Tale of Printed Prices

Recently I came across a ‘meme’ that accused ‘liberals’ of negotiating prices with vegetable sellers in the street but buying fancy items in malls and stores at face value and then tweeting the grief on farmers’ suicide. On its face, the meme seemed logical. But somehow it didn’t seem to connect dots. The thoughts of finding why we negotiate had been visiting and revisiting me for a long time. We end up negotiating the cost of grocery with the vendors in the streets. We bargain with rickshaw persons for a better fare. We do that even for manual rickshaw which requires human muscle strength to pull another human. Often some section of society  judges the section of negotiators and bargainers. I wanted to dig deeper instead dumping judgements and labels.

We don’t do this bargaining when the price is printed. Even when that is handwritten on a piece of paper like in farmers market or artisans market or trade fair , we hesitate in any form of negotiation.  In fancy malls or stores or hotels, we again have only two options – take it or leave it. When price tags are seen digitally on Amazon or Flipkart, we would have no control again. There might be sale or deals, whose control again sits with the sellers or the platform.

Somehow, when price is written down,  it puts mental blocks towards the direction of negotiations. Those printed or written digits discourage us from asking for better price. Of course the motivation for this discouragement works differently in different situations.   

Sometimes the class difference between buyer and seller plays role. Street hawkers or rickshaw pullers fall in much lower classes than buyers. So buyers exercise some power in extracting better price. But the power of class differences dilutes if the price is printed.

When we buy a house or buy media or software subscription for our company or ourselves, we negotiate to the last drop. Big money involved there. In essence, those negotiations are a thousand times bloodier than the ones on street with grocery sellers.

Thus, ground for negotiation is not as simple as it is portrayed to be. Many factors play into this.

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Why I Would NEVER Vote for BJP (or Congress) .. unless..

This evening, I was going for my music class. As I turned onto the Janak Puri Road, the one I take every day, I saw it blocked. I was already late for the class. It was quite a nuisance to see this tent pitched in the middle. I went around it and noticed two police men. Turned out that some BJP meeting was planned to take place in that pandal. I asked the beat officers if the organizers had  permission to hold this assembly in the middle of the road. He said that he did not know. I went up near the stage. The meeting had not started yet. Few people were seated in the chairs. I enquired with one of the guys in the front to learn who the organizer was. He said, “I am the organizer, tell me”. I said, “Do you have the required permission to hold this event at this place?”. He asked why I wanted to know that. I told him that I am a citizen and if a road that I use every day, and specially the one I pay tax for, is used for purposes other than vehicles or pedestrians, then I had every right to know that. He pulled out a paper, and told me that that was the permission letter. As I began to read that, some other saffron clad man snatched that from my hands and asked me who I was. I tried to tell him the same. He asked me to leave and kept asking who I was. The organizer told me to come with him to the beat officers, they would show me the permission letter. I told him that they didn’t have that, that was why I came to him in the first place. Regardless, he brought me back to the constables. As we got there, some other men reached there and told the officer that I was disturbing their assembly. I explained the situation. Some guys hit me. The two constables did nothing. When they tried to charge at me again, constables tried to intervene, one of the men succeeded anyway. Police officers asked me to leave. I asked officers if they were going to press charges against those goons. He asked why I was talking inappropriately. I couldn’t believe this, a group of men just punched me in front of them and they are not saying a word of censure. There was some verbal duel. I asked him if this was why he wore uniform, to just watch? An offense of culpable homicide happened just happened in front of so many eye witnesses. He asked where the eye witnesses were and told me that he would arrest me if I spoke further.

This was a meeting to ask for votes. This is the foundation of electoral democracy in a city – municipal elections. If the idea of ‘development’ is founded on violence and injustice, do we want such ‘development’ ?

One Modi, if at all he genuinely wants to fix this high headedness, cannot fix this arrogance and sense of impunity across the party and supporters. Manoj Tiwari, the head of Delhi BJP already has been seen showing the same attitude of hierarchy. Unless this intolerance of questions goes away, unless these political parties begin to respect ordinary voter and his questions, there is no way I can vote for them.

PS: Not voting for BJP or Congress does not simply translate to a vote for AAP. Any voter can dislike or like more than one political party or leader. Not to forget that there is always the option of ‘None of the above.

PPS: I went to a similar assembly some weekends ago, where AAP candidate was going door to door with his supporters. I asked him questions. Sure enough, he was visibly discomforted. But not once did him or his supporters dare to even touch me. And there was no police there. Rather, I got him to sign an undertaking that if he failed to deliver, he would quit.

 

Could we be missing something in the conflict issues of African nationals in India?

Like every other evening, I took the e-Rickshaw on Friday evening from Uttam Nagar east to Dabdi. The driver was a young man , 23, from Begusarai, Bihar and his name was Aman.  As usual, I took the shotgun seat next to the driver because the drivers have amusing stories to tell. Therefore, while looking ahead and talking to this cheerful gentleman, I didn’t know who all were sitting in the 4 seats behind us. Aman amused me by telling the story of how his girlfriend from last 5 years turned bewafa! And he got married at 21 and became a father at 22.

At C 1 Janak Puri signal, some passengers deboarded. My pleasant evening mood was suddenly disturbed by the sound of a rather violent pat that I found was on Aman’s hand. There was a passenger, apparently of African origin, who had given Rs. 100 and Aman didn’t notice that as he was busy narrating his stories to me and assumed it was Rs. 10 note, which is what passengers often gave because the ride was priced flat at Rs. 10.

Aman apologized, of course in Hindi. And gave him the rest of the change. He again made some mistake in counting and there was one Rs. 10 note less in the change. The passenger yelled again, this time rather more loudly and hit his arm. Aman realized his mistake, apologized again and gave the Rs. 10 note. The man left talking to himself.

I don’t know if that is how that man or other people of his community usually talked or he was high on something, but I found this demeanor very disturbing. I can tell from my gut feeling, and not because Aman and I have common identity – Indian, that it was an honest mistake. Incidentally, this happened, just when he was telling me that he does not like Delhi because people are very rude to him.

I do not know where that man is from. If it’s Nigeria or some other place. I don’t want to believe that all people of his country or continent behave like that. For all I know, on his part, it might as well be very natural. His talking to himself could also be natural – we also do that in anger.

But the only point I am making is that there is a possibility of another side in each of such cases of conflict. Before jumping to any conclusion, we may want to hold our judgments and keep our mind open, absorb information, if we absolutely have to ( we can always have the option of not going to facebook or avoiding news of any kind!) and later have any opinion. Each conflict is different. Assuming that all Nigerians in India are into drug peddling or all Indians are racists is quite a dangerous proposition.

Interestingly, when I told that man that he should not have hit Aman, the lone woman in the rear seat, an Indian, advised us that we should stop harassing Nigerians.