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The Beatles, musicians immortal on earth, have now become immortal in space.
On Monday, February 4, NASA - the US space agency - beamed their song, "Across the Universe" to Polaris, the Pole Star.
But Polaris will have to wait a while to hear the wonderful melody. A long while.
So the inhabitants of Polaris, if there are any out there, will not hear the song for another 431 years.
But, since I like the Beatles a lot, whatever the folks on Polaris (or any tourists along the way) say about the song, it doesn't matter much to me.
But by beaming this song, NASA may be sending an even more subtle message, not to Polaris, but to the American consumer.
And why do I say that?
NASA could have chosen to send the song anywhere in the galaxy: but they chose to send it to Polaris, the Pole Star.
And, as further proof of who really runs NASA, the song they have chosen has a Sanskrit chant: "Jai Guru Deva Om".
NASA could have chosen to send any song, any other Beatles song, but they chose to send this one.
And just like any other American, the NASA employee may not be seeing any dramatic increase in their pay checks. In fact, the US government is reducing expenditures on many projects at NASA.
Less money for Star Wars, more money for the Oil Wars.
Which leaves the NASA employee of Indian origin in the same plight as any other US consumer: Hobbled by debt; weighed down by an excessive intake of hamburgers, french fries, and coke; brain-washed by inhuman TV shows; and now faced with job insecurity.
But, unlike the young Dhruva, the American consumer does not seem to have the will to change. NASA knows that for sure.
So 431 years from now, when Across the Universe makes it to Polaris, not much will have changed in the USA, says NASA.
Of course, the folks at Polaris who hear the song in the year 2439 will only know the debt level of the American government as of calendar year 2008 - a delay of 431 years.
By the time Polaris gets the message in the year 2439, a 5% annual interest on the existing government debt in USA would have taken the total debt to 1.4 billion times what the debt is today.
And we are not even factoring the debt at the individual level of the US consumer, just the government debt in USA.
So, the US government has a debt of USD 9.2 trillion today.
"Houston", said Tom Hanks, enacting an astronaut in the movie Apollo 13, "we have a problem."
A big one.
How do countries go bankrupt?
In the next few weeks, we will be obsessed with the budget to be presented by Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram.
But India has issues, some big issues, to sort out. Huge poverty, distorted government policies, a real estate mafia, restless neighbours, and policy making machinery that has yet to understand the need for capital versus need for money. This is a short list.
And there are many state elections and a national election around the corner.
Just like in cricket. Pay a cricketer some money and the bookies can control the outcome. Even without a monetary incentive, a rational batsman can make some very wild strokes in the heat of the moment.
It took President Bush eight years to complete the destruction of the modern US economy. His father started it in 1990, and then President Bill Clinton continued it for another 8 years, before he passed the baton on to George.
The US national debt was USD 5.7 trillion when Bush was appointed President in January 2001 and will double to USD 10.4 billion by the time he leaves in one year.
But while the Chinese and the Japanese wait for the Polaris folks to start buying USD and while Apple Records prepares its marketing budget for further penetration of the unlimited galactic market, we have our own excitement in India: the budget.
This budget will be watched by a new generation of punters perched on their trading terminals, itching to hit their buttons - but no one knows whether it will be the "buy" button or the "sell" button.
The markets will move with their own logic - actually, lack of logic.
The BSE-30 Index can gain 2,000 points on any given day.
Foreign speculators hiding behind their P-Note shelter can buy USD 5 billion of stocks in a 2 week period as they did in September, 2007.
The Beatles wrote their galactically famous song 40 year ago, but the words could be a comment on the state of mind of our hyperactive daily punters:
Traders move on emotions.
But look over the horizon, across the universe, and see if there are any trends and worrisome signs that could imbalance the Indian economy.
A central bank led by Helicopter Ben is not good news. A central bank like the Reserve Bank of India is very good news. Dr Reddy has a tough job cut out for him: to react to the budget with his action or inaction. What the government spends, the RBI must counter by making money more expensive and less freely available.
There will be pressures and pulls and clamour for faster growth. Some of it justified, most of it a fake flag to grow faster than what the Indian economy can afford to. Borrow now, repent later. Live life king size. Live the American Dream.
While the US has their Bernanke put option (the knowledge that Ben will always save the speculators), ready to lead the US to possible economic oblivion, India has the Reddy call option: a central banker who is willing to look boring, boorish, dinosaur-like, and old fashioned. And to do what it takes to protect the economy over the long term.
But what if I am wrong? What if the RBI cannot counter the higher spending by the government? And the government debt levels start to surge, a la USA? What will happen, then? Aha, someone in the government has already prepared for the eventuality.
On February 1st, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and National Aeronautical Space Agency (NASA) signed a milestone cooperation agreement. While the press statements went on about NASA's assistance on the planned India trips to the moon and mars, the real reason for the collaboration is obvious.
The willingness by some asset-hungry banks in India to grant loans over the phone is evenly matched by the willingness of the Indian consumer to buy a home, a car, a holiday - or anything else they don't need, but want. This could result in India being a highly indebted country. Like the USA. The US consumers have now sent their song to Polaris. In two years, India may have to send its own song to Polaris.
India has no shortage of skill set on the music part: the Bollywood songs are likely to evoke a better response than the Beatles song. A reverse book-building exercise, coupled with an IPO loan facility will ensure that any paper issued by any Indian entity to investors in Polaris is over-subscribed by 100x.
I can picture it - the residents of Polaris stand in long lines waiting to buy into the India story. All the wedding halls in Polaris are booked by Indian brokers who beam their power points via skype. You cannot really travel there, but when travel to Polaris becomes a reality some of the mutual fund distributors would take Polaris as an option for their vacation, paid for by the mis-selling of mutual funds - but that is another journey.
But you get the idea. Indians have the skill set to sell anything.
But the delivery platform is an issue, and NASA has the hardware. Here again, working in the background, the Indians in NASA arranged this marriage of convenience between ISRO and NASA. Just like the UPA.
NASA has a potential software problem. The lawyers in the USA may sue NASA for discrimination for not selecting a song written by an Afro-American, Asian American, Latino American, or Native American - instead selecting a song written by a British group only because the British supported the Iraq invasion. Such a legal eventuality would shut down the Polaris beaming effort. But a collaboration would ISRO would give NASA access to an unlimited supply of Indian songs. In exchange, India gets the hardware - the delivery platform. Truly, a marriage made in space.
There could still be a practical problem, though.
The FII policy would need to be amended to allow an investment from Polaris.
Luckily, given that a Polaris FII application is still some 862 years away, there is hope that India will indeed recognise the difference between long term capital and short term money. And that the FII rules will have opened the front door wide enough by then to providers of long term capital, as opposed to having a wide open back door for P-Note owners and short-term money.
Hopefully, by the year 2870 there will be a recognition that there is nothing like a "FII broker" and there is more to life than sending delegations to meet holders of P-Notes at conferences in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, London, and New York.
But despite all these "issues", India looks good. Very good.
Being a long term investor, I don't know what the BSE-30 Index will be on budget day 3 weeks from now, but I can try to forecast the Index over longer term horizons.
The BSE 30 Index could be 110,000 in 10 years; 289,000 in 20 years; and it could cross 147,847,000,000,000 (0.1 quadrillion) by the time the Beatles make it to Polaris.
And since I made this forecast of what the Indian stock market would look like in the year 2439 (431 years from now, when Polaris grooves to the Beatles - but 431 years before the Polaris FII approved money makes it back to India), I went back to see what the stock market looked like 862 years ago - in the year 1146.
Well, there was no stock market.
In India, or anywhere in the world.
So maybe there is some survivability risk there. Maybe these hyper active punters and P-Note folks will blow themselves - and the Index - up before the year 2439. Before the first Polaris money starts its 431 year journey to India.
But, surprisingly, there was a currency in existence in the year 1146.
It was not the USD. Neither was it the Chinese yuan. Nor the Indian rupee.
The currency that did exist was gold.
Across the universe: as timeless as ever.