with months of years making up a car or a house. Though it would have made a great idea for a hoarding, it was ordinary on television.

Sania Mirza’s question-answer session turned out to be one of those ‘good-to-watch-ones-irritating-the-next-time’ ads. The worst in the bag of soft drink ads was Aamir Khan’s ‘thanda samosa’ ad. It is unlike soft drink manufacturers not to come up with good ads especially during summer.

Running up to the foot ball world cup, several ads were featured on football. Adidas ad on two young boys choosing their teams has a touch of brilliance. Also in the context is a well done ad by Maruti Swift, the one with the car playing around with the foot ball. There was one more ad by adidas or nike in which a foot ball is passed around in two lifts until a trophy is captured using the ball. That was choreographed extremely well.

Again, the ads by soaps, shampoos and detergents haven’t explored outside their domain. There are as boring as they can get. It can only take a genius to come up with ‘nihar mein hai kudrat ki sakhi’ for a coconut oil product. We will have to wait and watch before any other product comes up with ideas like that. Till my next vacations, no more television ads on this blog.

What’s Your Status Today?

My college, for some reason, calls monthly tests as ‘quiz’. In our even semester, quizzes usually happen in second and third week of February around the time of St. Valentines Day, much to the disappointment of some students if i may add. My status on yahoo messenger (ym!) and Google talk was “Quiz is my valentine, ever heard of sleeping with the enemy?” As I had expected, it received much attention. Couple of my friends asked me a while later about my valentine, I had no hesitation in replying, “It didn’t show me any love, but it did screw me.


Of all the things a messenger client offers, the best one is the advent of status messages. I can arguably (and proudly) claim that I was the first in my college to start the culture of status massages. What started off as a true status like ‘off to mess’, ‘off to classes’, ‘mugging’ etc. transformed into an obsession. I have been constantly changing my status messages for over a a year now at least twice a week. And it has always reflected my state of mind. It’s as much fun as blogging. I am a trend setter 😀

For me, it all started with U2 (my fav. Band) being nominated for 3 Grammies for one song, Atomic Bomb’s ‘Vertigo’. My status message changed everyday. From ‘U2 has an edge’ (the guitarist is called ‘Edge’) to ‘U2 are god, it is not hype, it was the feedback’ (Their earlier names were ‘hype’ and ‘feedback’) to many others. And these ‘efforts’ did pay off, U2 won all the three Grammies it was nominated for.

What I love about status messages is that they make a good conversation initiators. There have been several occasion when I have commented on my friends status messages and they on mine, and conversation had moved on to something more mundane like bomb blasts and terrorism. Many of the status messages I see are good attempt at light humour, like, for a TV starved hostel student, ‘home is where the television is‘ by Maro. There are others which mostly are like thought-for-the-day status messages or quotable quotes.

Touched by Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”, Venkat scribbled the same on his gtalk. Following which I changed my status to “You are not thinking, therefore i am.” Answering to Maro’syay weekend‘ on a rather eventless Friday evening, Mahesh announced ‘won’t last, the weekend‘. During a Quiz week, the altruistic me presented ‘All the best‘ as my status. But all my friends conveniently forgot to wish me back. Only when it was changed to ‘All the best, i expect you guys top wish me back you know‘, I got some response. 😡

Many status have a deep rooted funda. Like Venkat’s ‘gotta go see about a girl‘, from acclaimed movie good will hunting. What prompted to him to that seemingly unimportant line from movies is that Matt Damon refers to his girl friend in Stanford when the line was uttered. And he was moving off to Stanford this summer for his internship. Just days before end semester examination, Maro’sno one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun‘ (Pink Floyd, Time) brought out our real status on the exams’ preparation. Timely status like ‘its a beautiful day, don’t let it get away’ (U2) on a nice Saturday morning or ‘Sunday, bloody Sunday'(U2 again) on a blistering Sunday in Chennai also reflects our jubilations and dejections. Reeling under the heat of Chennai, inspired by my favorite poem, the highwayman, my status was

Day is a torrent of inferno among the gusty trees

Sun is a treacherous galleon lurking in the hot summer breeze

I hope the ac man comes knocking, knocking, knocking…

There have also been those which talk about status themselves like, ‘this is my status message‘, ‘why should i put one‘, ‘status quo‘ etc. Its not that we are oblivious to current affairs or gossip. During the pinnacle of reservation protests, me and babba howled

we don’t need no reservation

we don’t need no caste control

all in all Arjun Singh is just another prik in the wall

The day paparazzi announced the engagement of Nicole Kidman to Keith Urban, the heart broken me confessed, ‘Nicole Kidman’s engaged…no regrets, i can do better.‘ (should thank Baaju for cheering me up :P)

Lastly, I feel it would be great if this culture spread across the geeky world. That was make us a lot more cooler, don’t you think? Also, thanks to the slogan generator i had this rather cool status, “Lipsmackin’ Thirstquenchin’ Acetastin’ Motivatin’ Goodbuzzin’ Cooltalkin’ Highwalkin’ Fastlivin’ Evergivin’ Coolfizzin’ Coolshankin”

Ruskin Bond

Book: Collected Fiction
Author: Ruskin Bond
Rating: 4 stars
Price: Rs. 395
Publishers: Penguin

Couple of months back, I bought a book written by Ruskin Bond titled “Ruskin Bond: Collected Fiction”. Ruskin Bond, from what I know, is an author who is known to all the Indians but only occasionally do you find people who have read his works. Browsing thought the shelves in Odyssey, Adyar in Chennai, I happen to notice the thick book (900 pages). It has about 75 short stories and 5 novel/novellas. Having read a handful of stories, the book looked promising enough to give me a good time. Sure it did.

In one of my previous posts, this is what i had to say about the stories:
“Yesterday, I was going through some of the short stories of Ruskin Bond which are set on rural India. The mundane background which every Indian can connect to, in his stories, takes you into times and minds of the characters. His stories revolve around serendipitous encounters which leave a lasting impression…… The stories narrate about a chanced meeting with a stranger, finding something that fascinates him about the stranger, and in many cases the stranger is lost in the wilderness of the crowd. Anything could fascinate the narrator, from a coy smile of a little girl to benevolence of a thief.”

One word that describes his language is ‘simple’. One can effortlessly run through the pages without having to look into dictionary or pause to digest a paragraph. The hold in the language is quite apparent when you notice that stories take you into imaginations without much difficulty. One thing that he does the best is describe nature. Any reader will be baffled by his description which can boast of mind blowing personifications, metaphors and attention grasping words. Most of his stories lie around jungles, ravines, hillocks and many of gods creatures, big or small.

Many-a-times narrated in first person, the central theme of the stories is usually held by a young boy yet to be 10, or an adolescent. A child’s simple pleasures like running along a stream, watching a sunset, observing a tree tremble against gusty winds are all magically brought back to life even as we live in this material world. I shouldn’t deny the fact that all of his stories remind us to get back the excitement packed inner child in us and rediscover those simple pleasures. Some of his stories capture the youthful enthusiasm in adolescence, the desire to unravel the mysteries that lie behind the obvious. In an otherwise dull train journey, the main character, in some of his stories, decides to take a stroll outside the bound of the railway station of a forsaken village. The discovery of life and other means of livelihood brings as mush amusement to the readers as the character himself. When speaking of Ruskin Bond, ghost stories can’t be left behind. The chilling stories are sure leave you stunned for quite a while. My favorite story in the entire collection happens to be a ghost story called, ‘face in the dark.’

The collection also features two novellas called ‘Room on the Roof’ and, its sequel, ‘Vagrants in the Valley’. Based on similar genre described above, this can be seen as several short stories put together. The plot starts with a young adolescent, Rusty, escape from the stifling atmosphere of his Anglo Indian guardian. Out of the cage, he meets some Indian friends when he start indulging in their lives, tastes his first Gol-Guppa among lot of other things. The story blossoms into Rusty inching towards forming his goals. ‘Vagrants in the Valley’ picks off right where ‘Room on the Roof’ left off. Along with his friend Kishan, Rusty travels in the pains of the north India leaving a lasting impression on the reader’s minds.

I personally did not like the other three novellas written by him named Delhi is not Far, Sensualist and A Flight of Pigeons. They were based on completely different genres. A flight of pigeons narrates a story of young English girl during 1857 mutiny. In Delhi is not Far, narrator describes his relationship with a streetwise and a prostitute. Sensualist talks of an old man’s exploits of all kinds.

Short Stories that should be eagerly looked forwarded to be read are: the eyes have it, Sita and the river, time stops at Shamli, the haunted bicycle, escape from Java and many others. The final verdict: this book would make a great birthday gift to 12-15 year olds.

Trek to Tada

Earlier this year seven of us had been to trekking to a waterfall near the town of Tada in Andra Pradesh. Quite easily, we had the best time of our lives that day. What began as enthusiastic bunch of students looking for a good way to kill a Sunday, ended on a high note with memories that would last forever. We started from our hostels at 4:30 AM by a taxi to CMBT and then to Tada by a bus bound to Nellore. Tada is about 75 KM from Chennai; roughly 2 hours journey. In the town of Tada, we hired a rickety auto for Rs 400 to drop us to the base and pick us back later in the evening.

Amidst all the anticipations from the trek, we saw a temple (under construction) with a quaint architecture. It belonged to Kalki Bhagwan. We couldn’t resist making out first stop to take some pics. Couple of snaps later, we got started again and headed towards the base of the hills.

On our way, I happened to notice an auto carrying rural folk towards the town of Tada. It was a sight begging to be photographed, but I couldn’t take the camera out in time. On the back of the auto were four middle aged women dressed in Saree. Each one of them wore a Saree of a different colour. The bright red vermilion power on the forehead, the gleaming bangles, the shiny necklace, the sitting posture and the colour contrast in their dresses gave me a glimpse of a conservative India whose sight is not common in urban India. This aesthetically rich view is perhaps the expectation from any tourist coming to our country. Inside the auto, were men folk who were carrying, from what i can guess, agricultural implements, mud pots etc. A crude turban on their head, traditional dhotis accompanying plain shirts are again instances of finding orthodox scenic beauty. The place was set against vast fields and clear blue sky. The pleasing picture lasted only a glance as our autos went fast past each other.

We made our last stop before the base to appreciate the picturesque view of the hills we were about to conquer [:-p] . The view of hut below stands out, in my opinion, among all the photographs I took. The lone tree also made a good photograph.


As we set out for our trek, the place was simmering under the hot sun, as were our expectations. We walked for quite some distance until we reached a stream which became our first resting point. The cool water of the stream so sweet to taste that out aquafina water was proved to be “no-match” to it. The water was very gentle, not turbulent, providing a wonderful ‘time-out’. Crossing the stream we reached a Shiva temple. The temple, covered with dry leaves, bared an antiquated look which stood against a sylvan background. We inquired with the priest if there is a ‘sangam‘ of two rivers for the Shiva Temple to exist, his answer was ‘no’.


Marching through muddy trails left by hundred others who had been to the ‘summit’, we reached a stream studded with several hundred boulders of different sizes. Owing to the time of the year, the stream did not carry much water. From tiny pebbles to massive boulders, each one seemed unmoved for a long time. This was of course down-stream.

Climbing higher and higher, the terrain did become steeper, waters more turbulent and hurdles more difficult to cross. Eventually, we reached the top and arrived at the first falls. Thought not exactly breath taking, we were humbled by the sheer size of the boulder and the diversity that nature had to offer.
Climbing higher, we reached a small place where the water was prudent. We had lunch and then got to the site which was out intended ‘summit’. The giant wall like hills beside us forming a ‘v’ shaped valley and a narrow but deep body of water against us led to the second falls. A striking contrast to the temperature outside and the that of cold water was unexpected. The water inviting us to swim was hard to say ‘no’ to. If there is ever a reason to learn swimming, then it is to swim to falls and feel the water pounding on you back and chest. Camera couldn’t have been taken closer to the falls.

This was not the last. We decided to climb higher upon learning that there is a bigger falls up ahead. Assisted by some signs (man-made) and some creepers hitched to trees beside steps-like-arranged stones, we made it to the most absorbing scenery of all.



We then decided to head back to the base. On the way back, I got to capture these mesmerizing photographs of water showers from top of the hills. The calm waters made a slow and continuous sound draining itself into the river below. We were right under the cold natural showers.


The way back was more arduous then we thought it would be. Tracing the way back proved more and more difficult with every step forward. The base camp did not seem that far the same day morning. Sweating profusely all through, we made it back after over 12 km of walking up and down. To make matters worse, we had stand in the bus from Tada to Chennai for over 90 minutes. It took us two days to recover from the trek.
Check this for more pics.
Trekkers: Bharath(Nama), Manohar(Muggu), Maruti (Maro), Ravi (Cavi), Ravish(Bulby), Shyam(Peter) and Yours Truly….
Also check this for a post on our trip to Hogenakkal