"Some debts are fun when you are acquiring them, but none are fun when you set about retiring them."
The adage partly holds true in context of Punjab, where the present focus seems to be on acquiring and the question of retiring may arise only after some time. The persistent reporting by a section of the media on the subject, followed by a quick retort by the deputy chief minister denying the vicious debt trap, only leaves the common man neck deep in ambiguity. The only tribe that may not have an iota of doubt about the state's debt must be the creditor's tribe.
Individual debt and state debt are alike. In both cases, the family silver is mortgaged to meet the daily expenses. Both blame their former profligate ways. Both cannot walk with their heads held high. Both preach and to an extent practise fiscal prudence.
A peep into history reminds us of the forever debt-ridden poet Mirza Ghalib. His profligate ways of spending on his chosen liquor and his fondness for gambling added to his problems. His wife once asked him why he availed so much credit. At his witty best, the poet replied if he would not avail credit, how the creditors would make ends meet. That makes us wonder whether the government of the day is serving the creditors by availing it. But the poet was well aware of the consequences. That makes us wonder if the government is also aware of the repercussions of its profligate ways.
The employees at large, who suffer from salary delays and may end up piling up debt to meet ends, may lack a poet's eloquence to plead their woes before the government. But Ghalib's composition Guzarish-e-Musannif (Petition to the King), with all its poetic wit, echoes their sentiments: "Aapka banda aur phiroon nanga, aapka naukar aur khaoon udhaar; meri tankhwah kijiye mah ba mah, tan na ho zindagi dushwaar (Your subject clad in nakedness, your servant and to live in debt, my pittance month by month release, so that I may live with ease)."
Contemporary times are laced with consumerism. It seems we are not just meeting our necessities but are creating them. A luxury today becomes a necessity tomorrow. And we are propelled to go beyond our means. In such a scenario, who, but the creditors have the last laugh.
But it is only the tangible debts measured in monetary terms that can be repaid. How does one repay the benevolent acts of somebody who stood by you in adversity? Only if one can extend such benevolent acts to others!