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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

We all have our reasons

A conversation from our recent India trip

Me to the kids : I want you guys to keep your mouth shut and come quietly till we go to Kollu paati's (great grandma's) house!

Jr. and LO : No, we won't!

My dad to me : I know the kids have been very noisy and troublesome all day but it is very difficult to keep them quiet..

Jr. and LO : You always ask only the two of us to keep quiet. You don't ask him (pointing at my nephew) to be quiet when he comes with us..

Me : That is because he does not talk with an American accent and increase my auto fare!

My dad (all pissed off) : And I thought you wanted peace and quiet. Aren't you ashamed ?

Me : No. Why should I be.. I bargain with the auto drivers like I am a local and that makes me feel at home for some strange reason, till one of them opens their mouth and start talking in an accent and there goes all my bargaining! Immediately the guy asks for another 30 rupees over 120! Spending 600-700 rupees a day on auto is not cheap even in $!

My dad must have had very conflicting emotions that day. Should he be proud for raising a son in his true Bargaining parampara, or should he be disappointed that his son is making him look like a spendthrift ?!

It was only a question of time before my nephew also started letting me down by bringing in fresh conversation in Tamil like

"Sundi periappa, Americavula Auto irukka?" (do they have autos in America?)

என்ன தான் வேஷ்டியை மடிச்சு கட்டிநாலும் ஆக்சென்ட் ஆக்செண்டே !

(Enna dhan veshtiya madichhu kattinallum accent accente!)


(Attempted translation: no matter how much you tie your dhoti like a Tamilian, the accent will give you away)

But I did good this time compared to last year in what should soon be an Olympic sport.

When an auto driver said
"Maambalam ponum na suttikinnu dhan sir poganum!" (if you want to go to Mambalam, I have to go the roundabout route) I responded with

"Chennaila engendhu engayaachum ponummna, suththaama poga mudiyaadhu saar!" (you cannot go from any place to any other place in Chennai without going the roundabout route) and he said "okay, let's go"

Another time a guy said "petrol price up saar" and I promptly quoted him yesterday's price and today's price and he was baffled.

He said

"சார், நீ கார் வைச்சிருக்கே , அப்புறம் எதுக்கு சார் ஆட்டோல வரே?"

"Saar, nee car vachchu iruke. Apparom yen saar autola vare?"
(you have a car then why are you traveling by auto with your kids?"

Told him we were from Mumbai and know the petrol prices because every day we were traveling by auto and invariably they stopped at a petrol pump while we are inside the auto and that is how we know the price. He was impressed..

These little wins in the sport of bargaining made my day. At the end of the day we would always give the driver 10 rupees more than what we agreed on as long as it was fair. This whole experience was new to Jr. who is now 8+ and is at an age where she can

1. follow the math (because she now knows how to count numbers in Tamil and english)
2. follow the conversation (she has been introduced to Auto Tamil)
3. she knows the existence and concept of "variable pricing"
4. she understands averages and LCM's

Last year, she would go to the driver and say "sixty vachchuko pa!" in her cute American accent and that would make the auto driver's day because she would quote 60 for something that would cost us only 40 and two the accent would take the auto driver into a

"saar, foreignlendhu vare.. edukku saar beram pesikkinu?!"

சார், பாரின்லேந்து வரே.. என்னத்துக்கு சார் பேரம் பேசிகின்னு ?!

(you come from abroad and why are you bargaining.. the assumption being we are well to do and therefore should not bargain)

By the end of the trip, Jr. realized that her keeping her mouth shut was an advantage for me. She co-operated very well.

Next trip we will make her bargain, in Tamil and make my daddy proud..

or at least make me proud!


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