It wasn’t too long ago that scowls and frowns greeted me when I entered a store abroad: Salesman at counter, shop owner and all the customers lifting their heads none too discretely, knew I’d come in just to browse, look at stuff, touch, sigh at price, maybe even venture to ask how much, but never oh never buy anything, unless it was less than a dollar!
Those were days when the amount allowed to be taken out of the country was just about $8. Relatives meeting me at airport knew next few days, weeks or even months would be belt tightening times as they took cousin to Niagara, Disney Land, Colorado Canyon and also Lincoln Memorial without single one of his precious eight dollars being used, and on the second last day dear cousin would trudge from shop to shop with them in tow to buy something for children, wife, father, mother and also neighbour to whom he’d asked over the wall, “What d’you want?”
The cheapest bottle was eight dollars!
Heard about the Kumars, not the TV ones, but genuine ones back home who’d gone to visit their relatives in America?
One day Kumar and wife Kamala went to the Niagara, but more than the sight and sounds of the roaring falls, were they captivated by helicopter ride.
“How much?” asked Mr Kumar.
“Ten dollars!” said the helicopter pilot and watched as the Kumars turned to each other disappointed.
“Kamala!” said Kumar, “I’d like to ride that helicopter!”
“But husband its ten dollars and we have only eight!”
“Kamala,” said Kumar, “I’m 71 years old. If I don’t ride this year I may never get another chance.”
His wife stubbornly held onto precious dollars and said again, “That ride costs ten dollars, and we have eight!”
The pilot overheard them and came across, “Folks, I’ll make you a deal, I’ll take you both up for a ride. If you stay quiet for the entire ride and not say a word, it’ll be eight dollars but one word and it’s ten!”
The Kumar’s agreed and up they went. The pilot did all kinds of twists and turns, rolls and dives, but not a word was heard. He did his tricks
over again, but still not a word. They landed and the pilot turned to Kamala, “By golly, I did everything I could think of to get you to yell out, but you didn’t.”
Kamala replied, “Well, I was going to say something when my husband fell out, but eight dollars is eight dollars!”
Ah! But times have changed and today we can legally take out much more! Shopkeepers across the world smile when they see an Indian.
There’s one big difference though:
“May I help you sir!”
“I don’t think you can, most of the stuff you have is available back home!”
So it’s back to spending eight dollars..!
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