By Anuvab Pal
I’m a fan. Let me start by saying that. Also, it doesn’t really matter if I am or not. But I want to be on the safe side by putting down loud and clear that I am a fan.
From 2008, when I was slightly less bald, I have been hearing you speak, and I have to say, it was nearly impossible to disagree. When you said, ‘Clean India’, I immediately started cleaning my toilet. When you said ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ (Progress with all, for all), I grudgingly agreed. (‘What? Even people I hate?! Fine, you’re a better man than I.’)
Even when a billion people lined up outside banks in 2016 because you didn’t like two particular currency notes, I said this is good for us – digital transparent India. And then many digital transactions collapsed. But that’s another story.
Even though some said this is draconian insanity, I said no. I am a warrior, a currency note warrior! Some went into Panipat with all gunpowder blazing. Some others went into Normandy to win World War 2. I went into the winter of 2016 without cash, because I was nation building.
When Raghuram Rajan was still batting at RBI’s crease, the feeling was that you guys will sort out everything – you with your innate understanding of India’s mind, and Rajan with an innate understanding of Chicagoey economicsy things. But suddenly, there was no Rajan. Not to worry, there came Urjit Patel. Sorry, suddenly there was no Patel either. No problem, we will be fine.
The last couple of years, though, being your fan has been a little tricky. Becoming the Internet shutdown leader of the world in 2019 AD is, perhaps, not the best way to go about becoming a $5 trillion economy when some $4 trillion will probably be online. And maybe, to build the economy, you need young people to do their venting on Twitter rather than expecting them – because there’s no WiFi – to suddenly sedate themselves into playing Ludo.
The thing about fan bases is that you need them. It explains why Sachin Tendulkar, who had an almost religious following, didn’t scream, ‘I hate you all!’ to his core base at the Wankhede. Your die-hard fans – middling entrepreneurs, traders and the job-seeking youth – seem to be getting kicked first with a melange of GST, bankruptcy, protests upsetting business confidence, et al.
Hurting those who love you the most is a unique strategy. It’s like you are ‘pulling a Kabir Singh’ on the economy. To understand that cinematic reference, sir, involves a complicated explanation of misogyny transferred from lovers to GDP, which is for another time, another place.
May i suggest, as a fan, sir, chatting with someone. And that someone not being folks saying, ‘All is well!’ when not all is well. Someone who can tell you that the slight vibe in the country now is a ‘pick a side’ vibe, the ‘for you or against you’ vibe.
Dinner tables, TV channels, friendships, and even dead poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz now have to pick a side. I doubt any economy grew double digits by having two opposing sides and no referee.
Recently at an aluminium manufacturers’ conference, a government voice stood up and said, ‘There’s nothing to fear.’ Maybe the fact that fear – and not aluminium – is being discussed at an aluminium conference is what one should be afraid of.
Anuvab, the writer is a standup comedian and author