An old street vendor braved the chilly winter, peddling vegetables on the streets of Ali Kadal. A well-off woman halted and inquired, “How much for one kilo of radish?” The seasoned vendor responded, “Rs fifty, ma’am.” She countered, “Settle for Rs forty, or I’ll pass.” The old man, hoping for a sale, graciously acquiesced, saying, “Come and take them at the price you want. Maybe, this is a good start because I haven’t been able to sell anything since early morning.”
After obtaining the vegetables, she requested his Google Pay or M-Pay account. Politely, the old man admitted, “I have no Google Pay account.” Undeterred, the lady’s husband went to a nearby store, purchased a Rs 350 cigarette packet, and handed over Rs 50 to his wife. She then instructed the vendor, “Put some green chilies in the bag without paying for them.” Feeling victorious, she walked away, hopped into her elegant car, and headed to a posh restaurant with her husband.
There, they ordered an elaborate lunch but left much uneaten. When settling the bill, totaling Rs fifteen hundred and ten, she generously tipped Rs ninety. While this routine transaction might have appeared ordinary to the restaurant owner, it was undoubtedly painful for the humble vegetable seller.
The incident prompts reflection on why we often assert power when purchasing from those in need and why we extend generosity to those who don’t require it. One of the authors reflects, “This took me back to when I was a child accompanying my grandmother to the local market. My grandmother used to buy simple products from poor people at high prices, even though she didn’t need them. Sometimes she even paid extra for them. I wondered about this act and asked her why she did it. Then my grandmother replied: ‘It is a charity wrapped in dignity, my child.’”
The inquiry arises: why do we habitually bargain over trivial amounts with hardworking individuals, amounts that hold little value for us? The author posits that this behaviour is ingrained, picked up unconsciously from parents and society. It reflects a cultural norm where everyone bargains because everyone else does. The call to action is clear: it’s time to challenge and change this habit for our collective good.
Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir