Make believe in gloomy times

In this week of economic gloom I searched hard to find something to write about that would make you and me feel less gloomy. Gloomy times get gloomier if you wallow in gloom and in Mumbaiócity of slumdogs and billionairesóthere has been much wallowing lately. My friends in the world of high business have predicted for months that the economy was not going to be growing at 7 per cent as our recklessly un-gloomy officials have been telling us. So when it was officially announced last Friday that economic growth had dropped to 5.3 per cent, businessmen seemed almost pleased. I told you so are four little words that provide momentary relief even in the worst of times.

In pursuit of good cheer I turned off the gloomy TV news bulletins, stopped talking to friends in the corporate world, and took a stroll in the busy commercial streets of my Mumbai neighbourhood. I walked past shiny new malls and cinemas, relics of recent good times. And, dreary Soviet-style government buildings, relics of socialist bad times. As I approached the very ugly Mantralaya building I noticed that there seemed suddenly to be colour in the landscape. Wishful thinking? A rainbow? A silver lining? Some new poster from Bollywood? No. It came from a wall covered in posters of Rahul Gandhi in different moods and different colours. When he stood dimpling happily beside a caption that said, 'My only religion is the Indian flag' his cheeks and hair glowed in luminous Bollywood hues. And, when he stood beside a caption that said 'On the foundation of the past stands the future' he was in duller, almost greenish hues as he gazed somberly into the unknown future.

Momentarily dazed by the profusion and abrupt materialisation of the posters I looked around in puzzlement and noticed other posters in brash Bollywood hues. Sonia Gandhi with a Mother Teresa smile, Sharad Pawar with a sly puss grin and sundry other politicians of less importance. Elections loom. Here it is again the great Indian democracy circus that in a couple of months will give us a new government and in every likelihood a new Prime Minister.

... contd.

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