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A Calmer You: We, the kanjoos of India

india Updated: Sep 23, 2012 13:43 IST
Sonal Kalra
Sonal Kalra
Hindustan Times
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“I went to the bank and reviewed my savings, I found out I have all the money I’ll ever need. If I die tomorrow.” -Henry Youngman

Some of you may have read about the old woman in America who lived alone in a one-room dingy flat, wore tatters and ate leftovers given by neighbours. But after her miserable death - because she did not buy the flu medication - the cops discovered cash equivalent to Rs 2 crore stacked in a polybag hidden inside a broken almirah in her room. Thank God we are not this crazy in India. We may keep our houses shabby, wear the same pair of jeans for nine years without washing, cleverly get up to go to the washroom when it’s time to pay the restaurant bills when eating out with friends, and depend on grandma’s remedies or grandfather Internet for advice than visit a doc when ill - but at least we won’t stack our money in polybags. Polythene bags are banned in India. We care for the environment. And then we have lockers in the bank.

We in India love saving for a rainy day. It’s another thing that we have among the highest incidence of draught in the world, and if it does rain by chance, we prefer shouting out to the neighbour - "aunty, pakode khila do," than spending any money on the rainy day! What? Rainy day refers to ‘bad times’ in the expression? Ab English padha lo tum mujhe. My dear, we don’t like to utilise our savings even in bad times. Because then we decide to preserve them for worse times, not realising that sometimes it just makes sense to also spend a little on ‘good times’ (no, not beer). Anyway, I didn’t mean to get serious about the merits or otherwise, of savings. I’m just a bit pissed off because I just ate a sweet that had gone all khatta, or bad. The person who offered it to me, proudly told me — after I had uncomfortably eaten the sweet — that he got it from a prominent sweet shop that offers a 50% discount on sweets purchased after 10pm. Two days ago! Well, you shameless cheapskate, the discount is for a reason - that the milk-based sweets have to be consumed THE SAME DAY. He tried telling me he kept it in the fridge, and ‘what’s the point in spending money on the fridge when it can’t keep stuff good’. And I told him it’s as pointless as he being allowed to exist in this world when he can’t make his brain working good.


Anyway, he’s a friend and won’t mind me mentioning him here but he better understand how there is a limit to kanjoosi. And that limit is called common-sense. What’s the logic in buying something cheap when you’ll end up spending much more later, running around doctors? Here are some varieties of cheapskates or misers who are beyond my limit of common sense. Tell me if you agree...

1 Lovers of traffic jams: These people do have a slightly longer, but neater route to their office or home, but just to save petrol in going an extra kilometre, they’ll prefer the most crowded, marginally shorter route. And end up burning more fuel while the car is stuck in a jam or has to negotiate five traffic signals.

2 Missed call morons: Sarkar mar gayi while trying to ensure that the call rates remain the cheapest but then how can we allow something else to be the cheapest when we exist. We’ll not give up on our fascination with giving missed calls to people. Soch lo, the habit may make you give a missed call to fire brigade if the house is on fire. I remember many years ago when both incoming and outgoing calls cost quite a bit, a younger cousin of mine who lives in another city, had worked out a neat plan to stay in touch. “Didi, we talk every week and say practically the same things to each other. From now, I’ll just give you a missed call. One ring means my health is fine. Two rings means the studies, too, are going well. And three means I’m missing you. If there is a fourth ring, please take the call because it means there’s something urgent to talk.” Ha!, how smart is that? Ab toh woh bhi missed call nahi deta, because it’s so cheap to talk. Stop being a miser.

3 Wrapping paper recyclers: Abey, saath leke jaoge kya, those precious five rupees that you have saved by recycling a badly wrinkled gift wrapping paper. And what about the 20 minutes you spent in carefully peeling it off a gift you got so that it doesn’t get torn?

4 Penny pinching diners: These are friends who would probably count how many more spoons of food have gone inside your mouth than theirs, so that they don’t have to split the bill equally. I totally understand that in group situations, it makes perfect sense for some to shell out more than others because, let’s say, they were drinking while others were not. But to say that I hardly ate one spring roll while others had two each, is being one-tight-slap-stingy.

I could go on and on but the point is simple. It’s wise to be careful with spending, but never at the cost of your comfort, dignity, and sheer logic. Let me end with a joke I read somewhere:

An old man is on his deathbed and has very dim vision. He calls out, ‘Is my wife here?’ ‘Yes, I’m here,’ the wife sobs. ‘Are all my children here?’ he asks. ‘We are all here, dad. The entire family is here beside you,’ they reply, grief-stricken. ‘Then why is the kitchen light still on?’ he says, and dies. Memorable last words, no?

Sonal Kalra thinks if her ‘sour’ sweet friend ever falls off his building, he’ll go down shouting to his wife to keep the dinner in the fridge.

Mail her at sonal.kalra@hindustantimes.com or facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra