Being an active civil servant at that time, I found that any critical commentary on questions relating to the prevailing economic and commercial scenarios was out of bounds for me as a journalist, since they invariably had a bearing on Government policy and/or performance. But that didn't prevent me from writing forcefully now and then about such matters in a generic and purely humorous vein in the prestigious magazine Shankar's Weekly, which counted the seniormost Government officers, including my bosses, among its regular and earnest readers.
And today, after such a long time, I am quite thrilled to find that some of those hilarious articles have survived the test of time far better than any serious essays I might have been able to write on crucial economic issues if only I had been perfectly free to do so! And of course, almost anything I wrote in New Delhi had universal appeal, for I was always addressing an audience which included the entire diplomatic corps and their families.
For example, let's take a look at the following lively piece on the constantly escalating cost of living. which rings as true now as it did 40 years ago!
Shankar's Weekly16 June 1974
The Price Factory
I found myself sitting next to this well-dressed stranger in a dinner party.
"My name is Up Chand," he said. "I'm the Managing Director of Prices India (Private) Limited".
Oh, really? I said, duly impressed: Well, how's business?
Fine! Mr. Up Chand said. In fact, it has never been better!
You have your own factory, don't you?
We have a factory, yes. And we have depots all over India.
Do you have a wide range of products?
We don't have a range at all! We specialize in a single commodity -- HIGH PRICE. It is fully standardized. Previously we used to have two grades -- low and high. but we stopped producing the low grade.
I haven't seen any retail showroom of yours. How do you sell your products?
Oh, we don't do any retail business at all! All our supplies are made to industries and dealers.
Do you get your raw materials from indigenous sources, or do you import them?
Well, all our basic inputs, including technical know-how, are available in plenty in India. We don't import any raw materials.
Tell me, Mr. Up Chand, do you export your products?
Not much, I'm afraid! The domestic demand for high prices is very substantial, and we don't produce enough to satisfy it. In fact, our country is a net importer of prices.
What's your annual production like?
Well, I'm afraid I can't tell you that! But I can tell you we are practically doubling our output every five years now.
Are you utilizing your installed capacity fully?
Well yes, because at any given time our utilization of the installed capacity is 100 per cent. But our rate of growth is terrific, you know, and we are practically doubling the installed capacity every five years!
You don't have any trouble with staff or labor?
None at all! We pay them handsomely. In fact, we practically double their wages every five years. You see, their pay packet is one of our basic inputs, so when we pay them more our inputs are increased, and our production goes up!
How interesting! Would you mind passing me the salt please, Mr. Up Chand? Thank you!