Saturday, January 06, 2007

Poor and Reckless

Growing up, I was used to seeing the domestic help and her sizeable family living on rice and watery dal. The youngest of her brood would get one cup of diluted milk each day. The older ones had tea leaves boiled in milky water with a large helping of jaggery.

Yet the family would be attired in fancy clothes and new shoes each Diwali. They routinely spent between twenty five to fifty percent of the family's annual income on clothes, trinkets, movies and street food. Never imagined that such spending habits could be the subject of an MIT study and what's more would be cause researchers to be surprised - it seemed self evident to those of us who have seen this happen all our lives.

How would an illiterate person know that good health and therefore food should be their highest priority in life and they should direct most of their meager resources to that end ? All they care about is to have the stamina to work hard for long hours. Their bodies get used to being severely under nourished and functions mostly from habit.

They will scrimp and save all they can for that one time of the year when they can celebrate with abandon, escape the poverty trap just for a few days. It is common knowledge that Bollywood blockbusters make the most money from poor day laborers who will go watch the same movie several times - it is their escape and they are willing to pay a premium for it.

1 comment:

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