Ouch; Don't pinch, it hurts: My musings on a special nature unique to us Indians !
Driving back home after another tiring day at hospital, I was trying to grab the two-way pass at the toll booth on my way home. That is when I saw a spectacle that is not at all uncommon to us Indians. A Mercedes E-Class was cruising ahead of me. A boy in his late teens was manning the toll-booth on our side. He waved down the Merc but the car refused to stop. The desperate boy went after the car and came right in front of the car. Yet, the car didn't stop, thus forcing the hapless boy out of the way. I could see him cursing the Merc owner even as I flashed my pass.
It set me thinking. Here was a person traveling on a car that cost upwards of Rs. 25 Lakhs. But he wasn't ready to shell out just 5 bucks for the toll. Even if one buys two way pass every day, the amount would come to Rs. 225/- per month and Rs. 2738 for an entire year. That is not even 0.1% of the money he had shelled out to buy that luxurious monster. The recent murder of a toll plaza personnel by a SUV brat is still fresh in our minds for the horror to fade so easily. Why are we like this ? Why do we pinch when it comes to these small expenditures ?
Lalu Prasad Yadav is a Politician I am not particularly fond of. But once he raised a very valid point. He said, "The vegetables we eat are sold on the roadside and the footwear that adorn our feet are sold in air-conditioned show-rooms". How paradoxical a nation we have come to be !
Sulaiman, a hard-working vegetable vendor comes knocking at our door every other day. He brings his stuff on a cart, pushing it for miles through the overcrowded town to make a living. Often I see my wife and Dad haggle with him about the prices of the vegetables and cribbing about mounting expenditure. Most of the times, they force him to slash the bill after carrying all the vegetables home. And they are happy even if they manage to pinch just 5 rupees from him.
Once I told my wife, "You buy almost 5 - 6 kilos of different types of vegetables and the bill came to just about Rs. 125. You pinch 5 rupees from that poor fellow and feel happy. You people go to Pizza Hut and order a Pizza that contains a little bit of base, some cheese, mayonnaise and a fraction of these vegetables and they charge nothing less than Rs. 375 for for a medium size Pizza. I never saw you haggle with the Pizza Hut fellows. Why do you do this bargaining only with these poor people ?"
So used we are to this 'buy one get one free syndrome' that we always expect the vegetable vendor to throw in a few coriander leaves free with our vegetables. If he doesn't, we never hesitate to pull a few on our own. I believe as a nation, we are suckers for freebies. Bargaining runs is in our veins and arteries. But we also are pretty sure about where to bargain and where not. Seldom do we see people haggle in a jewellery. We routinely witness people who did shopping worth Rs. 25,000/- refusing to pay the parking fee of Rs. 10/-. We believe it is our right to park anywhere without having to pay the parking fee.
"Religion is the opium of the masses" said Karl Marx. I am not a big fan of Marxism but I agree with this. People conduct poojas, havans and rituals in temples spending Lakhs of rupees. But same people find it extremely difficult to part with a few hundreds or thousands that can help to educate an orphan. Don't we see people offering liters of milk and honey to stone idols but not even a drop of milk to a starving old woman and a child ?
|Poverty Pinches; age no bar !|
I don't think any other country or civilization has as many jokes about stinginess and selfishness as we have in India. Every community wants to label the other stingy. 'Marwaris' are branded 'Kanjoos' by every other north Indian. 'Marwaris' joke about the 'Kanjoos Sindhi'. The south Indian version of the 'Marwari' is the Andhra 'Setty'. In Southern Karnataka, my own community is ridiculed for 'pinching'. There are million stories about the legendary stinginess of us Indians.
Often people are proud of such 'Makki choos' nature ! 'Makki Choos' is that person who sucked on a house fly that fell into his tea because he didn't want the house fly to drink his tea. He then declares, "No fly that drank my tea can ever escape and remain alive". Evading tax, toll fee, parking fee and making such 'small savings' is a big thing for a large majority of middle class India.
Perhaps, that is one of the reasons why we are still a developing nation with enormous amount of poverty ! My effort has always been to kick this 'pettiness' and grow up. I put in maximum effort not to bargain with the small scale vendors. For them, even Rs. 5 makes a difference because it can buy them rice for one meal. For me, that is not even enough to pay the parking fees for my car.
I believe it is fine if one isn't magnanimous to donate millions. It should be perfectly fine if one respects the labor of those striving to thrive and be reasonable with them if not generous !