Caution for the reader who has little or no knowledge of the Hindi language:
This story uses certain Hindi phrases that I have also translated into English but I suspect those who understand the Indian National language will probably enjoy this one better
“For men may come and men may go
But some topics go on forever”
Many social breakfasts, lunches and dinners have come and gone. Months and years have passed. Infants have started walking and three prime ministers have ascended the Australian throne. But certain topics of discussion never seem to change. So profound is the situation, that these days my old eager anticipation has been replaced with a new predicable expectation at most of the eating orgies.
At social gatherings, other than the usual suspects grazing voraciously on the calories, I usually foresee the customary “heated” topics to emerge. Most occasions (like Diwali, Holi and Christmas) not only bring forth the spirit of festivities (often fired up by glassfuls of strong spirits within) but also bring forth expected idiosyncratic behavior from unexpected quarters.
The most popular topic that has gained immortality thanks to the American fat cats is, of course, the global financial crisis or GFC as the regulars call it. This theme has the commonality of an alley cat at social gatherings. In fact I have decided to call any discussion based around this mysterious topic – the “Inevitable GFC Forum”.
I can see the G word being dropped at every single gathering and in fact I have already had the good fortune of having met a few local Warren Buffets heralding the advent of non-festivities at festive occasions. Strange as it sounds but I am often impressed because it seems to me that these newborn Warrens know more about the global economic weather than the original Buffet. Here I must also mention in passing that before the economic meltdown, the only Buffet I knew was the one served on the table.
Now – back to the GFC forum and to a detailed study of the extraordinary bare essential foundations of this undying subject.
To start with, every person seems to have an expert opinion. In fact, after a couple of tight serves of whiskey, some will even table solutions for the entire global crisis. Past facts and figures will emerge with the deep-fried entrees, the doom and gloom will be served with the elegant and heart warming mains cooked in unadulterated ghee and the inevitable final solutions will be laid out together with the vast array of colorful calories (also sometimes referred to as desserts).
At most of these gatherings, I tend to first settle down with a glass of the white and let the warmth hit me. The warmth that I refer to is the one brought on not by global warming or the wine but by the discussions around me. Pretending to understand everything, I habitually pull my chair closer to one of the more garrulous groups.
As mentioned earlier, I always find the usual suspects around….
Mr. Doom, like at every other dinner, will always be on the forefront. “Every person here is doomed… finished,” he will lament while Mr. Gloom sitting next to him will nod away wisely. The topics about the meltdown seem to always vary between the two perennial groups at these occasions – the male and the female (and I am so glad that we don’t have a third group). The objective and perspective of the discussions within these two groups will be vastly different.
The females will use this moment to crucify the partners.
“Ajee, woh sab kuchh khokar baithe hain…” (Oh, he has lost everything)
“Arey jaane do, pucho to kehte bhi nahin hain ki kitna gayaa…” (Forget it. He won’t even tell me how much he has lost)
“Han Jee, mainay to pehele se kaha thaa ki jaane do ye share vair…” (Yes- I had forewarned him about these shares, etc)
The males on the other hand will use this as a platform to achieve three things:
(1) display a complete knowledge of world economics – past, present and future
(2) duck from the wives (their own, of course)
(3) fantasize about assets (of the monetary kind of course!) that they wish they had
And the comments will then be thrown into the air by characters that can be broadly categorized as follows:
The Optimist: “Lakhon chale gaye… par koyee baat nahi.” (Have lost millions but it does not matter)
The Fantasizing Optimist: “Lakhon chale gaye… par koyee baat nahi. Karodo banaa lenge!” (Have lost millions but it does not matter – will make ten fold again)
The Buck Passer: “Pataa nahi kyun itney ghar le liye maine! Meri missus ki vajah se ye saara kaam bigad gaya.” (I don’t why I went and invested so much money into properties; it’s entirely my wife’s fault)
The Curable Pessimist: “Iska ab koyee solution nahi raha. Aage ki pidhiyan iskaa dukh jhelenge (Alas, there is solution to this. Future generations will pay for this)
The Incurable Pessimist: “Kahin aisa na ho ki sub kuch khokar ab desh vapas jaana pade” (Hope we don’t come to a state where we lose everything and need to go back to our country of origin)
To be honest, it often needs an incident or an accident to stop this gibberish flow.
Like at the last dinner – when the hostess came rushing out of the kitchen screaming at her husband “My God! My tenderloins are burnt!!” All conversations came to an abrupt halt. Some who understood that the beef tenderloins have been overcooked sympathized with the hostess and the other slower ones (who split tenderloins into two words) looked down in embarrassment and sympathized quietly with the host.
Such incidental outbursts are quite meaningful because they manage to stop further comments about this unforgiving topic. On the other hand, these incidents often spell a bigger doom and gloom for me because they actually open up the gates for the next expected channel of conversation – Cricket, Golf, Anna Hazare or India’s new PM Modi. And this scares me. Not the topics but the ensuing boredom. Maybe Bertrand Russell was spot on when he said “Boredom is… a vital problem for the moralist, since half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.”
But more of that torture later….