“But Ma I want to become an economist,” said the son.
“An economist?” asked the mother. “Why in the world do you want to do that? You are already a politician.”
“Aren’t they kind of cool?” asked the son.
“Care to explain?”
“Look at Rajan at the Reserve Bank, the women are just swooning over him,” said the son. “Mrs De even wrote a column on how hot he is.”
“Yes. But do you remember the one before Rajan? No woman would have fallen for him, even though he did try and learn the salsa dance,” said the mother, puncturing the bubble.
“Ah, trust you to spoil the fun as always,” said the son. “I was so looking forward to the women swooning over me.”
“Aren’t they already,” replied the mother, trying to do some damage control. “Look at the number of responses we have got to that advertisement we placed on globalshadi.com. Wanted a fair, convent educated, homely girl who respects her elders and can cook.”
“But why do you suddenly want to become an economist?”
“Oh, every other day the media talks about inflation, index of industrial production and what not,” said the son. “And I don’t understand any of it.”
“But you don’t have to understand all that beta,” said the mother. “What else do we have mauni baba for?”
“Oh yeah, mauni baba is an economist, I had almost forgotten, given that he rarely speaks these days.”
“Yes. Let me just call him for you.”
Five minutes later, mauni baba is hurried in through the door.
“What happened madam?” he asked. “Hope all is well.”
“Nothing really,” she replied. “My son here just had a few small doubts. I’ll leave the two of you alone to have a man to man talk.”
Saying this, the mother left the room and the son decided to brush up on his economics.
“You know sir, the index of industrial production(IIP) number came in earlier in the day and it rose by 2%.”
“Yes, it did beta. What do you want to know about it?” asked mauni baba rather lovingly.
“Why is the number so low?”
“We are going through tough times. You know the IIP essentially measures the level of the industrial activity in the country.”
“But isn’t 2% very low?”
“Yes it is. In fact, if we look at just manufacturing which forms 75% of the IIP, it grew by only 0.6%.”
“Oh, so low?”
“Yes,” said mauni baba. “The industrial activity in the country has come to a standstill.”
“But why is that?” asked the son.
“People are not buying as many cars as they were. Neither are they buying consumer durables, which fell by 10% during September 2013, in comparison to the same period last year,” said mauni baba, without answering the question.
“But what is the problem?”
“The problem is inflation. The consumer price inflation for the month of October 2013 was at 10.09%.”
“Oh, yes I saw that on television,” said the son. “They keep going on and on about onion and tomato prices going up. I am so bored of watching that.”
“Yes, you should watch Star World Premiere HD.”
“And if they can’t eat onions and tomatoes, why don’t they try pasta and pizza,” said the son. “Or even caviar.”
“Doesn’t go down well with the Indian taste, you know,” said mauni baba. “We need our dal, rice and rasam.”
“So you were telling me something about inflation.”
“Yes. So inflation is greater than 10%. Food inflation is higher. Consumer price inflation number suggests that food inflation is at 12.56%. As per the wholesale price inflation number, the food inflation is at 18.4%.”
“And what does that mean?”
“Half of the expenditure of an average Indian household goes towards food. Given the rate at which food prices are rising, more and more money is being spent on paying for food and other essentials.”
“Hence, there is very little money left to buy non essential items like consumer durables and cars. And this leads to low industrial activity. When the demand falls, so does the supply.”
“But where does this inflation come from?” asked the son. “Why can’t we just stop it by launching a RGICLY?”
“RGICLY?” asked mauni baba. “What is that?”
“Rajiv Gandhi Inflation Control Yojana,” explained the son, very seriously.
“We can try, we can try,” said mauni baba going with the flow.
“But where does this inflation come from?”
“Well, over the last few years, the government has increased its expenditure. All this money being spent lands up in the hands of people. And they go out and spend that money. When a greater amount of money chases the same amount of goods and services, prices rise. Food prices particularly work along these lines.”
“Ah. So basically we need to grow more onions and tomatoes.”
“Yes, yes,” said mauni baba. “Its an opportune time to launch IGKTUY.”
“IGKTUY?” asked, the confused son. “What is that?”
“Indira Gandhi Kaandha Tamatar Ugaao Yojana.”
“Kaandha why not just Pyaaz or Pyaaj?” asked the son. “No one understands Kaandha in North India.”
“Oh, I just though IGK comes in a sequence and thus, sounds better,” mauni baba explained.
“IGK or IJK?” asked the son.
“Oh, never mind.”
“But now I get it. Basically inflation is killing growth,” said the son.
“Yes, in fact there is even a term for it.”
“And what is that?”
“Stagflation, which is a combination of stagnation and inflation.”
“Ah, stagflation,” said the son. “I quite like the term. Reminds me of all the stag parties I used to attend.”
“So can I go now?” asked mauni baba.
“Wait, wait, wait,” said the son. “I just understood what you were really trying to say.”
“That, mother is essentially responsible for everything. She was the one who got the government to increase its expenditure and spend much more than it earned, which is what finally led to inflation.”
“But I didn’t say that,” mauni baba protested.
“You did not. But that was what you meant,” said a confident son. “Mother won’t like listening to this.”
“Ah. You are making the same mistake as other people.”
“They don’t call me mauni baba just for nothing,” said mauni baba and walked out confidently from the room.
The mother soon came back into the room and the son told her everything. As he finished, the mother burst out into a hearty laugh.
“You know, this is quite unbelievable,” she said. “You want me to believe that for the last half an hour mauni baba was speaking and you were listening?”
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on November 13, 2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)