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Paying to watch the sunset

Courtesy of Ravi Shankar Prasad

On Sunday morning, I woke up to five missed calls from her.

“All’s well?” I asked, calling her back.

“Not really,” she said.

“Why?”

“Did you see the minister’s statement?”

“No.”

“It seems people spent Rs 120 crore on October 2nd watching movies.”

“Hmmm.”

“And in the process they contributed to economic growth.”

“What are you getting at?” I asked.

“Well, we didn’t do anything.”

“As in?”

“As in, we didn’t see the movies that were released on Bapu’s birthday.”

“Yes. Because we didn’t want to see any of the movies that were released. And we did see a movie the weekend before that and the one before that as well.”

“But we should also be contributing to the economic growth na.”

“Okay, let’s watch that Netflix movie you have been dying to watch, in the evening today.”

“No.”

“No?”

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Oh ho, what I mean is that the Netflix subscription for the month has already been paid.”

“So?” I asked.

“I want to make a fresh contribution to economic growth.”

“Ah, like that,” I said, wondering what had gotten into her.

“Yes. Let’s go watch Tiger and Duggu.”

“Good idea. And then we will eat out and do some shopping as well.”

I got on to www.bookmyshow.com and booked tickets for a noon show of War.

Thirty minutes into the movie and she turned to me with a look which said, “Why are we watching this?”

“Because you wanted to contribute to economic growth,” I replied.

“Hmmm.”

“And I thought you liked Duggu and Tiger.”

“Yeah, that I do,” she said, with a twinkle in her eyes. “Kya bumper hai, kya body hai.”

Never have truer words been said about the musclemen of Hindi cinema.

As soon as she had finished saying this I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and saw a teenager with a finger on his lips suggesting that we keep quiet. “Did Tiger provide so much meaning to his life?” I wondered.

I soon dozed off and woke up at the interval and realised that she was extremely irritated.

“Baby, let’s go,” I suggested, remembering my friend Amit who keeps talking about the sunk-cost fallacy.

“But we have already paid so much to watch this movie.”

“Yes and in the process we have already contributed to economic growth. It doesn’t mean that we continue to watch it till the end and give ourselves a headache. Buying a pack of Saridon won’t contribute much to economic growth.”

“You have a point,” she said, as she got up to leave the cinema hall.

“Now what?” I asked, as soon as we were out of the hall.

“Now we eat.”

Five minutes later we were at our favourite Chinese restaurant. Only after we had finished ordering did I realise that the place looked different.

The number of waiters had come down considerably and they were not the ones we were normally served by. I called one waiter and enquired and was told that a new management had taken over.

The food was a disaster, even dollops of sweet chilli sauce couldn’t rescue the starters. The less I say about the main course the better.

Soon, we were in a bookstore and she was all excited about it. She picked up a number of books, including William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy, which came with a free tote bag. (To be honest, it’s the tote bag that got her all excited about the book, given that she isn’t much of a history reader, and prefers hardcore economics books.)

I was trying to tell her all along, why buy books from a bookshop? Let’s just make a list of books you want to buy and go home and order them from Amazon and get some discount in the process.

“Nah, discounts hurt the economy,” she said.

“How?”

“We don’t pay the full price.”

“So?”

“You tell me.”

“But we end up saving money, which we can spend elsewhere,” I explained.

“Oh, I never thought about it that way.”

“Yeah. Second order effects are slightly difficult to think about.”

“Hmmm.”

“And I think you are becoming a victim of what the Japanese called Tsundoku.”

“What does that mean?” she asked.

“Buying too many books and letting them pile up, without reading them.”

“V, don’t make me feel guilty,” she said. “Buying books is the only thing in the world that I love.”

By the time we finished buying books for her and Diwali kurtas for me, it was already 6 pm. Since we were near the Juhu Beach, we decided to walk up to it and watch the sunset.

Fifteen minutes later, at around 6.17 pm, the sun sets. With all the shor in the city, bursting at the seams with people, this was as beautiful and peaceful as it could get.

“You know the best things in life are free,” she quipped.

“But they don’t contribute to economic growth na,” I replied.

“They can,” she replied, smiling for the first time all day.

“How?”

“Well, if we were to watch the same sunset in Goa…”

I got the drift and soon logged on to makemytrip.com, planning a quick Goa trip. Twenty minutes later, I had booked the return air tickets as well as the hotel we would be staying in. It had its own private beach, which would mean we could watch the sunset every day for the four days we were in Goa.

“Who said the most beautiful things in life can’t be paid for,” she said.

“Goa, here we come,” I wanted to shout at the top of my voice, as it started to become dark on the Juhu Beach.

“Ah let me order one more thing…” she said, logging on to Amazon.

“What are you ordering?” I asked.

“A big cloth bag,” she said.

“Why?”

“What if there are plastic bottles and other such material lying on the beach. We will have to clean up na.”

“Oh, yes. Swachh Bharat. Swasth Bharat. There I have coined another slogan.”

The sun had set. The people had left the beach. High tide was setting in. We were walking hand in hand, thinking about our next sunset in Goa, which we had already paid for.

Economic growth is about watching paid sunsets. Dear reader, when are you going to pay for the next sunset?

On most days, Vivek Kaul makes a living writing on the Indian economy. But when he doesn’t understand what is happening in the world at large, he tries his hand at satire.

www.newslaundry.com