Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Column in the New Indian Express - July 4, 2010

This article appeared in my column "Un Intended" in the New Indian Express on July 4, 2010.

I was protesting the fuel price hike by squatting on the highway when I met this evolved friend of mine. ‘Why are you protesting?’ he asked, concerned.
‘Because, the government is messing up our good life,’ I replied angrily, throwing stones at buses to reduce prices.
‘A good life?’ he smiled. ‘Happy relationships, good health, prudent financial planning, a thriving career and a spiritual bent of mind, right? This fuel price hike will give you everything.’ ‘What?’ I spluttered, stopping mid-throw. He drew me aside. ‘Come, stop burning effigies with expensive fuel,’ he said. ‘Here’s how.’ I listened intently.
‘Firstly, you’ll lose weight. This is because you will forget about driving vehicles when you see the new prices. Instead you’ll walk, cycle, even run mindlessly, like Forrest Gump. Food craving? Forget it. Since you may not be able to afford even basic food, you must satisfy yourself by looking at it. Lots of exercise, good food habits and restraint, the mantra for weight loss and good health.’ I blinked.
‘Secondly,’ he said, ‘financial planning. Since the price hike impacts everything, from vegetables to condoms, you will be always calculating, trying to match fixed income to fluctuating costs and your rising desires. To choose between food, education or a vacation – you need razor sharp financial planning. Most choose food. Some, education. The race for survival my friend.’ I started sweating.
‘And professionally you will rise. Primarily due to company transport - an attractive option to you and other financially strapped employees. This togetherness will foster great team spirit. You will talk, live and breathe work-related stuff always, to erase memories of other rapidly disintegrating areas of your life. With improved work orientation, you start performing better at the job. You will do well.’ I gulped.
‘Happy relationships have a strong connection to fuel prices. With no money to spend, thanks to the hike, you head home directly. You will have no option but to spend time with your family. You will be surprised to know that your children have grown so big; some are elated to know that they have children. But the more you see of your family, the more the chances of your liking it. A bit like in jail where inmates like each other because of the time spent with one another. A few serials with the spouse, dinners with family, a couple of fights and soon things turn out well. Family connections are more important than LPG connections my friend,’ he smiled. I grimaced.
‘And now, spirituality,’ he said. ‘With free market pricing, fuel prices may fluctuate between Rs. 51 to Rs. 5 million per litre for all we know. Other prices will follow suit. With this maddening chaos you will soon start to smile at no one in particular, nod incessantly and throw up your hands every now and then. Clear signs of spiritual growth! And you realize that everything goes up, one day or another‘. I realized that I had chewed up the effigy. ‘Yes, yes ,’ I nodded.
‘Now do you understand the great paradox! The much maligned fuel price hike is actually what we need for eternal happiness and contentment. And err, big families.’ ‘Big families?’ I asked, surprised. ‘Where did they come from?’ For the first time my friend appeared doubtful. ‘We cannot avoid the last possibility. You see with couples spending so much more time together and all that. It’s not just the prices that rise my friend, the intimacy index of the nation will rise as well.’

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