The Economics Of Dowry

A lot has been said and written about dowry in India and it has more or less been accepted as a disagreeable practice to follow, however the institution of dowry is still very prevalent in large parts of the country. There is a lot of literature out there that presents many a cause-affect relationship between dowry and various other issues such as female infanticide. I am not here to doubt any of those factors, but rather take a more clinical approach.

Dowry is an institution that has existed in our culture for many generations and like any other institution that has survived the test of time something about it provides a net addition to society - even if not immediately apparent. This piqued my curiosity and on further investigation realized that dowry might have played the important role of optimal wealth distribution.

Below are a few assumptions:

1. Consider the case of an isolated village with a primarily agrarian economy.
2. The ebb and flow of nature combined with the power of human will and ingenuity would cause an inequality of wealth amongst its members.
3. Presumably the most able (physically, mentally and emotionally) man would amass the most wealth.
4. Wealth is primarily measured in terms of land ownership, the prime capital in agrarian economies.
5. Women do not own the right to own land.

Let us consider the case where the most wealthy man in the community has a daughter who is of marriageable age and he has to find a suitable groom for her. Naturally, he would look for the man who is again the most able (physically, mentally and emotionally - largely determined by consensus within the community) to wed his daughter and ensure his progeny. He would then provide extra incentive for this alpha of the next generation to engage in wedlock with his daughter by giving him the maximum dowry.

This might just seem to be a familial matter, however there is a hidden impact on society at large. The higher dowry that is given to the more able man ensures that the maximum amount of resources is under the direct control of this man thereby promising wiser usage, greater productivity and increased wealth for all (the largest pieces of land controlled by the most able person in the community would lead to higher wages for all those who work on it).

If seen in this way, dowry seems to serve an important function of wealth transfer within the community, cleverly skipping the genetic component of ownership (the father of the bride, could, in theory give ALL his wealth to his able son-in-law while leaving nothing for his incompetent son). Furthermore, since the selection of the alpha of the next generation is an open process where the children within this closed community are constantly monitored by the adults, dowry in this case almost functions as a sort of 'pseudo-democracy' where the 'King' of every generation is 'elected' by common consensus within the community.

Debugging Code with Dr.Gregory House

Gregory House (played by the awesome Hugh Laurie) is the chief protagonist of FOX's hit TV Show House M.D. He also happens to be in my top 5 favourite list of TV Characters of all time. Most likely an INTP, the character is modeled after Sherlock Holmes - only with repressed feelings and a overly expressed hedonistic streak. His curmudgeonic character provides the drive for the show's dry sarcastic humour which although seemingly heartless at times, nonetheless overshadows a highly insightful thought process while implying a deeper meaning. Every episode opens ones mind to new ideas about modern life and the human condition.

I think I'll stop there with my fanboy ramblings and get to the point. It so happened that while catching up on past seasons of House M.D I was also in that phase of my project which is fondly called as 'Bug Fixing Phase'. So I was fixing bugs in the software at work all day, only to come home and watch House fix 'bugs' albeit they were in the human body. The parallels between work in the software industry and the medical profession were laid  out plainly before me when I immediately made connections between what House would say and how that would be interpreted in the software world. Below are a few, hope you enjoy them!

House: "...Everything is conditional. You just can't always anticipate the conditions."
Analogy: All code is logical and based on conditions. There are however a multide of ways to get the job done so predicting why a bug is present is hard to ascertain without a sound knowledge of the bug. Bottom line? Reading other people's code sucks.

House: "You could probably scan every one of us and find fifty doo-dads that look like cancer"
Analogy: Never look at the log for a bug blindly. You're probably going to see plenty of errors not related to what you're working on anyway and just end up spending a lot of time figuring out which is the correct error to look into.

House:"If no diagnosis fits, that leaves only one diagnosis.. the patients faking"
Analogy: Invalid bug! The tester tested a wrong scenario.

House: "I value your opinion. I value rejecting your opinion."
Analogy: There is always this one guy who ALWAYS comes to the wrong conclusion, but helps everybody else reach the right one.

House: "You two, go run your tests for genetic diseases and you can go check the house for toxins"
Analogy:"You two check the code for logical inconsistencies and you can go check the server box for database and threading issues".

House:"Good things usually happen, bad things sometimes happen"
Analogy: Most programmer's code usually works well, is well written and smart. Managers ought to know NOT to judge their programmers but what they do wrong, but rather what they do right. The production server didn't crash right?

House: "Patient's dying, I'm done with clever."
Analogy: The bug has to be fixed, even if it screws up everything else.

House:"Great job. Gonna miss you. Want to start missing you as soon as possible."
Analogy: Every bug fixer's thought after fixing a bug and waiting for the testing team to retest it.

House: "Oh my God. You're not wearing a bra."
Analogy: I'm a software engineer and I'm single.

House: "I'm not deflecting because I'm avoiding something deep. I'm deflecting because I'm avoiding something shallow."
Analogy: The attitude of managers at appraisal meetings. They suck, but have to be done.

A big thanks to for keeping track of some of these gems!