Jun 15, 2008

Rains... Capitalism... and a stupid story...

Raju watched the two of them walking hand-in-hand, obviously enjoying each other’s company. The guy was wearing what looked to be an expensive jacket, and jeans fashionably torn at the knees. “Such rich people, and they still end up wearing torn clothes”, thought Raju, looking at his own clothes which could do with a stitch or two. The girl was wearing tight jeans which ended just below her knee, showing off some well-toned calf muscles. “Nice legs”, thought Raju, “but I have seen better.” Finally, his thoughts returned to the business at hand, “I wish they would buy some bhutta”.

Raju was a fifteen year old who sold different things at different times of the year, along the stretch of concrete that was called the Marine Drive promenade. During the summer, he would hawk cold water bottles and kulfi, switch to buttered bhutta during the monsoons, and finally to garma-garam masala chai during the winters. Raju also attended the evening school run by the municipality, where he had to switch to after his father lost his job. His father had had big dreams for his son, but the loss of job had turned him into an abusive drunk. Raju also had big dreams for himself, but the fact he dreamed them up during his naps at the night class did not help those dreams.

The couple also sighted Raju and his bhutta paraphernalia as they walked along. The girl jumped at the sight of the warm bhutta, which would be rendered tastier with a dash of some red-coloured masala. She was reminded of her mom’s advice, “Don’t eat anything outside during monsoon. You’ll fall ill.” Bah, some doctors never switch off from their profession and become parents when they come home. “Mom, Dad, I know you run a successful clinic, and have earned a reputation for yourself in this part of town. But, puh-leese, I’m not one of the sundry patients that you free from the disease called too-much-money-and-as-much-hypochondria. I’m your daughter, let me enjoy my life”, she thought. She smacked her lips, both from the thrill of disobeying her mom’s food curfew, and the warm smell of the bhutta.

Raju too smacked his lips, though not too visibly. He had seen the girl look longingly at his bhutta stall, and knew the couple would soon come over soon. Couples were easy prey. You could quote a higher price, and the guys wouldn’t bargain, not in front of the girls they were desperate to impress. Not like those old retired uncles, who had given up impressing anyone, and haggled like you had asked them to hand over their entire retirement fund and their ancestral property. Raju fanned his stove with a flourish, and let out a shrill “garma garam bhutta… maska laga ke”…

The guy heard the pitch and cursed silently. “Damn”, he thought, “this bugger is going to fleece me now. But I can’t say no to her now, not if I hope to have any chance of my own treat today. And what the hell, I do like the salty taste on her lips after she’s had the bhutta.”

“I love rains. The pitter-patter sound, the smell of the earth, the relief from the sticky hot summer… the bhutta with the butter, the hot-chai with the pakora, the walk along Marine Drive with the waves spraying sea water in your face…” the girl was excitedly telling her partner.

“I hate the rains… the roof in the classroom leaks, the gutter flowing along our shanty is already overflowing, and there is a rumour that the BMC would demolish our slum next week. All three sets of my clothes are wet, and I hate the musty stink when I wear them,” Raju thought.

The couple bought the bhutta, munched away happily, hopped into the car parked nearby and zoomed away. Soon after, the cop with a heavy paunch (“after all, all that hafta has to end up somewhere”) came along and chased Raju away.


Two years went by, and Raju passed out of the municipal school with flying colours. He was granted a scholarship and went on to do a graduation in commerce.

One evening, there was a class on economics. In between sporadic bouts of naps (“the habit of napping during the evening classes refuses to go away”), Raju heard his teacher monotone away, “Capitalism is a system where the Government follows a laissez-faire policy, and market forces determine everything. It is not the Government’s business to run business…”

Raju thought, “But capitalism is what forced my dad to become a drunk wastrel. He was employed in a PSU that was privatized, and soon after, the new owners fired away workers in the name of down-sizing, and I had to leave my private school because my father couldn’t afford the fees…”

“Capitalism helps a nation achieve its full potential… It may not always result in equitable distribution of wealth, but the trickle-down effect…”

“trickle down… trickle down… funny, how capitalism is like the rains… people who are sheltered from its wrath enjoy it, see the good things in it, enjoy the bhutta and the waves and sit in their cars and watch the water trickle down their windows with joy… people who are homeless in the floods hate the rains… people who have nice jobs, good cars, fifty varieties of everything in shopping malls love capitalism... people who are jobless from the capitalism induced down-sizing floods hate it,” thought Raju.


Raju excelled in his studies, was granted another scholarship and went on to do an MBA. He told himself that one day, he would work for the benefit of street children and poor people.

On the final placement day, he was given two job offers. One with a micro-finance institution which would not pay much, require him to travel to the rural interiors, but would give him a genuine chance to really make a difference to some people’s lives. The other with an MNC bank, all plush comforts, fat bonus and package, company accommodation in the posh part of the city, and a company leased vehicle.

He thought over the two offers, reflected on his life so far, and signed the form for the placement sign-out.


Two months later, as the rains hit Mumbai with a vengeance, Raju rolled up the windows of his car, watched the rain drops trickle down the window, turned around, kissed his girlfriend and said, “I just love the rains…”

And, as an after-thought, he said to himself, “I love capitalism too… I liked socialism as long as the Government sponsored my education and ran evening schools… but no PSU micro-finance organization can match the comforts of this MNC job… I support any -ism as long as I can benefit, and that makes me a true capitalist at heart…


  1. Good one Shiva ! Liked it very much you will surely end up being India's next Chetan Bhagat!

  2. Anonymous2:52 AM

    hehe .. like it.. i think ure gonna make a movie some day.. but y is it always the guy turning around to kiss the gal...gals initiate kisses too... :)


  3. 'Bhutta' for the Young hep generation is those boiled, awfully-similar smelling corn that you can smell from a mile away before entering a Mall.
    The same corn when it is not separated from its stalk and roasted by a thelawalla over coals and sprinkled with that magic read powder with a dash of lime gives such a different experience.

    BTW, I always tell everyone that if you want to see contrast and the poor-rich divide, you have to see Mumbai. The image people have and are reminded of when spoken to about Mumbai up here in London is about the Slums. I hope that in the future I am able to tell people to come to Mumbai for different reasons, for example the Financial capital of Asia

  4. @ ravi:
    tnk u... though am not sure if Chetan Bhagat would be happy being compared here :)

    @ tushar:
    i'm still waiting for the gal who can initiate one ;)

    @ anand:
    the shopping mall bhutta is not bhutta... it never will be...

    and the contrast between rich and poor exists everywhere... Mumbai just magnifies it because too many people of varying backgrounds live on so little space :)

    and Mumbai being the Financial Capital of Asia? whatever happenned to Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo...

  5. "people who have nice jobs, good cars, fifty varieties of everything in shopping malls love capitalism..." - people don't HAVE them, they EARN them and capitalism enables them to do that. Indian socialism kept 800 million people poor for 44 years since independence. Chinese capitalism lifted more people out of poverty than the entire population of african continent under and after Deng Xio Ping.
    Just a thought!

  6. @ PD:
    don't mistake me my friend... I am not AGAINST capitalism... I'll support any-ism that benefits me... if socialism can give me education at one-tenth the cost of a private run school, I'm all for socialism... If socialism means that my taxes are going to support schools where neither teachers nor students turn up, I'm not for socialism...

    the problem is, I keep thinking... if it were not for some government aided education, I might not be writing this blog... if it were not for a PSU bank which gave me a loan without asking for security/guarantee, I might not have met you at the b-school... my problem is that by the time capitalists skim the cream and start looking at the 'bottom of the pyramid', it might be a little too late for some people...

  7. Would like to ask Tushar a question ;)