Our TV sets give us so many money channels that our fingers tire clicking. And that’s only in English and Hindi. I haven’t included Gujarati, the mother tongue of commerce and trade whose high priests bear names like Parekh, Dalal and Mehta. (What’s it about these wonderful Jains that make them so acutely attuned to the tinkle of tender?)
Anyway, the BSE’s gleaming towers have become a major tourist attraction, rivalling the bullet holes of Leopold Café. Crowds outside the Exchange stare pop-eyed at the giant video screen beaming get-rich-quick day-dreams. These are the little folk who once stored their life savings under a mattress.
Then came the Reliance phenomenon, which turned paper into gold foil. And suddenly everyone became a financial wizard, including your barber advising you on how to make a fast buckeroo.
That was until black September 08 hit us, followed by an anno horriblus.
Most people’s money simply left without saying goodbye. Young couples could no longer keep up the EMIs on their flats, nor sell out — Catch 44. Retired office–goers found, to their dismay, that their invested savings couldn’t save them from penury. Everything was back to square minus-one.
In recent months however clouds appear to be clearing. A new frenzy is waiting to seize. Chai-shop chatter will again swirl around hedge funds, commodity horizons, short-selling and futures. “Time to get rich, fatafat.” There’s something wrong somewhere.
In a dream few nights ago, the goddess of wealth appeared in a stream of golden light. “Mata-ji, is it really you?” “Yup,” said the vision. (Actually, she said something ethereally profound, but it escapes me right now.) “Is something troubling you, my son?” “Yes, beneficent one. I’m troubled that the Stock Exchange has not been forcibly shut down.” “Why?” “That place is nothing but a casino operating without a gambling licence.
We uloos invest the money earned from the sweat of our backs, with absolutely no guarantee that we’ll ever see it again. We might just as well risk it on 4 legs in the third race.
Dalal Street should be shifted to the Mahalaxmi. You are the goddess of wealth; please advise me what to do.” She smiled, “The ‘wealth’ I bring into people’s lives includes health, love and peace of mind.”
With that she disappeared in a golden haze. “Wait, wait,” I implored. “Would you recommend my entering the market now that the Sensex has crossed 17,000?” “What? In the middle of the night?” snapped my wife.
P.S. Have you heard this one about a man standing outside the Exchange looking very sad. The person next to him asks, “Why are you so downcast?”
He replies, “The share market has made me a millionaire.” “But you should be very happy to be made a millionaire.” “You see, before I went in, I was a billionaire.
Sylvester da Cunha is one of India’s pioneering admen whose agency creates the widely-loved Amul ads.