Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Two Policemen

"I owe it all to the two policemen.", said Balram with a smile.  I looked at the two policemen sipping tea at the next table.

"No, I don't mean them." continued Balram.

"How old are you?"

"Mmm... thirty."

"Yeah, you wouldn't know.  You must have been five or six then.  There were these two policemen from Haryana."

He paused take a bite of sandwich.

Balram was in his early fifties, fond of talking.  He must have had lot of friends during his younger age.

"These two policemen were caught snooping on Rajiv Gandhi.  Apparently they were sent by a Haryana strongman to spy on Rajiv.  Rajiv got upset with the government that he was supporting. He promptly decided to withdraw his support."

"Chandrasekar was the PM, he had no option but to quit.  I liked Chandrasekar.  A very sad looking man, as if he had all the worries of countries in his head."  he chuckled.  "And I also think he had enough of it.  Just a couple of years earlier, V P Singh back-stabbed him.  You should have seen Chandrasekar's face when Devilal proposed VP's name for Prime Minister-ship.  And eventually when Chandra got to be the PM the economy was in terrible state.  For debt servicing, the country had to pledge the gold reserve.  Conservative people like my parents would have had heart-attack - pledging gold for debt servicing.  Where were we going?"

I looked at my watch.  Balram didn't notice or chose to not notice.  He wanted to talk.

"Rajiv gets assassinated during the election campaign.  Who'd have thought Narshimha Rao would become the PM.  The man had retired from active politics, shifted to Hyderabad for a relaxed life, feeding pigeons."

"But he was brilliant.  Look at the way he handled Pawar, Arjun Singh, Pranab and other oldies of Congress.  He kept his enemies close by, watching them all the time.  I liked him a lot.  He knew eight languages and chose to spoke none."

Balram was on a roll.  I know he's not going to stop till he covers all those years between Rao and now.

"With empty coffers he had no option but to open up the economy.  And that's when us, the middleclass saw a ray of hope.  We could look for jobs in multi-nationals and don't have to wait for a bank job.  There were just two jobs for a fresh graduates then.  If you had studied science, you become a medical representative.  If you had done commerce, you can try to be a bank clerk.  I must say, the competition was too much."

"The economy opened up, people put in their money in stock market.  There were jobs like Finance controller, CFO that people like us would have never dreamed of.  But for that change, I would have been an auditor in Nagappattinam auditing accounts of wholesale dealers and beedi manufacturers."

I again looked at my watch.  This time he noticed.  "Wait.. we still have time."

"I got to be a finance controller.  I came to know of terms like insider trading which I'm sure my father would have never heard of in his eighty years."

"But for that opening up of the economy, do you think we would have seen this prosperity?  Look at the way the middle class spends the money.  We can't get a seat in this restaurant during the weekend.  We all got greedy.  The owner of this restaurant must have greased the palms of enough  government officials even to run this business. It all started with those two policemen."

He was getting bitter.  I saw the policemen getting up.  One of them turned to Balram.

"Sir, we must go now.  Your hearing would start in the next 15 minutes."

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