The Union Budget 2013-14 was presented this week, as Indians tuned in early to see P. Chidambaram begin his presentation with a jaunty song called ‘We Saw Your Boobs’. Oh wait, those were the Oscars. P. Chiddy began in the same boring style; by showing off his leather briefcase that the BJP quickly condemned as being ‘anti-cow, anti-khadi, pro-Pakistan’, after which they tried to walk out and tripped all over their arthritis.
But for those of you who missed the budget on account of not wanting to suffer deathly boredom, I now present the highlights. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Smokers were upset because the excise duty on cigarettes went up by 18%. But hey, look on the bright side. Prices may increase, but the size of your tumours will remain the same. Chidambaram said that the price hike would also hit cigars, which is what Cubans call their local ‘502 Pataka Pyjamachhaap Platinum’ beedis.
Sources say that cigars were invented so that they could be jammed into the mouths of people who refuse to shut up about single malts. In more smoking news, the price of cheroots will also go up. If you’re wondering what a cheroot is, Webster’s defines it as, “A word that resembles a cuss word, as in, ‘People who go on about cigars look like utter cheroots.'”
2. Homes got cheaper, but only if the house you’re planning to buy costs less than 40 lakhs. This is great news for people who’re planning to live on four square feet of space. In Nallasopara. On a tree. Next to a factory that manufactures tuberculosis.
3. Here’s a short list of things that got more expensive: houses, marble flooring, set-top boxes, eating out, smartphones, SUVs and everything else that you may need to strike an impression. You know what became cheaper? Sabudana. Not kidding. It doesn’t quite have the oomph of an SUV or a fancy phone. I mean the only woman you can impress with cheap sabudana is Tarla Dalal. Or as she prefers to be called, ‘Gujju Nigella Lawson’.
4. One of the more interesting facts which came up was that according to government records, India is home to only 42,800 crorepatis. And all of them are Sharad Pawar.
5. The Finance Minister also the setting up of India’s first All Women Bank. And no, this isn’t the same concept as a ladies compartment on a local train – these banks will probably not have fisherwomen attached to the floor. But it’d be interesting to see an All Women’s Bank operated only by women. Transactions might be a bit awkward:
Man: Hi. I’d like to open an account. What documents do you need?
Cashier: Hmph. If I need to spell out every little thing for you, then this isn’t worth it.
Cashier: I SAW THE WAY YOU WERE LOOKING AT THAT OTHER BANK! THAT HUSSY LOWERS HER SERVICE CHARGES FOR ANYBODY WHO WALKS IN!
6. The government also announced a 5000-crore plan to revive Air India. The money will be used to hire the underworld to kidnap your loved ones, who will be returned to you only after you’ve bought a few Air India tickets. To make matters worse, you will not be allowed to make jokes about their cabin crew. This makes sense. Every time a guy flies AI, you’ll hear the same complaint: “The flight was ok, but the airhostesses were damn ugly. They looked like Baa had sex with Sadashiv Amrapurkar and then walked into a wall made of fists.”
Now while this may technically be true, it just reminds me of how entitled we think we are. It’s a plane, not a dance bar, so it doesn’t matter if they aren’t hotties as long as they don’t do anything unprofessional, such as ask you to change their catheter. We should also respect the fact that no matter what anyone says, airhostesses on our national carrier have that special something that other airhostesses can only dream of – grandkids.
As for the rest of the budget, it can be summed up by the simple economic principle of ‘Suck it up. At least we’re not Greece.’ I look forward to next year, when I can do this again. In the meantime, keep calm and eat sabudana.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 3rd March 2013.)