Sorry if I sound selfish, but I must say I’m pretty relieved that the Sensex has fallen below 10,000 points for the first time in years.
Relieved not because I’m a bear in a bearish market (though I haven’t waxed my legs for quite a while, I can assure you that I’m not as hairy as a bear.) Relieved because after years of feeling like an outcast of society, I’m not the only person in my upper middle class urban demographic to feel poor. Now everyone feels poor.
As a determined non-investor in the stock market, you don’t know how traumatic it was when the economy was booming, to be the only person in my demographic without Rs 100,000 to spend on a mobile phone number commemorating the date of my birth. And I didn’t even have Rs 30,000 in loose change to buy a pair of designer flip-flops (otherwise known as rubber chappals) to wear when I bathed from my plastic bucket. Oh, the shame of it.
Now that the economy has stopped booming however, things might look up. No longer will I have to come up with creative excuses for the lack of pointlessly posh products in my (or rather, my home loan provider’s) 1-BHK suburban flat, such as “I would have bought that diamond-encrusted, gold-plated Giant Madagascan Hissing Cockroach pendant, but I’d left my wallet at home” or “I’m certainly not going to buy this mass-produced $1,192,057 Bugatti Veyron car. I’m waiting for the artisanal version.”
Now I can cheerfully take part in conversations about the shocking price of the £100 von Essen Platinum Club Sandwich (not a crumb of platinum in it, the cheaters) and the scandalous lack of 50 paise coins behind the sofa cushions in Lakshmi Mittal’s homes. Finally, I belong. But much as I appreciate being back in the mainstream, this gain does come at the cost of a loss. While I was ashamed that I couldn’t contribute to conversations about pointlessly posh purchases, I did have a lot of fun, as a child of pre-global economy India, in telling the little children, barely weaned, who comprise most of my colleagues, about the bad old days. The days when, for instance, we had to queue for three years to buy either of the only two cars available in India – and couldn’t even choose the colour.
Now that the economy seems to be heading back to the bad old days, I’ll no longer be special. But I may as well accept it and get back to my book of the moment: Finding Forgotten Cities by historian Nayanjyot Lahiri, about the discovery of the Indus Valley civilisation.
I find the Indus Valley civilisation that flourished between 2600 and 1900 BCE fascinating, given that it was clearly a highly evolved urban system featuring great roads and super sewerage, things we don’t have even today. But it vanished... and no one yet knows why.
Just as our booming economy has vanished... and no one yet knows why.