Day before yesterday, I had a group of friends over for dinner. It was small gathering comprising friends from media and finance. Over drinks, the conversation veered off towards politics, economics and the general condition of the Indian state. And the party, which began on a cheery note, soon turned solemn.
It was alarming to hear such depression in their voices when just eight months ago we were clinking our glasses in good cheer with celebratory cries of, “Here’s to us being a trillion dollar economy.”
One in particular (let’s call him A), a banker, had had depressing meetings with his clients. The fortunate ones among them were revising their targets downwards and the unfortunate ones were being forced to take more drastic measures. Like temporarily shutting down their plants. “I think we should all prepare to lose our jobs,” he said, gulping is drink in one straight draught and gazing longingly out of my sixth floor window. I hastened to shut the window. He had imbibed half a bottle of my finest single malt.
Soon others of his ilk joined him by the window and indulge in the gloom talk. “And we’re not even talking about the BPO sector. Just imagine what happens when they lose their jobs.” “Real Estate is the worst hit. I think some developers are going to hang themselves next year – not the big guys, the smaller ones.” How comforting. “And retail, the marquee name for the India story, most supermarkets and malls have huge outstandings. Their vendors have stopped supplying them.”
The party was starting to resemble a wake. Soon everyone was singing drunken dirges of commodities, equities, inflation, currency and interest rates. The window had been reopened (it had gotten awfully hot with everybody there) and they all joined A in looking speculatively out of the window.
“Media!” I chipped in, desperate for some good cheer. “Media is fine, isn’t it, F? Everyone knows media is depression proof. Karan Johar said so in the papers today.”
The traitorous F, a TV producer, shakes her head. “No man. Most TV channels are in bad shape. They’ve all cut down on hours of original programming and filling in the rest of the slots with repeats and reruns.”
“Oh?” I said, momentarily forgetting my Santa Claus duty. After all this affected me directly.
“Most big ticket movies have stalled or have drastically scaled down their budgets,” P chipped in cheerfully.
Great. And we hadn’t even touched upon politics yet.