Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ball economics

Opposite my house in Calcutta is a apartment building and the central passage leading to the stairs in these apartments is bang opposite my garage door. It so happens that the dimensions of this restricted passage are just ideal for playing plastic ball cricket and such a golden arena never lies unused. Kids play their hearts with fluorescent yellow plastic balls, whose garish colour is probably justified by their better visibility in the permanent shade of the passage. A full blooded shot straight down the ground leads to the balls slipping beneath the wire gate at the approach of my garage before clattering right into our garage sneaking below the solid iron gates guarding my brand new Pulsar and my uncle's car. 

This being Central Calcutta, the haunt of mythically super-capable thieves, one lock is never considered enough. There are at least 3 different barriers to unshackle or to key open, so the kids knew with a patient acceptance that the balls that went into our garage stayed there. The balls would be normally be gathered by my cousin and piled up inside a bucket within our garage unwanted and unappreciated. Then on a bright sunny winter morning I decided to play the benevolent Godfather.

I observed from my third floor room on the roof that the set of kids who were the most regular set of players were in action. I went to the garage, opened the garage gate with a grand flourish and walked out with a bucket full of fluorescent yellow balls. The kids abandoned whatever petty argument they were engaged in and congregrated around me, an awestruck glint in their eyes. I turned the bucket upside down and their playing field was a sea of plastic balls. Within seconds, I saw the biggest boys in the group had gathered nearly all the balls, some holding more than 4 while the little ones or the weaker ones gave a long, pained look with their hands empty. I told myself "There you see, that's why capitalism never works! There's always someone overfed and someone underfed." 

In a month's time, my garage bucket was full of plastic balls again. This time I decided on better control. I walked out with a stern expression on my face and told the kids "Listen guys! I don't want to see you fight over these balls again. Take them but ensure that they are split equally." And to my shock, the smallest in the group piped up something to the effect of "These are such old, poor quality balls. We'd rather buy some good new ones!" So came my next lesson in rudimentary economics, "Communism doesn't work either!"

Ho hum, what a conundrum!