I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law at Noida. A small side agenda was to do some shopping too.
I have to buy a business suit for a forthcoming conference. So the idea was simple and this hoarding seems to capture it well, I was looking for some feel good clothes!
But the problem with me is, I do not feel good so easily. I thought the cycle parked in front was a perfect contradiction to the message of the hoarding. I was wondering if the cycle owner was a guard at one of those shops, who work 12 hour shifts? I was wondering if he was ‘feeling good’ or not?
I get drawn to the sidewalks and the signs of life there much more than the swank shops and the malls. I was really drawn to these sellers selling the colorful firkis and they posed for me quite willingly. I do not know how much they make in a day. Is it enough to keep them going? What kind of dreams they have?
A little ahead, and still in my quest for feel good clothes I met a few small and smiling girls. They were selling flowers and I simply love flowers. The flowers were not so fresh but I felt drawn to the kids. I asked them how much for one bunch? The girl in the left hand corner of the picture below told me that one bunch was for 10 rupees. I bought one and this prompted the others to try and do some hard selling, which was quickly turning simply into pleas for money.
I think reading this post by Krish made me respond the way I did, I said, I would buy some food for them but I will not give money. The kids readily agreed.
We started with these three and I was wondering where they would take me and calculating how much it would cost? I am so used to paying Rupees 150 for a single dish of rice or more than Rupees 100 for two plates of Momos or more than Rupees 1000 for a few pizzas. I tried chatting up with them but they were not too interested. One girl said she was from a small town in UP. I asked why she left home? She mumbled something about not having a home but all the kids that were hanging around were living together. I wonder where they live? I wonder if they are safe on the streets? I only know they smiled quickly while talking with me.
The kids took me to a road side stall selling chole-kulche (vegetables with a kind of India bread). On the way our number increased to four. By the time the person started giving out the food to the kids the number went up to nine. When it came to paying for it, my bill came to a total of Rupees 90!
It was a stunning realization that a measly 90 rupees that in many cases cannot buy two plates of Momos can buy lunch for 9 people. For the first time I felt that the measly salary that I draw can go quite a long way, if I really have a will to do something. The kids took there food away and I once again thought of the task at hand- to buy a business suit.
I started walking off and a small girl approached me and pleaded to buy a flower. I said, I would buy food for her. She told me I already had. Then she pleaded to give her just one rupee. When I asked why, her answer was simple. She wanted to eat a toffee! I said I would buy the toffee. As we were walking, I saw an ice cream vendor and suggested an ice cream to her. She took the biggest cone she could spot in the picture.
This is not the stall where I bought food for the kids, but I have developed a new respect for the street food.
I went to the mall and looked for a business suit. It was priced at Rupees 4000. That can buy a meal for 400 people at the stall where the kids took me!
I tried a few but if the jacket fitted me, the trousers were small and if the trousers fitted me, the jacket was too big. I seem to have developed an uncomfortable tendency not to fall in any pre-tailored categories. I had to walk out after 45 minutes without buying one.
And in the process I have realized that in some places 100 rupees can mean a lunch for 10 people and not the price of a small shampoo bottle or two plates of Momos.
26 thoughts on “How Far a 100 Rupee Note Will Go?”
very truehow many times these thoughts cross our minds….sometimes we carryon with mundane acts..rarely we get to do any abt thse thoughtsuma
How kind of you to get lunch for these children! And it’s wonderful when people ask themselves the important questions like you are doing. I think every little bit of charity goes far, and one not need to be rich to help the disadvantaged. Sorry that you didn’t find a suit, but I did enjoy the pics and those frikis are stunning!
Mridula, Good job.On an unrelated note, I really can never understand why Indian women executives buy business suits instead of saris or salwar kameezes. The latter (esp. salwar kameezes) are far more comfortable, require fewer accessories, are available in better colours, look better on Indian women, use Indian craft and labour and are far more weather friendly. Most of all, they are tons cheaper and easier to maintain (besides giving good business to the neighbourhood dhobi who does a marvellous job of ironing them). What do you think? I’ve tried to figure this out with no success!! n!
Those are not aloo patties :-O Is ‘cholley’ not gram/chickpeas?You made the kids’ day. I just wish all the Page 3 NGOs would actually do something to help these kids, rather than waste their funding on fund-raisers.Its sad seeing pictures like this – reminds you that despite all of India’s economic progress, some people are just as unaffected and poor.
How wonderful of you to give those children food. You are surely richer for having done that than you would have been if you had focused only on finding a suit. (And the food in your picture looks delicious.)
“I have developed a new respect for the street food.” – that is kind of strange – the best food in Asia is found on the streets. I found buying pizza in India a waste of money – it is expensive and quite crappy. Actually 100 Rs is quite a bit of money – I stayed down South as recently as 2004 and I was able to get two decent vegetarian meals a day and breakfast for 50 Rs. Though South has a string of restaurants called Darshini restaurants which are simply absent up North.
Anon, you could get meal deals for as little as Rs.10-15 per meal in Delhi. If you’re in Delhi university, the canteens are subsidized to such an extent, that you wonder if it even covers the cost of the inputs.As for momos, if you head out to villages ahead of Karu in Ladakh, you could get a plate of 6-8 momos for as little as 20 bucks! [circa 1995]
I really appreciate this gesture which I learnt from a girl in my class back in 1998which is practically the same as yours > give toffees or something to eat instead of money.Wish everybody did that specially instead of money which invariably will go into someone else hands.But the issue with me was my inability to sustain the gift of food and when I had to leave town I felt bad about few children would have waited for me.On a different note it always hurts to see children on street : I would rather prefer family planning if I did not have moneystarry
Mridula,That was a wonderful gesture on your part. I wish more people would take your lead and give food instead of money. My grand-uncle used to do the same thing. He would walk to the nearest sighn-channa walla or bidi-walla and buy the kids channa or biscuits. The kids used to eagerly wait for him and would surround him as soon as he left the building. He used to get a lot of glares from people in the building, but he couldn’t care less.Thanks for the wonderful post! And this should serve as a reminder as to just how much we have to be grateful for!
Street food is often under-rated and ignored by many, but it is very very tasty food. My parents forbid me fom eating roadside food. Pesticilence and Disease would result if I disobeyed them and ate from the road. It was only in college that I started eating from the road and I ws shocked at what I had missed out. From Tiikis to bhel to ramzan specialities, the roadside food is unbeleivable tasty. I would have paid much more for that quality of food…
Nice pic of the firkis, Mridula. 🙂 Beautiful pattern.You really ought to turn off that date thing though…mars the beauty of the photos 🙁
Yes mridula, Exactly, what i feel when ever I see people who haven’t even met their basic needs yet. I never give money to beggers, for a siomple reason i dont encourage it. But I would’nt mind buying things 10 times their actual cost when they sell in the traffic signals, cosd that might light up their days food. Good that i was able to find some similar hearts roaming around in the same soil. Keep writing! Keep doing!!
Uma thanks for your comment. I agree there are many days when such a site is usual and I go on, barely taking notice.Crystal I think I have started asking a few questions but I have no clarity at all. Sometimes I feel all fired up and sometimes I feel just too small.Neela Thanks for the comment. For business suit, for this conference the dress code is a business suit or a saree. I do not know how to tie a saree (Aunts and relatives do it for me when there is a real need) hence, the quest for the busines suit.Cow they are aloo patti only. I mentioned that I did not take the children to this stall but it is a picture of street food in general. Sorry for any confusion I created.Teri thanks for your generous comment. I so much agree, I am richer for this experience. Anonyoums 1 we do not eat out much and when we do somehow or the other we end up at Rs. 150 per dish types after a movie. So this was a good reminder to me about the value of Rs. 100. Also, like Continental Drifts,my folks have been biased against street food, that it is not safe. hence, this limited experience till date.Cow thanks for replying to Anonymous 1, while I was busy trying to cope with my teaching load.Starry I too feel so bad, I wonder if those kids would expect to see me on another weekend? I wonder if those kids would be there? And the place is quite far away from where I live, I was visiting my sis, when I met these kids. And I too have no answers, no strategy (as of now) to do something on a sustained basis.Continental Drifts thanks a lot for sharing your experiences. These days when I get upset, I too tend to think of all the comfort I am surrounded with and get over it quickly.Deepak blame my nephews, they set the date and all without my knowing it. I will get it removed. Thanks for pointing it out.Karthik thanks for sharing your thoughts. I too sincerely hope that more people do such things.
Wonderful work Mridula! how many of us do this? You made those kid’s day. Well done!
Mridula,”Realization” happens with such an experience but that has to “result” into something fruitful (the way you helped kids with food etc).The young (& so called modern) Indians need to live with their eyes and ears open.Thanks for the nice post.Ash.
This is an interesting experience. How about editing the piece and thinking a little more about it- it could lead to a wonderful article.I often eat at dhabas and street joints so I do know that hundred bucks can buy you a lot, though even these are becoming more expensive.And, I hate business suits. 🙂
hi,I liked that picture with Firkis.
You don’t know how to tie the Sari? But how can that be?
Tarun, even I don’t do it regularly but I will try to.Ash, I agree, we need to open our eyes and ears and not go by the mainstream media feed of one sided picture.Anirudh, thanks for the suggestion, I will try. Business suites are necessary evil sometimes.V, thanks.Crystal, there are more people like me in India who wear sari very occassionally, and someone else puts it for us. We really do not need to wear it now apart for cermonies etc.
Hi Mridula:A very good post, which resonated with me. (As it must have with a lot of others, judging by the number of comments for this post.) I read your post yesterday, but I was still thinking about it a day later, and so came back to leave a comment.I am reminded of a quote I recently came across (in the December 26th, 2005 issue of TIME magazine in which they named the Gates’ and Bono as Persons of the Year). The man who dies rich dies disgraced — Andrew Carnegie.Keep up the good work,Ram
Hi,Mridula..coming here via Alka’s blog…and,yes,such occasions do teach you the value of money,I feel….and,after such incidents,don’t you feel the futility of ‘investing’ in pizzas and the sort?:)Nice post.
OMG! this is such an eye-opener post! And u did sucha gud work the other day… do u even know wot u just did? wow.. i like u for wot u did… that was amazing.. and when I grow up.. maybe to buy a 4000 rs suit for myself when im earning n working… ill remem wot u did today and try to do my bit..
Mridula :Well you must have already been praised by lot. Add my accolades to it.Indeed a very touchy topic. To someone Rs 100 means nothing but to someone it might be the difference between Life and Dealth.Lets try to make a better worth for our money , some part of it, atleast.Continue this track of opening the minds of the so called High class and Medium High class society to the basics of life.-ATG
Mridula, that was a good gesture to buy food for the girls. I wonder why where they all live too and why they were so quiet when you talked with them. Hmm. I am going to post a blog entry about kids in Honduras soon, but I wasn’t as kind with what they wanted. Isn’t it amazing how far money can go? Sometimes we really think we need a lot of money to survive, but there are thousands of people who have learned to get by on very little. I really liked this post! It was very thoughtful in many levels.
Hi,Such incidents happen in everybody’s life … some are affected , others not. It was nice of you to express its effect on you . NOW, maybe it will affect the unaffected.In case some of the ‘affected’ people are interested in helping, one avenue is the Project WHY !! I have recently come across them and found their initiative interesting. You all can have a look at http://www.projectwhy.org/The JORAD concept is a good one …. have a look !!
Ram, when I wrote this post, I thought it might touch a cord with a few. I hope it did.Amitl, I know pizza and all are futile but it so happens sometime that we end up buying it and that business suit too. What to do?Gemini Girl, thanks a lot for your kind words and thanks for the mention on your blog.ATG, in addition to what you said, I hope I will be able to do small things on a more sustained basis. I don’t think I deserve any praise as such.TT, thanks. I am waiting to read your acount.Thanks Shoooonya for the mention of the projects.