Of a Mauser, Netaji and Baja Bhaiya

mauserVivek Kaul

So Baja Bhaiya was at it again.
“I told you not to do this again,” Netaji shouted at him.
“But Netaji I had just got this new Chinese Mauser smuggled from Nepal,” replied Baja Bhaiya.
“So?” Netaji shot back.
“I had to try it on someone,” replied Baja Bhaiya. “To see if it worked properly. There is a lot of demand in the state.”
“Excellent explanation,” said a rather irritated, Netaji.
“But why did you have to shoot at such a senior police officer?” asked Netaji. “You could have tried your aim at so many Behanji statues the state has.”
“I needed a moving target 
na. Plus statues of Behanji are so big that anyone can hit them. There would have been no big deal doing that.”
“Oh. You needed a moving target,” Netaji remarked sarcastically. “I see.”
“Actually to tell you the truth my target was the constable standing next to the senior police officer, but he moved.”
“So that’s what you really mean by a moving target.”
“Yes Netaji. And the bullet instead of hitting the constable hit the senior police officer,” explained Baja Bhaiya.
“Whatever. Now everybody including Behanji is after me. What do I about that?” asked Netaji.
“Nothing Netaji,” said Baja Bhaiya.
“No what I meant was that you will have to ask me to resign.”
“I will resign,” replied Baja Bhaiya, matter of factly.
“But why can’t you do that on your own?” asked Netaji.
“Netaji, you seem to be losing your touch, since the time you made Chote Netaji, the chief minister.”
“It’s simple. You ask me to resign. And I will resign. This will create an impression among the public that you have done something about the issue.”
“Oh yes! Oh yes,” said an excited Netaji. “Guess I have been in the background for too long. I am losing out on the tricks of the trade.” 

“And once I have resigned. I will ask for a CBI investigation into the matter.”
“CBI enquiry?” asked Netaji, going back to his perplexed look.
Arre sir. The best way to delay any investigation in this country is to hand it over to the CBI.”
Ah. Ye hui na band baaje waali baat.
“By the time CBI finishes its enquiry the 2014 Lok Sabha elections would be upon us.”
“And if all goes well you will be king maker by then. If Madam of the Con-Regress party wants to install her son Raul at the top, how will she do that without your support?”
“Of course. Of course. Even if we get 30-35 seats she will need us.”
“And anyway she is very worried these days my sources in Delhi tell me.”
“Why?” asked Netaji. “Doesn’t look like Behanji will pull the plug on her.”
Na na. Arre Raul is in his forties now and refuses to get married,” replied Baja Bhaiya.
“How will the show go on Netaji. Like you have given into the demands of your son, she also wants to give in to the demand of her son. But what about the grandson?”
“My grandson?” asked Netaji. “
Abhi uski umar hi kya hai. He will takeover when he is ready for it.”
“Exactly. So Madam also needs a grandson 
na, to takeover when he is ready for it.”
“And for that to happen Raul has to get married.”
“Yes,” replied Netaji. “But what about Priya and Bob, they also have two sons 
“Oh, yeah. I hadn’t thought about them.”
“So they can also takeover.” “Yes, yes, they surely can,” replied Baja Bhaiya.
“Good I have no such worries. Two sons and both of them married. My show will definitely go on!”
Koi shak,” said Raja Bhaiya.
“So I guess this issue is solved then,” said Netaji.
“Yes, Netaji.”
“So where is that Chinese Mauser of yours?”
“Mauser? What will you do with that Netaji?”
“Don’t worry. No moving targets for me.”
“I’ll just do some target practice on the big Behanji statue that I can see outside the window,” replied Netaji, with a wicked smile on his face.

(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets at @kaul_vivek)

Why the dollar continues to look as good as gold

3D chrome Dollar symbol
Vivek Kaul 
Over the last few years a mini industry predicting the demise of the dollar has evolved. This writer has often been a part of it. But nothing of that sort has happened.
There are fundamental reasons that have led this writer and other writers to believe that dollar is likely to get into trouble sooner rather than later. The main reason is the rapid rate at which the Federal Reserve of United States has printed dollars over the last few years. This rapid money printing is expected to create high inflation sometime in the future.
But whenever markets have sensed any kind of trouble in the last few years money has rapidly moved into the dollar. In fact, even when the rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded America’s AAA status, money moved into the dollar. It couldn’t have been more ironical.
What is interesting nonetheless that the doubts on the continued existence of the dollar are getting graver by the day. Gillian Tett, the markets and finance commentator of 
The Financial Times has a very interesting example on this in her latest column Is Dollar As Good as Gold published on March 1, 2013.
As Tett writes “Should we all worry about the outlook for the mighty American dollar? That is a question that many economists and market traders have pondered as economic pressures have grown. But in recent weeks Virginia’s politicians have been discussing it with renewed zeal. Last month Bob Marshall, a local Republican, submitted a bill to the local assembly calling on the state to study whether it should create its own “metallic-based” currency.”
The reason for this as the bill pointed out was that “Unprecedented monetary policy actions taken by the Federal Reserve … have raised concern over the risk of dollar debasement.”
In fact Virginia is not the only state in the United States that has been talking about a currency backed by a precious metal(read gold). As Tett puts it “So guffaw at the Virginia bill if you like. And if you want an additional chuckle, you might also note that a dozen other state assemblies, in places such as North and South Carolina, have discussed similar ideas; indeed, Utah has a gold and silver depository which is trying to back debit cards with gold.”
The point is that the debate on the demise of the dollar if it continues to be printed at such a rapid rate, is now moving into the mainstream.
So what will be the fate of the US dollar? Will it continue to be at the heart of the global financial system? These are questions which are not easy to answer at all. There are too many interplaying factors involved.
While there are fundamental reasons behind the doubts people have over the future of the dollar. There are equally fundamental reasons behind why the dollar is likely to continue to survive. But one good place to start looking for a change is the composition of the total foreign exchange reserves held by countries all over the world. The International Monetary Fund puts out this data. The problem here is that a lot of countries declare only their total foreign exchange reserves without going into the composition of those reserves. Hence the fund divides the foreign exchange data into allocated reserves and total reserves. Allocated reserves are reserves for countries which give the composition of their foreign exchange reserves and tell us exactly the various currencies they hold as a part of their foreign exchange reserves.
Dollars formed 71% of the total allocable foreign exchange reserves in 1999, when the euro had just started functioning as a currency. Since then the proportion of foreign exchange reserves that countries hold in dollars has continued to fall. In fact in the third quarter of 2008 (around the time Lehman Brothers went bust) dollars formed around 64.5% of total allocable foreign exchange reserves. This kept falling and by the first quarter of 2010 it was at 61.8%. It has started rising since then and as per the last available data as of the third quarter of 2012, dollars as a proportion of total allocable foreign exchange reserves are at 62.1%. The fall of the dollar has all along been matched by the rise of the euro. But with Europe being in the doldrums lately it is unlikely that countries will increase their allocation to the euro in the days to come. Between first quarter of 2010 and the third quarter of 2012, the holdings of euro have fallen from 27.3% to 24.14%.
So the proportion of dollar in the total allocable foreign exchange reserves has fallen from 71% to 62.1% between 1999 and 2012. But then dollar as a percentage of total allocable foreign exchange reserves in 2012 was higher than it was in 1995, when the proportion was 59%.
So when it comes to international reserves, the American dollar still remains the currency of choice, despite the continued doubts raised about it. One reason for it is the fact that there has been no real alternative for the dollar. Euro was seen as an alternative but with large parts of Europe being in bigger trouble than America, that is no longer the case. Japan has been in a recession for more than two decades not making exactly yen the best currency to hold reserves in.
The British Pound has been in doldrums since the end of the Second World War. And the Chinese renminbi still remains a closed currency given that its value is not allowed to freely fluctuate against the dollar.
So that leaves really no alternative for countries to hold their reserves in other than the American dollar. But that is not just the only reason for countries to hold onto their reserves in dollars. The other major reason why countries cannot do away with the dollar given that a large proportion of international transactions still happen in dollar terms. And this includes oil.
The fact that oil is still bought and sold in American dollars is a major reason why American dollar remains where it is, despite all attempts being made by the American government and the Federal Reserve of United States, the American central bank, to destroy it. And for this the United States of America needs to be thankful to Franklin D Roosevelt, who was the President from 1933 till his death in 1945 (in those days an individual could be the President of United States for more than two terms).
At the end of the Second World War Roosevelt realised that a regular supply of oil was very important for the well being of America and the evolving American way of life. He travelled quietly to USS 
Quincy, a ship anchored in the Red Sea. Here he was met by King Ibn Sa’ud of Saudi Arabia, a country, which was by then home to the biggest oil reserves in the world.
The United States’ obsession with the automobile had led to a swift decline in domestic reserves, even though America was the biggest producer of oil in the world at that point of time. The country needed to secure another source of assured supply of oil. So in return for access to oil reserves of Saudi Arabia, King Ibn Sa’ud was promised full American military support to the ruling clan of Sa’ud.

Saudi Arabia over the years has emerged as the biggest producer of oil in the world. It also supposedly has the biggest oil reserves. It is also the biggest producer of oil within the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the oil cartel. Hence this has ensured that OPEC typically does what Saudi Arabia wants it to do. Within OPEC, Saudi Arabia has had the almost unquestioned support of what are known as the sheikhdom states of Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
In fact, in the late 1970s efforts were made by other OPEC countries, primarily Iran, to get OPEC to start pricing oil in a basket of currencies (which included the dollar) but that never happened as Saudi Arabia put its foot down on any such move. This led to oil being continued to be priced in dollars and was a major reason for the dollar continuing to be the major international reserve currency.
It is important to remember that the American security guarantee made by President Roosevelt after the Second World War was extended not to the people of Saudia Arabia nor to the government of Saudi Arabia but to the ruling clan of Al Sa’uds. Hence, it is in the interest of the Al Sa’ uds to ensure that oil is continued to be priced in American dollars.
And until oil is priced in dollars, any theory on the dollar being under threat will have to be taken with a pinch of salt because the world will need American dollars to buy oil. Also it is important to remember that financially America might be in a mess, but by and large it still remains the only superpower in the world. In 2010, the United States spent $698billion on defence. This was 43% of the global total.
So dollar in a way will continue to be as good as gold. Until it snaps.

The piece originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on March 5, 2013 
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek and continues to actively bet against the dollar by buying gold through the mutual fund route) 

Why Subbarao can’t cut rates; only Chidambaram can


Vivek Kaul

If politicians and corporates are to be believed then India’s much beleaguered economy can be put back on track only if the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) brought down interest rates. The finance minister P Chidambaram did not mince words when he said in an interview to The Economic Times that “reduction in interest rates will certainly help get us to 6.5% (economic growth).” In another article in the Business Standard several CEOs (including those of real estate firms) have come on record to say that the RBI should cut interest rates in order to revive the economy. 
The RBI meets next on March 19. And both CEOs and politicians seem to be clamouring for a repo rate cut. Repo rate is the interest rate at which RBI lends to banks. So the logic is that once the RBI cuts the repo rate (as it did when the last time it met in late January) the banks will get around to passing that cut by bringing down the interest rates they charge on their loans. Given this people will borrow and spend more. They will buy more houses. They will buy more cars. They will buy more two wheelers. They will buy more consumer durables. Companies will also borrow and expand. All this borrowing and spending will revive the economic growth and the economy will grow at 6.5% instead of the 4.5% it grew at between October and December, 2012. And we will all live happily ever after. 
Now only if life was as simple as that. 
Repo rate at best is a signal from the RBI to banks. When it cuts the repo rate it is sending out a signal to the banks that it expects interest rates to come down in the time to come. Now it is up to the banks whether they want to take that signal or not. And turns out they are not. 
Several banks have recently been 
raising interest rates on their fixed deposits. Of course, if banks are raising interest rates on their deposits, they can’t be cutting them on their loans, given money raised from deposits is used to fund loans. And hence interest rates on loans has to be higher than those on deposits. Banks have raised interest rates despite the fact that the RBI cut the repo rate by 25 basis points (one basis point is equal to one hundreth of a percentage) when it last met on January 29, 2013. 
So why are banks raising interest rates when the RBI has given the opposite signal? The answer for that lies in the Economic Survey released on February 27, 2013. The gross domestic savings of the country were at 36.8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the course of 2007-2008 (i.e. the period between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008). They had fallen to 30.8% of the GDP during the course of 2011-2012 (i.e. the period between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012). I wouldn’t be surprised if they have fallen further once figures for the current financial year become available. 
The household savings (i.e. the money saved by the citizens of India) have also been falling over the last few years. In the year 2009-2010 (i.e. the period between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010) the household savings stood at 25.2% of the GDP. In the year 2011-2012, the household savings had fallen to 22.3% of the GDP. 
What this means is that the country as a whole is saving lesser money than it was before. A straightforward explanation for this is the high inflation that has prevailed over the last few years. People are possibly spending greater proportions of their income to meet the rising expenses and that has lead to a lower savings rate. 
Interestingly the financial savings have been falling at an even faster rate than overall savings. As the Economic Survey points out “Within households, the share of financial savings vis-à-vis physical savings has been declining in recent years. Financial savings take the form of bank deposits, life insurance funds, pension and provident funds, shares and debentures, etc. Financial savings accounted for around 55 per cent of total household savings during the 1990s. Their share declined to 47 per cent in the 2000-10 decade and it was 36 per cent in 2011-12. In fact, household financial savings were lower by nearly Rs 90,000 crore in 2011-12 vis-à-vis 2010-11.”
One reason for this (explained in the Economic Survey) is that a lot of savings have been going into gold. And why have the savings been going to gold? The government would like us to believe that it is our fascination for gold that is driving our savings into gold. But then our fascination for gold is not a recent phenomenon. Indians have always liked gold. 
People buy gold as a hedge against inflation. When inflation is high the real returns on fixed income instruments are low. Real return is the difference between the rate of interest offered on let us say a fixed deposit, minus the prevailing rate of inflation.
As the 
Economic Survey puts it “High inflation reduces the return on other financial instruments. This is reflected in the negative correlation between rising(gold) imports and falling real rates.” (As can be seen from the following table).
What this means is that when inflation is high, the real return on fixed income investments like fixed deposits is low. Consumer Price Inflation has been close to 10% in India over the last few years. And this has meant that investment avenues like fixed deposits have been made unattractive, leading people to divert their savings into gold. “The overarching motive underlying the gold rush is high inflation…High inflation may be causing anxious investors to shun fixed income investments such as deposits and even turn to gold as an inflation hedge,” the Economic Survey points out. 
What does this mean in the context of b
anks? It means that banks have had a lower pool of savings to borrow from. One because the overall savings have come down. And two because within overall savings the financial savings have come down at a much faster rate due to lower real rates of interest, after adjusting for inflation. This means that banks need to offer high rates of interest on their fixed deposits to make it attractive for people to deposit their money into banks. It is a simple case of demand and supply. 
And who is the cause for all the inflation that the country has seen over the last few years and continues to see? Not you and me. 
High inflation has been caused by the burgeoning subsidies provided by the government. The total subsidy in 2006-2007(i.e. The period between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2007) stood at Rs 53,462.60 crore. This has gone up by nearly five times to Rs 2,57,654.43 crore for the year 2012-2013 (i.e. the period between April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013).
All this expenditure of the government has landed up in the hands of people and created inflation. The Economic Survey admits to the same when it states “With the subsidies bill, particularly that of petroleum products, increasing, the danger that fiscal targets would be breached substantially became very real in the current year. The situation warranted urgent steps to reduce government spending so as to contain inflation.” So the Economic Survey equated the high government spending to inflation. 
The subsidy bill for the year 2013-2014 (i.e. the period between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014) is expected to be at Rs 2,31,083.52 crore. This is number seems to be underestimated as this writer has 
explained before. And so the inflationary scenario is likely to continue. 
Given that people will want to deploy their savings to other modes of investment rather than fixed deposits. And hence banks will have to continue offering higher interest rates to get people interested in fixed deposits. 
As the Economic Survey points out “The rising demand for gold is only a “symptom” of more fundamental problems in the economy. Curbing inflation, expanding financial inclusion, offering new products such as inflation indexed bonds, and improving saver access to financial products are all of paramount importance.” 
To conclude, there is very little that the D Subbarao led RBI can do to push down interest rates. In fact interest rates are totally in the hands of the government. If the government can somehow control inflation, interest rates will start to come down automatically. For that to happen subsidies in particular and the high government expenditure in general, will have to be controlled. And that is not going to happen anytime soon.

The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on March 4, 2013

(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets at @kaul_vivek)

What NREGA did: Rural women knocked out of real jobs

Over the last few years, data put out by the government seemed to be showing a strange phenomenon. The participation of women in the rural labour force was going down.
The 2005 round of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) showed that women made up around 33.3 percent of the rural labour force. By the time the 2010 round came, this number had fallen to 26.5 percent. The labour bureau survey for a period of one year ending on 30 June 2011 also seemed to suggest the same.
The explanations offered for this phenomenon were rather lame.

As Akhilesh Tilotia of Kotak Institutional Equities points out in his latest GameChanger Perspectives report, “Both the NSSO and the Labour Bureau surveys pointed out the low or declining labour force participation of women, especially in rural India…There was no clarity on why women were dropping out of the workforce: Some experts thought women may have started spending more time in education and skill development, or the data collection itself may have been faulty.”

The explanations offered for women moving out of the rural labour force have turned out to be incorrect. The women, it seems, have been moving to work under the National Rural Guarantee Employee Act (NREGA) rather than dropping out of the labour force totally.

With the government guaranteeing work under NREGA, rural wages have been on their way up for some time now TABLE1

The accompanying table shows us exactly that. In 2007, women took on around 40.6 percent of the total persondays of work offered under NREGA. By 2012, this number had gone up to 48.2 percent.
As Tilotia explains, “We note that women form a disproportionately large group in NREGA person-days as compared to their proportion in the rural labour force (see table). This leads us to believe that women who are increasingly being priced out of the agricultural labour market are taking shelter in NREGA work schemes.”
With the government guaranteeing work under NREGA, rural wages have been on their way up for some time now. Another impact because of this has been the narrowing of wages between men and women.

Table two and three
Table two and three

As Tilotia puts it, “Across many agricultural activities, the premium that men used to command over women in terms of per-day wage has shrunk significantly. This is seen most prominently in ploughing, but is also true for sowing, weeding, transplanting and winnowing (as can be seen in the two tables that follow)…Even as mechanisation of agriculture has taken place over the last decade, there is still significant physical labour involved: The labour productivity has not meaningfully increased in many of the occupations noted above. In such a case women, whose wages have gone up much more than men’s, become less profitable to employ for a farm-owner. We hypothesise that the implementation of a minimum wage has meant workers with low productivity have been priced out of the market.”
And as women have been priced out as farm workers, this has led to women moving to working for projects under NREGA.
This may not be a good sign though, given that working for projects under NREGA hardly means any meaningful upgrade of skills for women, something that would help them earn more beyond NREGA. “Ideally the focus should be on improving the productivity of the female workforce via skill development: This would enable them to move beyond the minimum-wage band and command an employment opportunity on merits,” writes Tilotia.
Farmers also seem to be moving towards more mechanisation. A possible explanation for this is that higher farm wages probably are now making mechanisation increasingly financially viable. (though Tilotia doesn’t make that conclusion in his report).
This is borne out by the increasing number of tractors that have been sold since 2007. AnICRA report points out that the number of tractors sold by Indian companies stood at 346,508 units in the year ending 31 March 2008. This was expected to go up to 605,192 units for the financial year ending March 2012.
And these factors have also contributed to an increasing amount of food inflation in the country. The number stood at 11.88 percent for the month of January 2013. These are the unintended consequences of the NREGA.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on March 2, 2013
Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets at @kaul_vivek

What happened when Chidu, Amma and Madam met after the budget

Vivek Kaul
Chidu came out of the back door of the Parliament after having presented the budget to avoid the media that was waiting for him at the Main Gate.
And there he ran into his bête noire Amma.
“I knew it,” said Amma. “You will try to pull a fast one after presenting a budget that was a damp squib. And why have you put that tax on iron ore mines?”
Eh, eh, eh!” replied Chidu, trying to avoid Amma’s question. “I was just trying to avoid the media you know.”
“What man,” said Amma. “You think I am a village belle from Chidambaram. I was a Bangalore girl, till filums brought me to Madras. ”
“I know Amma,” said Chidu. “I know.”
“Amma?” screamed Amma. “How can you call me Amma?”
“Oh! Why? What else do I call you Amma?”
“Again Amma? Only those who fall on my feet are allowed to call me Amma.”
“Really?” asked Chiddu.
“Yes. And we all know whose feet all you Congressmen fall on!”
Shh. Shh. Don’t be so loud. She might hear it,” pleaded Chidu.
“How? I don’t see her anywhere,” said Amma.
Arre, she is everywhere.”
So am I.”
“Are you?” came a voice from behind Amma.
“I told you,” screamed Chidu.
“So Chidu, what is that you were saying?” asked Madam, the chief of the Con-Regress party, who had suddenly appeared from nowhere.
“What will he say?” confronted Amma. “I was the one doing all the talking.”
“Oh really?” asked Madam, trying to sound slightly sophisticated.
“Yes,” replied Amma.
“Never mind,” said Madam, leading Chidu away by hand, wanting to talk to him in private.
Once they were at a sufficient distance from Amma they started talking again.
“So what happened to the food thing?” asked Madam.
“Oh, yes. We are on for the Chicken Chettinad on Sunday,” explained Chidu. “I have specially called cooks all the way from Coimbatore to cook for you.”
Ishhhhhh,” screamed Madam. “I didn’t mean the Sunday dinner. What I was referring to was the food bill.”
“Madam. It’s my treat on Sunday. Why will I give you a bill for it?”
“Okay. Now stop cracking your Pjs, Chidu.”
“He he, you know they are my weakness Madam,” said Chidu. “Did you listen to the one Pj that I even used in the budget.”
“Which one?”
“That only 42,800 people in India have taxable income of greater than Rs 1 crore a year.”
“Yes, yes. I heard that.”
“There was another one,” said Chidu, wanting to carry on with his poor jokes.
“Okay. That’s enough. Get to the point Chidu,” Madam screamed again. “Else I will get bada babu back from the Rashtrapatni Bhavan and appoint him in your place.”
“Madam, we don’t have the money for the food bill,” Chidu explained frankly.
“What do you mean you don’t have money?” asked Madam. “Where do all the taxes go?”
“Taxes?” asked Chidu. “Didn’t you hear my speech Madam?”
“Speech,” said Madam. “Actually to tell you the truth I was listening to my iPod.”
“Really?” asked Chidu. “I was wondering why were your earphones so different. These government ones don’t look so good on you.”
“Yeah, every year, listening to these two hour speeches is so difficult. I have been listening to them for ten years now and have got thoroughly bored,” confessed Madam.
“Which song were you listening to Madam?” asked Chidu.
“You know my favourite one,” said Madam.
“Ah that old song,” said Chidu and started crooning the number. “Baaki jo bachcha mehangai maar gayi…”
“Okay, okay. Don’t kill the tune with that nasal tone of yours,” pleaded Madam. “I would rather have Himesh singing it.”
“You know madam I also have a confession to make,” said Chidu.
“What? What?” Madam asked excitedly.
“Well I have the budget speeches of bada babu recorded on CDs.”
“On nights I don’t get sleep I put them on.”
“I fall asleep as soon as bada babu starts speaking in Bongish.”
“He he.”
“Yeah. And you know Madam…”
“Okay. Enough of that. Let me get back to the point. What happened to the Right to Food bill?” asked Madam, suddenly turning serious again. “Why was it missing from your budget speech?”
Madam. As I said in my speech the tax collections have been falling.”
“Are they?”
“Yes madam.”
“So in 2011-12, the tax GDP ratio was 5.5 percent for direct taxes. For indirect taxes it was at 4.4 percent. This is very low when we compare ourselves with other large developing countries.”
“Hmmm,” said Madam.
“And that means that we do not have enough money for the Right to Food bill.”
“Well. I don’t know how you do it. But you have to somehow do it,” said Madam. “Raul ka gum ab mujhse dekha nahi jaata.”
“Yes madam I know,” said Chidu. “Ek Ma ka dard main samajh sakta hoon.”
“So do something then!”
“What madam?” asked Chidu. “There is really no money!”
“Well what is money?”
“As in?”
“It is just a piece of paper,” said Madam.
“So print it.”
“Print it?” asked Chidu. “But that will lead to more inflation madam.”
“I thought you knew my favourite song,” replied Madam. “I heard you singing it sometime back.”
“Yes madam!”
“You do it. Or I will get bada babu back and get him to do it.”
“I’ll do it madam.”
“Good,” said Madam. “Oh and can I have those CDs of bada babu making his budget speeches. I am turning into an insomniac these days getting worried about Raul. He refuses to get married also.”
“Yes Madam time he got married,” said Chidu. “Who will rule us after him otherwise? The show must go on.”
“Oh, I am not worried about that. Priya and Bob’s sons will take care of that.”
“Yes. Yes. They are also there. I will give you the CDs on Saturday.”
“Okay,” said Madam. “See you on Sunday then.” 
“Close call that was,” Chidu told himself, as soon as Madam left.
“Don’t worry. Don’t worry,” said Amma, suddenly appearing from nowhere. “If anything happens you can always join my party.”
“And even mine,” said Didi, also appearing out of nowhere. “What Madam can do I can do better!”
“Oh, I am really having a nightmare,” said Chidu, rushing out of the Parliament in his white Ambassador.
As soon as the car was out of the vicinity of Parliament he asked his driver to put on the FM.
Aur bhaiyyon aur behno,” went the anchor, imitating the voice of the great Ameen Sayani, like they all do. “Sunte hai ye naya gaana!
Tu bhi dramebaaz, main bhi dramebaaz, saale dramebaaz sab yahan!” went the song.

 (Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)