Exchange and Barter

We are often forced by circumstances or necessity to be indebted to others.

Our family has had a long-standing relationship with the ‘soppu’ seller. My sister, my brother and my domestic help are his regular customers. It is a sort of brand loyalty.

The other day, I paid him after I had chosen what I wanted from the wide variety displayed. He had to return some small change. He searched his pockets but couldn’t find any. “No change,” he said regretfully. “Never mind,” I answered.

Quite suddenly, his worried expression was replaced by one which was the equivalent of ‘Eureka!’ He picked up a tiny sprig of curry leaves and handed it to me with an air of triumph. “This is instead of the change,” he clarified.

“It doesn’t matter,” I protested. But he would have none of it. “I don’t have to be indebted more than I have to.” He had a point there, I guess. We are often forced by circumstances or necessity to be indebted to others. There is pay-back time, even if it takes long. His simple philosophy was enlightening. I accepted the sprig, acknowledging his pride and self-respect.

Then there was the incident with the man who does the ironing. He counted the clothes, did some quick calculations and said, “Give me one more sari to iron.” I didn’t need to have any more saris ironed and said so. “In that case, give me two shirts,” he replied in the tone of one being very accommodating. I couldn’t understand the logic. Noticing my perplexity, he explained, “Then it will amount to a round sum and I won’t have to give you change.” Such a simple, sensible solution!

Another time, I painstakingly compiled three lists—one for groceries, another for toiletries and the third for materials needed for household maintenance. For a home manager, this can be quite a daunting task. Then I marched off to the nearest shopping centre which has home delivery facility. It is time-consuming to weigh the options, then pick and choose. Quite pleased at having done the job in one go, I walked up to the billing counter and waited for the print out. I did a quick check and shelled out the money.

The cashier returned the balance in notes together with a handful of éclairs. “What’s this for?” I asked. “I am short of change. The éclairs are to make up for it. “But I don’t want these,” I protested. I am not a ‘sweet’ person (dark chocolate exempted). Then he said, “Business is business.” That being the case, I am going to collect toffees, candy and such like items. Then may be I could negotiate a buy back scheme!

Despite the rapid strides technology has taken, will we have to revert to the exchange and barter system?

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