Thursday, June 19, 2008

Deflation over inflation

Made me laugh, it did, when a national channel spoke to wealthy residents of New Delhi to find out how shattered they are by the rising prices. Their correspondent spoke to this woman wearing expensive dark glasses pushed up on her colour-rinsed hair, her shiny made-up skin glowing healthily in the morning sun and the thought crossed my mind that just the cash she spent at a beauty parlour from her chin upwards to the ends of glossy shoulder-length hair on her head would be enough to feed a widowed Thane tribal grandmother for a year. Throw in her designer shades and you could build a small hut for the old tribal left to starve to death by her family.

I’m talking of the Thane tribals because the same channel did a feature on the prevailing custom of the tribals of Thane who first feed the men of the family, then the children, the mothers and starve the elderly. One grandson is looking after his grandmother even as she tells the correspondent that her son, the father of her benefactor, tells him to throw her out and let her die in a ditch.

The wealthy, one learns have to tighten the old budget belt by buying cheaper brands of processed foods and cutting down on eating out. The poor, one learns, buy less, eat less and starve those who cannot earn. Never mind that only recently a law was passed which makes children duty bound to look after their aged parents by law, failing which they could face arrest and prison.

My trillionaire friend was also upset with the rising prices. How will I save anything, he said. You with your 27 cars and 45 chauffeurs, cannot save? I asked. The cost of fuel is shooting up so much I have had to cancel my order for three new SUVs this week, he said. Tsk, tsk, I said. Everything has gone up, rice, dal, vegetables, edible oil, fish, meat, chicken. I tell you the horror is upon us; my chef will have to prepare meals for me in my own kitchen, I won’t be able to eat out every day of the week, he said. I pointed out that he was always invited to Page 3 parties, where he got free booze, drugs and food.

He ignored that and said that the biggest horror of all is there are rising prices in the market and falling prices in the stock market. These are dark days indeed, he said. Looking for a lighter note I said pity you can’t even eat the share certificates, since everything is dematted now. He ignored that too and said he couldn’t vacation in Switzerland, or Japan, this month, and that he’d have to go to Bangkok with all the poor people. It’s awful, he said.

There’s always Goa you can do the holiday thing with, and you’ll save on air fare, I said.

Goa’s become too expensive. Even the real estate prices have gone mad; to buy two flats I had to sell five of my old ones, he said.

Life is as uncertain for you as it is for the poorest of the poor, I said. They are the lucky ones: they never have any money, so rising prices make no difference to them, he said. Then why are so many farmers committing suicide? I said. He said they were doing that before inflation and their problems started with money; when they took loans from moneylenders for weddings, hybrid seeds, etc. What is your point, I asked. The secret of tackling rising prices is to have no money at all, he said. Great, so give everything away, give it all to me, I said. Wealth is a curse, I could never be so cruel to you, he said.

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