It is in chapter 9 in the first volume when Sunny Deol meets Shakespeare. It begins with a few quotes from Hamlet; but the first paragraph is a throwback to a crowded courtroom in 1993. An angry advocate played by Deol screaming down his opposing counsel’s request for an adjournment in the film Damini. “Tarikh par tarikh, tarikh par tarikh, tarikh par tarikh milti rahi hai…lekin insaaf nahin mila my lord, insaaf nahin mila…”
Yet, chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian, cuts the dialogue short, using only a few lines to make his point in the chapter titled ‘Ease of Doing Business’ New Frontier: Timely Justice.’
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He writes: “The now iconic scream of Tarikh-par Tarikh, Tarikh-par-Tarikh (“dates followed by dates followed by dates”) by Sunny Deol was Bollywood’s counterpart to Shakespeare: two different expressional forms — the one loud and melodramatic, the other brooding and self-reflective — but both nevertheless united in forcefully articulating the frustrations of delayed and-hence-denied justice.” His point: to throw light on the number of pending cases in courts.
From Sunny Deol, Manoj Kumar, Tulsidas, Rabindranath Tagore, to romantic poets, writers, economists, a Nobel laureate and even a Republican politician, Subramanian has stuck a quote in nearly all chapters of the pink-coloured ‘Economic Survey 2018-19’ to articulate in a literary fashion his thoughts on the Indian economy. Showing the twin-volumes off, he said it was in support of women’s empowerment “in our own small way.” Yet, of all the quotes across all chapters in the two volumes, there are 15 men and no women.
The chapter dedicated to gender issues titled ‘Gender and Son Meta-Preference: Is Development Itself an Antidote?’ begins with a pink-coloured #MeToo — a campaign that began with the hashtag taking over the internet in support survivors and to end sexual violence. It also quotes the Tamil poet Subramania Bharati’s poem “Pudumai Pen”.
Chapter 2 titled ‘A New, Exciting Bird’s Eye View of the Indian Economy Through the GST’, it begins with two lines from English romantic poet John Keats’ 1816 sonnet ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’. It states: ‘And then felt I like some watcher of the skies, When a new planet swims into his ken.’ While the poem itself describes Keats’ “astonishment” while reading the works of the ancient Greek poet Homer (as translated by playwright George Chapman), it is often quoted to “demonstrate the emotional power of a great work of art.”
Meanwhile, Subramanian quotes Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, “The village of which the people come together to earn for themselves their food, their health, their education, to gain for themselves the joy of so doing, shall have lighted a lamp on the way to swaraj.” This is in a chapter on ‘Reconciling Fiscal Federalism and Accountability…’ and the quote from Tagore is an exchange between him and Mahata Gandhi while they discussed the concept of Swaraj.
Then in the rather grim chapter about how climate change might lead to losses in farmers income, which begins with a reference to the Manoj Kumar song: ‘mere desh ki dharti sona ugle ugle heerey moti’ – Subramanian writes: “The bounty of Indian agriculture romanticised in that famous Manoj Kumar song—which also underlies the Prime Minister’s goal of doubling farmers’ incomes—increasingly runs up against the contemporary realities of Indian agriculture, and the harsher prospects of its vulnerability to long-term climate change.”
In an ironic quote for a chapter that reveals that investments have slowed down, Subramnian quotes Hyman Minsky: “Investment calls the tune, and profits dance accordingly.” And, later in a chapter that asks: ‘Is there a ‘Late Converger Stall’ in economic development? Can India escape it?’ he quotes from Alice in Wonderland: “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that”