Monday, January 4, 2010

The Fine Art of Bargaining


This is a humorous take on the way business is conducted in Delhi where boni or the first deal of the day “boni ka time” has been stretched to incredulous limits. (The article appeared in the Indian Express – Jan 4th 1997. This is the unedited version. The edited version if I can find the clipping I will scan it in and incorporate here!)

The oft repeated word one hears every morning is, "boni ka time" or "Boni kar do" . "Boni" is the first deal of the day to be clinched by the seller. The belief being that if the first deal for the day is made without much ado and in the hands of a prosperous customer, the rest of the day will proceed well and will not cause any problems. Since, for a seller the getting of the blessing of the Goddess of Wealth is of primary importance, he goes to any extent to procure it.

This system is religiously followed by all traders be it a wealthy trader or a footpath roadside seller. Although at times, it is possible to get good bargains during this period, the pitfall remains, if you were to simply bargain and walk off
without buying, you were in for a lot of trouble and verbal abuse. For in this case the trader would superstitiously tend to think that the rest of the day would be also similar. This together with worshipping of the first income of the day is
centuries old.

Today, however, this practice of " boni" has been taken to unimaginable lengths . Early morning deals till 10 am or 12 am were once considered " boni" period but there is no dearth of such deals even at 3.00 pm. I once took an auto at 4.00 pm , the 
driver with great reluctance agreed to take me to my destination. As always, his meter was fast but he told me, that he drove the auto in the evening and had just brought his vehicle on the road. I being his first customer was doing the "boni". I promptly shut
up and paid up a couple of rupees extra. He immediately touched the money with his eyes and circled the meter. You bet, he should thank it for giving him the extra bit.

Again once, wanting to get to office on time, I went to the doctor early in the morning. This doctor used to take her fees on alternate consultations alone. I was her first patient and it was my second visit. She told me to continue with the same medicines for another couple of days. As I got up to leave, she
hemmed and hawed and finally said, " It is early in the morning and you are my first patient", so I paid her fees in the name of Boni. The same action of touching the eyes with the money was carried out.

A similar story was repeated at my cousin's tuition class. They had weekly system of paying and she being the first student on the pay day, gave the money. The teacher took it, touched it with his eyes, offered it to the statue of Lord Ganesh and Goddess Laxmi before locking it. And here was I thinking they were both indebted to the Goddess of Learning for giving them the skills.

Observe this practice in the office of any professional - be it a lawyer, architect or tax consultant, you would know what I mean. Of course, Vidya (Knowledge) and Vaidya (medicine) should be made available at a price otherwise it does not seem valuable to the recepient, but its emphasis now seems to be purely monetary .

The various professions hitherto differentiated on respectability, dedication and nobleness seemed to be tied together with its preoccupation on Nakkad Narayan. Avocations supported by Goddess Saraswati, Vishwakarma and Dhanvantri (medicine) seemed to be dedicated to Goddess Laxmi and Kuber.

The difference between a seller of goods, an auto driver or a teacher & doctor is hardly evident. They are all commercial people for whom Lady Wealth is of prime importance. She seems to rule their lives and each feels that a bad first deal would ruin
the commercial success of that day. Everything is a Dhandha.

I realised, the ridiculous extent to which this "boni and dhandha" had been taken when at the Chirag Delhi crossing a beggar woman approached us saying , " madamji, ek rupaiya dekhe mere boni kara do !" (Madam, give me one rupee and start my business!!!)

(P.S. I think even I should start quoting it to the editor!!!)

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