Category Archives: Letters

The Letter that installed toilets in Indian Trains

For more than fifty years after the formation of the Indian Railways, there was one crucial element that was missing on the nation’s trains: toilets.

Passengers had to wait till till the stations to answer the call of nature, and it was not until a passenger named Okhil Chandra Sen wrote this angry yet amusing letter in 1909 that toilets were installed on Indian trains.
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From Quora

Carl Icahn:Marc Andreessen has screwed eBay shareholders

Since Mr. Andreessen has been an eBay insider, he has engaged in several transactions that lead us to question his loyalty to eBay. During Mr. Andreessen’s time on the eBay Board he has purchased large stakes in two former eBay subsidiaries, reaping significant personal riches. In September 2009, an investor group that included Mr. Andreessen, preempted a planned Skype IPO (in which stockholders would have ended up making multiple billions of dollars) and bought 70% of Skype for less than what eBay had paid to acquire it(1). Mr. Andreessen basked in the purchase, saying that “Skype is the archetypal phenomenon: a breakthrough technology”(2). His partner was even more excited, stating that “Skype is on its way to becoming one of the most important companies in the world(2). One cannot help but wonder what happened to Mr. Andreessen’s fiduciary responsibility to share his feelings with Mr. Donahoe and the board rather than preempt the planned IPO to further his own interests. A mere 18 months later, Mr. Andreessen’s investor group flipped Skype to Microsoft for $8.5 billion, a value three times what they paid for it(3), netting approximately $4 billion(3) at the expense of eBay stockholders. After the sale to Microsoft, Mr. Andreessen, a sitting eBay Board member and fiduciary to stockholders, stated: “one reason we were enthusiastic about buying Skype was that even though we thought it would be a tremendous standalone business, we also knew that for Microsoft and a number of other companies Skype would be an obvious thing to buy. We knew we’d always have the fall-back of selling to strategic buyers(4). Did Mr. Andreessen share this strong view with Mr. Donahoe? Was Mr. Donahoe completely asleep, or even worse, so naive and deferential to his “world-class board”(5) that he allowed a sitting board member and several private equity firms to walk away with over $4 billion in what was essentially stockholder’s money after a sale to a strategic that he obviously should have orchestrated himself? Many others have been vocally critical of the Skype transaction(2,6), but, until now, none have taken on the task of standing up to Mr. Donahoe and this board.

Mr. Andreessen’s next eBay sourced grand slam was his investment in Kynetic. In March 2011, as part of eBay’s $2.4 billion acquisition of GSI Commerce, the eBay Board decided they no longer wanted the Kynetic portion of GSI Commerce and sold it back to the company’s founder for just $31 million in cash and a $467 million sellers note at below market interest.(7,8) In June 2012, Mr. Andreessen pounced, making a $150 million investment in Kynetic at a $1.5 billion valuation, leveraging the low sale price and below market financing which the eBay Board had recently approved.(9) Just a year later, Kynetic was valued at $3.1 billion, giving Mr. Andreessen a paper gain of more than 100%.(10)

Additionally, during Mr. Andreessen’s time on the eBay Board – a time when he has been privy to nonpublic eBay Board information – he has made investments in and actively advised, no less than five direct competitors of eBay (four of which are competitors of PayPal), including Boku (mobile payments platform), Coinbase (Bitcoin wallet), Dwolla (secure online money management), Jumio (online and mobile credit card payments) and Fab (design e-commerce)(11). How can Mr. Donahoe and the eBay Board allow Mr. Andreessen to advise these competitors while he simultaneously possesses not only nonpublic eBay Board information but also intimate proprietary information about PayPal’s operations?But perhaps more importantly, how can Mr. Andreessen be trusted to objectively advise Mr. Donahoe and the eBay Board about the strategic direction of PayPal when he has vested interest in so many of its competitors? Regarding Square, another powerful PayPal competitor, Mr. Andreessen publicly lamented his regret in passing on the opportunity to invest in that company as well.-from Carl Icahn’s Open Letter to eBay Shareholders

Shivaji’s letter to Aurangzeb

Today is Shivaji Jayanti.

Reproduced below is a letter Shivaji wrote to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb protesting the Jaziya tax:

To the Emperor Alamgir -

“This firm and constant well-wisher Shivaji, after rendering thanks for the grace of God and the favours of the Emperor – which are clearer than the Sun, – begs to inform Your Majesty that, although this well-wisher was led by his adverse Fate to come away from your August Presence (at Agra) without taking leave, yet he is ever ready to perform, to the fullest extent possible and proper, everything that duty as a servant and gratitude demand of him.

My excellent services and devotion to the welfare of the (Mughal) State are fully known to the Princes, Khans, Amirs, Rajas and the Rais of India, to the rulers of Persia, Central Asia, Turkey and Syria, to the inhabitants of the seven climes of the globe, and to wayfarers on land and sea; and very likely their light has flashed on your Majesty’s capacious mind. So, with a view to rendering good service and earning the Imperial favour, I submit the following words in a spirit of devotion to the public welfare.

It has recently come to my ears that, on the ground of the war with me having exhausted your wealth and emptied the imperial treasury, Your Majesty has ordered that money under the name of Jaziya should be collected from the Hindus and the Imperial needs supplied with it. May it please your Majesty! that architect of the fabric of (Mughal) empire, [Jalal-ud-din] Akbar Padishah, reigned with full power for 52 [lunar] years. He adopted the admirable policy of universal harmony (sulh-i-kul) in relation to all the various sects, such as Christians, Jews, Muslims, Dadu’s followers, sky-worshippers (falakia), malakia, materialists (ansaria), atheists (daharia), Brahmans and Jain priests. The aim of this liberal heart was to cherish and protect all the people. So he became famous under the title of the World’s spiritual guide ‘Jagat Guru‘. (A few words in praise of Emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan and regret on Aurangzeb’s failure to follow their political system) ….. They, too, had the power of levying the Jaziya; but they did not give place to bigotry in their hearts, as they considered all men, high and low, created by God, to be [living] examples of the nature of diverse creeds and temperaments….. Prosperity is the fruit of one’s intentions. Therefore, their wealth and good fortune continued to increase. But in your Majesty’s reign, many of the forts and provinces have gone out of your possession, and the rest will soon do so, too, because there will be no slackness on my part in ruining and devastating them. Your peasants are down-trodden; the yield of every village has declined ….. It is a reign in which the army is in a ferment, the merchants complain, the Muslims cry, the Hindus are grilled, most men lack bread at night, and in the day-time inflame their own cheeks by slapping them [in anguish]. How can the royal spirit permit you to add the hardship of the Jaziya to this grievous state of things? The infamy will quickly spread from west to east and become recorded in books of history that the Emperor of Hindustan, coveting the beggar’s bowls, takes Jaziya from Brahmans and Jain monks, yogis, sannyasis, bairagis, paupers, mendicants, ruined wretches, and the famine-stricken.

“May it please your Majesty! If you believe in the true Divine Book and Word of God (i.e. the Quran) you will find there [that God is styled] Rabb-ul-alamin, the Lord of all men, and not Rabb-ul-Musalmin, the Lord of the Muhammadans only. Verily, Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast. They are [diverse pigments[ used by the true Divine Painter for blending the colours and filling in the outlines [of His picture of the entire human species]. If it be a mosque the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of Him. If it be a temple, the bell is rung in yearning for Him only. To show bigotry for any man’s creed and practices is equivalent to altering the words of the Holy Book ….. In strict justice the jaziya is not at all lawful ….. Apart from its injustice, this imposition of the Jaziya is an innovation in India and inexpedient ….. I wonder at the strange fidelity of your officers that they neglect to tell you of the true state of things, but cover a blazing fire with straw! May the Sun of your royalty continue to shine above the horizon of greatness!” (Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, iii).-from HeroForModernIndia