Note: Dear readers, to get a real feel of this story, a cursory look at part I ? , and part II ? is recommended. Part I focussed primarily on the awesome impact of the apparent lucre of the US on a new possible immigrant. Part II was all about seduction of the senses and getting entrenched in the land of Maya! As opposed to part 1 wherein the son sports $$ crossed eyes, the concluding part of the trilogy is diametrically opposite.
After all, what goes up has to come down. And when there is nothing left, there is always hope.
Hey dearest momma,
It is with a leaden heart and moist eyes that I pen this letter – in all probability my last one from the erstwhile hallowed Land of Milk and Borrowed Money. It was awesome while it lasted. But as they say, nothing lasts forever, save true love! The self-deluding bubble that had mesmerized the nation’s collective thalamus had to burst sometime. It didn’t take much of a prick to do it – save for the elected top-gun and his misguided coterie! Ah, how the mighty have fallen and what a bedlam that hype which was bolstered with plenty of bluff, bravado and bluster has made as its come thundering down. Ouch momma!
Now, does all that sound like Greek and Latin to you momma? I’m aware that you’ve more pressing matters to attend to – such as gluing your bespectacled irises to the TV screen to take in more of the ‘K’ soaps back home. Probably that’s why you aren’t wired-in to world matters as you ought to be. After all, what else could a retired mom with bum knees do? And then again, I know that for you – I’m your entire world and that my sporadic yet lengthy epistles do address the world and worldly matters by and large. But besides me, there is a big bad world out there; with real people and real nuts, momma, – just like there are fleas on other dogs too!
See momma, the poop has hit the fan big time! It started with Fannie May and Freddie Mac begging to be hit on their larded spectra-wide fannies with the fabled American pie! S P L O T C H – and their wish came true! The stench was awful and rankled many a seasoned nostril in places afar such as Darfur & Dombivili! Questions followed and now the trillion $ query – after Lehman Bros, Bear Stearns, Merril Lynch, AIG et al, who topples down next from hitherto hallowed and pristine perches on Wall Street?
Gosh, momma, I keep hearing fancy words such as ‘liquidity crunch’, ‘bailout’, ‘fiscal deficit’, ‘freefall’, ‘meltdown’ etc. I’m petrified that my savings in shares and mutual funds will be lynched next if the downslide continues and nobody shores up the timbers some more! If I stick it out in here any longer! I’d probably be on dole, i.e., if they still have loose change left over for it by then! Probably I’d have to appeal to the Red Cross to hand me some stamps for my letters to you as I wait in queue to slurp my soup with a million other H1B +’ves! (New readers, tune into Part 1 – for a better hold on the storyline).
No momma, I think I’ll head for home rather than face the prospect of ignominy out here in the worst-case scenario. Now, now, now – before you think that I’ve lost my marbles and reel out your cha-cha-cha 8,000+ miles across watery divides, please read and comprehend what I have to say first.
Now where did they go wrong?
(Readers, please note the abrupt change in the son’s volte-face distinction from ‘us’ and ‘we’ in the first two parts of the Unc Sam trilogy to ‘they’ in this one). Ahem!
America used to be the Land of Milk and Money! Now, never mind the fact that it was all borrowed money from Albania to Zimbabwe! Everything was designed to be king-size ? right from the Tudor/Victorian houses to those mile-long stretch limos, gas-guzzling SUV’s, Mc Duffer burgers, Mc Podunk Fries, Godzilla, the Hulk etc. Everybody borrowed the borrowed money and frittered away way more than they could afford. When ready-cash piddled out to a trickle, they borrowed more for what seemed to be a song piped to a merry tune by the shenanigans! They were content and secure coz when they have good ole Arnie to take care of ‘collateral damage’, why spend a second thought over it, eh, momma?
Now, hereabouts there was and is not much oil to partake in some sun and fun like them folks thereabouts in the Middle East! Imagine having just about 3 – 4% of the world’s known oil reserves and accounting for 25% consumption! That gave those uptight folks some pretty bad ulcers as they lost shuteye and griped about it. Maalox and psychoanalysis didn’t help much either! They plotted and schemed and when a cockamamie opportunity presented itself, they decided to shaft those Mesopotamians to milk them out of their oil. Two hoots to the UN coz it’s nothing but a monument to ignorance and a stooge of Unc Sam! They went right ahead expecting the world to look on in shock and awe and applaud their audacity and daredevilry if not sheer mendacity!
There was absolutely zilch in Afghanistan besides a wayward multitude sporting flowing unkempt beards and toting some mean looking hardware. So what if they were perpetually thumbing beads had megatons of fireworks and of course, plenty of acreage of poppy plantations amidst some untouched mountains? Not too far a cry from the Rockies or Montana, sans the equivalent quantum of home-grown weed and beards of course! But nope, they jumped in headlong!
To add insult to injury, they broke the 11th commandment – ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s oil and even if thou do, thou shalt not speculate and borrow on it to build your houses’. That was pretty much OK, but they broke the 12th one – "Thou may break all the above, but thou shalt NOT get caught". They sure got caught when the poop hit the fan, eh momma? Now that’s how you screw up the most robust of economies – look for unwarranted trouble, speculate on what’s not yours, jump headlong and think later! Or did they really put all their stock in that gem of a Hollywood dialogue – "Shoot first, talk later"? Look who’s talking now, momma!
That in short, is my dissertation on the unholy mess at hand. I wish I could enclose the Wall Street Journal or today’s Dow Jones Index southbound nosedive to corroborate my story momma. All it would do is reiterate my stance – that the US is no more a beacon and a tower of strength unto the nations. On the contrary, the world’s spotlight has the US in its unrelentingly harsh glare coz now it’s they who are holding the bailout can!
Now, I’m not the only one having polarized views. Dr. Marc Faber had concluded his monthly bulletin (June 2008) with the following – ”The federal government is sending each of us a $600 rebate. If we spend that money at Wal-Mart, the money goes to China. If we spend it on gasoline it goes to the Arabs. If we buy a computer it will go to India. If we purchase fruit and vegetables it will go to Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. If we purchase a good car it will go to Germany. If we purchase useless crap it will go to Taiwan and none of it will help the American economy. The only way to keep that money here at home is to spend it on prostitutes and beer, since these are the only products still produced in US. I’ve been doing my part."
And harrumph, they expect me to do my bit by filling it up a bit for them!
What a sham to cloak venality as ‘growth’ and what a price to pay for adhering to a basic tenet of the capitalist faith – greed! Speculation – ah, how it has turned put to be an albatross round their necks! An initial bailout of 700 billion greenbacks at first instance and still counting in the US alone! Santa Maria, what a mindboggling figure! Honest momma, the other day I’d read someplace that if one stacked up $700 billion in crisp $100 bills, (not the 10’s or 1’s), it would tower a staggering 54 miles into the sky. And if one counted 1 billion at the sedate rate of 1 digit per second, they would need all of 30 years. Now, who would even want to count 700 billion unless they really needed to? But never mind that – they could always outsource it – assuming that there are any takers left!
Oh momma, that’s not all there is to the whole goddamned meltdown! The heat is really on. There is so much more to tell you! Anyway, let me continue and tell you more about the fallout of the economic meltdown and the havoc and ruination it’s caused me on the personal front.
The other day Mr. Papadopoulos had jammed his pudgy finger on my doorbell, woken me up from blissful slumber, given me a dopey hug and a boozy peck and announced that he was leaving for good. For the very first time, he had no arm-candy. In between sane interludes, he let it drop that he’d set up shop in an emerging economy such as China or Russia. Of course, he said, as he patted my hand like a doting grandfather – he had definitely considered India. But then he said that unlike the babble of languages in India and the miles of red tape; in China, everything is red, Mandarin is much easier and the Chinese fairer and prettier. That pretty much summed up his reasons for moving out. I haven’t seen or heard from him since. But one of these days I know my cell phone will ring with a quaint number and I know it’ll be Mr. Papadopoulos from some exotic place such as Shanghai, Suzhou or Xi’an.
The sad truth however was and is that he’d lost pretty much of what he owned ? the ships, the penthouses, the Cadillac’s, the Bentleys, the Harleys and of course the buxom blondes! No money is no honey and they had vamoosed.
Oh momma, you’ll be glad to hear this – before he left, he told me that I wasn’t actually married! That biker-cum-freelance-preacher in Las Vegas with the gravelly voice was real and so was the ring on my finger. And so were the luscious blondes – Suzy, Karen, Becky, Callie, Vicky and Debbie. But it was all a sham, a prank coz I was soaring on the wings of an Eagle with Mr. Papadopoulos’ weed! Meaning – I’m happily single and ready to mingle all over again! See momma, that’s the only silver lining amidst these overcast turbulent skies! (New readers, for the thread, please browse through Part 2 – ).
I’ve suffered losses too momma. With the onset of the bloodbath on Wall Street, the financial colossus that I used to codify for had summoned me for a t?te???t?te. They praised me to high heavens, commended my diligence, ingenuity and integrity and said that I was a role model – the kind that Unc Sam’s always on the lookout for! They beamed at me, shook my hand and gave me my pink slip in the other! I was ecstatic. I thought I was being promoted and could envision more zeroes piling up in my bank account. As they showed me the door they said ?"You have half an hour to move your paraphernalia. So beat it son!"
And beat it, I did! I ran, momma – faster than Forest Gump! Boy! Even his momma would have been mighty proud of me!
That was a month ago and since then life has never been the same again! The banks started hounding me when I defaulted on the mortgage for my groovy pad. They neutered my line of credit and blocked all my platinum, gold and even my playing cards! My set of fancy-wheels fared no better, but those buzzards were pretty innovative. Those creditors towed away my stretch limo in the dead of the night, although they were polite enough to slip in a genuinely apologetic-sounding explanatory note through my door. Thank God for politeness and courtesy in these trying times, eh momma? I’ve commuted by bus ever since!
With no limo to drive and no job, my chauffeur Bozo has literally set up camp at the watering hole next block and seems to be on a perpetual bender. And poor lil Fido, when I couldn’t afford to feed him his customary T-bone steaks, done rare of course, he went on an impromptu hunger-strike! Alas – my poor adamant mutt Fido with his Gandhian principles wasn’t as strong as he thought he was! He kicked the bucket the day before. I had no money to give him a decent burial. So I wrapped him up in some trash bags, said a quick prayer and send him down the garbage chute! I couldn’t sleep for 2 days and nights and it still weighs heavy on my conscience. I know momma, one of these days I should take it to the Lord in prayer!
Momma, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.
I have no job, hardly any money and no friends. Even the Americans are looking at greener pastures such as the Middle East, Mexico, India, China, Brazil & Russia. Dear lil Fido has left for his heavenly abode and must be chiming his two piddly woofs in sync with the heavenly orchestra. He looks over me, but I’ve never felt lonelier in my life. I yearn for home and wish to be mollycoddled. Who knows, maybe my pot of gold lies back home instead daydreaming in an alien land fraught with uncertainty? India’s shining and beckoning ? when the hell are you coming?
So momma, the moment I scrape together a few cents to spring for my ticket, I’m heading for home sweet home. Aw ma, I’m feeling so god-awfully nostalgic that at times it borders on melancholia. I need some soul-stirring music now and when I say ‘now’, I mean yesterday!
What shall I play momma – ‘Country Roads, Take me Home’ by John Denver or ‘Mamma, I’m coming Home’ by Ozzie Osborne or ‘Coming Home’ by Olivia Newton-John?
And in the background, soul-soothing strains of
…The paths of sin too long I’ve trod
Lord, I’m coming home
I’ve wasted many precious years,
Now I’m coming home,
I repent with bitter tears
…Yeah, I’m coming home
Never more to roam….
Aw shucks momma! I’m really in tears. Sob sob.. sniff.. sniff sniffle.. drip drip.. sniff, sob. I’ve gotta scoot!
Ciao soon and oh Momma, hook or crook, I’m coming home. Even super-economy, standing class on Air India is fine! See ya soon at Bajpe. So help me God!
But one last word before I go – this nation will rise again! The winds of change are already breezing in and I can feel it in the air. Maybe I’ll return someday or maybe I won’t, I can’t say now.
Over and out!
Author: Chris Rego- UAE