Politically Incorrect Letters HONG KONG

I used (no prizes for guessing why the past tense is used here!) to receive every year end or thereabouts letters and emails stating what a wonderful year a given family had had, what brilliant vacations they had been on and in general how things were just absolutely peachy.
I started writing an annual (obviously was not very diligent since I have done about 6 or 7 in 14 years) "politically incorrect year-end letter" in response to those emails and letters.
While I knew that I would no longer be on a few mailing lists, I also thought that the number of friends I had would also taper off. However a strange thing happened. People started asking me for these year-end letters. Now that I have started a blog, I thought I would post them in case you want to have a look.
Do not intend to debate the ideas there and definitely do not intend to cause offense to anyone.

Here is the very first one that I wrote - back in 1997/98 and what a historic year that was! - but interestingly I called it a "Christmas Letter".

1997 started with a big bang. Many big bangs actually. All of them in our heads. It seemed like all our little gray cells had gone wild and were participating in an orgy of such debauchery that would have left Caligula taking notes. The reason for this manic party was the number of tequilas we had downed to ensure that 1996 was behind us, plus the champagne we had drunk to celebrate 1997, plus the tequila that we drank after the champagne to celebrate nothing in particular.

So we started 1997 off in a somewhat liquid state. Unfortunately, given the financial markets we will finish the year in a somewhat less liquid state!! Nevertheless, 1997 will be a year which we will look back on with some fondness - for history to which we were witness; for mirth of which there was plenty; for girth of which there was plenty (though mainly on Vishnu and Krishna).

Most of the first part of the year was spent answering the question “What do you think will happen after China takes over Hong Kong?” Our bewildered response: “What take over? Far as we know China has been running Hong Kong for years now!!”. Of course when we wanted to sound terribly intelligent we would give the poor victim stuff on culture, communism, U.S politics, the price of fish, how we were planning on getting a dog but would not even consider doing so till Hong Kong was firmly in China’s hands etc.

The Governments of China and Britain spent most of the first part of the year planning on how to gain the most face and how best not to lose face in what was billed as the largest party the world had ever seen. Should June 30 be celebrated or should July 1st be celebrated? Most of the population spent considerable time in finding language that would be politically correct to both the Chinese and the British. No more calling Patten “a whore for the next 1000 years”. It was now a celebration of the end of the insult (that the Brits ran Hong Kong and not the Chinese) that was borne oh so stoically by the Chinese masses. Those same masses who had no clue where Hong Kong was and who had no clue that tanks had rolled in Tiananmen.

Most of the people in Hong Kong, practical as they are, spent a huge effort in deciding what to wear for the party. But somehow, for some inexplicable reason, in spite of all the investment in bad taste and diamonds and good parking spots, they all forgot one thing. That it might, just might, rain. And rain it did. It poured buckets and redefined the expression “it rained on their parade”. The phrase is now: “it cascaded on their parade”.

Madmen that we were, we drove in the pouring rain to the China border to watch the much dreaded Chinese troops roll into Hong Kong. We were at the border at 5:30 am with about 20 other damp and excited people peering across the border as the first light of morning improved our vision. We all marveled at how wonderfully still the Chinese soldiers stood on their trucks. We all should not have marveled. The poor guys were frozen in place and lashed to their positions. You see, it rained on their parade too, and they had been standing there for hours (and no there were no Portaloos in sight either, and no we will not comment on what they were standing on, nor will we comment on whether it was the rain that got them wet in the first place). The next day we did have something to marvel about. The South China Morning Post claimed that 20,000 people had gathered at the spot where we had been and that the eager crowd had been gathering from 3am. All we can tell, just so that we do not appear to contradict the ever correct Chinese news reports, is that 19,980 people must have decided to go home by 5:30 am - even though they knew that the troops were scheduled to enter Hong Kong at 6am.

The population of Hong Kong, practical as they are did not give a hoot about the fireworks, the parties or the landslides that the rain caused. What was important was that the stock market was at record highs and that the real estate market was very strong. Suffice it to say that that situation has changed somewhat in the second half of 1997.

Many people think that the stock market slide in Hong Kong was due to the contagion effect of massive depreciation in the currencies of Hong Kong’s neighbors. People even spoke the P word. “Would the peg hold?” “Should it hold?” Economist’s all said their bit trying harder than normal to be incredibly obtuse as no one had a clue as to what would or should happen next - no one that is EXCEPT those who followed a particular land auction.

At this land auction we got the clearest sign yet that the engine of the Hong Kong stock market, the real estate market, had gone over the top - way over the top. An unemployed woman bid the highest price for a plot of land - and then claimed that she had no money. She had claimed earlier that she represented the largest real estate player in Hong Kong and people had just lapped that up. She was sent off to see a psychiatrist. The government, to show that it had full control over the situation, claimed that it would force this unemployed person to pay the difference between the bid price and the price at which the plot would eventually be sold. Of course now that every one’s hand with regards to this site has been forced, this difference is likely to be in the order of hundred’s of millions of dollars. Somehow, though I am no expert, I have a nagging suspicion that by the time the Hong Kong government recovers such a sum from an unemployed person there will be daily shuttle flights to Mars and people would have forgotten Elvis Presley.

Those of you who are truly old will remember the Tulip bubble. When Tulip prices caused a major crash for those of you who are younger or who have not studied economics. Well, we in Hong Kong have experienced something akin to that. A cake run. Yes, a cake run. People totally freaked when they heard that a local baker may go bankrupt so enmasse they tried to cash in their free cake coupons. You see, it is standard practice in Hong Kong to give “cake coupons” as a sort of back present at weddings. This is an excellent strategy in Hong Kong because the population of Hong Kong is dairy product challenged and loathe to eat cake. However, Hong Kong people are more loathe to lose value than they are loathe to eat cake so they all rushed to cash in their coupons before the coupons (as they assumed) became void. Needless to say they were queuing the whole night, beating up old ladies to cash their coupons in first etc. Police had to intervene and had actually to help out behind the counter. It was nasty. Also nasty was the amount of cake that was thrown away. Also nasty was the sugar highs that people got as a consequence of abandoning their normal diet of steamed vegetables for a  diet of fat reinforced Black Forest.

1997 was also memorable for some sad events. Vishnu’s grand aunt Irma died on July 3rd. She was a very dear lady and we will miss her. We also mourned the death of Mother Teresa and Lady Diana. Both people undoubtedly did their part to improve the plight of the less fortunate. Our thoughts are with them.

Finally, yes, it is true. We have increased our family size. We have adopted an absolutely gorgeous girl who is causing us no end of trouble already. Her official name is Woodstock’s Prosperous Handover (we first saw her on July 3rd) but we call her Jana. You will be glad to know that unlike Krishna and Keshava, Jana has had her anti-rabies vaccination.

Love to all. Success to all. Happiness to all. Look after yourselves, others and our planet. Come and visit us in 1998 - we would be happy to help with hotel reservations!!!!

Family Murthy.