Saturday, August 28, 2010

Inflation of thought

There was a time several decades ago, when people treated money , and what you did to earn it, with respect. Things were clearly defined. Good work, was rewarded well. When a farmer faced difficult situations, and the supply situation dwindled, veggies got expensive, but consumers made intelligent choices, had empathy for the grower, and by and by, over a year , things averaged out. Today, some bureaucrat sitting in a red building gets a list of veggie prices from some underling, and comes rushing out with an "index"...

In some circles, "inflation" is a fashionable topic to discuss. They say it means that there is a huge money supply floating around, and there isnt enough supply of stuff that you can buy with it. Most folks who go into raptures over a single decimal place enhancement in growth rate, and despair over the number of digits in the inflation percentages, are not the types who agonize over the price of tomatoes showing a four fold increase in one month. Why ? Because for most folks in that category, life is subsidized. Housing, food, transport, even their job activity.

Sometimes I feel the real inflation has happened in "thought". It means that there is a huge increase in the variety of thoughts an individual or more can think, but most of these go waste because they are useless and /or misdirected.

Think food. Considerations of giving godown and storage contracts for food , result in more attention to who gets the contract, and what is someone's cut, instead of whether the structure satisfies certain basic requirements , regarding protection, leakage, and supervision by humans. Currently, there is more supervision by rodents, and the government is fighting on whether the spoilt food must be distributed free , or for a price. Absolutely NO discussion about moving out all that stuff to a safer enclosure.

Think clothing. In my childhood, when you thought "cheap, durable" you thought cotton. Today cotton is very expensive, and just to rub it in, the government recently withdrew the 20% rebate on Khadi products that used to kick in every year in October for Gandhiji's birthday. Today textiles is all about shutting down textile mills, minting fortunes selling that land , passing import rules favourable to those manufacturing polyester, and amazingly, supporting something called Fashion Design Council of India, which encourages designers to create clothes which no ordinary citizen can wear; clothes which cost the equivalent of a years groceries for most families. Backless-frontless-only-sleeves-blouse and saree outfits modelled by strutting models in 5-star situations beats the hell out of handloom and handicraft artists, trying to sell their goods at discounts in proletarian exhibitions during festivals, when the aam admi decides to buy.

Think shelter. I guess the thought inflation is the biggest here. Your several generations can go into violent debt if you dream of a decently big house in the city for a family of , say 10, that lived in a sprawling set up, back in the village. Then to make ends meet, and pay installments, both parents work. The family balance is disturbed, and many times, children walk the wrong path. The ordinary man in Mumbai can probably afford a single wall. And people with political connections keep getting permission after permission from the authorities, to construct luxurious apartments , 45 stories high, with separate elevators for residents and "staff". All, of course , for a price, which keeps on, what else, inflating.

Think communication . The days of calling out from your balcony to your friends are over. While you "call", you must also be able to take photographs, listen to songs, pass on something someone else is saying in a message in bad english. Communication is now a fashion statement. Its meaning has acquired "width". And all this at a huge cost. You pay , sometimes, more than your monthly house grocery bill, for this contraption. Angry ? Ha! You just need to widen and inflate your thinking.

Think people. People we elect to represent us. In my childhood, these were dedicated people, who lived just like us, but had a knack of putting forth our problems to the government, which, in its earlier avatar, actually did something for us.

Today, the scope of an MP has expanded beyond anything you can think. He earns by simply being who he is; he never works for it; others slog. It doesnt matter that there are schools without bathrooms in his constituency, the public hospitals need new diagnostic machines, or a larger supply of medicines. While he agitates to triple his salary by selling his vote, his gardener is refused a raise, because times are "tough"....

People you elected to the Municipal Corporation, ignored the proper physical conditions necessary for the fogging treatment in mosquito ridden areas, with the result that the mosquitos have won, while the elected chaps were striking construction permissions here, a derservation of a green garden area into a construction zone there, and getting their visages on huge billboards, that block street signals.

This uncontrolled wild "inflation of thought" is what seems to feed the economic inflation.

Somewhere at the top, there is a loss of an ability, to walk the straight road, ensuring shady trees on the side, sources of water to assuage citizen thirst, and something that needs to give confidence to the citizenry , that the road leads somewhere useful, and that the condition of the ordinary Indian will improve when he reaches the end of the road.

Long years ago, they say we made a tryst with destiny. Given how things are today, if I were Lady Destiny, I would have thought twice before agreeing.


  1. Back to the basics is what our mantra should it was in India before we became westernized.

  2. very well written. Loved every line. I disagree with Nalini Hebbar. In the west (read America)the tax payer knows where his money goes and the ordinary citizen gets to drink properly purified water, his children go to schools run by the county absolutely free of cost and family health insurance is covered by the employer. Social security is in place and transportation is orderly and we see people actually waiting for their turn in long queues. If only our people could feel free to exercise their rights none of the current politicians could get away with demanding a triple raise in their salaries.

    BTW the best cottons from India is sold in paveement stalls in NYC and the vendors are from our very own sub continent.

  3. tryst with destiny..vallah..the last two lines were super ya..changla aahe...
    best wishes:)

  4. Change has to begin from somewhere. May it begin with this post and may readers inrospect to understand more !

    The tryst with destiny can happen anytime ! Anytime really !

  5. Very hard hitting post, Suranga. Every word is so true. We've lost touch with reality and are floating along in denial.

  6. The inflation is not only in thinking, it is accompanied by increase (inflation?) in selfishness.. it is a deadly combination!

  7. Things that get you thinking. An inflation of thought indeed! Loved the way you put it...I wish the people who ought to see it, see it!

  8. Nalini,HHG,Ramesh,Kavi,Starry,Aativas,RGB Thank you .