Friday, January 26, 2007

What a Coconut taught me



I walked by the lane in front of my apartments early during the evening and Coffee Day was inviting me for a cup.

"But come on, you just went to Pizza Hut instead of the much cheaper and not-so-bad quality Arya Tiffins." rebelled my saner side.

Just as I turned away from my temptation I found a cart full of tender coconuts (wo)manned by a lady not older than 30 years. She looked at me with expectation of making some sale.

"Kitna hai?" I enquired.

"Che rupiya, bhaiya!" she said in a subdued voice.

"Ek dejiyae!"

She dexterously sliced the cocunut, inserted the straw and handed it over to me.

"Khaan se aate hai yeh sub?"

"Gaon se bhaiya, Yellore!", she answered with an amused smile, probably glad that some one actually cared to know.

As I started sipping into the sweet nectar, I mentally weighed the worth of a 50-rupee flavoured cappuccino from Coffee Day or, for that matter, a 15-rupee Coke against a 6-rupee tender coconut. The difference in value for money was glaring. There is not a match to the feel-good factor one would get at the realisation of making a right choice!

Little did I realise that more was about to come. Right at that moment, two well-groomed girls with all the typical looks of the middle-class youth riding the wave of IT industry's gift walked by, and took interest at the coconut cart (or I would hope, me!) just as I did minutes ago. After a quick eye-lock with mine, they turned to business!

"kitna hai?", asked one of them

"Che rupiyah"

She considered that for a moment and replied,

"Dus ka Do karke do"

The seller remained mute implying a half-hearted agreement. That got me thinking. This is one instance where people like us who are habitual bargainers "save" some money, without really saving much. If one thinks about it, people especially in our strata of the society squander so much money on totally worthless expenditures for no better reason than because we can afford it. Or worse, even if we can't!

Here is a common example. When we buy Coke or Pepsi, we pay a large portion of the money to cover the beverage company's cost for wooing movie and non-performing cricket stars into advertising their products and buy a diuretic (which makes us lose water) to quench our thirst. Yup, this is what we use our freedom-to-choose for. And do we know to identify the real ones from fake? To get back to the point, we don't even have an option to bargain!

What do I gain from this small episode?

- In general, for our own good, we need to interpret the freedom of choice as "responsibility of choice". That way, we would tend to be more progressive, like, say, knowing that soft drinks are diuretics or to check a fake Coke from the real one.

- Specific to this case, I think the buyer has already saved when she chose a tender coconut over a cappuccino from Coffee Day or Coke. She could have been more philanthropic in just letting that two rupees go.

I felt like treating myself.
"Ek aur Naariyal deejiye!", I said with smile as she looked at me puzzled.

25 comments:

Driver said...

Nice one Badhri. I am for lack of words to write beyond that. Thanks for that post.

diyadear said...

a very ncie thought.. i completely agree n i have at times acted without bargaining towards the street vendors at pondi bazar considering the very point u mentioned.. Felt good to c my thoughts penned down in ur words.

Ponnarasi Kothandaraman said...

Aaaha Hindi maalum nahi :P

Nice blog :)

Badhri said...

Driver,
I see you thank a lot of people for the post they put up for their own purpose. Altrusim's peak!

Diyadear,
The feeling is mutual,

Ponnarasi,
I think you have been patient enough to wade through the hindi quotes. Good to know that you reached the other side of the post safe and sound. :) Thanks.

Driver said...

etho ennale mudinjathu. nallaa irunthaa nallaa iru...

Ponnarasi Kothandaraman said...

Oho tamil theriyuma :))

Badhri said...

Ponnarasi,
Aw! Peruththathoru avamaanam! Tamil gabbadikkum Chennaiyil piranda "suthhhham"ana tamilan naan.

:)

Driver,
over-a pesi kedacha pera keduthkkathennu solla varai...puriyuthu! :P

Sriram Varadharajan said...

Probably you did not bargain because the vendor was a woman. I am not sure but there is a chance that the situation would have been different if a man was holding those tender coconuts. And it is the very same reason those chicks bargained.

The very reason that a person agrees to our bargain is because it comes with profit, otherwise one would be hearing earful. Saving 2 rupees is like "Siruthuli" to a "Peru Vellam"

Ponnarasi Kothandaraman said...

Hahaha..Apdiya :O

Nambavey mudila ;)

Irundalum ipdi chennai vaarirurakka vendam..Enga blog pakkam ellam konjam varathu.. Ingaye ukanthuktu panjayat thalaivar velaya panreenga :P

Badhri said...

Sriram,
Neither the woman was good-looking, nor have I become that much desperate!

Women bargain because they are used to it.

"The very reason that a person agrees to our bargain is because it comes with profit.."

or that she is trying to sell of as much as possible when the customers are still there.

"Saving 2 rupees is like "Siruthuli" to a "Peru Vellam""

Exactly my point!

Ponnarasi,
Tamil-a mathavanga ottina enakku pudikkathu, athanala than naane ottiduven.

Ponnarasi Kothandaraman said...

Adadada.. Enna akkara tamil mela ;)

Next post pls...

Anand said...

badri, a nice one from you as always! Sorry for not visiting ur blog for a while!

Badhri said...

....aw...too much
So, I have a fan too huh? Flattered! Thanks!

mystery said...

heyy...first time here...appreciate ur thoughts and feelings...well said...yellaaron unna maariye yosicha..naadu munneridum...:P

Sriram Varadharajan said...

Psychologically speaking men do not want to be arrogant in front of a woman. But our inner demon is totally desperate to show our true colors. Nevertheless to mention that we are not good at bargaining.

I did not say that the woman was good looking.

My point is that neither the tender coconut vendor nor those chicks are wrong.

I think it is simple economics, one's income is other's expenditure. If you don't want to save, someone else is making your money.

Badhri said...

Mystery,
Thanks! for your visit. And appreciation sends me rolling down the rabbit hole to the glorious days 1980's socialistic tamil movies! :)

Sriram,
I understand the economics. What I don't understand is the purpose behind its application here. If saving money is a criteria, why apply it where one can save a max of Re. 1 instead of making more intelligent choices choosing a Nescafe over Coffee Day? Or using cash instead of credit card where you can (like restaurants, thus minimize risk of interest), or buy a normal cell phone than a camera cell phone (which is about 1000Rs expense, needs another 1000Re cable to download a *crappy* picture when you have a full-fledged camera anyway!)

Again, I am not trying to look at it only in terms of these two people, but the larger picture. Saving Money. Save money where you really lose and skip haggling where the small money for you is big money for someone else! :)

Priya said...

nice read

Sriram Varadharajan said...

When you know you are losing money, you can not save(all those examples that you gave). You can save only when you have an option ( I mean a chance and a choice). To me there is nothing called "small money". And I don't think the vendor would have accepted the deal if she thought of the so called "small money".

Driver said...

Let us have some mathematics refresher:

Tender Coconut Rs. 6
Bargained to Rs. 5
Savings = Re. 1

Number of coconuts in a year (assuming 2 every week) = 104

Annual coconut bargain savings = Rs. 104

Camera Cell Phone Rs. 15000
Camera Cable Rs. 1000
Ordinary Cell Phone Rs. 7000
Savings = Rs. 9000

Number of cellphones per year = 0.5 (assuming one every two years)

Annual cell phone savings = Rs. 4500.

Number of years in coconut bargains required to compensate one cell phone = 43.3 years (not considering inflation or depreciation).

Satisfaction received in helping the poor: Priceless.

Badhri said...

Sarathy, you must have been my tango partner in previous birth! :)

Remember "Donna" from "Scent of a Woman"?

Sarathy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Driver said...

machi,
atheppadidaa ehtai pathi pesinaalum oru "Explanation with reference to a film"-oda mudikkara...
Athallaam, thaanaa varathulla... naanum nyabagam vechukkaren, tiyaththula eduththu udaren...

Sriram Varadharajan said...

Refresher course on mathematics is awesome. But yettu suraikai Karikku udhavaadhu. One can not assume that a coconut vendor is poor. Even with that assumption, the main question here is "What is small money"? We can not say one rupee is small....

There are different ways to help the poor, but bargain savings should not be included in that. Because millions of Indians live on it.

c'est la vie said...

That was a good post!

How come this drink is not appreciated as the other european and western drinks! may be if it is served in starbucks it would sell more.I was so glad to have my 2 rounds of coconut water in madras warm weather, somethings never change even if I go back after 4 years.
It was nt 6 Rs but 15 Rs, Pagal Kollai but still worth it.

I didnt get driver's math but it was entertaining.

Badhri said...

c'est la vie,
Its not exactly pagal kollai. Madras ilaneer is much bigger than the one I got here.

Driver's math....ya, well..certain things you've just got to accept it. like "A brief history of time" ! :)