Relative value for money

At times all it takes is for a small incident to make a theoretical principle both more meaningful and memorable. While the concept of relative value for money was taught to us by an erudite economics professor in the confines of a classroom, the richness of this principle was actually brought home to me by an encounter with a rickshaw puller.
As we know ‘value’ is how much a desired object or condition is worth relative to other objects or conditions (wikipedia), and relative value of money depends on where and when you are spending that money. So Rs 500 would go further in a small town like Patna, compared to a metropolitan city like Mumbai.
On a visit to pay homage to Lord Krishna at Jagnnath temple nestled in the town of Puri, Orissa, the taxi driver had warned me, “Madam be careful. The priests will surround you like vultures, all after your money.”
So I went into the temple precinct with some amount of hesitation and trepidation, and spent much of my energy in simultaneously clutching my purse and shooing away the priests. It could hardly be described as an ethereal experience. In fact it was quite a relief for me to buy the Prasad (holy offering) and make a hasty retreat.
I beckoned a rickshaw puller to take me to the taxi stand and after some negotiations we settled for Rs 40 for this service. As soon as I reached the taxi stand I told him to wait as I searched for my taxi amongst the hundreds lined up in the car park. When I returned to pay the richshaw puller I couldn’t find him anywhere and nor could I trace the packet of Prasad that I had asked him to safeguard. So much for trust.
Then I did some calculations. Obviously the rickshaw puller had figured out that he would be better off by stealing the Prasad which was worth Rs 60 rather than wait to be paid Rs 40 by me. It had never occurred to me that he would steal the Prasad because in Delhi Rs 20 is really of no real value (one could buy a cold drink with this sum), whereas in the poverty-stricken city of Puri this so-called meager amount had enough value for the chap to risk theft.
Anyway, this story has a happy ending. Apart from it making the principle of the relative value of money more meaningful for me, I did return to Jagannath temple a few months later, and this time I made sure that I left the temple precincts clutching both my purse and the Prasad!


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rajni Gupta on December 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Hey Payal, you are lucky that this priceless erudition came to you
    from a not so precious rickshaw puller. You are lucky that that you
    shooed those priests away in the same city. You are lucky that you
    have not dealt with any of the govt. officials/politicians in your
    own city. You would have then understood the relative levels of greed more than the relative value of money.

    Very well written I must say. Enjoying some of these articles
    written by you.


  2. A visit to the Jagannath temple in Puri is never a peaceful experience. One comes out feeling disturbed rather than blessed. I’m surprised that you decided to brave it out! It takes a lot of courage! 🙂 You MUST go to the Jagannath temple in Hauz Khas. It is a much much better experience!
    I’m sorry your prasad got stolen, but your calculation is perhaps spot on. The relative worth of money was too high to resist. I wonder if the rickshaw-puller was able to sell it off…


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