We cannot live without oxygen but we sure can without onion! Prices cannot go up when onions begin to rot!

In the days of spiralling inflation, when the cost of living soars, when the prices of milk to maida, banana to brinjal, carrot to capsicum, mango to melon skyrocket day by day, the middle class people are the worst hit. Governments and the party in power say they make all-out efforts to contain the prices. Economists quote several factors for price raise. The Opposition parties protest government policies for the pathetic conditions of the people but secretly welcome the difficult times so that they can win the next elections.

Maybe, what cannot be cured must be endured! But I use to wonder whether there is anything in the world that cannot be cured. When I was in my teens six decades ago, I was living at Karaikudi, a part of Chettinad in Tamil Nadu, where the dominant community was indeed rich, orthodox, highly philanthropic and well educated. I used to go out with my mother to the weekly shandy and distinctly remember her purchasing the weekly requirements of vegetables for a family of five for less than a rupee. The womenfolk of that dominant community of Chettinad would boycott any shop in the shandy if the cost there was a little higher than in the other shops. The way they treated the shop keeper charging a higher price was unique and the result was that the town was comparatively cheap and life was smooth. All due to the ‘will to resist’ on the part of housewives.

Sixty years since then, when I find myself helpless managing my household expenses, I wonder whether bringing down the cost of things rests with the government alone or, as an individual, can I have any influence on the uncontrolled rising costs?

Can society play any role in holding the price hike? I would boldly declare ‘yes’, if only society really feels suffocated and would like to do something in this regard. But look at the long queue in hotels to find a seat where ‘dosa’ is sold at Rs. 70 a piece, a cup of 150 ml coffee for Rs. 40! Look at the cinemas where a new film is released with people thronging for the first show paying astronomical amounts. Despite the spiralling cost of petrol and diesel, look at the queue in petrol stations.

I remember my walking without footwear to college, a distance of 8 km. one way. Today, my son wants a scooter to go to school, hardly a kilometre away. Do I ever care to go by bus instead of my two/four-wheeler?

Do I resist purchasing onion at Rs. 80 or tomato at Rs. 50 a kg? Onion is not oxygen without which I cannot breathe! Supposing people do not purchase beans at Rs. 70 a kg, how long would the shopkeeper keep the vegetable on his shelves? — right from the wholesale merchant to my street vendor? If office-goers as a class desist using their petrol/diesel vehicles and choose public conveyance, won’t petrol price come down? If we boycott the autodrivers charging an unreasonably high fare, can they continue forever by fleecing the people?

Yes, onion is not oxygen! We cannot live without oxygen but we sure can without onion! Prices cannot go up when it begins to rot!

(The writer’s email: nvsubbaraman@gmail.com)

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