Thursday, April 19, 2012

I was trying not to choke on my coffee. As if bad roads, corrupt officials, indecent hospitals and unaffordable housing weren’t enough, one more cross for the “common man” to bear — no more shopping for gold! And what are weddings in this country but a celebration of gold?

Of course, it must be the common man who is suffering. Who else will suffer, if not us? Bhabhi-ji wasn’t the only one with fears of running out of gold. A shopkeeper expressed similar views: “Even the general public is suffering, as they have to buy gold for marriages ahead in the families.” A teacher felt that it was terrible that jewellers might pass on the burden of taxes to customers. She said, “The government should think on the lines of Indian households where gold is the biggest necessity and the taxing it further can put them on the backfoot.” (sic)

Suddenly, it didn’t seem funny, after all. I’ve done my share of ‘vox pop’ (voice of the people) stories as a cub reporter, so I know how it works. You accost a few unsuspecting souls on the streets; you ask for an opinion on the newest problem on the news block; you take a photograph. Most people will oblige. Perhaps, because they rarely get to express an opinion about anything, not in the mainstream press anyway. Perhaps, because it is nice to see your photo in the morning papers, saying something about something that matters.

Yet, I am a little bit thrown by these opinions. Do people really think that gold jewellery matters all that much? And are we really so blinkered that we believe that people who buy gold for every wedding in the family constitute the ‘common man’ for whom the government must frame policies? That making gold jewellery cheaper should actually be a state priority?

If the government’s taxation policy could force people to stop buying that much gold, and stop expecting so much of jewellery at weddings, then perhaps the state is doing something right for a change.

Read full piece here.

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