The chief asked me to meet a typical housewife and find out from her how the steep increase in prices was affecting her family budget. So I met a lady called Lalitaji.
She was at a grocerâ€™s shop, buying Surf, one of the countryâ€™s two best washing powders. Her son, Ravi, was running around the shop, picking up things and playing with them, and generally making a nuisance of himself as children do.
I told her: â€śMadam, our paper would. Like to interview you to find out what you think of the new hike in the prices of petroleum product and other items of day-to-day use. Now then, may I have your name first.â€ť
â€śI am Lalitaji and this is my son, Ravi,â€ť she said. â€śI do not know the name of the grocer, because Hindustan Lever never gave him a name.â€ť Then she turned to her son, who had unwrapped a Lifeboy soap and was trying to eat it, and exclaimed, â€śBeta, Ravi!â€ť
I wrote the names, then said: â€śI am sure you are finding the price of cooking gas too much and are cutting down on your cooking time. These are times when everybody has to tighten his belt.â€ť
Lalitaji turned to her son, who had unwrapped a Cadbury milk chocolate and was trying to soap his face with it, and exclaimed: â€śBeta, Ravi!â€ť Then she said: â€śMy view is that there is a difference between sasthi cheez and achi cheez. You must never sacrifice quality for price.â€ť
â€śYes, very sensible,â€ť I said. â€śNow then do you find that you require an average of Rs. 150 more every month to provide your family with the same necessities that you used to some time back, before Mr. V. P. Singh became finance minister?â€ť
Lalitaji wiped the sweat around the red kumkum on her head, then said: â€śWhatever you do, you have to do with samajdari. Eventually, in trying to save Rs. 150, you may actually be spending more. That is a very foolish way of managing your budget.â€ť
â€śQuite true,â€ť I said. â€śDonâ€™t you think that the coming budget, railway and general, will further burden common people like yourself and make life more difficult? Would you please say something on that.â€ť
Lalitaji looked at ther son, who had opened a bottle of Lakmeâ€™s shampoo plus conditioner for oily hair and was trying to drink it, and explained: Ravi, beta!â€ť Then she turned to me, opened a packet of surf, a packet of another washing powder, and poured the two out in separate containers, saying: â€śThere is a difference between sasthi cheez and achi cheezâ€ť.
So I came back to the office and typed out my report and showed it to the chief. And the chief said: â€śYou have been seeing too many TV commercials.â€ť