Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Bargains and barring the gains

I've been taking things very lightly these days, and all my recent posts have had a tinge of humor in them. Well, today I thought I would write something on a serious note, about an 'issue' that no one seems to care about. Perhaps, I would like to take this opportunity to vent out my feelings towards all the middle class and upper middle class people who ask for a 'better price'. This is one aspect that no one thinks about while purchasing products from a local store, especially products that do not contain an MRP. The ones who go to markets (especially women) are the ones who should be blamed for their reckless attitude towards the shopkeepers or the mongers (they may not always have a store made of brick and mortar you know, some still have a makeshift 'shop' on the roadside). I am quite sure that you don't get the message yet, so read on as I describe my experiences to convey you what I wanted to.

I had been to the Koyambedu vegetable market last month with my mom. If you don't know about this place, let me tell you. It is a wholesale vegetable market with a lot of vendors that has dead cheap prices (lesser than a quarter of the price at your nearby convenience store). As it was my granddad's annual death ceremony on the next day, we expected about 25 people to attend it at my house and we had to buy a lot of vegetables to cook lunch for everyone. So we thought that Koyambedu, being about 10 minutes away from home would be the best place to get the vegetables. My mom was doing all the purchase, I was just carrying the bags from one shop to another. It was as though all the vendors had an agreement among themselves in the market, that no one sold more than 2 kinds of vegetables. So we had to hunt to get all the vegetables we needed and my job was to just carry the bags and look around what everyone else was buying. 

I saw a lady purchasing tomatoes at a shop. I wasn't interested in the lady, neither at the shop, nor at the conversation that she was having with the vendor. But sometimes, even if you don't wish to overhear, you do hear some unnecessary things. This was one such conversation when the lady asked the price for a kilo of tomato. The vendor replied "Pannendu ruba ma" (Twelve rupees, ma'am). The lady asked "Enna pa, pathu ruba illaya?" (Can't I have it for ten rupees?). Now, this got me on my nerves. See, a kilo of tomatoes at the grocery store near my house - Ooty Vegetables or at Kovai Pazhamudhir costs 38-40 bucks, and this poor chap offers the same quality for just twelve rupees a kilo. You wouldn't dare to bargain at the high class store just because they sell you 'branded' tomatoes with an MRP, but you easily exploit individual vendors like these.

A friend once told me that he used to go to the Hot Chips restaurant very frequently and he befriended a waiter there. The waiter had told him that all the salary that he received from the restaurant management was barely enough to pay the expenses for lodging and all his other expenses could be met only with the tips that the customers left him. In yet another incident, at waiter at the Adyar Anandha Bhavan who remembered me even after a hiatus of 3 years (I used to be a big fan of the Chaats at the AAB back when I was at school). During the third year of my college, I went there once and to my surprise, the waiter asked me "Eppadi irukkinga thambi?". I didn't know how to react and smiled at him and asked him "Neenga epadi irukkinga?". He asked me where I was studying now and I told him. He then told me "You are from a well to do family. Look how much your life has changed. But look at mine, all that has changed is my salary, which has gone up by Rs. 2000 in the past 3 years, that's all". I was confused. I didn't know if I should continue eating the food or not. He continued "Had I been from a financially sound family, I would have studied well and become an engineer". He looked around and after a gap he added, "But why am I bothering you with all this? I must do my work here. You study well". I looked at him and tried hard to smile, but I couldn't. He then walked away and served one or two more customers. My pace of eating had slowed down as I tried to contemplate his feelings. In no time, he was back to my table and asked me, "How much do you pay for your fees every year? My son is studying in 10th standard and I want him to become an engineer". I told him that the total cost including hostel, mess and travel charges would come close to Rs. 1.2 lakhs per year. He was shocked and told me that he expected it to be around Rs. 70000 only. He didn't utter a word after that, even after I paid the bill and left. I guessed that he was trying to do the math, to figure out how to get enough money to fund his son's education. I wondered how such a huge financial gap exists between people like us who lead a luxurious life and those who find hard to meet their ends.

The thing that I hate the most among our people is that, although they bargain and try to save their money, they do not appreciate good work from a person and do not reward them. To contrast this, the best example would be that of the people from western countries. They reward people who work hard and reward them well. A friend of mine once told that a person gave 110 Dirhams (about Rs. 1500) as tips in a hotel to a staff just because he had cleaned up the room very well before his arrival. I have never heard anyone say "Keep the change" in India, except in movies. Why do we have this selective discrimination in our country that separates the haves from the have-nots, not only financially, but also in their attitude towards other human beings? I know that the auto drives charge exponentially in Chennai, but hey, they do not earn as much as your parents do but they want their kids to grow up like us as well. We shell out a lot of money every day in a variety of useless stuff. Yet, we are reluctant to just give it away to the needy (I don't mean beggars, I'm strictly against giving them alms). If you encourage someone for the good work they do and pay them more than what they expect, it will certainly delight them and make them work harder to achieve more. Ten or twenty rupees may be of hardly any worth to you, but the cheer it brings to the needy is unexplainable. What's more, it gives the satisfaction of having improved a person's life in a small way. That feeling is indeed priceless.