Of Bhakts, Jhollawallahs and Demonetisation

rupee(This is a spoof)

It was early in the morning. Delhi was smoggy as usual. And I had stepped out to buy milk.

At the milk booth, I ran into a bhakt and a jhollawallah.

The bhakt did not have a red tilak on his forehead and the jhollawallah wasn’t carrying a jhollah. He was wearing Nike shoes though and not the kolhapuri chappals that he used to, until a few years back. Also, he hadn’t studied at JNU.

And I immediately asked him? “What Sir, how come you are wearing Nike shoes? One of the most famous brands of unabashed American capitalism.”

“Oh, Nike, is now Made in China, you see,” he replied.

“But how does that matter?”

“China, is still run by the Party. And anything run by the Party is communist enough for me.”

“Oh, yes. The biggest capitalist enterprise in the world, the Chinese Communist party,” I replied.

The bhakt decided this was a good time to butt into the conversation and started to shout “Modi, Modi,” soon to realise that it was early in the morning, the road was deserted and there was no one out there watching his performance.

“What a fantastic decision Modi ji has taken to ban Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. All the black money wallahs will now have a tough time,” he said.

Arre what are you saying? Look at my maid. She has run out cash. She doesn’t have money to buy food and the banks are giving Rs 2,000 notes only. She has never withdrawn money from an ATM. How is she supposed to live? Did Mr Modi think about this?” the jhollawallah asked, suddenly having developed great compassion for the maid.

“What your maid doesn’t have Paytm?” the bhakt asked, with a great degree of surprise.

“But why don’t you just take her to an ATM and help her withdraw that money. I mean, she will get used to the idea if you show it to her once,” I said. “It isn’t rocket science exactly.”

“I don’t have the time for that,” the jhollawallah replied.

“And my maid’s sister, she had saved Rs 25,000 in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, away from her alcoholic and abusive husband. She doesn’t have a bank account, what is she supposed to do with that money now?” he continued.

“Oh, even she doesn’t have Paytm?” the bhakt asked, doubly surprised.

“But don’t the Chinese have a big investment in Paytm?” I asked innocently. “And until last week weren’t we supposed to boycott Chinese goods and services?”

The bhakt ignored my remark.

“And look at all the lines that have cropped up outside ATMs. People are wasting so much time to withdraw their own money,” the jhollawallah remarked swinging his Rahul Roy hair, to one side. “And I had heard that Rs 15 lakh will be deposited into every account. Now I have to stand in line to withdraw my own money. What rubbish is this?”

“Lines?” screamed the bhakt. “Did you complain when you stood in a line to buy cricket match tickets? Did you complain when you stood in a line to buy movie tickets?” he asked. This was a performance which was straight out of Amitabh Bachchan’s Deewar. “Jao pehle us aadmi ka sign lekar aao,” I was suddenly muttering.

But I soon got back on track. “Well, the last time I stood in a line was to watch the first day first show of Raja Babu at the Sujata Cinema in Ranchi. These days I Paytm,” I explained.

“Ah, Raja Babu,” said the jhollawallah. “Thinking of Karishma gyrating to sarkaye liyo khatiya jaada laga still gives me the Goosebumps.”

The memories of Karishma Kapoor led to a pause and gave me an opportunity to ask a question. “So what do you think of this new Rs 2,000 note? Looks kinda sexy,” I said.

“It’s a conspiracy against the masses,” the jhollawallah screamed.

“They could have done better,” said the bhakt.

And this had me surprised. How could the bhakt and the jhollawallah agree on something.


“Because it’s pink,” both blurted out at the same time.

“So?” I asked.

“Pink is like saffron.” “Pink is like red,” said the jhollawallah and the bhakt, almost at the same time.  And I thought Pink was Bachchan all the way.

“So how do you think the new Rs 2,000 note will stop the generation of black money?” I asked.

“The new Rs 2,000 note will have a nano chip built into it,” said the Bhakt. “I read it on WhatsApp. With the built-in chip, the note can be tracked over a computer at any point of time.”

“And how will that help?” asked the jhollawallah.

“At any point of time the government will know where each note is,” the bhakt explained confidently.

“So?” I asked.

“So the government will come to know when the note reaches in the hands of a bad man.”

“Oh. Does the note have a camera built in as well?” I humbly asked. “And the government will employ one individual with every note, so that he or she can keep tracking it all the time.”


“And when some man with the Rs 2,000 note tries to do a dishonest thing, the Mahatma himself will come out of the note and ask him not to do it,” I said, with a loud laugh.

“You are hurting my feelings,” said the Bhakt.

“Oh, that was just a WhatsApp forward that I just received,” I said. “And in bhakt land, everything received on WhatsApp is true.”

Before I could say any further, the milk booth owner had arrived and opened the shutters. The jhollawallah pulled out a Rs 500 note and asked for milk. The bhakt had no cash and wanted to pay through Paytm.

I took out a hundred-rupee note bought two litres of milk, collected the change and walked off.

The column originally appeared in Vivek Kaul’s Diary on November 14, 2016

Why Tata Fired Mistry

(This is a spoof and a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or places or actual events is purely coincidental)

Office of a digital publication

“Oh Shit!,” yelled the young intern, who had been asked to keep a tab on what was happening in the world at large.

“What happened?” asked the senior desk hand sitting next to him.

“Tata has fired Mistry,” said the intern, in an excited state.

“What?” screamed the editor from across the bay.

“Yes,” said the senior desk hand who had checked out the news by then.

“Okay. Shouted the editor. Let’s get working on this.”

“Yes Sir!” said the intern.

“I want you guys to start working on Five Reasons Why Tata Said Bye Bye to Mistry.”

“But Sir so soon?” asked a confused intern.

“Yes goddamit. We are a website and not the Economic & Political Weekly, which can take six years to figure out what really happened. If you hadn’t been asking questions you would have already figured out two and a half reasons by now.”

“Sir, five reasons won’t work,” screamed the senior desk hand.

“Oh, but why?”

“While we were talking, another website has already come with Five Reasons Why Tata Said Bye Bye to Mistry.”

“Oh, then let’s use six.”

“Sir, the numbers six to 77 have already been taken.”


“Yes Sir.”

“Let’s do 78 then.”

“78?” asked the intern again. “How do we come with 78 Reasons Why Tata Said Bye Bye to Mistry?”

“Oh that’s simple,” said the senior desk hand. “We just ask a question on Facebook and Twitter to the people.”

“What question?” asked the bewildered intern again.

“We ask the readers why do you think Tata fired Mistry,” said the senior desk hand patiently. “Take those reasons and turn them into 78 Reasons Why Tata Said Bye Bye to Mistry.”

“But how will the readers know, if we don’t know?” asked the intern, rather innocently.

“Well. The readers don’t know. But every reader on the social media thinks that he knows. So, we just cash in on that.”

“Ah. Like that,” said the intern, finally figuring out what was happening.

By now, the editor had totally lost patience. “Let’s get cracking. This is a part of our strategy of building direct reader connect. If readers generate their own content they feel more connected with it. We also don’t need to spend money on generating content.”

All this left the intern wondering: “Does the nation really want to know?”

Meanwhile in a business TV studio.

“I want you guys to get cracking on this,” shouted Maureen.

“Yes Mam,” came the reply from the young reporters.

Two minutes later Maureen was on air, explaining the development to the audience which was watching the news on mute.

“Why do you think Tata fired Mistry?” she asked the reporter.

“Sources close to sources said that the sources have no idea behind the mystery of the mysterious sacking of Mr Mistry…” the reporter explained, speaking at breakneck speed.

“Ah. Thank you for giving us that exclusive breaking news. Remember you heard it here first,” said Maureen. “And now it’s time to take a break.”

“Good show girl,” Maureen told the reporter. “I love it when you speak so confidently. After all that is what TV is all about.”

Meanwhile at a Hindi news channel.

“So what angle do we take?” the editor asked the reporter.

“Sir, aap jo bole wo angle le lenge (Sir, whatever angle you ask we will take),” the reporter replied.

The reporter up until two minutes back had been covering politics and suddenly he was now being asked to turn himself into a business journalist.

“Hmmm…Let’s take the Mulayam angle,” the editor suggested.

“Mulayam?” asked the reporter, totally stumped.

“Yes. Arre, Mulayam could have fired Akhilesh but he hasn’t. He has managed to postpone the problem for another day,” explained the editor. “Also, there is a family angle. Ratan’s brother is married to Mistry’s sister. So,  we can compare it to Mulayam. To chal jaega (It will do).”

“Yes Sir. Yes Sir,” agreed the reporter, thanking the Gods. At least, he would be able to speak something on this.

Meanwhile at one of India’s leading pink papers…

“What have we got?” asked the editor leaning back on his chair and trying to blow imaginary smoke rings into the air. This was something he used to love to do all day in his office for real, until the no smoking policy became the order of the day. Now he could only smoke in the office loo.

Six Reasons Why Tata Said Bye Bye to Mistry,” explained the corporate editor.

“Ah. You wrote it so fast Mr Matthew,” said the editor.

“Yes. Mr Chakraborty.”

“But that will be published on the web. What do we do for tomorrow morning?”

“Yes Sir!” explained the corporate editor, who had already put in all the spin he could think of into the Six Reasons piece.

“Let’s do something conceptual.”

“As in?”

Sabka badla lega tera faijal,” explained the editor, leaving everyone totally flummoxed for a moment. For a Bong he did watch a lot of Hindi cinema.

“As in?” the corporate editor asked again.

“Let’s call it Gangs of Bombay House. You know a play on Gangs of Wasseypur, with the Tata camp taking on the Mistry camp.”

“Wonderful idea Sir. Should take care of tomorrow’s page and hopefully by tomorrow we should be able to figure out what really happened.”

“Ah. Tomorrow we need to come with more reasons behind what really happened. Day after, a few more. We need to keep coming up with reasons behind what really happened. It doesn’t matter what really happened because nobody knows what really happened,” said the editor, as he made his way towards the loo, having gotten done with his share of philosophy for the day.

“What is the truth?” asked the corporate editor, imagining, he had an audience around him. “No one really knows. Everyone has their own version.”

And then he wondered “Where had he heard that before?” “Or I am getting better and better at writing fiction?”

The article originally appeared in Vivek Kaul’s Diary on October 25, 2016

An Open Letter from an Indian Crony Capitalist


(This is a spoof)

Dear Indian Citizen,

Kem cho?

Kaamon Achish? Maja ma?

Hope all is well with you.

I am very happy these days. You know with that Rajan guy deciding to go back to Chicago. Good he is going back there.

I to wanted to open a champagne bottle to celebrate. But these children of mine always want this red wine shine.

And I to am still wondering, why would anyone in their right mind, comeback to India from the United States? Okay, maybe Chicago is very cold. My deekro tells me, they call it the windy city. It’s very cold up there it seems.

But then why stay on the East Coast? He could easily move to the West Coast. California. This Rajan guy. Very sunny, I am told. Just like Mumbai it is.

You know, when he was appointed as the RBI Governor, I got my kudi to buy all his books from this Amazon. Or was it Flipkart? I don’t remember. Been a long time since I went to the Strand Book Stall, you see.

So, this Rajan guy has written just two books, it seems. What men, been in the United States for nearly three decades and written just two books? Look at our very own Chetan. He has written so many more books than Rajan while holding a proper banking job at the same time, for a very long time.

And Rajan could write only two, with a teaching job?

So, one book of his is called, Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists. I started the book with great interest, after all I am also capitalist. But all the economic theory-weory got to me finally. And he just kept talking about Mexico. Our Chetan is so much better. North-South love story he wrote. What fun it was.

Didn’t Rajan also marry a North Indian? Why didn’t he write about that then and call it I too Had a Love Story? There is enough trouble in life anyway. Why write about such heavy stuff? And that is why I like watching this Tarak Mehta ka Oolta Chashma.

Oh talking of Mexico. Have you seen this latest Hindi film called Udta Punjab? In that, they compare Mexico to Punjab. Guess the director must have got the idea after reading Rajan’s book.

Anyway. I am meandering and meandering. Let me get to the point. In this Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists book Rajan writes: “Throughout its history, the free market system has been held back, not so much by its own economic deficiencies as Marxists would have it, but because of its reliance on political goodwill for its infrastructure. The threat primarily comes from…incumbents, those who already have an established position in the marketplace…The identity of the most dangerous incumbents depends on the country and the time period, but the part has been played at various times by the landed aristocracy, the owners and managers of large corporations, their financiers, and organised labour.”

First time I read this, I didn’t understand only what Rajan was saying. I read this paragraph over and over again and got worried. Then my son-in-law told me, Rajan is only economist. Economists talk only theory. They don’t do it in practical.

But I had this feeling that this guy meant business. He will practice his theory and try and clean up India’s banking system, I had a feeling. Why? I don’t know. I think Kejriwal came in my dream and told me this. And I was right about it.

You see, I had taken this huge loan from a public sector bank in 2008. Those were good days. Everything was looking good.

Indian economy was growing at a fast pace. And like any good capitalist I assumed that the economy will continue to do well and interest rates will continue to remain low.

But all that changed. Over the last four years I have been having difficulty in repaying the loan. No money only.

You see my problem. I have so much loan to repay. Rs 50,000 crore. On that I am paying interest of 12% i.e. Rs 6,000 crore a year. I am having difficulty in repaying interest. How will I ever repay the principal?

And interest is so high. If it was 8%, I would be paying only Rs 4,000 crore a year. Now I am paying Rs 6,000 crore. Rs 2,000 crore more. “Profit main ghato ho gayo!”

Shouldn’t the government help me also? Shouldn’t the interest rates come down? But this Rajan guy did not want to help me only. Kept interest rates high. On top of that he encouraged banks to come after our assets. And that too public sector banks? Imagine!

You know, this is not the first time I have over-borrowed. I did that in the late 1990s also. But somehow I managed to come out unscathed…he he…The taxpayers had to pick up the tab.

And that is only fair no. There are so many taxpayers and so few capitalists who have over-borrowed. No individual taxpayer will feel the pain of having bailed out the capitalists.

But this Rajan guy said no. He insisted on capitalists like me repaying. Selling our assets and repaying.

Imagine? In India? What is the world coming to?

So good only he is not taking a second-term. Going back to the United States.

And it’s time to celebrate. “Kuch murga shurga khaate hain. Peg-sheg lagate hain!

Oh and you Dear Citizen. Thank you in advance. If you do pick the tab. Ghabrao nahi, there will be no pain. It will be like a painless injection on your bum.

And imagine I have borrowed Rs 50,000 crore. If you don’t rescue me, the bank I have borrowed from will go bust. And you will lose your money!

Remember what did that John Maynard Keynes say? “If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe your bank a million pounds, it has.”

Do you know the modern version of that? As The Economist magazine put it: “If you owe your bank a billion pounds everybody has a problem.”

Dear Citizen, I am your problem!

Yours truly,
An Indian Crony Capitalist

Postscript: Rajan has written Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists with Luigi Zingales. His other book is Fault Lines.

The column originally appeared in Vivek Kaul’s Diary on June 22, 2016

Khada hai khada hai was a Sufi song: A dreamy conversation with Pahlaj Nihalani

It is 12.30AM at night and I am sleeping. In my sleep I am dreaming about Pahlaj Nihalani. I am actually talking to him. We are having a conversation.

“Sir if you could produce a film with a song khada hai khada hai khada hai, why don’t you like kissing anymore?” I asked him a simple question to start the proceedings.

“You are misquoting the song?”

“Misquoting the song?” I repeated, wondering how does one misquote a song.

“Well you are just singing a part of it,” explained Mr Nihalani, the censor board chief and started humming it himself: “Khada hai khada hai khada hai, dar pe tere aashiq khada hai.”

“This is the complete line?”



“This is a Sufi song. In fact, it was India’s first filmi Sufi song.”

“Sorry?” I asked, wondering what made one of India’s grossest double meaning songs, a Sufi song.

“Let me explain,” continued Nihalani. “The lover is calling out to his beloved and singing that he is standing on her doorstep waiting for her to open the door.”


“The beloved is essentially a representation of God, you see and the lover is her devotee,” he explained.

“Ah,” I said surprised at this masterful spin that Nihalani had come up with.

“Imagine a Sufi song in Hindi cinema of the 1990s. They used to be full of these double meaning songs. Choli ke peeche/andar kya hai and all that. This was a time when the world hadn’t discovered Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sab. Or Abida Parveen for that matter. I was ‘so’ ahead of the times.”

“But Sir what about lal duppette waali tera naam to bata?” I asked, trying to get back into the game.

“What about it bacche?”

“Well there is a line in the song where the heroines sing, “har ajnabi ke liye khidki nahi khulti,” and in a very suggestive way slightly raise the hemline of their white mini-skirts. This clearly wasn’t a good projection of Indian culture that you now seem to be so passionate about?”

“Ah, the tragedy of my life,” shouted Nihalani.

“Nobody ever understood the real meaning behind my songs.”

“Real meaning?” I asked.

“Yes. That was a song against pollution. I was telling the people to keep their windows closed till the air gets a little cleaner. Again, I was ahead of the times. Now we at least have Modi Kaka’s Swacch Bharat.

“And what about main maal gaadi tu dhakka lagga? What was that all about?” I asked, hoping to catch the censor chief off-guard.

“Oh that was a song for the Indian Railways,” he replied.

“Indian Railways?”

“You know that the passenger service of Indian Railways is a loss making operation?”


“That was my way of indirectly telling the government that they should be running more freight turns, if they wanted the Railways to be profitable and sustainable.”


“And look at what happened?” he asked rhetorically.

“What happened?” I repeated.

“Lalu Prasad Yadav stole my idea when he became the Railway Minister in 2004. He gave immense importance to freight operations and revived the Railways,” explained Nihalani. “I never got the respect I deserved until Modi Kaka came along.”

“Hmmm. But what about angna main baba duare pe ma?

“What about it?”

“The song starts with the heroine Shilpa Shirodkar lifting her ghagra to reveal her thigh. It is followed by the heroine and a string of women extras gyrating their chests and doing other suggestive movements.”

“So?” Nihalani persisted.

“Well if you can produce that sort of a song, what is wrong with James Bond kissing?”

“Well, again you are seeing only what unfolds on the screen.”

“So what is the ‘deeper’ meaning?” I asked, trying to be sarcastic.

“This was a song against obesity.”

“Obesity?” I asked, with my head ready to spin.

“Yes. Look at the dance movements. I have just tried to Indianise aerobic movements. I had given special instructions to the choreographer to do that.”


“Yes. And this was a time when even Baba’s Yoga was not on the scene,” he explained.

“Yes that is pretty recent,” I said accepting defeat.

“And it was up to me that the country remained healthy until Modi Kaka came along.”

This was when a bucket full of water landed up on me and the girl-friend yelled at the top of her voice, “can you stop shouting Modi Modi even in your sleep.”

(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek. On most days he writes on finance and economics).

This spoof originally appeared on Huffington Post India on Nov 26, 2015

Spoof: Tracking the Sensex Crash in a Biz Channel


What follows is a figment of the author’s imagination

 In the office of a ing business news channel:

“Okay, we go in with the dark look today,” said the shift editor of the business news channel. The BSE Sensex had fallen by more than 1000 points.
“Dark look?” asked the female anchor.
“Are you carrying a change of clothes?” he asked her.
“Yes, kind of,” she replied.
“Your clothes are too bright for today’s show. Makes you look too happy. Wear black!”
“The investor is unhappy today. You also need to look unhappy. Also, that lipstick is too bright.”
“Eh? I just bought it yesterday.”
“And hope you are carrying that kajal thingie. Make your eyes look dark.”
“Dark?” the female anchor asked again.
“Yes, I want that lack of sleep kind of look. You know slightly unkempt,” the editor said. “And why did you have to shampoo your hair today.”
“Shampoo?” the female anchor asked, all confused.
“Yes, messy hair goes very well with a falling stock market,” he explained.
As soon as he had finished saying this, the male anchor walked in.
“Hello, boss,” he said. “Aaj kya karne ka hai?” The male anchor was an old pro at these things.
“Fold your shirt sleeves. And loosen the tie,” replied the editor.
“Ah, now you have that hard-working look,” said the editor. “Just right for the day.”
“Yes, I know,” replied the male anchor. “Worked so well for us in 2008. The investors really bought into it. They really thought I was working so hard to save their money that I did not have time to wear my tie properly.”
“And what angle should we take boss?” the female anchor butted in.
Kya yaar! This is the problem with these new girls,” said the male anchor. “Never seen a proper bear market.”
“Sorry?” the female anchor turned around towards the male anchor and asked.
“It’s simple,” said the editor.
“What’s simple?” she asked again.
“Every time the market falls, we sell it as a ‘good time to buy’ opportunity.”
“Why not?” the male anchor butted in.
“That’s the business model yaar,” explained the editor, who was slightly irritated by then. “All our advertisers, from insurance companies to mutual funds to stock brokerages will only keep making money if the stock market keeps going up.”
“Ah,” exclaimed the female anchor.
Tubelight jal gaya!” said the male anchor.
“Yes. And they will keep advertising only if the keep making money,” continued the editor. “Okay, now let’s get onto the job.”
In the studio, some 30 minutes later.

“We have with us today, the technical analyst Mr Pehlaj Guglani. Sir, where do you think the market is headed?” asked the female anchor.
“You know there is a resistance at 26,420 points. Or actually there is a support. And when the resistance meets the support, the stock market will start to rally again because the JET indicator is looking very robust. You know the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity,” said the technical analyst.
“Sorry Sir, but what does that mean?”
“Talk less, invest more.”
“Oh,” replied the female anchor.
“We also have with us today Mr Tarun Sabharwal, who is a fund manager,” said the male anchor. “Where do you think the market is headed Sir?”
“That is not important,” replied Sabharwal. “What goes up, comes down, only to go up again. The investors should realise there is a sale on at lower prices and they should buy. If they can buy things on Flipkart and Amazon sales, they should definitely be buying here as well.”
“Sir where do you think the stock market is headed?” persisted the male anchor.
“You see, Modi ji is doing a lot of good things for the country. And I can safely tell you that by next August the market will touch 35,000.”
“How sir?” asked the female anchor.
“Modi ji will ensure that,” said the fund manager, knowing fully well no one was going to remember what he said, even if the Sensex did not touch 35,000 points one year later.
Meanwhile, the editor is getting bored with this conversation and tells the anchors over the teleprompter to get back to the technical analyst.
“Mr Nehlani, what are your targets for this week?” asks the male anchor.
“Oh, I think if the Sensex crosses 26,420 then it will touch 27,308. And if it does not cross 26,420, then it can fall to 25,768.”
“What should an investor do then?”
“If he believes in the first forecast, the investor should then buy stocks. If he believes in the second forecast, he should sell them.”
Meanwhile, the editor is thoroughly bored with the responses. The female anchor has smudged her kajal and needs a touch up. An ad break is taken.

The investor’s house:

Kya Ramnik bhai, aaj to stok market gir gaya,” Choksi bhai tells Raminik bhai.
Yes. Yes,” replies Ramnik bhai.
“Oh, but why do you have the television on mute?”
Arre, bus bhav dekhne ka tha.
Sun ne ka nahi?”
Sab upar se jaata hai re!”
Koi stok tip hai to bata na?”

(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek)

The column was published on Aug 28, 2015 on MxMIndia.com