The Basics/Ethics of the Art of Bargaining
I open my eyes following the input to my ears – a harsh awkward altercation that seeped through my window. My room is the closest to the road. I’m wont to one of the voice. That is my mother’s. The other voice however is not known. I feel my eyes burn, which is the repercussion of a disturbed sleep. Rubbing against my eyelids using the back of my palm, I stare at a framed photograph of Vishnu that is cursed to get suspended from a nail driven to the wall just opposite to my teak cot. Teak cots are very expensive and these days they’re not at all produced (if that is the proper word). The photograph of Vishnu always hangs there opposite to my bed so that I can see Him before going to sleep every night and would wake up into his immaculate countenance. I’m a god-fearing girl of 11. I don’t know how I became pious; there were two possibilities – either it maybe infused in my veins as our entire ancestry were so or that I’ve been brought up that way. Or perhaps, the mixture of both. My family consists of my grandparents, my parents, my teenage brother and me.
We are Brahmins*, and lord Vishnu** is our “official” god. The men of our caste used to wear a thread (said as pure) that runs from their shoulder to their right hip, and from their right hip back to the place of origin. The sacred thread called poonool that always is entwined to their torso. I can see my grandpa doing our daily rituals. He goes around the tulsi*** plant that is grown back to our kitchen, which practically is possible to be seen from my bed with the slightest slit of the door. Everyone except me and my brother never failed to worship every morning. We’re not against our beliefs but were comparatively lazy not to mention a Sunday morning.
I still feel the nuisance kill my eardrums. Reluctantly I go astir. My grandpa who is circling the plant smiles at me acknowledging my life. I smile back with difficulty and still rubbing my eyes in starts and stops I make my way to the street. I see my mother being engaged in a verbal fight. The other side which receives the whips in words is a vegetable vendor. The man is black skinned, and his black curly hair is well oiled. He is carrying a face that is rough, but contrast to his features his words are down-to-earth. He speaks with formal respect putting ‘Madam’ to every word he utters. My mom sees me and smiles at me. That’s it. She continues her dispute.
Keenly noticing the flow of their fight, I can comprehend that it is a bargain. Should bargaining be classified as the 65th art****, then my mom is a virtuoso in that. Well, not to mention the fact that she’s, according to me, already a master in one of the arts – cooking! But the world won’t accept the fact since she doesn’t know to cook non-veg items. It is against our religious beliefs. Yes, we, Brahmins never will eat flesh our whole lifetime. It is a sin to eat so. I must admit the truth that when some of my friends bring non-veg items as lunch, I will feel my tongue give vent to saliva, but I won’t eat it.
My mom holds in her hand a bag that is filled with a lock of spinaches, carrots, beans and a few potatoes. He is struggling to tackle my mom’s fierce mouth. It seems that he has quoted twenty five rupees. My mom fights for twenty. He begs at least to give two rupees in extra, but she would not budge in. Finally he goes away receiving the crumpled twenty rupees and throwing in air his lamentations. He indeed curses my mom but formally, respectfully. A smile of triumph is glued to my mom’s visage. He puts her hand over my shoulder and goads me in.
I take bath. I ‘take’ bath. Not ‘have’ bath. Our home is old-fashioned and we don’t have a shower. I eat my breakfast. Though I finished bath and eating, I still feel a part of drowse linger in my eyes. My mom tells me to get ready. I get perplexed and immediately remember that my brother’s birthday is just three days away. We are going to buy clothes!
The thought always excites me. Whenever we go to buy, we all will go together and whatever I ask, I will get. Someone would always support my cause. Last week when I asked for a bicycle, it was opposed by everyone but my grandpa supported and thus I’d got it. It will be anyone – my mom, grandma or grandpa. My dad is the financier to us and my brother is my constant opponent. He will never support me. Though he loves me, he always messes up with me. He enjoys jeering me.
I keep on thinking what I will stress today to get, while readying myself. That brings me a fresh enthusiasm and I’ve no idea where all my lassitude has gone to. When we are about to start in our Tata Innova, my dad tells me not to ask anything lest he would leave me here. I nod my head and smile an evil smile internally. Who cares? It’s always the same. I know I can somehow nudge my grandma to my advantage. I still am unable to decide what I want. I keep on butchering my brain for it. I enter the front door. I always like to sit beside my dad and get a virtual driving experience. I would cry ‘C’mon dad, take that bus down; accelerate; go faster; that biker is bad, get him behind.’ etc, but he never seem to have taken anything into his ears.
In about roughly fifteen minutes we reach the shopping mall. I know that it is the only shopping mall in our slowly developing city. We will see more malls getting opened should a few years pass. I see everything in wonder, in admiration. Though we’re rich, my dad never took us to such extravaganzas. Shopping mall to us is a luxury. My mom, the most niggardly creature ever on earth would say “The same thing what we see here is also available in the road shops, and indeed in low cost.” Though a part of what my mom says is true, I quite hate her showing her meanness in almost everything. The thought of the early morning incidence comes to me. He fought off the poor vendor for just two rupees! I decide not to ponder on it and choose to let the reflections die.
My brother playfully strokes my head. I turn to face him. He shows his teeth and says that he’s going to get jeans for his birthday. I hate it. We enter into a particular glass door. The worker in a white saree***** greets us.
After about ten minutes or so, my brother shows to my mom a rugged pant. He calls it “Lee Jeans” and he practically is begging for it. I look at it from a distance and I can say it’s just a rugged useless cloth. Most fittest (Yes, double superlatives) to be used as a carpet. Not just the cloth quality, the colour is also not good; It has just a half tint of sky blue with the colour bleached to white at the thigh area; not just it, the knee part is torn non-uniformly – like the pant of a roadside beggar.
My dad looks at the price tag, and from his expression, I imagine steam gushing out of his ears the same way Tom had in one particular show. My mom is arguing for her son’s cause. My brother, mom, dad – three active mouths; mine, and my grandparents’ – three dumb mouths. We stand looking at the course of the negotiation steer toward the favour of my brother. Finally my dad gives in. A smile of triumph plasters to my mom’s mouth again.
My dad gives a bunch of money to my mom and goes out with my grandma. I presume he’s gone to buy something for her. My uninterested grandpa gets off my hold and stands at a distance. He couldn’t stand luxuries. I stand close to my mom. She goes to the cash counter and formally asks the price, though she had already seen it. The boy at the counter retrieving the jean from her hand, studies the price tag and says, with a forged smile, ‘Rupees one thousand and nine ninety nine only ma’am.’
I think my mom will fight until her death. Two thousand for just a sack-bag? Jeans were basically rugged sacks. She smiles back and asked, ‘Any discounts?’
‘Fixed price ma’am.’
My mom speaks again not a single word. She pays the price and thanking the worker, goads us out.
A/N: * Brahmins – an upper class of caste based society. There were innumerable castes. Iyengars were the highest class of castes and Brahmins the next. They’re branded as FCs (forward castes), and others like BCs (Backward castes), MBCs (most Backward castes), SCs (Scheduled castes) and STs (Scheduled Tribes)...
** Lord Vishnu – Hindu god responsible for the existence of the world. For your information – in Hindu mythology, there are 3 main gods namely Brahma (creator of the universe), Vishnu (safeguards the universe), and Shiva (destroyer – End of the world.)
*** Tulsi plant is practically respected to as the embodiment of divinity and is worshipped every morning by the Brahmins.
**** Arts. There are about 64 arts as classified by the ancient Tamils. Unless and until a prince should master all the 64, he can’t claim the throne. So basically all the Tamil kings were masters of all the 64 arts. A few of the 64 that I know: singing, dancing, painting, sculpting, cooking, wrestling, sword-fighting, bull-fighting, public speaking, architecture, writing (like us, ha ha) etc... I maybe wrong in a few given here. If you’re interested, get to know about it. Surf the net.
*****Saree – An Indian woman wear.