India That Is Bharat
By the grace of the secular gods and the greater grace of our economist Prime Minister, Satiricus has never to suffer the pangs of hunger. Both have been kind enough to ensure that whenever Satiricus feels hungry, he can feast on fast food for thought. Just one look at the government figures of the Gross National Product, and he feels grossly prosperous. Not that he understands this business called macro-economics and these micro-minutae called Economic Indicators. So, as he munches on an Indian Pizza priced at ten thousand rupees, he wonders if that pizza is the official indicator of the Indian economy. Or is it the six-crore-rupee car that he sees in the showroom which he passes on his bicycle? And if not a Pizza, how about a Hamburger?
Satiricus is not joking. For nearly 25 years ago the Economist, a leading economic journal of the west, had cooked up a ‘Big Mac Index’ for the western economy. Since then times have changed, and the Economist recently asked itself : “What do hamburgers, lipstick and men’s underwear have in common?” And its own quirky answer was : “The joys of quirky economic indicators”. Well, well, well. Satiricus never knew economics was a matter of joy and an indicator of happiness, but it seems that at least in the West happiness and hamburgers go together. For way back in 1986 the Economist had developed the “Big Mac Index” as “a fun way” to explain “Purchasing Power Parity” by comparing the prices of hamburgers in different countries, but it now finds to its surprise that some economists think it has been surprisingly accurate in predicting long-run movements in exchange rates. In fact, believe it or not, serious studies have been carried out proving that the Big Mac Index fairly faithfully tallies with calculations made with sophisticated methods and fancier techniques.
But then, the west is now a far fancier place, so Satiricus is not surprised to learn that western economists are currently looking beyond burgers and thinking up fancier indexes. One of them is lipstick! Why on earth? Well, because, as per conventional economic western wisdom, when things get economically tough, women buy lipstick instead of dresses. Can economics get wierder? Seems it can. For a distinguished American economist who was Chairman of the US Federal Reserve actually monitored some other incredible indicators, including rates of men’s underwear! Why? Because, in expert American economic opinion, rates of men’s underwear are usually constant but they drop in recession times because men buy new underwear less often—indicating an economic slowdown.
So what is the bottomline for India that is Bharat? It is that we patriots must have our own economic indicator to suit the wealth in which we are wallowing. In fact, the more the merrier, so Satiricus would suggest more than one. For starters, our economist PM should change over from Hamburger to Pizza, for this brand-new Indian pizza costing ten thousand rupees could be the brand new indicator of Indian opulence. Satiricus’s second suggestion is actually inspired by the Economist. Among various indicators discussed by the Economist it had included what it called an “R-word Index”, by which it meant counting the newspaper on any one day that mentioned the word Recession. An excellent Indian edition of this idea would be an “S-word Index”—counting the number of Scams our papers report on a single day. By the way, we can even retain the “R” of the Economist, but with a different spelling. It need not be the Economist’s “Recession”. It can be counting the impressive number of “Rogues, Rascals, Robbers” who, wrote Pritish Nandy the other day, pack Prime Minister–cum-economist Manmohan Singh’s government gang.
Phone to rescue
God can do anything, believes Satiricus. But so can a phone, it now seems. For now there is a phone so smart that it can open beer bottles. It is a bottle-opener attached to an Iphone case. Then there is a still smarter phone, for it lets you “scan and taste” beer. It is an Iphone application that has video description of 500 makes of beer. Then there is a phone that counts calories from a photograph of what is on your dining dish. There are even medical phones—one can detect heart problems. It is a ‘smartphone’ called ‘smartheart’. Another can count and examine bacteria and assorted germs for diagnosing infections and diseases. To cap it all, there is, believe it not, a Roman Catholic phone that can download a confession if you have sinned.
In short, there are smart phones that are a lot smarter than Satiricus. He thought the phone was invented to talk to somebody at a distance. Is that purpose outdated? Fortunately not. For now there is a new mobile phone that makes calls–and nothing else! This is wonderful news for Satiricus. For now he doesn’t need a Ph.D. in Electronics to make a phone call.