Notes After Another Journey

Economics seeks to explain human behaviour, and it is about time economists and game theorists come together to create a new branch of it called “elbow economics”. Elbow Economics would deal with the interactions between two strangers on an airplane or train as they struggle to gain control of the single armrest between them. They don’t know each other, and have no need to cultivate the other’s affection or respect. But they don’t want to fight too hard over elbow space, as that might appear petty, and no one likes to come across that way, even to strangers. But then, there’s the ego.

The tussle for elbow space is a game of cat and mouse. If the other person occupies the armrest, you wait for him to fidget, to reach out for a magazine in front of him, to pick his nose, or suchlike. Then your elbow swoops into place. His elbow returns, is surprised to find its space occupied, and settles down, uncomfortably, on its owners lap. It waits. You need to reach out and get your bottle of water. But you wait. And so on.

Sometimes two elbows manage an uneasy compromise in that space, one in front, the other behind. Sometimes, a fight breaks out. That happened to me once, but my latest trip to Delhi and back was peaceful. On the return trip, a lady sat besides me, and women never ever fight over elbow space. That is the second-most important reason why I like women.


While passing CP, I noticed that the legendary Kake Da Dhaba was now Kake Da Hotel. Why would they do this? Any clues? Is it a misguided attempt to be modern? Are they escaping some new regulation that applies only to dhabas? Whatever their reason is, some charm has certainly vanished.


In Delhi, I stayed overnight at DD and Nilanjana‘s place. They were most hospitable, as were their stately cats, Tiggy and Pantha (picture below). When I was being put to bed, I was warned that at some point during the night, Pantha would get into bed with me and snuggle up. This worried me, as I have never had a cat on my bed before. “What should I do if that happens?”

“If you don’t want her on your bed,” said Nilanjana, “just raise your leg and say HOOT!”


I woke up a couple of times during the night. No cat. Once, just to be on the safe side, I raised my leg and said HONK!

The next morning, as I was wolfing down sausages, I was informed by Nilanjana that when she woke up and came into the hall, she found Pantha sleeping on my butt. “She has scaled Everest.”

“Grmmph,” I said. “She scaled Everest when Everest was sleeping. If Everest was awake…”