February 17, 2012

It’s a mad, mad world

Prices have sky rocketed. And it doesn’t seem to faze the affluent residents of Garden City in the least. Profligacy is rampant and purses seem to have lost their strings.

The other day, I was at the barber shop. I walked in and the first thing I noticed was a large sign that proclaimed ‘Haircut charges Rs. 70’. ‘Weren’t you charging Rs 50 last month?” I remarked mildly. “Yes, Sir. But our costs have gone up. We have been forced to raise the charges”, came the reply in a friendly tone. “What costs?”, I was curious. “Generally all costs, Sir. I cannot give you more details”. “But this is still very cheap, you know”, said the man seated next to me, “Back in California, I used to pay $10 for a haircut. I say that $1.4 is cheap”, he opined. “So you are ok with paying more?”, I enquired incredulously. “I don’t have time to think about these things. I just pay up”, he smiled benevolently at me. “Um, I’ve got some marsh land in Jersey that I’d like to sell you”, I thought as I retreated into the comfort of my own thoughts.

That weekend, we were out for dinner at a trendy restaurant in the city. I glanced through the menu to get a feel for the place (and their prices). I noticed that a cup of coffee was priced at Rs. 70. I then looked around. The place was overflowing. There were people waiting in the aisles, chomping at the bit to pay sixty rupees for a cup of coffee. “Has every one just gone crazy, or is it just me” I swore under my breath. “What were you charging for a cup of coffee last month”, I casually enquired of our young waiter as he took our order. “Rs 50, Sir. Our costs have gone up, and we’ve been forced to raise our charges”, he replied politely. I looked closely to see if I could spot any resemblance between him and my barber. “Costs. What costs? ” I protested feebly. “People don’t have time to think about all this, Sir. They just pay up. The gentleman at the next table told me that he used to spend $60 on a meal in California. Here, he’s happy to spend $30”, he elaborated with the clarity of a worker in a global economy.

“That will be Rs. 1400, please”, I heard the guy at the box office proclaim impatiently. “What? How”, I gasped incredulously. We were out at the neighborhood multiplex to take in the latest SRK starrer on the weekend. “I don’t have time to explain all this. Give me 1400 for 4 tickets. Hurry up”, he snarled. I reached for my wallet in a daze. As I walked through the mostly 20 and 30 something crowd, each anxious to fork out 280 per head for 2.5 hrs of so-called entertainment, “This is insane”, I thought. “I heard that there is a new multiplex in Whitefield. They are charging 400 bucks for a ticket. We should try it out next weekend. After all, this is way cheaper than California’, I overheard a couple talking. “Can we all shut up about California”, I fumed to myself.

These are heady times in Bangalore. When is this going to end? I have no idea. Until then, it looks like the popcorn at the movies is going to cost a little more.

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