Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan
For reasons which are entirely understandable, governors of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Indian central bank, have never been glamorous celebrities. They have mostly been dour men of ages where they longer have any incentive to remove their ear hair and those who spout abstruse figures which few outside their rarefied circles understand. That equation appears to have changed with the appointment of the new RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan who took over on September 4.
I do not remember young Indian women breathlessly discussing the RBI governor’s sharp jawline ever the way some of them have about Dr. Rajan. At 50, he is young enough not to be considered an unseemly subject for objectification. A B.Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Dr. Rajan has the right pedigree to stir up a lot of libidinous intellect.
It is amusing to see that when Dr. Rajan speaks of the U.S. Federal Reserve merely postponing “tapering” there are those who think of tapering of a different kind. “Yeah baby, taper that,” is what one hears. Who would have thought that the Indian version of the Fed chairman would sexually arouse young women? There are those who believe that it is Dr. Rajan who has stroked a flaccid rupee back to a firmer shape. (Let me stop the sexual innuendoes here).
It is a good thing if Dr. Rajan’s good looks concentrate ordinary people’s attention on the more serious policy issues. On the day he took over he offered a sanguine view of things without sounding unrealistic. That seemed to settle the rattling nerves in India. In the past couple of weeks he has tried a mix of short-term realism with long-term optimism about India. The fact that the rupee has gained 11 % after dropping to its lowest at 68.8 per dollar on August 28 suggests that the new governor has at the very least had the effect of calming nerves. Of course, this means nothing in a financial world whose default position is one of deliberate fickleness. If Dr. Rajan shows up one of these days with a slight cut on his famous jawline caused by his shaving razor, I suspect the markets would witness bloodshed. I exaggerate, of course, but that’s almost how ridiculously unscientific the financial markets are.
The nausea-causing movements in the rupee value against the dollar over the past few weeks is indicative of how utterly irrational that whole world is despite protestations to the contrary. I have traditionally had a very low opinion of the markets and the way currency values fluctuate. It is not as if the Indian economy has become perceptibly stronger now that it should help the rupee gain 11% just as it was not as if it had diminished so much as to cause the rupee to fall as low as it did.
So it is just as well that the average urban Indian is counting on Dr. Rajan’s sharp jawline to cut through the current mood of doom.