The truth now looks fiction
The truth about old times now looks unbelievable, a fiction.
In 1957-58 in the north, the rates in a dhaba, then nicknamed hotel, your bill was determined by the number of rotis (chapattis) one consumed as the rate was per roti. The charge was only for the number of chapattis one ate, dal and one vegetable dish was served free of cost. This situation sparked a joke too. A villager went to a town and asked the dhaba owner the rate for the meal. The owner replied, "One aana (six naya paisa) per roti". "And dal-subzi?" he asked. "It's free", told the owner. "Then give me only dal-subzi and no roti", the simpleton ordered.
Three of we friends had a habit. We must have our meals in the night even if we were not hungry. Once we three had our dinner in a dhabba. We ate one roti each and our bill was three aana (eighteen paise). Can you believe it?
At that time, one rupee was too much for tea and snacks for two people. Tea cost 10 paisa, samosa 10 paisa and barfi piece 15 paisa. So two teas, two samosas and two barfi pieces cost only 70 paisa. If you felt still hungry, taking two more samosas could take the bill to only 90 paise and not rupee one.
For regular customers, the dhabas charged Rs. 14, then 16 and Rs. 18 per month. In 1958 the dhabas increased the monthly charges by Rs. 2. There was a strike by students and the monthly consumers. In monthly charges, the dhabawallas served a sweet dish on Sundays and curd or raita on Wednesdays.
In 1972-73 I used to get a little more than three litres plus mobile oil for my scooter for just Rs. 10.
We used to purchase moongphali weighing roughly about 100 grams for 10 paisa. Once at about 10 in the morning, I gave a 10-rupee note and asked the vendor to give me moongphali worth 10 paisa. The vendor innocently said, "Babuji, what joke are you playing with me? I won't sell moongphali worth Rs. 10 the whole day and you are asking me to return Rs. 9.90 to you."
In 1973 I stayed in a Nainital hotel right on the lake for Rs. 20 per day for a room with attached bathroom, drawing and dressing room.
In about 1983-84 I travelled in an Indian Airlines flight from New Delhi to Bangalore, then to Cochin, to Trivandrum, to Madurai, to Madras (now Chennai), to Tirupati and back to Madras and then to Mumbai. It cost me just about Rs. 3500.
I was just a student in school when I was told that the then Union Food Minister Rafi Ahmad Kidwai ordered raids on hoarders and profiteers and prices of essential commodities fell. I remember the rate of sarson oil then was Rs. 0.75, for desi ghee Rs. 1.25, pakoras at Rs. 0.75 and barfi Rs. 1.25 each per ser (a little less than one Kg).
In 1973 the price of 5 Kilogrammes of peas (matter) was Re. 1 in wholesale market in Chandigarh. Even in 1978 sarson oil was sold at Rs. 7/8 per Kg.
In Chandigarh around 1968 the rate for one Kg of bhuna chana (roasted gram) and grapes was `2 each. It then sparked the comment: Andher nagri chaupat raja, take ser bhaji, take ser khaja.