Sunday, October 24, 2010

How much is your Rupee worth?

We love replicating anything the West has to offer. From their reality shows, soap operas, songs to films…  with the Indianised version.

This concept however cannot be tweaked to a 1  Store. 

I mean what would one get for one Rupee? While we have a new symbol, nothing much has changed.

When I was younger, I would wonder why grandparents harped about one anna  ( 6 paise ) and what it was worth. Now, I know better. I find myself talking about the times money got me more goods, the times when a rupee coin was not left carelessly on the table.

 I paid a princely sum of Rs 6/- as fees per month for class VII (No, I did not go to the local Zilla Parishad school).  But a popular private school. Prior to that, the fees might have been lower, but I was not entrusted with the task of carrying the money, as I traveled by public transport....what if I lost the money enroute? My mother would come personally and make the payment.  Bus fare was 7 ps for the journey of 4 kms from home to school. We normally had 10ps with us and the conductor always returned the change .

I found a diary which my mother kept for everyday transactions. It makes interesting reading.

It says:
Milk - 3.78 Rs
I remember there were about 6 half liter milk bottles, so that was probably the cost of 3 liters of milk. 
Bread - 0.70 ps
Supplies - 0.70 ps ( I wonder what supplies meant!)
Plantains - 1.0 Re - that could be for a dozen
Udaya Stores - 45.00 Rs ( was that for the monthly provisions?)

It is precisely the reason why I found the project that  Jonathan Blaustein ( a photographer) undertook when recession hit the economy, very fascinating. He checked what he could buy for a dollar across the world. 

And so on a ‘jobless Sunday’ – not really, I finished all my chores in the morning and am taking a well deserved rest – I thought I would do a survey of my kitchen and with some rough calculation arrived at what a rupee would buy.

Take a look -
2 tbsp wheat flour ( barely sufficient for a small roti) , 30 ml milk ( a few cups of dilute tea) , 5 bhendi  ( insufficient for a curry ), a small ladle of sugar ( enough for the diluted tea) , a tablespoon of dal ( sufficient for seasoning), a lime ( may make  a small glass of lemonade), half a handful of red chilies ( to spice up a curry) and two chocolate eclairs ( that might make a litle kid happy).

A 1 ` store just would not work!!


  1. Fascinating!!! And I love what you did on your "jobless sunday". Wonder what the man had to say about whet you were doing!

  2. What a great project you did !

    Yes the concept of the store certainly wont work. But what rang a bell is when you described 1 anna as 6 paise. ....

    Back when I was that age, 1 anna was 4 paise. You could get things for 1 pice and the coin even had a whole in iy. 2 paise got you a half bhel at the Peshwe Park. People actually carried change, and no one assumed 50 p = 0 like they do now, when returning change. Decimal monetisation happened in 1957, but for an anna-fied society, continuity was all about 1 anna being 6 paise. We actually had naya paisa and juna(old) paisa.

    Makes me feel like a relic ! (just kidding...:-)

  3. A diary of 1968! Great. So true, what can a Rupee buy us? Absolutely nothing. Prices are only going up! No other direction :)

  4. The only one thing that has not gone up in price is the posatege stamps.A 1 rupee stamp still costs the same!!Misleading ofcourse.
    But why did you ever indulge in such a fruitless and frustrating exercise.Everything is a barter.How much coffee powder can one litre of milk get you today vis a vis those days.How much rice would one day's hard work by you can get in comparison to olden days.True prices are determined by laws of demand and supply.
    Anyway I enjoyed reading your post

  5. Excellent post!

    I like the collage you put up! That add punch.

    Thank you introducing me to Jonathan Blaustein. :)

    In US, there are dollar shops. Anything you take is a dollar! So, you get kleenex for a dollar, cup for a dollar etc! Likewise, we will never be able to replicate that to a rupee shop!

  6. Hmm..A very interesting way to spend a "Jobless Sunday". I just hope the next generation doesn't think the same way about a Rs.100/- note.

  7. Interesting! I remember seeing the quarter anna copper coin with a hole in the middle, square type two annas etc.

    Your mother's diary...very very interesting details.

    During my wedding in 1974, one gram gold was Rs.52...I have got the receipt!

    One hundred rupee note cannot buy even one Kg. of tour dhal, nowadays.

  8. Excellent post. And the 1968 diary wants me to sing the song "those were the days".

    But be careful. Some nationalists (pretending to be patriots) will criticize you for writing "bad" about India and Indian currency.

  9. That was one of the best habits..keeping accounts.Atthe end of the month one can know where themoney has gone.Our parents used to have some kind of budgetting.Times hace changed .My annual fee at the Medical College was 970 rupees,but I had the National Scholarship of about 1500 rupees a year!
    A medical seat costs about 40 lakhs now,and a PG seat is about a crore!

  10. Wow! superb utilisation of a jobless sunday.

  11. UK - I remember the copper one paise coin so well. It was so important to have that little change in your purse. And PS - relic? No way. Definitely not someone as energetic as you.

    Aditya - For you 1968 must be ancient. And yes prices are only spiralling upwards.

    KP- Fruitless exercise maybe, but makes you aware that the slice of bread you junk is of some value.

    Nona - Thank you. Yes, you can get quite a few things of value at a 1$store.

    Jyothi - I am at times shocked at a youngsters definition of cheap or expensive.

    Sandhya - Rs 52/- for a gram of gold! Those were indeed golden days.

    SG:- Those were the days.. we thought they'd never end. I was not being unpatriotic - but you never know what these 'nationalists' might infer.

    Dr A - Few keep accounts these days. But then we have regular smses and mails that tell us our bank balance. Rs 970/- for medical education? WOW!

    Harish - Thanks. Jobless... I could have taken a nap instead!

    Serendipity - have to check reactions.

  12. Ha ha! Nice occupation for a Sunday afternoon!

    So true, a 1 Re. shop would not work. Maybe a 100 Rs. shop?

  13. Not jobless Sunday, it must have been the most productive Sunday.
    I have stopped complaining about inflation any more.

  14. Interesting thing you seem to have done there (how much a rupee can buy?). I keep a book too, to track our expenses, just like your mom did then. My children might find it a bit odd, years down the line - Rs.12 for half a litre milk, Rs.19.60 for half a dozen eggs, Rs.10 for half a kilo onions and so on!

    Haven't lived in the 'anna' time. But I've seen the 5 paise & 10 paise that are out now, the 25 paise and 50 paise that are worthless now. Prices are soaring by the day. But looks like, with fatter wallets come bigger expenses!

  15. I commented before but it seems to have gone missing.So I repeat.

    When I started working I'd pay 50 paise as bus fare to the nearest stop to my college and walk for 5 mins. to reach it. However now the fare is Rs.4/- about 4 times more. On the days that I'd run out of time I'd take a cycle rickshaw to college and pay him Rs.2/- grumbling that I had to pay 4 times more than the bus fare to college. Now I hear that one pays Rs.15. So the proportion remains more or less the same. However back then Rs. two had a better purchasing power. For instance one could buy 4 loaves of bread for 2 rupees. Now one loaf of the same size costs Rs. 14/-. So the rickshaw puller has to be happy with buying a quarter of what he'd purchase then. Nice post. Got me thinking.

    @sandhya: I got married in 1973. Gold was priced at Rs.250 per gram. In a year's time prices seem to have shot up.

  16. those were the days , i rmemeber in our village we use to get 100 sweets for 1 rs.

    and that diary wowow.. its older then me that diary :)

  17. Really nice to read this Radha, I don't think your Sunday was wasted. Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world there is not much £1 can buy you, but there is still there are poundland shops who seem to offer the world to you. However 50p is not left on the tables even now. A coke can is something you can buy for 50p but not a bottle its about £1.32 for 500ml pet bottle ;-)

    This purely however cannot be compared to prices in India. Inflation rate in India has been averaging at 7.99 percent from 1968- 2010 which explains the price rise, however we don't want to be in a situation like Japan which saw a deflation of -3% since 2009.

    Inflation is good for us however it should always be less than growth rate, which is 8.8% as of today compared to 11.5% of inflation in 2010. My 2 cents ;-)

  18. I loved the photo collage and the idea of the project is so interesting.

    There are times when we eat out in a restaurant twice a week and then, I RESOLVE to spend that handsome amount on the ingredients for a gourmet meal which I will MYSELF cook. Before we start that dinner, I calculate the price of 2 tbsps of ghee, 1 cup of frozen peas...and feel good that I've saved us so much money! So, on one hand, the rupee is able to buy less and less and on the other, one seems to want to buy more and more, even though you know you shouldn't.

  19. Wow! It was so interesting to see that 1968 diary!
    Sigh! The Rs.2 kulfi we used to savour oh so often is so damn expensive nw ;)

  20. Fascinating to see that diary...
    How I wish we could do as much with a rupee as your mother...
    But those times were something else and Really a one rupee store would not work today!!

  21. Great post Radhaji!
    Hats off to you!

    I never think of such details and this has been a good awakening (what is the right word?... alarming.... jhatka)post for me. Prices are soaring and each rupee saved can make a lot of difference. Thanks for sharing that page from 1968 diary.

    And I can relate to Jyothi's forethought very well.

  22. Manju - A Rs 100/- shop could definitely work, and hopefully for a long time.
    BKC - Thank you. Have started being wiser about throwing away a leftover vegetable. I bought a bunch of coriander leaves for Rs 5.90 yesterday!
    RGB - Glad you keep track of spending. That is something I could never do!
    Bindu,SM,Indrani - Thank you
    Hip Grandma - Very interesting.
    I should also check how much gold cost when I got married. Something to do next Sunday!
    Bikramjit - I am glad my kids were in school when I could atleast get some good sweets for the whole class for Rs 50/-. Now I hear they take a cake to class.
    DS - Interesting thought to share
    @Indian Bazaar- Sometimes when I think of how much a pizza costs, I vow to make it at home, but when I calculate the cost of the mozarella, the olives, the jalapenos... I think it is worthwhile to order if it once in a blue moon ( like in our case). Would have made sense if the kids were around.
    Swaram - Rs 2/- kulfi. That must have been some time ago.
    Arti - I agree. Maybe we should not delve too long in the past!

  23. Interesting analysis. We do live in expensive times. When I was a kid, we could buy a kwality stick ice cream for 25p. What does a chocobar cost these days? Rs 10 or 15?

    PS: Loved the " 2 tablespoons wheat flour" :)))

  24. Fun exercise. Lovely collage. Money doesn't stretch these days, it flips and disappears.


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