What is inflation? Experts give you a very academic definition. It sounds very scholarly alright but a common man like me cannot fathom it. But it does not mean that I am not aware of inflation. I may not be able to define it as economists do, but have been experiencing it all along. From my personal tryst with economy, I have tasted and experienced inflation.
Take, for example, my haircut. People may not believe it. There was a time when my scalp was full of hair. And a haircut in those glorious ‘hairful’ days cost me just Rs 2. Today it costs me 40 times more, although the number of strands of hair on my scalp can be counted. If this is not inflation, what else is?
I remember the day I left my hometown for Bangalore to pursue college education. That morning, my mother fished out a 25 paise coin from one of her jars in the kitchen and handed it over to me, with all love, affection and concern, to have a treat, all by myself, at the nearby hotel. That was her way of giving me a send-off. The coin fetched me two idlis and sambar and a glass, not a small cup, of coffee. Today, idlis cost a minimum of Rs 10 apiece, and a mini coffee another Rs 10. Got an idea of inflation?
Take stitching as another example. My official tailor — Bright Tailors — charged me a mere Rs 2 to stitch a shirt although at a stone’s throw away Santhuram charged Rs 5. My brother, who patronised Santhuram, said he stitched better. How much are you now paying sir, to get your shirt stitched? It is a three-digit figure, right?
Masala dosa in the famed Vidyarthi Bhavan tastes the same as it did when I first started eating there for 25 paise apiece. When it was hiked to 30 paise, we grumbled but still ate. Today its size has shrunk but the cost is up by 200 times. Is that a delicious definition of inflation? Or, crispy?
Let me try to define inflation in terms of travel. The distance to Mumbai from Bengaluru has remained constant, thank god for that. But the fare? A ticket in a second class sleeper coach cost me less than Rs 40 when I first made the trip. Today, for the same distance, I pay 10 times more. Of course, it is more comfortable now, let me concede. I remember my brother paying less than Rs 2,000 as airfare to London! It later went up when his wife flew because the rupee had been devalued, thanks to inflation.
Gandhi class in cinema was the concrete bench in front of the silver screen and was priced 25 paise. Today, you cannot even buy popcorn for that coin to munch inside the theatre. That is the box-office definition of inflation.
Inflation can also be defined vis-à-vis green groceries. There was a time when people who couldn’t afford to buy vegetables bought greens because it was dead cheap compared to vegetables. Today, greens too have caught up with inflation. Just ask for the price of a bunch of methi.
Oh! Yes. Inflation has hit newspapers, too. These days we, freelancers, get paid more. That’s some consolation.