‘Your Modi too failed man!’ Rakesh shoot on me while entering the room.
I lifted my face from the newspaper on his sudden remark and stared at him while he was lodging himself in the sofa. He has a habit of saying everything adding a prefix ‘Your’
‘See, the dal rate is touching 200 marks!’ without bothering my stare he continued, ‘When the hell this Achche din is coming?’
I was in Big Brother’s Bhubaneswar residence for a courtesy meet. Big Brother comes to Bhubaneswar office once in a month and it was a ritual to meet him if I am around. On the other hand Rakesh is a permanent client to Big Brother. In every visit Rakesh ensures to buy a stone or Tabiz or something else to make his fortune remains well. He is a serious believer of astrology and for him Big Brother is a God of astrologers.
Big brother is seventy plus yet a very healthy man. He is a renowned astrologer, great philosopher and an incredibly humorous. I am a declared atheist who doesn’t believe in astrology, God or anything that has no scientific proof. However I have a special bonding with the Big Brother because of his simple logic, great philosophies. He too likes me as I question a lot but by character a no-nonsense person.
Rakesh is a very close friend of mine although we differ in opinion in many subjects. But friends are always friends and hence despite different views our friendship never affected.
‘How do Modi belong to me?’ I asked irritatingly.
He frowned. But stubbornly he asked ‘aren’t you citizen of India?’
‘So are you?’ I answered in the same tone,’ Then why not Modi too “Yours”?’
‘Point is not Modi’ He said in same obstinate tone, ‘point is dal price and promise of Achche din’.
‘I didn’t commit these. Better ask Modi yourself’ I grunted and again focused on newspaper.
He appeared to be hurt for some moment as he wasn’t expecting such answer from me. Generally I used to indulge in debate with him on host of issues although we never reach on any conclusion.
‘But you should have some answer on this rising price of dal’ He insisted, ‘It’s almost pinching our wallets man!’
‘Better stop eating dal!’ I said without turning away from the news paper, ‘There are many people who never eat dal yet they are surviving.’
‘What a great solution my friend suggested!’ He said mockingly, ‘Simple solutions, if dal price is high, don’t eat dal. Similarly if Onion price or potato price rises, don’t eat those as well. If all food prices rise then don’t eat at all. Consume air and recite ‘achche din’! What a great philosophical solution from my great friend!
He then clapped but had to stop because Big Brother entered in to the room. We both stood up and paid respect saying Namaste.
‘Long live brothers!’ He acknowledged
‘What for clapping was there?’ He asked. He heard Rakesh’s frustrated clapping not really realizing where he was then.
Rakesh froze instantly. Unable to answer anything he looked at me for any clue how to respond. I carelessly avoided his gape.
Big Brother looked for some moments to dumb face of Rakesh to read his mind. Then he looked at me and asked, ‘What’s the matter?’
‘Rakesh is worried about rising price of dal’ I answered looking worried face of Rakesh.
‘That’s the problem?’ He asked bit amusingly and then said looking towards Rakesh, ‘Better stop eating dal, Rakesh!’
This time I was surprised. Such advice of mine to Rakesh was out of frustration of his irksome question. But Big Brother too is prescribing this!
On what logic?
‘Is this a solution to rising price?’ I practically questioned. Somehow I realized that I am repeating Rakesh’s question.
‘Definitely this is the only solution’ Big brother answered while sitting on his chair. I was wondering on his smile whether he is seriously answering a valid question or simply joking. Perhaps he had heard my answer to Rakesh.
‘If you are joking Big B then I must say I am not amused’ I was very straight. I have such privilege being direct to Big Brother.
He looked at me in an expression as if saying ‘why do you always disbelieve me?’
I didn’t say anything. But my facial expression said him that I was very serious.
‘OK! I heard your discussion just before entering the room.’ He finally said, ‘But I really appreciate your point on not eating dal if prices are rising.’
I still didn’t answer. But I sat down in the sofa considering that matter ends there. Rakesh was still standing. First he had guilty feeling for clapping in Big Brother’s room and then stunned to hear Big Brother’s prescription matching to my answer.
‘Sit down man!’ Big Brother asked Rakesh, ‘Now is not so ‘bure din’ (bad days) that you have to stand for eternity!’
Rakesh sat as if a robot.
Big Brother practically laughed seeing Rakesh’s precarious condition. But I knew that it’s not Rakesh’s mistake. In fact Big Brother’s personality is such; everyone can’t feel easy in front of me. Perhaps I am an exception.
‘Yes I am serious’ Big Brother started in his style, ‘Your method of quit eating of the food commodities whose price is rising is the best solution.’
‘But should we quit eating at all if the entire food items price became high?’ I couldn’t help myself asking the same question Rakesh asked me.
Big Brother looked at me expressing helplessness in his face. Clearly he was not expecting the questions asked by Rakesh from me. But I started feeling that Rakesh’s counter questions have some logic.
‘No logic in your question man!’ Big Brother finally said, ‘If price of all food items is increased, then where is the question of pinching price rise?’
‘I didn’t get you?’ I said honestly.
He remained silent for some moment intently looking at me. May be he was thinking how I couldn’t understand simple commonsense.
But the fact was really I couldn’t get him at all. May be for him its simple commonsense but I need a detailed explanation.
‘Price rise is a relative matter’ Big Brother started his lecture, ‘If rate of every item is increased, then you can’t say there is a price rise. For example when I was young we use to buy a quintal of rice at 25 paise. Now one kilo rice costs minimum Rs 25. Should I tell rice cost is pinching my wallet?’
‘But that time value of rupees was different than now’ I interjected, ‘The devolution of rupee now a day’s such that today’s twenty-five rupees is equal to then twenty-five paise!’
‘Exactly!’ Big brother continued, ‘If rates of every commodity are increased there would be further devolution of rupee. Hence this couldn’t be considered as price rise. With devolution of rupee your income too is increasing, thus it’s balancing each other.’
He looked on us to gauge how we took his lecture. It’s his style that he uses to check whether we are grasping his points or not. He use to conduct ‘Prabachan’ in many places and perhaps for this reason he developed that habit.
I maintained a blank face where as Rakesh appeared to be both ears to Big Brother’s each and every word.
‘When rate of some commodity rises abnormally, we say its steep price rise.’ He continued, ‘We are habituated with such price rises. Sometimes Onions, sometimes Potatoes and now is dal. But the most ridiculous thing is that governments in many a time lost mandate to such rise of price for apparently no fault of them?’
‘What? Governments have no role in price rise?’ Rakesh asked bit loudly not able to digest the last line of Big Brother. I too wanted to ask the same question but Rakesh hit it early.
Big brother too seemed bit surprised on Rakesh’s reaction. He looked at him curiously perhaps wondering how Rakesh reacted sharply awaking from his dumbness.
‘What do you think governments do?’ He then asked, ‘Do they govern the nation or manage departmental stores?’
Rakesh remain confused whether to answer or not.
But I countered, ‘Does governance not mean to control inflation?’
Big B looked me expressing dissatisfaction as if I said something irrelevant. Practically he said, ‘How does inflation relevant in steep rise in dal price?’
I immediately realized that in spite of rising dal price the inflation at that moment was at a five year low.
‘Agreed,’ I had to concede, ‘but government has to prevent illegal hoarding and black marketing.’ I rephrased my counter.
‘Well, that’s definitely a job of state governments as law and order falls under their scope’ Big be answered quietly, ‘but we need to understand why at all such hoarding and black marketing taking place.’
He looked on both of us one by one seeking a response. Both remain silent in fact not finding a proper answer to his question although the possible answer striking to mind is that hoarders do it for profiteering.
‘OK, tell me when price became high and low?’ He perhaps rephrased his question,’ When something becomes very costly or very cheap?’
‘Simple, it’s a demand versus supply equation’ I was quick to answer, ‘When supply is less than demand, the rate goes sky high and when supply is more than demand, rate dips rock bottom.’
I stopped for a moment and then said, ‘perhaps the hoarders do hoarding to restrict the supply there by rising the demand thus infusing a price hike!’
Big brother looked me smiling expressing satisfaction. His facial expression indicated that I got his point. Then he said, ‘The hoarders make this supply restriction to create an artificial shortage of particular commodity making the consumer panic and then they charge whatever price they want!’
I knew this, thus this explanation didn’t impress me. My concern was how the government should act so that this artificial price rise can be checked.
Big B perhaps read my mind. Hence he continued, ‘Government might have something to do, but the real key is always with us.’
‘How’ Rakes asked this time.
‘Simple, reduce the demand!’ answered Big B
‘Reducing the demand?’ I spontaneously asked, ‘Do you mean we shouldn’t eat or use a particular commodity to reduce the demand?’
‘Exactly!’ Big brother exclaimed, ‘That’s why I appreciated your solution of not eating Dal.’
‘If we quit eating dal, what would we be eating instead?’ Rakesh asked wondering on Big Brother’s logic.
‘You have got lot of option!’ Big Brother explained calmly,’ Eat Charu, Rasham or make curry full of gravy so that it can work like dal!’
‘But how can these replace dal?’ Again Rakesh asked.
‘It may not replace dal, but definitely you will not die without dal!’ Big Brother was confident on his point.
I started realizing Big Brother’s point. It’s true that if people quit dal for sometime because of price rise, then the hoarder will face loss and had to release the stock in to the market which will reduce the price of dal. In fact this logic can be applicable to all commodities whose rate reach sky high due to shortage in the market.
‘But will people get united on quitting such commodities for example dal in this case?’ Rakesh asked. Perhaps he too realized Big Brother’s point.
Big brother started laughing loudly. Rakesh blushed instantly not understanding why Big Brother laughs. I was confused too.
‘You were complaining that steep price rise pinches your wallet’ Big Brother said laughingly, ‘and now you seek people need to be united for your benefit?’
Rakesh didn’t say anything. But I couldn’t stop asking him as his words were going over my head.
‘Will you explain in English please which we can understand?’ I was direct.
Big Brother put a sudden brake on his laugh and looked at me with utter disbelief. Through his facial expression he might wanted to ask, ‘still you didn’t get my point?’
But I was stubborn this time. I returned a facial expression that ‘No I didn’t get you’.
He shook his head helplessly kept quiet for some moment. Then he asked, ‘Do you know why onion price never affected me?’
‘Why?’ I spontaneously asked
‘Because, I don’t eat onion’ He answered as if he revealed a great secrete, ‘those who are vegetarian, they never bother about price hikes of non-vegetarian commodities. If Dal is pinching you find a cheaper alternative. Similarly anything that you think abnormally high, quit it temporarily. Such quitting will bring solace to your mind that your wallet is not pinched.’
‘Provided, an alternative is available’ I asked like a devil’s advocate.
‘Alternatives are always available’ He was calm in his response, ‘You need to be bit logical and vigilant’.
‘But Rakesh’s question was a valid one!’ I was no mood to relent, ‘We may quit dal for some time and adjust with alternatives, but will that stop black marketer’s illegal hoarding, unless people are united?’
Big Brother didn’t mind my question. He explained calmly, ‘if people remain united for all causes, such things would never occur. But man is anarchic in nature and can never remain united. That’s the reason where black marketers succeed in reaping benefits from illegal methods. But why you need be worried? If you are feeling pinch in your wallet, you take proper action. If someone wanted to know your trick, you explain him. It’s up to him whether he opts to quit a high priced commodity or to fall in to trap of black marketer’s trap and scolding the government of the day. As long as your case, you remain immune to price hike of a commodity. Consider it as a consumer activism at individual level’
That in fact made me convinced fully. It’s really foolish to blame government for everything as there are many things we can control. If something started pinching us, it’s we to take a call. Certainly nothing in this world except life saving drugs which can be temporarily quitted. I recall a friend’s logic of not seeing any picture purchasing a ticket in black. He always prevents his urge to see the picture till tickets are available fairly. His point too is logical that he might see the picture bit late but neither the length of picture reduced nor the enjoyment quotient.
I nodded my head in appreciation of Big Brother’s logic. I looked upon Rakesh whether he was convinced or not. But his body language told me that he too fully understood the point although he wanted to ask a question.
‘You want to ask any question?’ I asked Rakesh.
‘Yes, if Big Brother don’t mind.’ Rakesh said hesitantly.
Big brother looked at him in snooping style for some moment then said, ‘Go on, and ask your question?’
Rakesh paused for a moment and then asked, ‘Where can I learn cooking Rasham?’
Both I and Big Brother looked him surprisingly then we exploded with loud laughs not caring the sentiments of poor Rakesh.