Has Life Really Changed After Demonetisation?

The blackish-golden anniversary of Demonetisation. This was definitely the biggest defining moment politically in my lifetime. After all, I was not a child of the freedom movement, nor was I around during emergency. I was around when the economy opened up in the early 90s, but that was a gradual impact.

Something as explosive as this? Yep. First time. And a part of me hopes there will be more and a part of me hopes for a quieter life.

Has life really changed after demonetisation? Living in Bangalore, I could perhaps say yes. My grocery store accepts PayTM now. I can pay as low as 10 bucks in PayTM. People who would have never gotten a bank account are online now and use it frequently.

I’ve fallen back to the habit of carrying little to no cash (picked up on my days abroad). So yes, I can live without cash now.

But what about outside Bangalore?

I still ensure that I carry cash when I go traveling. Because especially after demonetisation, there is a fear of ATMs running dry. That is the biggest nightmare. Stranded somewhere without money. Because a lot of other towns and cities are not as happy with online transactions. Card machines don’t always work. Or they say they don’t work, because they still do not trust banking and online transactions.

The culture of cash and mistrust of banks is too deeply rooted in us to be removed by one round of demonetisation. It isn’t just the corrupt guys who like to keep cash. It is everyone. My parents. Maybe your parents. My neighbours. I’m sure your neighbours too.

Did corruption come down? I seriously doubt it, especially since the number people asking for bribes or cutting short things hasn’t really gone down.

But in a country like India, the only way we’ll ever do anything is if we are dragged, albeit, kicking and screaming. So maybe the demonetisation did not entirely work as intended but it did make us aware of online payments, get a section of people on it, and it taught us how to stand in line. Pretty good for a first attempt, I guess.

Happy anniversary!

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Being a Girl with Hair

 

Have you ever thought how much women, on average, spend on hair? Yes, I know we are supposed to be the spend thrift, consumerist, favorite with the advertisers because we are so easy to sell to sorta people. But perhaps it is our own warped self-image, the society’s steep expectations or media’s portrayal… or whatever it is, but a lot of it boils to one simple factor – hair.

A woman becomes aware of her hair when she hits puberty. Till then, the stuff on your head is just something to be kept out of the way and the rest of it does not matter. Then suddenly, you have to actually pay attention to these cells.

Let’s see what an average woman, living in a city with a decent job, in the age group of anywhere from 21 to 45, needs for the hair on her head.

  1. Shampoo
  2. Conditioner
  3. Leave-in conditioner
  4. Serum
  5. Anti-frizz
  6. Hair Mask
  7. Hair Spray (to whip it into shape on those bad hair days)
  8. Oil
  9. Heat Protection Serum

Yep, we need alllll that to make ourselves look halfway decent. Not glam. Just presentable.

On average, we spend about INR 3,000 per month on all these prettying ‘basic’ products – and that’s by going for something just above the low-range of products. I’m not talking salon-level products.

Next, since we are obsessed about hair, we need to ensure that the remaining part of the body is free of hair. Which means bi-weekly appointments at the salon for waxing arms, legs, most part of the face, and if you are adventurous, a brazilian as well. When the bikini or the wedding season comes around, you might also need to wax your back, your stomach and well, maybe your whole body. Not accounting for the hours of pain, this also means an average of INR 1,500 per month for removing  the hair from your body.

Then there are the hair cuts – and the search for the perfect hair stylist is as tough as the search for the perfect pair of pants. A single hair cut at a good salon – you are down another 2 grand every 3 months (if you are religious about maintaining your hair, that is).

Of course, you cannot forget the ‘special occasions’ wherein you’ve to get the hair washed, shined and polished styled and set. Which is another INR 1,500 each setting. Believe it or not, most women have at least one occasion every month for which they need to hit the parlor!

Some of us also enjoy a calming head massage along with the other painful treatments, which means another INR 1,500 each month.

Let’s do the math: 3,000 + 1500 + 650 + 1500 + 1500 = 8150

We’re spending about 8 fricking grand on hair every month! That’s 96,000 a year!

All because we are obsessed with this thing called hair – which grows on every single human being over the age of 12.

Money Money Money

Money money money. 

Everyone’s talking about it or thinking about it. And according to one NYT article, a little too much thinking and talking about it. Apparently, there is a condition where you could be addicted to money. Considering my account is always mostly empty, I’m either not addicted or I’m constantly jonesing for a fix.

The NYT Article was nicely written. A former trader and his life of money and drug addiction (somehow the two always seem to go together). And he eventually talked about how he realised he was too addicted to making money and it had stopped being enough. It was the power that money brought along that was addictive as well, he said.

Perhaps only a rich man can write something like that. Perhaps only a rich man who has left behind the memories of not having enough to pay bills could talk about giving it all up. Well, either him or Buddha.

As much as we would like to live without money, the world is fashioned on money. Even the internet world has its own form of currency. We would all like to imagine that we could live off the land. Grow what you need, eat what you need. But then you have taxes, you have to buy seeds, pesticides, pay for the water and the electricity to pump the water. So you begin rearing some sheep to pay for all of that. And then you’ve to buy hay, or at least some amount of it. And you need to vaccinate it or face huge losses. So you start growing more to sell the fruit. But you need someone take the fruit to the market, so you need a vehicle or some form of transport. So you make a barter. And before you know it, you are back to money etc again.

Who made those oddly shaped pieces of paper so popular? Why? 

I don’t want a fancy car. I don’t want a fancy house. I prefer a smaller house and a smaller car. Yet they tell me that these simple things need bagfuls of money and I need to pay for the bags too.

Luring Me Away…

It isn’t so much the fact that I want it rather than the fact that I could have had it.

It isn’t jealousy but a twinge of ‘oh damn’.

The emotions I face when I hear about an ex-colleague doing really well. I guess it is only human but it is also a little difficult to admit to myself that I even feel such things. I paused when I heard something today and questioned myself – was that what I really wanted?

The reasons I quit my job are my own. One of them was that I felt that I needed change. I loved the company and some of what I did but the newness had faded and I felt I was stuck. So when I see others moving on, it makes me wonder if I didn’t try hard enough or gave up too soon.

But the real answer is – my goals were different. I never wanted to be in that field in the first place and then I grew to love it, a little. I liked the challenge and I was also good at it. But it isn’t what I really loved. And that was the problem.

Maybe I could’ve worked my way up to where I wanted to be – eventually. But patience is something I sorely lack and the only option I did see at that point was jumping out. Which I did.

But the dreams of that sort of glory and fortune are hard to die… which is why the twinges. And the need to remind myself that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. My goals, which were slightly different to start with, changed quite drastically in between. And I didn’t have the support or encouragement to go at them… it was all corporate-ship and a little… not my type.

So I thought about how it would be if I had that job… I would hate it once the newness wore off, like this one. By many standards, what I am doing is brilliant too. But the old problem still persists – this isn’t where I want to be.

Politics, intrigue, human interest, human rights – those are my dreams. I do not particularly care about currency wars. I wouldn’t have even learnt about these things if I hadn’t worked in those fields, for which I’m eternally grateful. I wouldn’t be able to talk about stock markets, indexes, profit statements, company results, strategies, inflation, GDP, housing, unemployment… I wouldn’t have ever bothered dipping into that world, let alone have such expert knowledge on the field.

Even if I did follow it, I wish I could write like my role model publications.

But it is funny that I need to remind myself yet again when fortune and glory come knocking on my door through a different route.

How many times have we told ourselves – “I’ll do this for a little while and then go do what I want”

I did that for a little while and now it is time to see how I can do what I want and not be lured away by promises of more money.

Link of the day: Photos the CommonWealth Games

Lifestyle Change

This basically arose from an argument I was having with a friend a while ago. He argued that I will not be able to live off lesser money than what I’m currently earning. I thought I could… I mean money has never meant been so important to me and I believed ‘job satisfaction’ was more important to me than money. In other idealisitc words, I would be okay with working for lesser money as long as the job was something I loved and the money was enough to fulfil my basic needs.

So yesterday, after a ‘decadent’ evening… well it was a movie, lunch+dinner with friends where I spent close to about 1200 bucks… I began wondering what I would have to give up if I had a job like that.

1. Rs.1000/head dinners on weekends:
– Yeah there have been times when I’ve spent more… Italian dinner with a good glass of wine. Or for that matter…

2. Expensive pubs and clubs:
– Where a drink would cost about 300 bucks, while something similar would cost about half that in a slightly cheaper place. It is lucky that I’m not a heavy drinker but still… two drinks or more would set me back by a grand or more.

3. Cofi at special cafes:
– Do I sound like I’m harping about food? I do spend a lot of time eating and at cafes, hanging out with friends. And true, cafes are never cheap in Bangalore. I remember the time when I’d really be pissed to pay almost as much or more for a coffee here as I would at Starbucks. But there you go! And for sheesha… so friends would have to settle for meeting me at slightly lower-end cafes and restaurants and pubs where beer is sold by the pitcher for 80 bucks.

4. Weekend peak hour movies:
– Now outsiders may not be aware but watching a movie in Bangalore is expensive business. For starters, you’ve different price slabs depending on the time and day you are watching a movie. Like weekday, pre-afternoon movies cost about 100 bucks or cheaper. Weekend tickets start only by 300 bucks per head and go up to 500 for a really good movie which is called ‘movie of the week’. And then you’ve popcorn and coke, which easily adds up another 300 bucks. Like a friend said, watching a movie with your girlfriend/boyfriend one weekend can easily run a small family in the city.

5. No more designer brands:
– I’m not a brand person. I don’t consider Levis, Reebok, CK an indulgence. That would be Davidoff, Prada and such things which I still don’t buy. Okay maybe Davidoff. And would I have to give up all that? Maybe those expensive perfumes I buy… I’ll have to settle for an awesome smelling deo instead (if there is any such thing)

6. No more buying movie DVDs:
– Download is the word, baby 😦

7. Fewer concerts – so you pick, choose and use up savings.

8. Using the bus and other forms of public transport:
– Now I do have to make a point that i’ve a car and a bike. Yet i end up taking cabs to avoid the traffic and parking hassles. So i cud just take my bike. Even with fuel, i’ll be saving money.

9. Fancy creams and lotions.. Or this cud be basic woman’s right to feel good 🙂

there are other things.. Flowers and chocolates bought impulsively for me or for someone else, random pastries.. But i wudn give them up regardless of my financial situation. Its called living.

A friend says i cud save money if i simply cut down on travel. Might as well die! Plus the dream job wud involve travel, so..

Song of the day gotta be – money to blow – Birdman