Monday, October 20, 2008

Business as usual

My mother

While the rest of the world is watching the financial markets collapse with horror and dismay, my mother is ecstatic. Her long cherished worst-case scenario has come true. Her doomsday prediction, which she has been tom-toming for as long as I remember, has finally happened.

The last major depression she witnessed was in 1929, and she has been longing for another ever since. We have been constantly reminded of those fateful years, when things were ‘not good’. Not that she, or for that matter anybody within a hundred miles of her house, held a solitary share on the NYSE, but we have not been allowed to forget that calamity. The troubled times have been made more woeful with every account. “ There were no jobs” she intoned, “and those times will come again. This is what happens when the market disintegrates. There will be no Plan B”.

She came close to realising her prophecy during the Enron crisis or the Asian currency collapse, but much to her disappointment, the markets recovered. She clucked as she watched the recovery, and continued to repeat her judgement day divination. But this crash is fulfilling her every dream. Our patronizing smiles whenever she launched into one of her horror stories have been wiped out, and replaced with an exasperated look. “ I told you so” has not been uttered, but one can see it lingering on her lips. “ The rupee will also collapse…like a sack of flour” is her next bet. I am not in a betting mood, so I gave it a pass.

Unfortunately her foretelling powers do not extend to alternate means of investment. Whenever she is asked that question, she simply shrugs and refuses to be drawn into the discussion. According to her even the FD in a safe-as-houses public sector bank is not safe enough. One would think she lost a fortune when the “Bank of Lahore” collapsed, but I know for a fact that nothing of that sort happened. I mean, the Bank may have foreclosed, but there was never any of my mum’s money in that bank. Else I would have seen some of it.

Odds and Ends

Aravind Adiga wins the Booker for The White Tiger

Delhi Chronicles

The Forgetful City

I normally do not like to write on current affairs as the events are too close for me to offer any dispassionate comments. But I realised that if I wait for too long, the city just forgets.

The bombing of Delhi market place in late September is stale news already. The newspapers and the media are now busy with the latest flavour of the month- the financial meltdown. For the city this may be good and bad.

In a time honoured tradition Delhi seems to forget its dead sooner than most other cities. Going back to Babur , when the plunder of Delhi seemed a routine affair, today’s disasters too, sink quietly into history. After a few days of hullabaloo, people are back to their mundane lives. The fear of the terrorists seems to have a longer affect on my wife though; she is still adamantly refusing to give permission to the girls to see a movie in a hall. Well, she will get over it soon enough.

Is the same true about other cities like New York or London? It seems not. London still remembers 7 September, and nobody is allowed to forget 9/11. The residents there have ceremony on the day; which is very poignant to watch, even over the telly.

There are no such ceremonies for the dead in Delhi though. Last time a bomb attack in Sarojini Nagar market took many innocent lives, and a memorial was put up in the victims’ memory. But I do not see that day being remembered by the media any longer. It is business as usual in the market.

On the other hand, this leads one to seek closure and carry on with life rapidly. The huge mass of people and the timeless memories of the city, absorb such tribulations, which barely cause a ripple. In a way this is a blessing, because living in this city can be trying. The efforts of making a living can be hard. So, sooner one accepts and gets along with it, the easier it is. In any case the walls of the Red Fort have been witness to much such carnage, and another one will not make its colour fade, even slightly.

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