Today's Paper Archive Classifieds Subscriptions RSS Feeds Site Map ePaper Mobile Apps Social


Updated: January 14, 2011 12:21 IST

Invisible part of the formal economy

D. Murali
Share  ·   print   ·  

One of the many anecdotes in ‘My Two Indias: A journey to the ends of opportunity’ by S. Mitra Kalita (Harper) is about a flat that the author and her husband wanted to buy on the eve of India’s sixtieth anniversary celebrations. “It was a rundown DDA flat, meaning it was built in the transition of government serving as developer – and it looked that way. But it was in a great part of town with a Metro scheduled to be built in 2010. We had looked at several flats, and this one seemed the most affordable and within the boundaries of south Delhi, like we wanted,” she narrates.

“We asked an architect to take a look. She was to meet us at the flat on Thursday night. My phone rang as we were on our way. It was the broker. ‘It’s gone,’ he said. ‘The buyers already put money down.’”

Surprised, the author asks if there is anything they could do now. “Half in black,” says the broker. “You can’t compete with that.”

Can’t I compete, if I move in the same circles, shop in the same malls, holiday in the same places, Bombay to Bangkok, and educate children in the same fancy private schools, she wonders. Not for long, however, because a fundamental reality and dividing line sobers her: the monthly salary slip and a long column of deductions such as taxes.

While scrambling to find receipts for her accountant – showing proof of payment for a refrigerator, overseas student loans, and daughter’s preschool tuition fees – Kalita bitterly thinks about the black-moneyed who earned conceivably hundreds of times the paltry amount she paid in cash to her landlord, and who didn’t have to pay a drop in taxes. “In so many ways, they were an invisible part of the formal economy – and yet its showiest members, able to afford the biggest cars and houses and diamonds.”

The black-moneyed surfaced daily, everywhere, the author observes. As, for example, during her visit to a jeweller, when she found another woman walking in, seeing a multi-tiered ruby necklace, not bargaining, and throwing down a few lakh rupees, in cash.

“As she left, the man behind the counter answered my incredulous expression: ‘Happens all the time. Her husband works in real estate. She doesn’t even ask me the price half the time.’ I didn’t buy a coveted pair of earrings behind the case – too expensive.”

Stark contrasts that come through an engaging style.


More In: Books

Amandeep Sandhu, Manjul Bajaj, Manu Joseph and Sonora Jha read from their novels that were shortlisted for The Hindu Prize for Fiction 2013. Ziya Us Salam introduces them and moderates the session. <... »

Jaipur Literature Festival

More Jaipur Literature Festival » More »


Please remember to logout of facebook after you complete this session.



Recent Article in Books

A story on wheels: Divya Jain says the book is a celebration of trucking. Photo: K. Gopinathan

A tribute to the trucking spirit

We often forget that trucks play a vital part of our lifestyle. Horn Please – Trucking in India attempts to connect us with the picturesque existence of trucks »