Friday, May 05, 2006
Paanch sau ka note
Every generation has its benchmark when it comes to the 'value of money'. Half a century ago the kid in the naani teri morni song asked his grandmother for 'ek paisa'. Those were the days when a single rupee had its value.
My mom recalls a time when desi ghee cost Rs 5 a kg. Her wedding saree - a Benaras silk - cost a princely Rs 210.
I remember, most vividly, the price of Modern bread. My mom would give me a 2 rupee note to fetch it. The bread cost one rupee and eighty paise. From the change, I would buy 4 mints for 5 paise each.
Yes, there is something called inflation. Obviously we all earned far less in the 'good old days'. Still, I didn't think we would so rapidly reach a stage where it is commonplace - merely ordinary - to reach for a 500 rupee note.
Less than a decade ago, the 500 rupee hundred rupee - or Gandhi note - was a rare and precious thing to have in your purse. For a while, they were even 'dangerous' to have because forged notes were making the rounds. Shopkeepers would glare at the watermark and the silver strip, just to make sure.
Then came the ATM era, with machines casually spewing out 500 rupee notes to whomsoever desired them. Soon you had the retail monsters which would willingly swallow up these notes whole.
This morning I took daughter to see Ice Age 2 at Inox. We had a great time. That time (barely 1.5 hours) saw one 500 rupee note vanish into thin air. The tickets cost Rs 180 each. Two popcorns and a Coke cost Rs 120. Poof!
Later, we checked out some of the shops on the ground floor of the multiplex. There was a clothing store called 'Aftershock' with strappy little tops and tight shiny shoes. The kind Vjs get to wear for free on television and rarely look good on anyone else. The price tag for a skirt - Rs 3495.
Opposite this, a confectionary shop called 'Bateel'. A brand I have never heard of. Here, a small box of chocolates - or dates - in a pretty golden box is on sale. For Rs 1100.
Poverty is a relative thing. Today, I felt relatively poor. But it's not about money per se, it's about values.
Once in a while, we all like to splurge. And we've earned the right to that pleasure. But I want my daughter to grow up, realising the value of money. I want her to think twice before buying something she may not really need.
And so we looked at a lot of pretty clothes and shoes but ultimately went to a cute little shop and bought pens, pencils, ruler and gumstick. Yes, in a mall even that can add up to two hundred bucks.
So much temptation in a 'pen and pencilon ka superbazar'. And the 4 rupee pencil is not all that different from the 20 rupee pencil. Even a rational adult finds it difficult to choose...
The irony is that Gandhiji, whose picture is printed on that currency note, once observed,"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."
For that, I guess there's Mastercard.