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.


  1. isnt it a paradox that people who are relatively poor enjoy life more than the so called rich guys. I felt my life has got complicated after every pay rise...

  2. I would like to bring to light the concept of 'trusteeship' here as proposed by Gandhiji. It's very interesting.
    It basically states that the wealthier strata of the society should be the trustees of the poor and the less efficient/less fortunate. Let there be no accumulation of wealth. Possession is OK as long as it doesn't turn into possessiveness or GREED.

    The principles of 'Trusteeship' are:

    Interdependency within the society
    A labourer is the trustee of the manager and vice versa. Both are dependent on each other for their work and their remuneration respectively.

    Let there be equitable and not equal distribution of wealth:
    A janitor should earn proportionately for his duties like the manager in his air-conditioned cabin but not same as him. A person with greater responsibility should relatively receive more than those with lesser responsibility

    Non-accumulation or non-hoarding of wealth. Why not use all that money for the betterment of the society?

  3. To start with, I am typical middle class person whose parents valued education the most, and while I never didn't have something I longed desperately, decisions were not frequent and easy. And then I came to USA about three years ago. Financially life has changed: from converting USD to INR, I have started doing vice-versa. But when I move to India in couple of years, I think I am in very big shock. My values of Rupees are frozen in time. So while I am relatively wealthier, my middle-class "mentality" and spending habits will still find (and finds as in your post) current costs prohibitory, or something that I may not want to engage in. So, are costs really that high, or is this just an example of one of those rare hi-class places, which existed before too but I never heard much?

  4. I have to agree with AshishG (a commentor). I too am in the US. I was in India recently on a vacation and went to some attrociously expensive places.
    Like Shiok restaurant in Bangalore and one more pub (can't recall the name) in Airport road, Bangalore. I did not find any value for money at those places. I mean, people are ready to spend like anything for nothing in India now. My friends were kind of cool about the rates (as they were not paying). But if I were in their shoes, I would have resisted going to a pub where a drink costs you 150 bucks. A beer is 80 bucks. I have no problems in paying a reasonable price for an enhance ambience but not attrocious prices.

    I hope this bubble does not burst!!!

  5. Very timely and sharp post.

    This idea of shopping experience is fast becoming an addiction for which people spend irrational amounts.

    Remember a post on Indore you carried a few months back - today Indore is like a mini bangalore with a few larger than life malls and multiplexes and a few more lined up in coming couple of years.

    The effect has been a pulpably increased spending by youth and middle aged families, under the hypnotism of light, sound, freebies and of jealous competition.

    An interesting incidence: my four year kid accompanied my sister to a movie (darna Jaroori hai) at PVR in this new mall at Indore. He being a kid was not allowed in the so called "horror" movie and so I had to go to the mall to pick him back home. As a ritual he ends up gulping a pepsi along with movie - so he demanded one before going back and I agreed instantly. We entered mc donalds flashing a 20 Rs. burger prominently at the door.

    On the counter I asked for a coke, and then during the conversation that followed and on my kid's persistence I ended up taking a happy meal with extra cheese on my burger and a pack of french fries (Rs. 32 for those boiled potatoes that I make almost free for him any day), because my kid was excited about the toy car he would get with it.

    I paid Rs. 150 for that coke. and my kid is actually "loving it".

    Everyone in Indore currently seems to be spending more than they can afford. At least caution seems to be dirty word while shopping.

  6. Hi Rashmi,

    i am surprised to read this article...
    always thought you are part of the libertarian cartel who advocate free market economy ("greed is good" et all).


  7. Nice post Rashmi.
    If everyone starts thinking this way and inculcates the value of money in their kid's mind then this world would be a better place to live in.

  8. Time was when all you needed to watch a movie from the balcony was Rs 10.55. And now, Rs 150 is the minimum you cough up even if you happen to sit in the front row of an audi barely bigger than your own drawing room.
    There are many times I feel relatively poor too, but that's the thing about money. In this day and age, I guess one can never have enough of it.

  9. Very timely and nice post..felt bit nostalgic on reading it. I still remember buying Hamam soap for Rs 1.90, on being sent on shopping errands by my mom. Taking back the 10 paise change and adding 15 paise more used to buy me a Samosa....Now a decent Samosa costs at least Rs 10 while Hamam(if its available !!) might cost no less than Rs 20.

  10. ok something i just remembered... couple of years back my sis had gone to Princess Diary it was the time when PVR was experimenting with prices and they used to be different for different movies and for some reason each ticket for Princess Diary was worth Rs 190, when she came back my mama was in our house visiting from bhubhneswar.. who happen to ask my sis how much she paid for the movie and i can never forget that look on his face when he discovered the price she paid to watch the movie... cause the previous weekend he had gone for a movie in bbsr with my huge joint maternal side of family and they 10 people and got absolutely luxury seats in the theater.. u know the BOX.... and guess how much they paid for the movie.. Rs. 180... for all 10...

  11. good way to end the post! :))

  12. Yes, INOX is expensive , though I hear they have some cheap morning shows (maybe catering to students who might be bunking college).

    And Meghraj Multiplex in Vashi,though big it is(in terms of audi size), charges a hefty ticket price too...not too long ago,tickets on the black market cost a hundred-ish and now that's the price of a regular ticket.

    That should change once the long-promised plethora of malls and multiplexes in Navi Mumbai start business.

  13. we set our goals..we set our price..then we set ourselves to attain those goals..we lie we cheat we swear..we sell our souls sometimes to attain those goals..and thn 1 day we reach there..and cross the line..then what.....
    and all this while..fate..stand there..mocking us..singing sweet rhymes..
    frst time here..
    very nice expression and way to weave emotions through ur wrds:)
    btw..i am sebia:)

  14. I sure as hell agree with you,Rashmi.

    When i was in 7th std(5 yrs back),
    My allowance was a princely sum of Rs 50,with which i would feel satisfied.

    Now,I've got an ATM Card and i carry an obscene amount of money ranging between Rs 2000 and 4000,yet i'm not satisfied,Why????

  15. hey rashmi...
    what is your take on abortion...
    have your say...

  16. fyi, bateel is a saudi arabian date shop wiuth branches all over ( they have it her in dubai as well) and yes it's atrociously expensive. realllly delicious, but i would not buy it at that cost.

    of course, if i were to complain about anything, it would be the rents in dubai. 70grand per year for a small one bedroom apartment is kinda ridiculous.

  17. Hey, an absolutely nice post... was thinking on posting smthng on the same lines for quite sometime now (perceived value VS real value)... hhmm, thnx for the start and its amazing how many youngsters of today spend money like crazy.. a very recent example I saw on MTV, and episode on 'Kya baat hai' on the issue of pocket money was being discussed..there was this cutie who actually gets around 12,000-15,000 PER MONTH!!! Can u believe that?! I wonder wot her father must be doing.... ;)

  18. even i happened to window shop at aftershock over the weekend... it's freakin expensive. But they've got nice pretty stuff.

  19. @Krishna - I felt the 300Rs of dinner for two can feed her a month for this. But I can only help the victims, not the cause. Is there a definitive approach towards this?

    Good question. The trickle down effect is slow, but it will show in some time. I recall a poor little girl selling those yo-yos(the ones that light up when used) at a traffic junction. I did not need it, but still I bought it for Rs 10. Just helps the victims, not the cause. Cause.. well there are too many reasons, too many variables in the equation. Lets just try to increase the numerator and decrease the denominator.

    Another thought. Say you are buying vegetables from a vegetable vendor. (Well I do sometimes, when we bunch of guys cook at home). If you bargain you feel you are depriving a poor man of a few rupees. But if you dont, prices are driven up. Then the poor suffer again. So now what. I suppose, at the lowest level, if you dont bother paying more for something that costs less, you are driving prices , and hence inflation, up. If you are willing to spend, the seller will definitely ask for more. I am not an MBA or economist, just an engineer, so I dont know if I am missing something here.

  20. Well its a very thought provoking and contemporary post I must say. I believe its my laziness and tendency to do 'PEER THINGS',which drags me towards the consumerist way of life.
    I just dont think twice before watching a movie@ a multiplex for 170 bucks.I remember the days when I was a student i.e an year ago, we used to watch movies for maximum 40-50 bucks.If I have to go somewhere I just hop on the next passing auto ric and dont care about how much it would cost.Where as I could have easily taken the public transport bus for that travel.

    I think its more to do with our consumerist nature than with inflation, I agree infaltion does have an effect but its our discretion what services and goods we are buying and more importantly from which place.

  21. The price hike today basically consists of two things
    One is inflation - regular increase in price year-on-year.
    Second is the artificial hike due to exceptional increase in salaries, created by the designer brands, hangout places, multiplexes, etc.

    My take is, in general, price/salary ratio today is less than, lets say, 20 yrs ago. And I am not talking of only people who are earning fancy salaries. Even if we talk about housemaids, they can afford much more things than they could 20 yrs ago.
    But then, today we have so many spending avenues, which were unheard to the earlier generations.

  22. 15 years down the wont b too far-fetched if we expect to see your daughter blogging about her mumma spending just 500 Rs. for a movie & popcorn.

    Value for money is sthng that the current Gen-X doesnt seem to bother about. Translated into hindi paisa vasool seems to be a cheapo' terminology.

    Good Post.

  23. This is off-topic: Rashmi, just wanted to let you know that the Other India site bloggers quoted you out of context in a post:
    I will let you draw your own conclusions.
    - Barbarindian

  24. Yes indeed.. the value of money has totally diluted in the present generation.. and the inflation had reached unprecedented heights until very recently... Things seem 2 look more bright now...

  25. Good one and right one. Even same thing come to my mind when i visit Prasads at Hyderabad which is compared to cheap one than Mumbai but still its painful experience for me to spend that much for a movie. In Hyderabad, there are better theaters and talkies than this which are much cheaper and better experience of movie but don't know why ppl folk there at Multiplexes and on weekend u won't get tickets also...

  26. coincidence, i wrote about the same thing, fewer words and a different perspective... but this sounds way better :)

  27. I guess you could point at things like inflation and rising expenses and things like that, to show how little value money has now.

    But let us not forget, that 800 bucks can now officially buy you your own adolescent marathon runner too! Shows you something about the comparative value of money in different places doesnt it? Try and buy a pair of jeans at Forum for 800 bucks and see. Ha!

  28. Nice post! PVR in Bangalore has 50 buck morning shows on weekdays targetting all the gleeful college bunkers from all the colleges near pvr. And these shows are sold out EVERYDAY!
    With the multiplexes beng the only option to watch some movies , ( and even otherwise ) students a.k.a we bunk but then am sure colleges will one day insist something be done about this :)

  29. The Mastercard ending... was priceless.
    Splendid Post.

  30. I am a first time visitor to your blog. Not sure how i landed here. Your blog is very impressive. Nice thoughts.
    Happy Blogging!

  31. When my dad bought my a TVS 50 when I was in my 12th Standard, he used to give me Rs 50 every week. I used to fill 2 litres of petrol and 4 units of oil and used the remaining 7 rupees for sweets, etc.

    My total petrol consumption was only Rs 200 per month

    Today, the month is not yet over, and I have used Rs 5000 for Petrol for my Car and Bike.....


  32. Hi Rashmi,
    Similar thoughts on how to bring up the children with the right values. Like most parents who wanto instill the right values, i want to provide for them, but not indulge them too much. Well, now that I have said it the problem is defining the "too much" :)

    Any emperical rules too follow? Like
    "what would I do when i was young"
    But that doesn't work, because times have changed !
    Any ideas??


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