Posts tagged ‘rs. 32/day’

October 26, 2011

Happy Diwali from Matt, Tushar (and the other 400 million)

Happy Diwali everyone! We hope you all are having a great time at home this festive season. With all your encouragement, our experiment has ended successfully. But, we wish we could tell you that we are excited that it’s all over. Wish we could tell you that we are happy to have our “normal” lives back. Wish we could say that our sumptuous celebratory feast two nights ago was as satisfying as we had been hoping for throughout our experiment. There was nothing wrong with the food. In fact, it probably was one of the best meals we’ve ever had, packed with massive amounts of love from our hosts. However, each bite was a sad reminder of the harsh reality that there are 400 million people in our country for whom such a meal will remain a dream for quite some time. That we can move on to our comfortable life, but they remain in the battlefield of survival – a life of tough choices and

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October 23, 2011

“Dear Chief Minister Sir, What do you think of Rs. 32/day?”

Whether it is Arab Spring, the Tea Party in the U.S., or the Jan Lokpal bill in India, there is no dearth of discontent with government and politicians around the world. Many citizens feel that inaction by our leaders are sending nations down the path of decline, leading some to question the viability of our political system. Against this back drop, it was refreshing to see democracy in action in Puthupally, near Kottayam, today. We saw a hexagenarian Chief Minister standing in his front yard, interacting with his constituents and hearing their grievances, on a muggy Sunday morning for more than two hours. We got to see the CM and ask his opinion on Rs. 32/day (yes!!); and, we got it on video! Let’s just say he doesn’t think 32 is quite the right number. While you salivate on that thought of watching it (link below), let’s recap all the fun we had in the 24 hours prior to our eventful interview with the CM…

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October 21, 2011

“Rs. 32/day?, you must be joking”

At least, that’s been the unanimous opinion of people we talked to in Karukachal so far (sample size 5). And, it isn’t the case that we are talking to people shelling out loads of money on living expenses. A majority of them are consumers of PDS (Public Distribution System) goods at Below Poverty Line (BPL) prices. Primarily, our conversations involved the issue of food, which is supposed to take up Rs. 17/day. Our sources implied that it would take the willful suspension of disbelief to even imagine spending such a paltry amount on food. They cringed at the possibility of eating a limited menu, which wasn’t very appetizing, and dismissed outright the possibility that a manual laborer would get the adequate nutrition at that price point. An insightful audio interview with one of them – a local day laborer who also taught Matt to play soccer – can be heard here (translation included)

We couldn’t agree more, sitting in comfy chairs

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October 18, 2011

Rs. 32/day: Day 1

Today began with 2 sleepy heads getting up early in the morning to get blood tests done in Kottayam in Kerala. After that, we indulged ourselves with a banana and 5 Parle Gs (total Rs. 4) each before taking a rickety bus ride to Karukachal, a sub-urban town 17 km from Kottayam. To those unfamiliar with Kerala bus rides, they are one of India’s must experience great adventures: High speed competitions between private bus companies on single and double lane roads that would put most hollywood thrillers to shame. We were contemplating getting bicycles in Karukachel to travel to Kottayam or Kumarakom; but after witnessing the roads, are having second thoughts already! Burning through the last piece of our reserves from the days we were rich (aka lived at Rs. 100 a day), we finally made it to Karukachal in one piece.

As excited as we were about entering the new phase in our experiment, the reality of it finally hit us pretty strongly as tiredness set in. Don’t know if it was the low blood sugar levels from the light breakfast or the hangover of the 14 hour third class train travel in which we had barely split a railways meal, so that we could scrape through without overdrawing on our reserves. As we walked to Matt’s ancestral home to pick up our sheets, the heat, hunger and exhaustion got to us and we slept off at the house – Matt in the verandah itself!

Next to our room in Karukachal

We were woken up

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October 17, 2011

Living on Rs. 32 a day

Just got off the unreserved category train from Bangalore to Kottayam and burnt almost all of our reserves doing that! And its time to get ready for the tough week ahead – living at the poverty line as suggested by the Planning Commission. So, how have we prepared for it? Well, we spent our journey reading and analyzing the Planning Commission’s affidavit to Supreme Court and the Tendulkar report on Estimation of Poverty to try and understand what the Rs. 32 really includes. Our findings: everything!

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