Monday, 31 August 2009

What I spend money on

A lot is being spoken about inflation and GDP these days and I recently chanced upon an article on how obsolete the WPI (Wholesale Price Index) calculation in our country turns out to be. (For people to whom this acronym makes little sense, The Wholesale Price Index or WPI is the price of a representative basket of wholesale goods. Some countries use the changes in this index to measure inflation in their economies, in particular India). That kick-started a new train of thought about how one spends his/her money these days.

Coming back to the WPI argument that I intended to make, the calculation still considers what Indians used to buy in the 80's. A bucket that includes a whole lot of age old consumer goods like GoldSpot, Cibaca, Palmolive, Vanaspati and hair oils that are not to be seen in the market these days. Now,coming down to what I (a middle class Indian consumer "today") spend my money on. It ranges from a relatively high amount towards the realty sector in the form of house rent to a moderately high amount towards books which are prone to smell the aroma of fresh paper in the shelves after years and years to come.

The month usually starts on a bright note marked by the routine SMS that the banker sends to indicate a salary deposit into the account. I mean, the first week of the month makes you feel happy as the double digit figure, that appears on the account balance field each time one goes to the ATM to draw money, attracts attention. The second week starts on a slightly doomed note with a proportion of the money that made you rich for a week debited automatically towards a couple of EMI payments. As a result, the breakfast menu in the second week shows up "3 idlis and chutney" for Rs.10 in place of the the Kellogg's cornflakes (rich in cereals) that showed up last week. The last week of the month does not have the item called breakfast in the day's itinerary at all whatsoever. What now? Food drew up a few thousands in the first three weeks.

Weekends usually contribute a lot to the big hole in your purse as a rule and i don't stand to defy anyhow. A Sunday morning reading ritual at Coffee day/Barista over a costly cup of coffee is a routine list item till the third Sunday of the month.Tamil is an extraordinarily beautiful language and it has an amazing term to describe this aforementioned behavior on Sunday mornings -"S****u Kozhupu". Weekend instincts ask for the "periodic inebriation" (If i am allowed to coin a phrase for convenience purposes) once again and it takes up a few hundreds out of your pocket. Now, to peep into the accounts file, one gets to see an amount of the order of 1763.85 or something of the like at the end of week 3. Ten breakfasts, luncheons and suppers to be taken care of till you get richer once again by virtue of another deposit.

Landmark visits, Night time cool drinks, McDonald's home delivery, Domino's Pizza, Bike petrol, Adidas/Reebok 40% sale, Big bazaar super dooper dhamaka offers, Kwality Walls Ice creams and super market pastries/chat items are other contributors which effectively contrive to throw you into a state of poverty close to month end.

It is Week No.4 on the calendar and one goes broke!!!

With my cell phone in hand (which needs a top-up asap) and eagerly looking forward to getting that SMS which comes on the last day of each month, I sign off wishing the working class readers of this post a rich month ahead.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The August of Swine, Wine and Football

The idea of writing monthly round ups came from one of my "Hall of Fame" list members. One delves into all kinds of funny projects like writing about the happenings over the past month and the like at times and this habit in my opinion is not totally insane. Mostly useless stuff though. The thing is like the poor cat in the old adage where he sees a group of fellow felines jump into the nearby stream owing to the hotness of the mid-day sun and jumps in as well since there is not any other interesting piece of employment he can think of for himself at that moment. You know what I mean. As in, I am more or less trying to be part of this rat race by gibbering about a few things that happened around me over the past month.

The month of August started with the agonizingly high number of flu cases in the country whose root causes are attributed to kissing pigs and licking sows. This interesting habit of kissing pigs and licking sows was observed to have been cultivated in the far west sometime back. I mean, I am not criticizing the westerners who did these things nor am i blaming them. It is just an observation mostly contrived from scientific deductions. [Citation here:].

Moving on to other highlights of the August of interest now, the month marked a good intake of the parent compound of
ethyl esters - in the form of a bachelor party organized by a close pal who apparently threw the bash in view of his wife being out of town for quite a while. That session was a special one for, like in other bachelor parties, the topics tended to be of the interesting nature. Girls, School crushes, Love and Sex to name a few. The amount of chemical being spoken about here went to a new high in the history of consumption thus making this session a "hit of the month".

The footballing season kicked off in this period under investigation and the first half of the month was more of looking forward to the start of the new
EPL season. The transfer market took a bullish trend after cash rich galacticos and the sheiks at east lands got the prices soaring with their set of insanely high transfer bids. Nonetheless, it was interesting to find out about the new outlook of the English teams who took to field on the 15th August.

That is that for august and that was mostly all i wanted to fart about in this post. I promise to come back with even more boring stuff as the year progresses into the risky days of September October and further ahead.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Chasing the Capitalist

"I do not know of any book that describes the impact of India's economic policies on her growth as analytically, logically and vividly as this one" - N.R.Narayana Murthy on "India Unbound" by Gurcharan Das.

The socioeconomic transformation of our nation has been well documented in this novel by the much acclaimed writer and public intellectual. If one is looking for a perfect introduction to contemporary India, it is here. Something tremendous has been happening in our country right since the dawn of 15th August 1947. India had to go through various phases in this epoch that started after the spring of hope in 1947. There was the lost generation in the era of 60s and 70s which went through Caste based demarcations, licensing blues and a surge in inequality. And then came the rebirth of dreams in the form of the "Golden Summer of 1991" and then we had a new country. We are what we are today, solely because of all the things that happened in the summer of 1991. Financial reforms came out in unbelievable speed and efficiency and the country was starting to enter the limelight.

In 1947 we were a free lot and there was a lot of enthusiasm and energy in the air. Nehru stood at the fore and showed signs of able leadership. Everything in the country started to happen in an organized fashion. Bureaucracy was the order of the day. The License Raj was at the helm. Entrepreneurs were a titular lot. This was the era of socialism. And soon, economists started realizing the negative implications of Nehru's ideologies. Things became worse when Indira Gandhi decided to build upon what her father had laid. The war in 1971 and the emergency that followed didn't help things anyway.

Our nation, which once was prey to dogmatic colonists in search of riches and treasures was becoming a poor nation after all. Harvard graduates were coming of age and the Indian top brass needed a good overhaul, when Prime Minister P.V.Narasimha Rao gave powers to two such graduates Dr. Manmohan Singh and P.Chidambaram. And then, the rest is history. The economy began to grow leaps and bounds year after year after 1991. This was when the country went through a phase called liberalization. I would prefer to call this phase-"the quest of Capitalism". The west had proved a point which their capitalist methodologies and The tigers of Asia viz. Hongkong, Singapore, Japan et al. had followed suit by now.

The country allowed investment and gave powers to budding entrepreneurs. The bourgeoisie became a buzzword and reforms were underway to get its size soaring year on year. This growth was fueled by a variety of foreign investments mainly due to the abundance of highly skilled software professionals in the country and the open society that was on offer due to liberal tax regimes.

The book touches each of these eras and paints a clear picture of the Indian economy's trajectory over the past 60 years. Our economy has been one that should be placed right at the center of an imaginary line drawn between socialism and capitalism. The learned top brass that we have as our representatives today have carefully sketched the coordinates of the point on that imaginary line. Arguably, that has been the main reason for India's nonchalance and tactical brilliance in having avoided the traumatic consequences of the recent global slowdown.

Verdict: This book offers layman friendly discussions of economic theories of poverty and serves as a key guide to the country's recent past.