Teatime in the City - 2016


An Unusually Unexpected Day

By Samir Shukla

I am a proud American that is proud of my Indian heritage. I see myself as a complete blend of the two distinct parts that merge into an inseparable one. Transformative events in either country inform my thinking. I strive to blend the best of both into something a little better than it was in the past.

Throughout history there have been days that unhinge the status quo of countries in ways that were unforeseen or imagined even a few months earlier. They change the trajectory of the country; realign political structures as well as potential economic outcomes. They could be dark days like Pearl Harbor and 9/11, a couple of obvious ones that affected the United States and its collective conscience to unleash forces to change the country's story.

There are also happy days, the Fourth of July for the United States and August 15 for India – the respective independence days of both countries. One launched a young country into being while the other fused an ancient land into the contemporary world of nations. A future of dreams and possibilities were lit on those respective days.

Then there are days like November 8, 2016. It was a day when the two most prominent democracies in the world embarked on unforeseen and unexpected paths. On that day America held its caustic election and elected the most improbable of all candidates to the presidency while India launched the revolutionary move of demonetization of large bills. Both will send the countries on as yet undetermined paths and affect the global interwoven infrastructure as well.

The most powerful democracy in the world set a different course while the most populous democracy in the world unleashed a different course. Both happened on the same day. This is nothing short of the transformative processes of democracy and human actions, warts and all.

Democracy Unhinged: A Caustic Election Wraps

In this age of digital madness, it is quite apparent now. No amount of data mining or reliance on focus groups can measure the grievances of the human heart, whether perceived, imagined, or real. This also includes the fears, the hidden prejudices as well as love and compassion that dwell in the crevices of the human brain.

Behavior and actions vary widely in the same person, given their emotional, physical, or financial circumstance of the moment. On November 8, the most unusual of American elections took place and the country unlatched the floodgates into an unexpected new era. Elation swept a big chunk of the country as Donald Trump defied all political parameters and won the presidency while despondence swept another big chunk of the country as Hillary Clinton conceded an unexpected defeat. The election was already set to be historic no matter which candidate won. Most folks were just happy it was over so they can go on with their lives without the unending dissonance of the past several months.

Relax and come to grips with the results, whether they meet your expectations or not. Whether your candidate won on the local, state or national level, America will persevere. It always does, no matter who leads the country. The “American democracy" or I should say the ever evolving “American experiment" will continue on its quest to be a more perfect union, even while it hits speed bumps and obstacles along the way. Keep in mind that in the end the haters are few, the lovers are many. Social media, which has connected humanity like never before, also dissects humanity like never before. Good folks need to set aside their differences and plow forth. America will have it no other way. It is bigger than Hillary Clinton, bigger than Donald Trump. It is a tall ship continuously charting and correcting its course.

Economy Unhinged: Modi's Money Move

Ironically, while the US was voting in a crazy election on November 8, India's Prime Minister unleashed a different kind of weapon precisely on the same day. He announced a plan for reducing the so-called “black money" to reduce corruption and bring in more tax revenue. It was a totally unexpected move of Demonetization.

The surprise demonetization of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes in India instigated by Modi is a brilliant move. Ok, so I'll get flack for writing this because I'm sitting here in the States and don't have to worry about long lines of people in India exchanging their old notes for new ones at banks. Of course this will cause pain among common folks for a while. The lines at the banks, the empty ATM machines in India are the result of such a sudden move on a national level. The country's economy will also suffer a small setback because of this disruptive move.

But this move makes sense, in a revolutionary manner. Think about it. Once this plays out, vast amounts of cash, the mountains of black money will see the light of day and enter the contemporary financial systems. Criminals, traffickers and terrorists will have to figure out a way to dump the piles of cash they have stashed to use for nefarious activities.

There is, of course, an economic price to pay in the short term, especially for poor folks that live day to day on their daily wages. Any disturbance in their daily bread is quite bad. But demonetization will clean out quite a bit of the black money that is so pervasive in India. It's not a perfect solution, but it is a major, positive move.

Over time, November 8, 2016 will become just another day in the story of America as well as story of India. History will clearly mark the day for its unhinging effects. Other days like this are inevitable and will occur as they will. Time, the great healer and moderator, will distill the eventual results.