“It is quite clear the government has opted to focus on the long term, instead of the short.” I decided to take the bull by the horns and fired the first shot on the par four first hole that curved left.
The ride to the course had been a study in silence, both of us perhaps lost in thought about the future of the nation, like all responsible people who have the weight of the nation’s affairs on their shoulders and not that of the state or city or locality or household.
Pat came, “You know I am concerned about manufacturing. For all that the government claims, will India be able to live up to its potential in manufacturing?” demonstrating, by starting a new line of thought, that he was in fine form as he lined up for the putt that would give him a par on the first hole.
Equally respectfully, I did not even acknowledge the concern by stating, “with frozen squids becoming cheaper, it could well be the inflection point our fishing industry has searched for in vain in a vegetarian nation,” as soon as I had teed off on the par three second, landing just beyond the green on the right.
“With X-ray machines becoming dearer, could we be deferring the cost of curing a sick nation down to future generations? After all, many people may not be able to go in for a more expensive diagnostic X-ray which could lead to incorrect diagnosis and wrong treatment. For that matter umbrellas are becoming costlier. Does it not mean more people getting wet and falling ill?” The concern was writ large on his face as he walked down the fairway on a glorious February day to hit his approach shot. We were already on the fourth. Time flies when one is having fun.
“Let us take cryptocurrencies,” I began, without any preamble to clarify why one should take them or where one should take them. “Since the government has had no role in their creation and trading and the profit and losses arising from them, it is such a great idea to tax the income from any virtual digital asset. This looks like the shortest path to Amrit Kaal,” I said, mentally patting myself for remembering to throw in the great new era recently invented by the government, over and above the sacred texts, as I teed up for a drive on the next hole, which was the stroke index one hole of the course.
It gave our deep conversation a new twist. He was well prepared as he did not react and added, just as we were sitting down for a quick snack before proceeding to the back nine, “Gatishakti can be such a gamechanger. Like so many initiatives in so many years past that could have been such gamechangers.” In fact, I realized with some shame, that his preparation extended to years past as well, as he had alluded to them with such conviction and fact.
I could only offer, “I wonder why nobody thought of Parvatmala earlier? I mean yes, plans have been made around developing ropeways in the hilly regions, but why is it that it had to be left to this government to call it Parvatmala, mountain garland if we translate it literally. One can only conclude that since they could not call it Parvatmala, the earlier governments had no intention of developing ropeways in the hilly regions.”
“With services activity slowing down, would it not be important for normalcy to return before needless consumption can improve?” It was said with a distant look in his eyes. He had, obviously, seen his ball lose momentum, veer off track and drop into the bunker while trying to climb up to the green.
“If the government is serious about balancing its books, it has to watch out for the pension figure, which is slowly creeping up and is now almost 4%,” I countered, not his point, as usual, but just countered. Anyone has a problem with that?
“What about the real estate sector I say? We are all customers of the sector with our little properties here and there. They seem to have been left in the lurch, to make do as last year. How unfair on part of the government. No needless policy change. No nothing.” He was getting excited and seemed to be warming up to the discussion. So much so that while my attention was on searching for my tee on the seventeenth, he added, “What about the common man? He does not deserve to be ignored. He is not a nobody. Why did they not change the income tax slabs and then change them back next year if no change was needed?”
I had recovered my tee, as well as my senses, but I had run out of answers. I clutched at straws which, in India, are either cricket or Bollywood. I said, “Taapsee and Tahir’s Loop Lapeta has been leaked online. It is distressing to know that some people don’t seem to have any scruples.”
It was obvious he had heard it as, like my earlier observations, he completely ignored it, and said, “Like all past years, at least 6 million jobs are being created. In 75 years, 450 million jobs must have been created as every government every year has been creating them. What is a government to do if people cannot stick to jobs? I think we should encourage population growth, else we will have to import people for these jobs.”
I heaved a sigh of relief as we both parred the par five eighteenth and packed our bags and readied to leave. It had been a competitive round and we had ended up even. I mean in the game. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. This being a two-ball affair, came to an end all too quickly.
The last two days had been tumultuous, as they are every year at this time. You may be able to run, just maybe, but you surely cannot hide. That is the territory that comes with having made it through to a much sought-after business school, even though it was around the Palaeolithic Age. The attending of the business school, not the Palaeolithic Age itself. And if you have worked for a big bank for many years after that, forget running too. People just seem to crawl out of the woodworks and keep making doggy eyes or popping the deep question “Well?” at you. Some are more brazen. They will even directly ask, “So, do you think the infrastructure investment spending of the government will have the desired results?” or “Is the time right for the introduction of a digital currency?” These are important questions that they must know the answers to, since they will all vote in the upcoming elections based on either their caste or religion.
I could see that my partner, a classmate at business school and later a colleague at the big bank, had gone through the same turmoil. His face now bore an easy smile against a grim look and tightly pursed lips at the start.
To be fair to the occasion and its organisers, the moment was not a surprise. The date is always known in advance. Every year. To be fair to me, I have my schedule mapped out for the day for many years. I always spend the day in going over the event and understanding its ramifications that I am always unable to. I was happy to know that my friend and playing partner had been doing the same.
It is an important occasion. Especially since these decisions and announcements can be made on any other day of the year as well.
We had risen to the occasion is all I can say. We had sparred with each other over four hours and successfully failed to understand and respond to not a single statement made by the other pertaining to the Indian Union Budget 2022 announced earlier in the week.
We headed back warm in the thought that the nation, as well as the two of us, were now well prepared for the challenges the world was likely to throw up, including people making doggy eyes or popping the deep question “Well?” at you. Even for the more brazen ones.