If something is too good to be true it usually is

A little-known UP based, Indian company has brought forth purportedly the world’s cheapest smart phone. At $ 4 (Rupees 251), it is less than the price of one kilogram of red-meat in my city. Bookings were supposed to open at 6 a.m. this morning, but when I tried to log in around 6:15 a.m.; I was greeted with a word-processor-like white screen with nothing on it. Twitter feeds reported that the site had crashed and that April fool’s prank had come a little bit early this year. But at the time of this writing, around noon, they have managed to keep it up and running where I can log in and place the buy order. Now, with an additional Rs 40 as shipping charges. At a price of Rs 291 (Rs 251 + 40 shipping) it may seem like a dream offer. But I am not buying.


The 3G handset, Freedom 251, features a 4-inch display, Qualcomm 1.3-GHz quad-core processor and 1 GB RAM. There were initial reports that the low-cost of the device was due to the apps that were preloaded into the device and that it was heavily subsidized by the Indian Government. But the company has denied the rumors by stating that no subsidy is being given by the Government.


A few years ago, another little known company, Datawind, had released what was the much-hyped Akash Tablet. At that time, it was marketed as the world’s cheapest tablet. Every international publication, including Time magazine had lauded this company’s efforts. But as it had turned out to be, it was more marketing hype than any real product. The few tablets that were actually distributed under the scheme turned out to be of substandard, low spec, hardware that were simply not usable (due to overheating).


Even earlier, cheap Chinese mp3 players with inbuilt memory were available in Indian markets. It had what the Chinese called “factory-formatted memory”, with a warning that the user should not format it lest they lose the full memory. It was a cheap firmware trick where the device would show a certain amount of memory, but when anyone formats it before loading it with mp3 songs; it would reveal the actual memory, usually 128 MB.


The Indian Cellular Association, ICA, which consists of the likes of Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Micromax, and others, has filed a petition with the Indian Government stating that to produce a handset with the specifications Ringing Bells has announced, the cost of components procured from the cheapest supply chain plus the manufacturing and marketing costs would come closer to Rs 4100. Ringing Bells has claimed that the cost would be only Rs 2500 for which it has got an elaborate plan to bring it down. By assembling in India, they would get Rs 400 duty exemption; and by selling it directly to the customer, they would save another Rs 480. They also plan to open their online website to other companies thereby saving the rest. It is easier said than done.


The company claims that they will deliver all the ordered pieces by June 30. I suspect if they can deliver on that promise. This world works on certain definite rules, and this offer seems to defy everything. I am not going to send them my Rs 291, and then wait a few months for the delivery. For me, to do it, they will have to defy the very principles of economics. As the saying goes, “if it is too good to be true it usually is.” I bet. This is not going to happen.


These bloopers just don’t stop

Of all the empires known to mankind, the erstwhile British Empire was really a formidable one. The ‘sun did never set’ on it about the 19th and early 20th centuries. When the people of England were sleeping during night, another part of the British Empire was literally experiencing a hot day in the sun. And one of the biggest contributions of the British was the spread of the English language. From India to Canada, and from Australia to the West Indies everyone had known English at least as their second or third language. With the widespread use of the language came the bloopers.

When Indians speak about ‘pin drop silence’ a lot of native speakers would become perplexed. They might be able to, I believe, after a little bit of thinking, figure out that these people are talking about the silence where the sound of a pin-drop would be heard. But other terms like ‘eve teasing’ and ‘ragging’ would certainly make their mouth gape in utter confusion. At least, these phrases are considered special usages, not bloopers, by language experts: something that is unique to our version of English.

I once called on an office and heard a lady with a sweet voice asking for my “good name”. I was unable to keep myself from replying that my “bad name” is VMS. Because there is a custom in Hindi of asking for your name, which loosely translates into, “what your name that is auspicious” in their vernacular. But when we use it in English, it just doesn’t make any sense. On my standpoint, you just can’t ask, “What is your good name?” Because it implies that if there is a good name, there is a bad name also. So if anyone asks me that, to be on the safer side, I prefer to answer that my ‘bad name” is VMS. For sure, that lady would have found me unfriendly or arrogant.

Native speakers, people who speak English from their earliest childhood, also make a lot of mistakes. It is said that somewhere in England a signboard was erected stating the name of a school. It spelt “Grammer School Lane”. Somehow, the board was there for more than ten days before it was taken off. (‘Grammar’ is the correct spelling). Some Americans spell “angels” as “angles”. I suppose this is one of the words that a lot of Americans aren’t just sure of. But my favorite blooper is the one reportedly made by a florist. After a lady got a promotion, her husband ordered a bunch of flowers with the inscription, “I believe in you”. He said to the florist to write: “I-be-li-eve-in-u.” Instead, the florist delivered the flowers to his wife with the note, “I’ll be leaving you”. (I-be-li-eve-in-u).