March 13, 2015

The sweet coin-candy swap

Was it so long ago that we used to beg our mums for a little extra change so we could come back from the store with some candy? Kids these days don't need to worry about that, for the change is itself candy!

During the initial days of this phenomenon, people only joked about it but often humoured the 'candy givers'. Alas! Yet another situation where acceptance has led to forced adaptation. To counter this, many a smart person has tried it in reverse, presenting a Rs 100 note along with an eclair or two to make up the balance. Alas again! Apparently, only one set of people have adapted.

Some basic questions must be asked. How and why did this practice begin? Did the Mint not dole out enough coins, or did the Indian Willy Wonkas get a few extra trucks of sugar? Does anyone know someone at either end of the spectrum who can answer these questions? They could redefine the term 'sweet deal', once and for all.

Charity begins at ...

Of late, she had been noticing that she turned heads while at the billing counters of most stores. Not just the shoppers in queue but also the cashiers gave her a second look. At first, she was sure it was because she was 'Fashion Faux Pas Queen' - either what she wore or what she was buying - but that didn't make sense while buying groceries did it? Choosing one brand over another surely didn't deserve an uncomfortable look from someone else.

So what was it?

She found out recently when she was at a clothes store. Could've been Max or Lifestyle...same difference, really. After billing her stuff, the cashier asked, "Mam, would you like to donate Rs x to charity"? "No!", she said. He was caught off guard but rather than ask outright why she didn't want to, he stared at her in a puzzled manner but then caught himself and went back to closing out the bill.

More than mildly offended, she asked him if he had any idea which charity it was, what was the cause they worked for, how much money went from the store to them, and a few others questions along those lines. His answer? A resounding "no". "So why should I contribute to this charity?", she asked to which he meekly replied that it wasn't mandatory.

"You think!", she wanted to say to him but realised that her anger would be misdirected. It wasn't his idea that she donate; he was simply parroting what he'd been told by his manager, who in turn must've received his instruction from some place higher up in the food chain.

Many have likely been in a similar situation -- one where the organisation is simply "charity". One where the person is so far removed, but still doesn't question why they're giving. It almost becomes a force of habit, similar to accepting a piece of candy instead of a rupee coin. Or worse, a way to assuage one's guilt. Or worst, an unshakable belief and trust that one is indeed doing something "good". Nothing more.

She hadn't always thought of it this way. It was only since she had watched 'First as Tragedy, Then as Farce', and thought about it in greater depth. Since then, her answer to the charitable donation question, especially at a store, was always a "No"!, irrespective of who looked at her or thought of her poorly.

Watch the film if you're in any way curious -- it's well worth the ten minutes. Else, say no when it's your turn and ask similar questions. Both scenarios could be equally interesting.