‘We Fly Home’ proclaimed the website. And I was hooked. Only someone who lives thousands of miles away from their near and dear ones can understand the magic in these words.
Weflyhome.com used to be Lufthansa’s US website. When you think of an international airline, you probably think of all the exotic vacation spots it can whisk you off to. But my first tryst with Lufthansa was all about flying back home.
Having traveled on a handful of international airlines, I was highly impressed with Lufthansa’s service standards, their superior aircrafts and their highly skilled cabin and technical staff. But even Lufthansa couldn’t make the seat roomier, or give me more leg space in Economy.
This was circa 2009, before the advent of Premium Economy.
True to my Indian roots, I want every possible luxury a dollar can buy at a dime. I will not spend on business class or first class, but I wouldn’t mind a taste of what they offer. Needless to say, these premium features should fit my budget and be cost effective.
Us Indians are known to squeeze the most out of a penny. Even our Mars mission was completed at a fraction of the cost it took others.
Thrifty as we are, we will spend thousands on something as long as we are convinced it is paisa vasool.
Indians and Their Paisa Vasool
Paisa Vasool literally means squeezing your money’s worth out of something. And believe me, this can often be much more than the original cost, the way we tackle it.
Frugality runs in our blood, maybe because of humble beginnings and centuries of being ravaged by marauders and ruled by tyrants. Maybe it is part of our culture or the socioeconomic situation. But we are eased into this thrift since childhood and it becomes an essential part of us.
‘Take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves’ – this well known British proverb is taken to heart by us Indians.
Recycling or reusing things may be the latest fad. But Indians have been stretching and saving for generations.
Don’t believe me? Check out some typical ways only Indians can get 100% bang for their buck.
Ways to Wear A Skirt, Or Drape A Saree
Remember school uniforms? We had to buy new ones every year because as kids, we grew out of them pretty fast. I generally had three new pairs a year and they used to be in perfectly good condition even at the end of the school year. My granny stitched tote bags from the old uniforms. These were stitched in various sizes to be used for things like grocery shopping (long before the paper or plastic dilemma was posed to shoppers in the West), carry lunch etc.
Generally, you could tell what school a person’s kid went to judging by the cloth used for his bag.
Old saris were made into quilts, used as blankets for babies, and are now used for fancy garment bags. Expensive silk saris are cut up into dresses that I wear even today.
And the best kept secret, old undershirts are used as floor mats and cloths to mop the floor.
Now isn’t that Paisa Vasool?
Eat Till You Get The Runs
Buffets are loved by college kids because they have little money to spend and large appetites. But wait, if I am paying for a 100 item buffet, shouldn’t I taste everything at least once?
Even at a place like Barbecue Nation where you can grill and eat an unlimited quantity of appetizers featuring chicken, lamb, seafood, veggies, paneer and so on, people still attack every item on the buffet. They line up for the soup on the buffet and even load up on dinner rolls and soup sticks.
And the main consideration after gorging on tons of food is, was it paisa vasool?
Canning and preserving vegetables is actually a way to store up for winter. But what if you have leftover cooked rice? We mix it up with spices, and dry it in the sun. It is eaten later in some form, or fried for a snack. This deserves mention because Indian people cook fresh food every day. We are not in the habit of refrigerating food and eating leftovers for days together.
In earlier days, leftovers would be relegated to barnyard animals, dogs or cats. But why feed the animal when you can feed yourself?
As high as grocery bills are, they have to be paisa vasool.
Reusing Anything Under The Sun
In school, we were taught how versatile the coconut tree was. Well, I think that is especially true in India. The outer shell or skin of the coconut is used as a scrubber to clean pots. Why buy Scotch Brite when you have already bought a coconut?
The metallic caps of milk bottles are used as steel wool to clean really sticky pans. Coconut shells are used as jalebi moulds. Milk sachets are used as pastry bags or to store pantry items. And so on.
No we are not worried about recycling. This is just paisa vasool.
Paperless? No Way!
The world may be trying to go paperless. But that will create a big problem for us. We need glossy newspapers to cover our textbooks. We need unused stamps from the mail we receive. We need to use the inside of envelopes as writing paper. We need to use the backs of bills etc. to write on.
And we need to extract every penny out of the raddiwala for those old newspapers and magazines. And the beer bottles!
How else can our daily Times be paisa vasool?
The Memo On Missed Calls
When I relocated here, I wondered why most people offered to give me a missed call. Then my mom enlightened me. Incoming calls are free in India while outgoing calls are charged by the phone company. Most workmen, contractors etc. call you and hang up so that you can call them back.
Does your phone stop ringing just after a few rings when that old school friend calls you? Maybe they just want you to call back on your own dime.
Isn’t that paisa vasool?
Fractions Don’t Scare Us – ½, ¾, 6/9 – We Got It
So the whole world knows Desis are good at math. And here is one example of how fast they do fractions in their head. If you ever see someone talking in terms of 1 by 2, 2 by 3, 6 by 9 while having lunch at a restaurant, don’t be scared. There is no impromptu Mathlete convention at the table next to you. They are just ordering soup!
It all starts with the concept that soup makes you too full to eat your dinner. People want to have their soup and also their dinner. But eating only a little bit would be a waste of money and food. Hence the 1 by 2. So restaurants split one order into two bowls. Invariably, this turns out to be actually ¾ of the bowl at ½ the price. As students, we resorted to this because we were short on cash. But nowadays it has almost become the norm.
Mind boggling it may be. But it is paisa vasool!
Regifting Is Not A Crime
Regifting may be a major crime in New York, but not so here in India. After all, why waste a gift you do not like? Maybe someone else can use that garish tea set, or those orange plates.
However excited we may be, we don’t tear open our gifts because that would be a waste of wrapping paper. We carefully keep aside wrapping paper and use it to wrap other gifts.
And we also use shopping bags from stores for everything under the sun – grocery shopping, school bag, carryon bags on flights, even to carry our resume for a job interview. After some days, the bag fades and it is hard to tell what store it came from. But we still keep using it until it tears.
This is especially significant now when stores make us pay for those bags. Gotta have your paisa vasool!
Bargain Because We Can
Russel Peters has this right. Trust an Indian to bargain everywhere, be it a street in Chinatown, or an upscale departmental store. The urge to ask ‘Are you sure there is no discount’? or ‘ is that the final price’? is too much. Sometimes we even start by asking how much discount a shopkeeper is willing to give.
People brag about how much they brought the price of an object down rather than how much they bought it for. It is almost like a game or a ritual. Neither the shopkeeper nor the customer feel satisfied until they have played this game.
After all, if you haven’t sweated and argued for half an hour to reduce the price by 10 rupees, you don’t really have your paisa vasool.
Earth Hour? That’s Every Day For Us
Let the world fight over alternate sources of energy. We are doing our bit to conserve power. We only switch on lights in one room at a time. Why have your bedroom light on when you are sitting in the living room?
Why use a high power bulb in the bathroom when you can see enough to do your business with a zero power bulb? But we will take the elevator to the first floor every time because we are paying for it.
How else can we have paisa vasool for the exorbitant maintenance fees we pay?
Free Drinks? Bring ‘em On
Imbibing alcohol is taboo in most Indian homes. So work trips are a bonus where you can drink on someone else’s dime. International flights are a boon because you can drink for free. Even a person who doesn’t really drink at other times will take advantage of this airline perk.
That one time I traveled by Air India, I was surrounded by older men having the time of their lives filling up on the free Scotch. The flight attendants actually had to shush them and tell them they had had enough.
A general grumbling ensued, the common refrain being, ‘We need to get paisa vasool on our ticket!’
Choosing Lufthansa Premium Economy
Lufthansa captured the hearts of the people with their ‘more Indian than you think’ campaign. Now all they have to do is convince people their latest Premium Economy offering is paisa vasool.
Judging by the 16 additional benefits a Premium Economy customer gets over ordinary Economy, they are on the right track. These tickets cost only marginally more than Economy, and offer more comfort, personal space, relaxation and entertainment.
More comfort. More personal space. More relaxation. More entertainment. #LufthansaPremiumEconomy!
Even us frugal minded Indians will have to agree that Lufthansa Premium Economy is totally, totally paisa vasool!