I had a unique day today: a portion spent in a 5-star hotel, another in sadar bazar. Both in Delhi just 15 rupees apart.
I reached Jaypee Siddharth Hotel at 7:30 in the morning,which was too soon, for IIM Kozikode's interview (will write a separate post on it soon). The entry to the hotel was very fancy, with security checks and unnecessary lighting. I was hungry as hell and the 90-minutes wait before our GD and essay was killing me. My body was showing signs like it shows on days when I don't take lunch, miss the dinner, don't wake up for breakfast and am engaged in some task causing the next lunch to get delayed.
The Air conditioner made me forget, that after the interview I will be thrown out into the torturous sun , rendered more so because of the AC. Also the pleasant temperature somehow made me more hungry! I knew I had no option but to eat in the 5star restaurant today. I went to the ATM withdrew 500 rupees hoping to eat something, anything. I entered the restaurant and to my horror, the breakfast was buffet. It was a horror because in buffets you see all the things , which you can't eat (or afford) so deliciously presented. But I sat down at the table, called the waiter and asked. " Bhaiyya kya system hai yahan breakfast ka". As soon as the words left my mouth they felt awkward and were made more so, when he replied in crisp English, " Its 850 per plate, sir". Last I heard waiters were supposed to please the customers. I ask, which syllable in his sentence was deliberated to that end?. I avoided further embarrasment by eating my "hainnn!??" as soon as it surfaced on my mouth.
I asked for a tea, worrying with every sip, how much did the last sip cost. Throughout that exercise, the maximum number for the 'what may be the final price?' that came to my mind was 50. It cost thrice that. I pulled out two notes placed them in the folder and waited, cursing the circumstances. The waiter did not return for another 10 minutes. I stood up and waved a hand at him. He came towards me puzzled! I asked him about the remaining 50 rupees. He was surprised and brought back the folder with 50 rupees in it. My reaction 'Really?! 50 rupees as tip!'
After the interview I came out and saw a metro station called Rajendra Place right across the road.I knew I had to use this opportunity so I boarded the train to Chowri Bazar .I got down there and asked a Rikshaw waala to take me to Sadar bazar.He said 30. I told 15. We agreed on 20. I sat in the Rickshaw, saw the man half my weight, thrice my age, pull me with whatever strength that remained in his body.
In a normal setting, I would hardly have felt anything. But someone once said "what you eat in the morning decides what you think throughout the day" and I had tea worth 150 today.I felt guilty because I bargained with this Rikshaw puller and stripped 10 rupees off him, whereas if a corresponding price with the tea was to be paid, he would well deserve a 1000 bucks. I was worried, not just because I felt I lost my integrity somehow, but also because, how so very easily the surroundings and the prevalent norms molded me. Am I so malleable?
Then throughout the day as if I was suddenly conditioned for Sadar Bazar, I started bargaining and won a deal for Rs.7 when the demanded price was Rs.10. This way I saved 2000 bucks. To achieve that I had to walk several kilometers in scorching sun. I was happy to have achieved this bargain. I was thinking all the time: how do we know what price to quote?
150 for cup of tea. 20 for a rikshaw ride. 7 for a rubik's cube. 110 for auto ride. 80 for auto ride back on the same route. isn't money expected to standardise utility? is it really achieving it? is it even better than barter?