Thursday, August 5, 2010

The cost of living and some stories

Let me give you some prices of things that I've purchased in India and the approximate US dollar equivalent.
Soda - 5 Rupees - 11 cents
Ice Cream - 20 Rupees - 43 cents
Subway Footlong - 170 rupees - 3 dollars and 67 cents
T-Shirt - 170 Rupees - 3 Dollars and 67 cents
Movie Ticket - 130 Rupees - 2 dollars and 16 cents
I have one more great example. This year, for the World Cup, I wanted a Dutch jersey. Jakob and I looked at literally every single store in the Mall of America for jerseys. I found one Dutch jersey in the whole place. It cost 35 dollars. It didn't have anyone's name on it. It wasn't even orange. It was their secondary uniform.
Yesterday Akshay and I went shopping for soccer jerseys. There was good selection available (unfortunately no Sneijder or Robben). I purchased, for 180 rupees or $3.89 a BARCELONA CLUB JERSEY OF LIONEL MESSI. It's high quality. Like, actually jersey material. What do you think that would have cost if I had found it in the United States? $70? Or more? Ridiculous.
So if you haven't figured it out, things are preposterously inexpensive over here. When I discovered that my monthly allowance was the equivalent of $20 per month I was extraordinarily skeptical but I shouldn't have been.
Here's my dad's economic rationale of the low prices. There are over a billion people here. So there's a lot more demand for everything. A shopkeeper can sell something at about a third of the price we would sell it at in the United States and sell many more units than any U.S. shopkeeper could hope to. Hypothetically, the money would come out about the same. This doesn't take into account all of the additional selling competition that would arise from having a billion people, many of whem would be other shopkeepers. I still don't quite understand it, but I'm sure that my dad's explanation isn't all that far off.
What the country lacks in goods prices it makes up for in land prices. Land is scarce around here, especially in big cities, and I must say everywhere I go the country seems packed to the brim. My dad is a middle or upper middle class kind of guy, but his house (or bungalow, as they call all houses) is much, much smaller than mine in the United States. But it's quite comfortable. The thing is, in every household there are a lot of people living in it. In ours, for example, there's me, Pratik, Akshay, Mom, Dad, Ba (Grandma), Dada (Grandpa) and the maid. That's 8. Eight people in my house in the U.S. is a stretch, but somehow we all fit comfortably into this one. I think it's because they don't have extensive recreational space - most of the rooms are used as bedrooms.
It makes sense why land is so expensive - there are over a billion people, mostly all trying to work in one of the bigger cities, and there is just not nearly as much land as there is in the United States. The population per square mile ratio must be out of control.

Yesterday I came downstairs to find a man that I hadn't seen before, which is not unusual. People bop in and out all the time. What WAS unusual was that he stood up, clapped grabbed both of shoulders and (with the most decibels that I have ever heard in a declaratory statement) told me "I am your MAMA!!!".
Turns out mama means uncle. He's my great-uncle. Fortunately Pratik was there to explain what he meant. I was more than a little shell-shocked by his declaration.

Today my auto rickshaw had 8 people in it, which is high even by my driver's standards. There's an especially small boy who usually rides with me who has yet to take full command of his bodily fluids. He has urinated in his pants twice during rickshaw rides and another time I saw him peeing on the floor of a school bathroom.
Now my rickshaw driver, kindly as he is, seems to have only one professional goal, which is to carefully select the bumpiest route imaginable and dash through it at ridiculously unsafe speeds. Today he chose to hurtle over a speed bump just as this lad decided to throw up. Whatever he had for lunch went flying everywhere. No one in the rickshaw escaped the spray. Fortunately it only got on my pants. The person sitting across from the unfortunate child was not so lucky. I don't think I need to go into further details.

In other news, I think I'm starting daily yoga classes tomorrow, which is great because it's anything other than school. Apparently yoga, in addition to being a physically healthy thing to do, also has a very calming mental effect which I will admit I could use at the moment. Also dance classes are being arranged and my club counselor says that he is close to arranging sitar lessons for me. I can't wait for the sitar.


  1. Ted, your blog is excellent. Honestly it's one of my favorite things to read out of all the internets. The great-uncle part made me chuckle, kind of sounds like a bad "your mom" joke. Keep up the amazing posts!

  2. reading your blog never fails to make me laugh. seriously, the poor little boy who has yet to control his bodily fluids? that's pretty gross, but also extremely hilarious, as is your great uncle's greeting :] also, i am SUPER jealous that you now have a messi jersey which you purchased for ONLY 3.89!!!!!!! that is literally insane. ah man, you seem to be having a very interesting time! i hope it continues to be awesome.

  3. Ted,
    I've been following your blog almost religiously since you started posting and thought I would finally let you know how much I've enjoyed hearing about your adventures. I am seriously impressed by your ability to adapt to such a different culture so quickly and take the absurdities and unusual situations in stride. Reading your blog reminds me a little bit of reading a Dave Barry book. It never ceases to amuse me. Good luck in the following months!


  4. I LOVE your blog. Rachel and I read it everyday and tell each other when you update it. It's hilarious and informing and sounds exactly like you!

  5. Ted, I am not lying or exaggerating when I say I am laughing so hard right now. My family is taking a siesta right now, but my sister came in to get a glass of Coke right as I read the part about "I am your MAMA!" and I couldnt hold back my laughter. I tried to explain what I was laughing about, but I'm afraid the comedy was lost in translation. Or more likely your delivery was lost in translation...

    keep it up my man