The shocking part is that the powers-that-be seem to be oblivious—it is almost as if the government genuinely believes that things are not that bad and are, of course, getting better.
In many countries in the world, marijuana has been legalised—indeed, there are entirely new industries in health and wellness being built around CBD as also THC (which is the “drug” aspect of marijuana). In India, however, we have the foolish situation of the CBI spending substantial precious resources unnecessarily arresting two young men for possession of “non-commercial amounts” of marijuana.
This is completely ass-backwards. And it is particularly nuts because, for most of recorded time, India was the most liberal country on earth from the point of view of use of mind-altering substances. I (foolishly) never indulged when I was growing up, but after a year or so in college in the US, I quickly developed a taste for the “high” life. Visiting Bombay in the last 1970s, I remember strolling out towards Haji Ali dargah to buy some charas, which I smoked leaning against the wall of a police chowki. And, when I returned to India in 1985, I was directed to Mumbadevi, where I spent many hours over multiple evenings (and some afternoons) sharing chillums with the “support staff” of the mandir.
Smoking charas or ganja was normal—daily life for a lot of people. It was not even seen as getting high. At Mumbadevi in the evenings, there would be a steady stream of labourers who would walk up to the adda, buy a ball of bhang for one rupee and pop it into their mouth on the way home from a hard day. I was high much of the time during my first five years back in Bombay, all while I was building my FX advisory business. Despite—or, perhaps, because of—my state of mind, I usually had a very clear view on where the rupee was going; and, judging from how well the business grew, I was obviously right, or reasonably right, most of the time.
I have stopped smoking the stuff for the past 25 years or so, and the only time I do indulge these days is at Holi, when Indians are supposed to drink bhang. I used to buy bhang golis at Mumbadevi, blend them at home with store-bought thandai, and as the song goes—Holi hai!
But, of course, never leave good enough alone. Some years into the game—it must have been 1995 or 1996—I took my then 15-year old son with me so he, too, could learn some nuances of our culture, but found, to my horror, that the police had clamped down and even my friends at the mandir—for God’s sake—were not allowed to sell, or even keep, bhang. I couldn’t believe it—we had to settle for some commercial cigarette-wallah stuff, which worked, of course, but didn’t have that transcendent kick. So much for celebrating traditional Indian culture!
Which brings me back to the mundane reality of the politically-driven bickering over the tragic death of a young actor which reflects the wider, more horrifying tragedy our country is facing. Seasoned analyst after seasoned analyst have raised multiple and serious alarms about the economy, and how—even after a near 25% shrinkage in the April-June quarter—the worst is yet to come, certainly in terms of peoples’ welfare and business performance.
The shocking part is that the powers-that-be seem to be oblivious—it is almost as if the government genuinely believes that things are not that bad and are, of course, getting better. It is hard to tell whether it is just deaf, dumb and blind, or just heartless. Its echo chamber seems to be completely sealed off from the reality that people live in.
To be sure, this has been the government’s modus operandi since the beginning—we know what we are doing, and we will build a $ 5 trillion economy by 2024; demonetisation was actually a huge success; GST has changed the face of India and the Centre’s relationship with the States (we just need a few more tweaks); and the coronavirus—our plan is working.
We only have over 90,000 new cases a day, which, in a country with a population as large as ours, is not bad—the US with a population just 25% of ours has 50% as many cases per day. China, with a population about as big as ours, has 20 new cases a day—but China is China, you can’t trust their numbers and we will take care of them on our borders and in the global markets—just wait and watch.
It seems that the government must be smoking some very high-quality mind-altering stuff. I wonder where I could get some—it may help me rediscover how to forecast markets.
The author is CEO, Mecklai Financial. Views are personal