Darren Lehmann, ex-Australia cricketer and ace beer-drinker is sitting in his living room lovingly caressing his beer gut. As he lifts a Fosters to his lips, the bell rings. Ever since he joined the Rajasthan Royals as a stop-gap player covering for Graeme Smith and dropped two catches and overall looked as match-fit as Guddi Maruti , Lehman has stayed clear of the cricket pitch as a player and instead concentrated on landing a coaching gig with Laxman’s Chargers. So who could it be that was ringing his bell at 5 in the afternoon?
He opens the door and finds three men standing there. Three men he has never seen before.
One of them says: Khuda ke liye, kuch paisa de do baba
Lehmann, who learnt Hindi to understand the Indian sledging, especially from Nayan “Aigaaa” Mongia says: Go go you beggars, you wont find anything here.
Another says: Bhai bhai ke kaam naheen aayenge to…
Lehman is surprised: “Bhai”? What brother? You guys aren’t my brothers.
The third one says (in English): Actually we are. We are your brothers. We have fallen on very hard times. We could do with a few dollars. Even a beer.
Lehmann stands silent. Confused. What the hell is going on?
Brother1: Let me introduce ourselves. We are the Lehman brothers. Tum bhi humare bichre hue bhai ho….the one we lost in Kumbh ka mela.
D. Lehmann: Stop the crap. Wait. You guys are the Lehman brothers? As in Lehman brothers of the famous financial services firm?
Brother2: Yes the one that filed for bankruptcy.
D. Lehmann: Ya right. As long as you guys were raking in the cash, tumhe mujhe yaad naheen aaya. And I had to dry Steve Waugh’s socks and lie to Shane’s wife to just stay in the team and earn a living. Now that you guys are penniless, you come here with some cock and Kumble story. Plus I have one more “n” in my last name than you guys. Bhago bhago…
Brother3: What’s an “n” between brothers?
Brother1: Come on you played 2 matches in the IPL. Your net worth is worth more than us combined. Allah ke naam pe at least loan us some money then. Please.
Darren Lehmann: Do you have any collateral? Any assets?
Brother2: Didn’t you read the papers mate? I mean bhai. We don’t have anything. Loot gaaye…hum barbaad ho gaaye. If we could do it, we would sell your kidney. Sorry sell our kidneys but we have been dead for many years now. So we don’t even have that.
D.Lehmann: No collateral, horrible credit state. And you ask me for a loan? Chutiya laagta hoon main?
Brother3: Sigh. Chutiya to hum hain. People took our money and loaned it out to people with no collateral, often without a single cent down-payment thinking they would make a killing with the high rates of interest. Of course all that money went down the gutter, and the domino effect of the bad loans crippled our economy.
Brother2: And now when we ask for a loan, noone helps us.
D. Lehmann: What do you mean people took the money from you? Well you guys are responsible for this state, your company thought it would make money of the housing boom too. Don’t come looking for sympathy from me, you brought it upon yourselves.Gawd, I never thought I would meet people who give out more bad loans than the First citizen of Bharat, Tai-ji of the Holy Spirit. Well now I have.
Brother1: Yeah yeah I know I know. But to be honest, it’s all very complicated Darren-bhai. Our system is so complicated and secretive even we, three brothers whose name the company is, never understood what is going on.
Brother3: Aare bhai. Dont be so Stern. Bear hug de do yaar. And a beer.
D.Lehmann: So the government didn’t bail you out eh? Not like Bear Sterns or like AIG or like Fanny Mae..?
Brother1: Yeah. Our failure was not considered critical to the economy unlike that of Bear Sterns. Truth is we oiled the wrong wheels. Damn our lobbyists.
D. Lehmann: Wait wait. I got a swell idea. You guys want to get some free money? Have any of you ever played cricket?
Brothers shake their head in unison. They have not.
D. Lehmann: Very good. That’s perfect. Here is a number of Zee supremo Subhash Chandra. Go and tell him you want to play for the India Cricket League and that I Lehman recommended you. He will buy you guys for $200,000 each. Guaranteed.
Brother1: I think you didn’t understand what we said. We have no idea of what cricket is. Honest. We cannot play with anything except for investor confidence.
D. Lehmann: That’s the beauty. You don’t need to know how to play cricket. You just say you do. Look at this. The ICL took 13 players from the Bangladesh cricket team——people whom even Bangladesh, and trust me they are no New York Yankees, have rejected. Oldies and never-been-theres. Each for serious dollars. I am sure you guys know more cricket than them.
Brother2: I dont get it. If these Bangladeshi guys cannot play cricket, as you say they cannot and I have no reason to mistrust you ( you are, after all, the only Lehman(n) among us whose words have some credit rating left), why pay so much money for them?
D. Lehmann: Beats me. Why loan money to a person whom any dimbulb would know is not going to pay it back? Why spend more than 50 cents to buy Habibul Bashar, who is known in Bangla cricket as “Haba” (Haba= Bengali for “not very bright”), years after his best. And let me tell you even his “best” wouldn’t get him into a B-side in most Test cricket nations. Why do that? Why bother wondering? Just take the money and run.
Brother3: This sounds too good to be true. Tough to believe, that even in this economic climate, there still exists a guy who keeps throwing money at a business idea doomed to failure, being even more cavalier than the guys in the sub-prime market. Somehow even though I am broke and humiliated, I don’t feel as stupid any more.
D. Lehmann: Well you do have to wear pink clothes and fluorescent greens and pretend to be all pumped-up and engaged in front of sparse crowds who are more interested in the cheerleaders skirts and Kareena Kapoor item number than whats going on in the game . But what’s a bit of disingenuity and play-acting for old Wall Street hands?
Brother2: No no problem at all.
[Update: For a brief and yet fairly complete explanation of the historic market meltdown, here is a nice article.]