The Pandemic-Driven Desperation Is Worrying!

The two-year long COVID-19 pandemic (no signal that it’s ended) has jolted the Indian economy almost out of its roots, heightened by the fact that the economy had been under a lot of strain for at least two years prior the outbreak. The normal demand-supply equation has gone bizarre—the supply chain not yet being able to resume its normal course, with some of the key sectors suffering maximum damage, in light of insufficient demand as the common people now want to hold on to their savings fearing an uncertain future. Normally, with less demand and normal supply the prices should fall and this has led many experts to expect a recession soon or already in the process. However, prices only kept on rising, crossing a whopping level of 7% in the recent quarter that’s made the Reserve Bank of India increase the Repo rate twice in two weeks. With some knowledge of economics I feel that while the customers are not spending their money enough the suppliers not still getting the normal booming times want to break even or recompense by raising the prices, covering all the essentials as well the consumer durables. This brings us to the desperation displayed by almost all stakeholders to stay viable and to survive.


Millions of Indians have lost their jobs or regular sources of income, fully or partly, in the two-year slump and are now desperate to generate some sure income for sheer survival. Apart from causing more shortfalls on the demand side, these people are mostly trying to take up any casual jobs and try doing their best. Therefore, it’s no surprise that people like us, in some level of safety in terms of survival, are getting marketing calls from such desperate casuals, accounting for more than 90% of the daily phone calls. Invariably, these calls are designed to make you part with your income/savings or to give you income in the way of personal loans.


The casuals working for the telecom companies, the banks, the insurance companies and the like daily sit with their phone database and call up one and all at a daily basis. They want to convince you cutting a deal like get a new connection or to port the existing connection, purchase a policy, go for a new credit card or confirm for a personal loan so that they can earn their commissions to justify their temporary occupation and to generate some income. I’m appalled that they don’t even spare the retired people, offering loans or cards or policies without bothering to find out if they were eligible at all. On getting a call like that I ask them what I am going to do with a personal loan now, because a retired person normally doesn’t have too many plans for new purchases and that it’d be like just paying back the loan every month, losing a sizeable amount of money in the process. But they insist that all are eligible based on their credit score or something like that. Add to this the food or the cab or other aggregators who shower you with repeated messages/promos/discounts to go for it. With obstructed and declining economic growth such kind of desperation is not going to end soon.


The desperation is visible in other fields too. That day, being almost roasted alive inside the house by the grueling humid heat, I decided to go out for a relief in the evening. As I entered a restaurant cum bar the somewhat emaciated valet assigned to open the doors for every customer, leaned toward me while opening the glass door, and to my great surprise asked me in a low tone, “You’ll eat something inside?” I stared at him, not facing such a situation ever in my life and asked him, “What?” he repeated his question. Angry now, I told him that I was going to decide after browsing the menu only, and went past him, not courteously.


Taking a seat I complained to a waiter about this peculiar behavior. He didn’t look surprised, but assured me he’d talk to him which he did later. I ordered a beer and as I started relishing the cool relief going down my throat I couldn’t help wondering about that valet. I felt sorry for him, standing out there in the heat, God knows for how many hours a day. ‘Maybe, most of the customers enter here just to cool off a little without ordering pricey dishes and thus depriving him of a tip’, I thought. This, in fact, got somewhat confirmed when, paying the bill, I left a tip the waiter told me to give it to the valet outside and that from there the money would be distributed to all of them. I took the note back and went outside. Unfortunately, he was not there, perhaps taking a break for himself. I waited a couple of minutes looking around, and then left sadly.


While taking a flight at times, out of absolute necessity, I’ve been observing the airports too, and was always surprised to see a lot of un-uniformed people loitering around, offering help to one and all like the railway porters. And recently, I got a shocker.


An elderly lady in perfect health and posture had just got down from a cab at an airport, offloading her baggage. She was traveling alone, apparently. A sickly elderly person approached her immediately, offering help till the boarding is completed for a little over a thousand bucks. The surprised lady was not yet able to decide what to do when the man while arranging a trolley for the baggage unfolded a wheelchair and asked her to occupy it. The lady got very offended and angry now. She stoutly refused and taking hold of her trolley set off for the airport entrance.


Desperation and the resultant frustration cum anger is hardly good news for a society. If continued for an indefinite period of time this may lead to violence and crimes. In India, we’ve been helplessly watching violent rivalries, riots in various places on silly excuses, general crimes and crimes against women. Hope the desperation gets a solution fast and the looming uncertainty ends soon. Unfortunately, the epidemiologists are at the moment are debating if the COVID-19 Fourth Wave has hit India or not. 


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