Half my salary goes for rent + utilities [I live in the top third most expensive city in the United States] . Yet I’m a self sufficient guy with no financial responsibilities, and so are all of my friends. But still we all do cringe once in a while whining about how our salaries are not sufficient to spend more on vacations, luxuries,more vacations,more savings and what not. There’s no end to need for money [ which is the law of human nature 😀 ]. I’ve been growing ever curious of how rich are growing richer and also more curious about how the poor are able to afford the basic needs in this inflation-more inflation looped economy. So this time, i indeed wanted to find out what 50 bucks (in India,in INR) means to people who earn equal to what people like me [ an above middle class guy, to set expectations straight] spend on an once in a while luxurious meal with family/friends.
Aim: Wanted to know how important is that 50 bucks to them by knowing the sort of buys they want to get with it.
Why 50 : Thats the amount i could just let go without thinking twice. Indeed i could give more in free money. But thats what my random generator churned out. [ My generosity meter] .
Target people : Low income individuals. Only to the working class, not beggars though.
Why INR but not $$? : I could afford this exercise only in INR. Giving away 50$…hmm.. not yet.
Successful ??: Partially. Wanted to give 50 bucks each to 10 to 15 people. But could give only to 7, given my short stay.
What did I learn : Read the stories before that.
First one is the cooking-gas cylinder delivery guy Kantha Rao. Initially he was uncomfortable to give his name, thinking if I had a complaint to make on him to the gas company. When i asked him in random what he would do if he was given 50 bucks, he wanted to buy some snacks to his 2 kids [ 3rd grade and kindergarten] which he couldn’t afford otherwise. I whole heartedly gave the 50 bucks. I know what it means as a kid when my father brings some jalebi & mirch-bajji to us on the way back from his office. Btw, He didnt have breakfast when he got to work.
Kantha Rao and his delivery buggy.
Second, It was a temple visit with my mom. Durga and Rambabu were siblings earning their livelihood from selling flowers,fruits and coconuts outside the temple. This time i came up with a short story of why i want give away 50 bucks in free. The story is that i’m student and its a class project for me. I liked it when all the people believed that i’m a student [Probably given my young looks 😀 ]. Rambabu would spend the 50 bucks on tea and hearty meal which he wouldn’t get otherwise. Durga would buy a cadbury chocolate which would be her luxury. They didnt have breakfast either when they got to work. They cheerfully agreed to have a photo with me.
Durga & Rambabu with their fruit/flower cart.
3. I went crazy about the new fast food point serving nectar-level-delicious mysore bajji. Almost ate their daily. I made friends with the municipality worker incharge of sweeping the roads there. While pulling out my scooter, I briefly heard her hard-life story which she was discussing with the vegetable vendor nearby. I immediately posed my question of what she would buy with a free 50 bucks. First she wants to eat breakfast with 10 bucks, buy vegetables with 20 bucks sufficient for 3 days. And she would save the last 20 for emergencies. I was happy to give the 50 bucks that she well deserved. It did hurt me as well knowing how important was that 50 bucks to her, for she is deprived of basic commodity of food. She didnt want to give out her name and she denied a foto with me as well, though she was extremely nice and polite to me. She was scared if her photo might be mis-used :).
4. It was temple time again with my parents. The elderly cleaning-woman there demanded for money before i offered. She also subtly abused that devotees would throw money to not-needing god than helping the poor like her. Anyways, i’ve already chosen her to give out the 50 bucks before she said things to me. However, i forgot to ask what she would buy. She was overwhelmingly talkative and i lost track of what i wanted to ask, by her talk. She denied giving out her name as well. However she didnt mind a photo with me as she’s confident that her photo is useless to me by saying “what can u do with a photograph with me ,nevermind! ” . You can see her expression below 🙂
Temple premises cleaner.
5. I was traveling back to my hometown by train. I met ramakrishna on board.He’s a pantry car food seller. He was selling soup and he didnt have his breakfast. He said that he would save the 50 bucks and do nothing with it unless its emergency. However, he denied the 50 bucks and he didnt want free money. I felt bad if i’ve offended him offering free money. I apologized to him for I might have hurt his dignity. Hes second one to deny. The first one being a vegetable vendor who denied free money as well. I apologized to her as well.
Ramakrishna, pantry food seller.
6. Then it is my driver-for-a-day Suresh. I didnt offer him any money. But he took it in the name of his service charge, when he understood that i dont mind giving a free 50 bill while i was talking about it with Mon. I did ask him the question and he said that he wanted to get his new scooter some fuel. He took more money than intended which was why i didnt offer him an extra free 50.
7. There was an elderly woman at an other temple who didnt answer any of my questions, but just blessed me with all goodness.
What did I learn: I’m still learning to be content with what all i have currently. Its hard not to be selfish and greedy. But hopefully all these answers keep reminding me not to be so, for there are many more people who struggle to earn basic living.