Being a Punjabi, born and brought up in Delhi, I am expected to be great at the art of haggling. But the truth is that I suck at it. I am the one who never wins an argument for price with the sabziwallah, I am the one who ends up overpaying her help, and I am the one who can always be found moping in the corner after a business deal, telling herself that she will negotiate better next time. And, yes, you guessed it, the next time never comes.
But I feel that if one falls in this category of rare Indians, they still have nothing to worry about. It doesn't have to be a sordid, depressive tale. You can have fun too. Like I did during my one-year stay in the UK.
I was there to do a Master in Creative Writing at Newcastle University. It was a complete "Paisa Vasool" experience. Not because I had mastered the art of negotiations, but because I knew my priorities. I wanted to study and I wanted to travel, and everything else was secondary. So this was pretty much what dictated most of my decisions in the UK. And I soon realized that “extra value” doesn’t always come to you in the form of money.
For example, instead of expensive university accommodation that offered a single room with attached bathroom, I went for a room in a house that I shared with seven other people. This not only meant sharing the bathroom with 2 other girls, it also meant that I needed to walk several kilometres to reach the university. But I soon found out ways to make the most out of this. I discovered a route through a beautiful park that had a lake with swans in it. And the walk didn’t seem as long anymore. I started early, spent a few minutes at the lake and then headed towards the University. And there was another added advantage. A long walk meant that I stayed fit too. It was like the free mirchi you manage to extort out of the Sabziwallah, after he has already parted with a bunch of free dhaniya.
|Ducks and Swans at Leazes Park|
In a few days, I got a part time job at the other end of the city, and I walked all the way there too. Part of the walk was along the River Tyne, and I discovered one day that the river flows backwards at certain times during the day. Though no one believed me on this, I got a poem out of this. And I got a bonus poem out of the daffodils that grew on a hillock near the office. The poems resulted in me being invited to two literary festivals in the UK. If you try to count the extra value in this situation, you may run out of fingers. A part time job meant extra money, along with professional experience in a completely new field. I met some awesome new people, I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I got a taste of the literary scene of the UK. And I got two poems that I can forever call mine.
Me performing my poems at the Ink Festival
With all the money I was saving up, I managed four budget travels with my dear friends Hannah and Kelsey to York, Edinburgh, North of Wales, and Cotswold. I also managed some solo travels – one of them was to Bath and Oxford. And even during the solo trips, I managed to save money. I chose an overnight bus instead of a train to get there. And instead of a hotel, I chose to stay in a dormitory. The money I managed to save was spent on tasting local food and on gifts for my nephew, who was then 4 years old, Nishant. I asked him to open the presents while he was on a video conference with me. And his smile lit up my life. Can value for money ever get better than this?
|Me with Hannah and Kelsey at Wales|
Because of my stinginess with everything except my priorities, I managed to save up quite a bit, and closed my stay in the UK with a super awesome trip to Scottish Highlands. These mystical lands of rolling green hills and stark blue lochs made me feel closer to God than I have ever felt. I felt that I could never in future visit a land as beautiful. I felt complete, at peace with myself. Penniless, yet blessed.
|Canoes on Loch Assynt in Scottish Highlands|
And when I returned to India, I was comfortable in the knowledge that I had managed to travel almost across the whole of UK, and when it came to my priorities, I never had to make compromises because of lack of money. People who are blessed with a talent to negotiate might feel that I could have done better, but those who lack the gene, will probably see that I did manage to extract the most value from my trip to the UK. And that, dear friends, in my world is “Paisa Vasool”, or, let us be honest, the most I can manage.
|This first snowman we made was a great "Paisa Vasool" at zero cost. It made us famous in our colony.|