By Kritika Pandey:
The stock market had never engaged my attention for more than nanoseconds before we had this intensive session at my B-school prep classes today. The number of trailing zeros in forty lakh crores, which is the worth of National Stock Exchange in terms of market capitalization, scared the Nifty out of me! The way back home had me hating the government for being so fussed with Foreign Direct Investment, when sizzling noodles in a blotted frying pan on one side of the road interrupted all philosophy. The sign board of Hotel Jharkhand, sticky with infinite dirt, counter questioned the piggy bank. If money makes the world go around then why does the sun set on the horizon and not in stock markets?
The boys in Hotel Jharkhand are too shy for the camera, too shy to smile, too shy to stop smiling. Nobody tells them that hotels out there are a lavish industry of tall multi-storeyed structures with world-class services and staff. One wonders if they’d be disheartened to know that. But there’s very little cheer left to steal from lives that start and end with blackened utensils in a road side shack.
This town, the Jharkhand state capital, is very close to my heart. I’ve been brought up in many different bigger cities of the best developed states of the country but I still come back looking for a lost part of myself right here in this town. My childhood. The wickedest part about the rewind button in our heads is how much the concrete jungle has grown around our memories. Fifteen years ago, we didn’t have fried chicken from Kentucky here and mum would walk me to the STD booth during the evenings to make a phone call to Dad in Bombay. But so what if endless stretches of grasslands are replaced with shops and buildings and new petrol pumps, my recollections are still buried under same grounds.
And that is why when the stock market looks ahead to a new day of rising and falling share prices, I can’t overlook Hotel Jharkhand as the car speeds past the shy boy cooking noodles early in the morning. This may be a very small town in a very under-developed state of the eastern half of a developing nation in south-east Asia, but I’ve come across the biggest values in life right here. When I was in 5th grade and my grandpa asked me where I’d like to work when I grow up, I told him ‘The Big Apple’, grinning like a baby chimp. I still do, and probably would too, but I would plant twice as many flowers as I’ve picked from the gardens of my small hometown. Everything has a price tag in this world, except the ones that keep you alive. How much does a bag of sunshine cost? Ask the kid who lives from hand to mouth and he’ll tell you — a goddamned lifetime.