Vitamin M

Published in The Hindu NXG Jan, 2009

Vitamin M

Okay, it’s not folic acid that this write-up discusses but a more essential vitamin that none of us can exist without, that human beings alone need and a vitamin that has acquired identity only recently in evolutionary history.

Being a resident of a European nation, I have begun to realize the face value of a Euro a lot more than I ever considered tossing a 1-Rupee coin into the plate of a poor man at the roadside. When I first travelled to the UK, I was amazed to see items priced as low as £2 and 3. By a casual gesture I would toss into my basket, nearly all that I found and arrive at the cash desk with a sum of around a £100 – a figure that I never really cared to multiply by 86 (in 2006, the Pound Sterling was more expensive than it is today) to realize what a spendthrift I had been.

It was not long before I caught up with the habit of converting to INR and getting hold of my expenses that I was given the privilege to move to another country where the currency value is a little lower – the Euro.It has been really difficult to control my expenses despite constant reminders from my friends that a €20 pair of flip-flops can be really, really expensive. I would rather recklessly toss in the 1-cent from the cashier (the remainder from the billed €19.99) and not bother to pop it into my piggy bank when I’m home.

Saving €50 for a birthday gift was common.  All until I realized the face value of the currency. €1 is definitely not equivalent to Rs.1 even for a localite. The average salary of an upper middle class employee is about €3000 Euros per month; the same figure in rupees is definitely not the average salary of the employees from an IT software company in Bangalore. Neither is 1 kg rice Rs.1.29 nor is an Ipod Classic Rs.230.

Soon after I realized the grave mistake that I had been doing, I was in a hot debate about gifts with my lab-mate, a localite. As we spoke she ridiculed my attitude towards money and my heavy budget for a birthday treat with a simple statement, “Well, last year I planned to gift a ticket to the opera to Pat (her husband), but I later gave up the idea. It was way too expensive. €38 per person!!” And that shut my breath.

And here I am a lot more responsible in handling the European currency. Well I finally realized today it is worth about Rs. 65.79. I have even subscribed to the Daily Currency Update to constantly remind me of what a squanderer I had been!

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