Thursday, September 5, 2013

Soorma Bhopali Redux

Central bankers are boring people. I once heard a speech by Alan Greenspan during the days when a couple of shots of the strongest moonshine wouldn't do a thing for me. A couple of lines by the great tormentor of irrational exuberance were enough to doze me off.

They say that central bankers are required to be boring. In fact, if a highly decorated economist is not boring enough, he can never be a successful central banker. Armed with this information, Dhanno-Ki-Amma and I had once attended a talk by the great  Raghuram Rajan, during the release of his book a few years ago. As we had walked out of the auditorium, I had told my wife that the great doctor was destined for the same levels of greatness that Alan Greenspan had once attained.

A couple of days ago, as Dr. Raguram Rajan took his oath of office as India's top banker, I seriously contemplated a career in soothsaying. But we will talk about that on some other day.

In the last few days, Raghuram Rajan has been projected by the Indian media as a "rock star" economist, who is going to instantly stop the exchange rate slide, elevate the stock indices, eliminate the current account deficit, and fix everything else that is wrong with the Indian economy. Don't get me wrong, I really admire the guy. He is an extremely bright individual, with a sense of purpose, who comes across as someone, who genuinely cares about where the country is headed, when our leaders seem to have bailed on us. But, the last time I checked, rock stars don't fix anything -- they never have.

What came to my mind, when I thought about what the Indian economy really needs, was more of a knight in shining armor. I have no idea why this happens to be, but the word for knight in Desi Babu's favorite languages of Hindi and Urdu, happens to be Soorma. 

Now, hold that thought for a couple of minutes while I tell you about something else. Raghuram Rajan, has been named after the Lord of Ayodhya -- twice, if you care to count. I could not, even in my wildest dreams, imagine that our esteemed right wing, would question his "Indian-ness", but as it turns out, they did. Because, for various reasons, including the fact that he seems to be more devoted to India than many of our politicians do, it was suspected that he was not Indian by birth. Apparently, the matter was quickly settled when Dr. Rajan produced a birth certificate, proving that he was born in the capital of the state, known as Hindustan ka Dil (the heart of India) -- Bhopal.

That makes Raghuram Rajan a Desi! And Desi Babu feels quite elated that a fellow Desi is in charge of the great hoard of national gold, buried deep in some pit, somewhere. But just hold it, right there, because the real interesting part is yet to come.

If Raghuram Rajan is a Soorma, and he is from Bhopal, what does that make him? You got it right -- Soorma Bhopali!

Soorma Bhopali (center) with Jai and Veeru in Sholay

For those of you who don't know, Soorma Bhopali, was an interesting character, played by Jagdeep in the greatest Indian movie of all times, Sholay. Apparently, there was a gentleman in Bhopal, who went by the name of Nahar Singh, who was the inspiration for the character of Soorma Bhopali. And if legend has any truth to it, Mr. Singh was quite the white knight, with a heart of gold. Unfortunately, he passed away in a road accident, leaving behind a pair of large shoes that no one has been able to fill.

And so, perhaps, the best thing that could happen to India during these troubled times, is if someone brought back Soorma Bhopali. If Raghuram Rajan does his job alright, we might finally conclude that the great Soorma is back amongst us.

And for that, our prayers are with Dr. Rajan. 

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