Absence of strong views

Like everyone else I have also acquired friends over the years but retained only a few, 27 in all if you want to know. These retained friends fall into five broad categories: economists, journalists, accountants, bureaucrats and historians. Strangely, I don’t have any engineers and doctors as friends. I do know a few but it would be a stretch to call them friends. As might be expected, the vast majority of my friends are men but there are five women too. They stand out because they view things so differently. For example, for men their ego comes first but for the women it comes last. They prefer common sense, instead. But gender differences aside, it’s very interesting to see how their professional training determines how these friends — men and women — view and approach things.

The economists look at everything from the point of view of efficiency. They keep asking if there is a better way of doing things. The journalists look at everything as a potential story. This means they usually look bored. The accountants keep asking for more data. This can be irritating because often they refuse to enter into a discussion. The historians take the view that there is nothing new at all in the world except technology. Depending on the topic they start with the Rig Ved. But it’s the bureaucrats who infuriate everyone else because they disagree as a matter of principle. You can’t argue a point with them on the basis of history, economics, science, technology or data. They are also quick to get offended. And according to them, as a journalist, I am just a nuisance.

For men their ego comes first but for the women it comes last. They prefer common sense, instead.

For the last seven months the discussion has been mostly about the Corona virus. It has been fascinating to observe the different ways in which the problem has been perceived. The historians talk about all the pandemics since the beginning of time and say it is all a matter of chance. The economists discuss the costs of research, production, pricing and delivery. The accountants simply look on glumly because there is no data at all to go by. The journalists peddle unverified and unverifiable rumours and the bureaucrats keep saying how the rules don’t permit this or that.

For the first few weeks everyone talked about how many people would die in India. Then, when the death rate began to fall, the talk was about how many would get infected. Then as news of vaccine development picked up, the discussion was over whether it would be available this year or next. And now it is about how long we will have to wait. In all this, it is the journalists who have been the most annoying, followed by the bureaucrats, because neither lot has anything useful to say. The historians have regaled everyone with the history of vaccines and the economists with their views on work-from-home. The accountants have just looked on silently wondering, no doubt, how they could have become friends with such stupid people.

My problem has been that I am a bit of everything and I usually agree with everything everyone says. So the others think I am very wise. The truth is I don’t care to hold a strong view. Also, how badly someone gets infected is a matter of luck. For example, three close relatives got infected. Two were over 90 and are fine. One was just 60 and is dead. I think that since it is a virus, sooner or later it will infect everyone who isn’t careful — mask, sanitiser and avoiding crowds. This is common sense and has made me extra popular with the women. As I approach my 70th year, that’s not a bad reward for not holding strong views.

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