COST OF LIVING DRIVING POVERTY ANEW…

By Pankajbala R Patel

JUNE 21 the government and its employees, relatives and friends, were celebrating its 8th International Yoga Day the country over at reportedly 75 places to celebrate 75 years of independence of India (or Bharatdesh, whatever you prefer). The BJP government is packed with programs of goodwill and positive cheer and that is not a bad thing by itself. Under the program Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav there have been a string of celebrations of this, that and the other to prove…of course, mera Bharat mahaan hai.
Celebrations are on the priority list under the tagline of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav but instead of going out to do some yoga at one of the newly constructed sports stadiums on 8th Yoga Day (now presumably being celebrated the world over courtesy Prime Minister Narendra Modi), I hate to say but I was absurdly enough counting how much cash I had left with me for the rest of the month to continue to put some decent food on the table – for breakfast, lunch and dinner or at least once a day (never mind that the true yogic spirit defines health and happiness on just one full meal a day)!
SAY we have seniors in the house, growing children, and put in incredible working hours in office to bring home a minimum salary to cover the never-ending upward cost of living these days. If you’re so called government servants of the upper crust or even lower crust consider yourself lucky – life is pretty much laid on with certainty, you may continue to live as if to the manner born. Even attend the 8th International Yoga Day celebrations which you have been pretty much ordered to attend.
I wonder who was celebrating the country’s 8th Yoga Day this year which is dedicated to the theme of “Yoga for Humanity.” Laughable! Chief Minister Pramod Sawant at the main piece de resistance event taking place at the Dr Shyama Mukherjee Indoor Stadium tagged on “Yoga for Happiness” too on June 21, 2022 in capital city Panaji.
However, much though I wanted to, I must confess on this international or national yoga day I didn’t have yoga on my mind. The falling rain and my early morning trip out to the local market put me off for I had cost of living on my mind — I paid Rs48 litre for cow’s milk (it was Rs42 late last year or six or eight months ago), Rs35 for a half kg pack of fresh Govind dahi (up from Rs25 to Rs35 straight), Rs40 for six small eggs (most egg lovers buy in wholesale which costs less, maybe Rs5 less), Rs38 for a loaf of sliced wholemeal factory bread, Rs50 for six tomatoes, Rs10 for seven strands of long beans, a pack of sprouted moong is Rs30, Tropicana Cranberry juice is up from Rs99 to present Rs114 and…er…my favourite 300 g pack of Kelloggs cornflakes with “real strawberry puree” is no longer priced at Rs120 but Rs152 – I wondered whether to buy or forget it? Forget it.

A CHAPPATTI IS RS10!
THERE is cost of living eating in and there is cost of living eating out, or buying home food for various reasons of time – not much time cook food but easier to fix it with some help from buying something or ordering some food numbers. Mostly, I’m at small but salt of the earth eateries like an Udipi to pick up a idli plate or masala dosa/rava dosa …the other day at a nearby Dona Paula Udipi restaurant off the cuff, I asked the price of a good-looking genuinely atta (not refined flour maida) chapatti, the kind I make at home myself…and the waiter informed me, “Madam, Rs10.”
I wish I knew how to market home-made chapatti, I’ve lost track of the number of women running Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Assamese, Moghlai, Thai …chaat kitchens from their homes with the help of their children’s super skills in marketing over the Internet and Facebook! The biggest food business is purveyed on Facebook and never mind how good or mediocre it may turn out to be with pricing impossible to fathom.
Hey, what may I stop buying just because my budget doesn’t stretch as it used to do once upon a time pre-covid and lockdown days? It’s been three years of a downhill roll with prices shooting up and no commensurate income coming in. My thoughts go like this on a philosophical note: What is it that we fear the most in life? Poverty, of course, ranging from moderate to extreme poverty when it’s difficult to earn enough to even put a decent meal on the table. One by one we start selling off whatever we have of some material value to somebody looking for it at throw-away prices. Today, it may be gold jewellery, tomorrow it may be furniture, and soon after maybe, God forbid, your home in whatever state of degeneration it is…how many end up on the streets looking for a life?
Today’s economies seem to be based on constant inflation with the prices of even daily quick-moving consumer items spiralling out of reach for the many – while the few live with too much, more than need, more than want and in the realms of cloud 9, 10, 14 plus, plus wealth of obscenity. For example, look at our royalty, our politicians, our bureaucrats, our business barons, our celebrities including film stars – all in a perpetual race to build up a collection of luxurious, antique-studded homes in country of origin and around the world, the most expensive cars, private planes and helicopters, wives and mistresses and children feasting on the best super foods of the world!

SOCIAL MEDIA SICKNESS
YOU see it all exhibited over social media and any guesses how sick so many of us feel – no, excuse me, not with envy but with outright anger over the gross disparity of distribution of wealth in Goa, in India, in the world. Post-covid lockdowns it is as if more countries (south Sudan is poorest, followed by Nigeria, Congo…India is poor and unequal with top 1% holding 22% of national income in 2021) are slipping into drought and poverty the developing world over.
Funny or not funny, India is the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty (that is 218 million people)! Do we care and are we prepared in rural and urban areas to ease need of primary things like water, food and shelter for those whose lives are becoming so frugal that they are struggling to put a meal on the table for parents, children, dependents?
Take a look at the rising price of things! The price of basics and what I wouldn’t consider particularly health sustaining food at all like cow’s milk, bread (although Goans rely mostly on local bread where the humble pau/undi/poie is now Rs5), eggs, veggies…the scenario is now most veggies have jumped from Rs20 to Rs50 in the space of a year. A slender bottle gourd is Rs50, a bunch of spinach, red amaranth (tamdi bhaji) or dill are Rs20, local pale green cucumbers Rs20 per three medium size ones.

WATER WOES
A 5-LITRE Bisleri water is Rs65 when it was barely recently Rs45…why we have to drink water out of bottles I don’t know! Because the government ensure that tap water is up to WHO standards, that’s why. I’m paying Rs240 to Rs250 for apples per kg (maybe five or six pieces), currently lychee fruit and cherries are priced at Rs 350-Rs400 per kg. Say I was lucky I could afford all these things for a family of just two seniors living reasonably well at least on the food front. The truth: I can’t afford it anymore. I see folk all around me tightening their belt, the working people – my lower crust maid is thrilled when I tell her take all my leftover food in the kitchen, she’s got four daughters and is here from Bihar because education is free for her children in Goa! Plus, she gets “sarkari rations” from her children’s school occasionally.
When I tell her my income too has come down, she doesn’t know what to tell me. If I’m counting, what will she do? So it goes. Occasionally I go out eating to a nearby takeaway joint and they too have hiked the price of a decent lemon-green coriander soup from Rs12o to Rs150, last week! Of course, I can make this same soup and other soups at home and I must make the time to cook more often at home anew…never mind if I miss that appointment or that appointment to see if a business deal can be struck to sustain myself.

WHITE ELEPHANT SARKAR
I AM sorry, we have a sarkar which spends public money by the crore to build more statues, more sports stadiums (never mind that the existing ones are not even used to maximum capacity daily), re-naming roadways and streets…and now new temples! The new political thing to do is visit temples to collect blessings from all of Hinduism’s 33 crore gods and goddesses! Never mind the potholes, dangerous broken pavements and kerbsides, overflowing gutters – if you want to catch the real story of public roads the monsoon months are the time to catch up with them (no wonder we have so many deaths on the roads).
In India we prefer to spend precious public money on celebrations and white elephant projects to prove how nationalistic we are, how patriotic, how great – build more statues to long-since dead heroes, more public buildings, more bridges, more highways, more airports (never mind if thousands of trees are cut down so that natural water springs are drained away and catastrophic climate changes overtake us.

NO WATER, DO YOGA!
IF you have no bread, eat cake! Who said that? Never mind. The Narendra Modi government’s advice to the people of India or mera Bharat mahaan is certainly similar – if you have no water to drink, drink narial pani! Something like that. If you have no dal-roti, do surya namaskar and don’t forget crorepati several times over Baba Ramdev’s anulom vilom and the rest of it.
Perhaps what we need is a parallel government which can take on an absconding government (so busy it is with its merry-making at public expense). One which is sensitive enough to do a study of how poverty has and is catching up more and more with the aam aadmi or common man…make arrangements to handle the crisis and emergencies staring at us in the face in a country which has lost its rationale of governance and is busy playing communal politics to the ire and fury of its own people (not to mention many in the rest of the world, I hope)!

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