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I come from a time when toy kits were toy kits and gol-gappas were gol-gappas, and the difference between the two was well-understood by one and all. So I’m less than overjoyed when a fast food joint hands me my plate of chaat in several different packets containing random quantities of the ingredients, expecting me to assemble the dish myself.
I’m just glad I didn’t order the tandoori chicken: “Here’s your broiler, sir, and a box of assorted spices. Oh, and some matches to cook it with. Enjoy your meal, sir. Please mind the feathers.”
“Thank you, fair waiter,” I reply. “Here’s a piece of paper and some colour pencils. Please sketch yourself a 500 rupee note and keep the change.”
This deplorable practice has a noble origin, it seems. It draws inspiration from a worldwide greatest hit Burmese dish called Khowsuey. Order a plate of it from anywhere and you’ll be handed a bowl of noodles in bland gravy with a couple of dozen things you can add to it in case you want some taste. It’s a shining example of Forward Delegation that could have been invented by an MBA. Since the customer is creating the final taste, the chef doesn’t have to be particularly brilliant. You know what that can mean in wage savings? And if the customer doesn’t like the dish, who can he blame but himself?! Wikipedia tells us Khowsuey is closely related to another Burmese noodle dish called Ohn No Khauk Swe, and speaking as a paying consumer I can guess whom the 'Ohn No' comes from.
But D-I-Y is the deal of the day, and it’s not just in food. An investment advisor recently asked a friend of mine something like “Would you prefer public sector mixed debt instruments or fund based commodity futures in your portfolio?” My friend is a practical man and he rapidly ejected the advisor by means of a well-applied boot to the posterior.
I’m no expert. How the hell would I know what’s good for me? Imagine if doctors did that with your prescription – “Do you think a tad more Tinamotoroil to soothe your hypertrapezium? Or would you rather go with two aspirin?” Hey, you’re the chef; you decide how long to bake the foie gras. And how much custard to drizzle on it. Then if I don’t like it, I can send it back.
We bought a bunch of computer tables for the office the other day, and they arrived not in a medium-sized truck like you’d expect, but in little flat boxes stacked up on a tiny cycle rickshaw. Then two assemblers occupied half the office for half a day converting planks and screws into noise and tables. It’s the pizza delivery people who should be doing this – bringing over the ingredients and serving you a piping hot Cheese Margherita prepared at your doorstep. A piping hot table, I don’t need.
No, I’m not a big fan of the Assembly Kit approach to product delivery. Is it too much to expect a ready to consume product when I’m paying full price? Please don’t send me some cloth and a needle when I buy a shirt. Finish the job and stand by your product, man.
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