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The cost of living has skyrocketed in these four years of my absence from the country.

The plantain cart wallah came near the gate.

‘Babu, dozen entha? How much a dozen?’

‘Dabbhai. Seventy rupees, Sir’

‘Seventy rupees for a dozen banana!’ I couldn’t believe. I tried to
calculate the cost of each plantain. 70/12–? 5 Rs . Leftover how much ? Ten.- 10/12—-?’

‘Seventy two rupees, Sir’, said he, when I wanted to bargain for Rs. 60.

‘Increased the cost by two Rupees, in a minute?’ I wondered.

‘For your easy calculation, Sir’. He quipped, while moving the cart away, ‘one minute KAthu. You took ten minutes to calculate.
America poi anni marichupoyAru Meeru. You forgot everything after going to America’

Then, came the paper wallah.

‘Oh, PAppiah, noovaena? You are the same old PAppiah!
The Hindu paper Rs. 5.00 kAtha?’

‘Avunu, sir’

I started calculating mentally the monthly cost plus expected delivery charges.30×5=150 plus delivery Rs. 10.00 total Rs 160.00 Rs. Right?’ I asked him.

‘Kathu, No Sir. In your America, all the months have equal days?’ He asked and asserted brusquely ‘Delivery charge is Rs 30.00.’

‘One Rupee per day for delivery ?’ I could not believe my ears.
PAppiah, the businessman didn’t want waste his morning hours in bargaining with me.

He asked, ‘mee indilu TV unthi kaatha? Meeru TV choosekondi. You have TV in your house ? You watch TV. You get all news’

He too moved away.

Then came the dooth wallah.

‘Packet entha, babu? ‘

‘Rs.20 per 1/2 kilo packet. Rs.1.00 delivery charges per day per packet’

‘Rs. 1.00 per packet for delivery ?’

He didn’t wait for a minute more but reminded me before leaving:
‘Ithu America kaathu. This is not America for delivery at your doors for no extra cost’

The trash collector was a kid when I left and he has grown as an adult now.
‘I have some good shirts for you, washed and pressed. Would you like to have those?’

‘You didn’t bring any new T- shirts for me?’

‘I did bring a few but for me’

‘Then wear one. Don’t stand bare chested. You will get cold, uncle’

‘The world has changed a lot’, I sighed

‘Meekku change lathae! You haven’t changed a bit after living in America for four years!’

He made my day, though I was with no plantain, milk and news paper!

Madhu comes running. I ask him to buy whatever I want and give him money and some chocolates too.
In 10 minutes, he returns with materials and balance cash.
And tells me, ‘Sir, I have a Facebook account. Will you be my friend ?’

‘Why not, Madhu?’ I ask him.

‘Can I have a photo with you?’ He asks. ‘

‘Why not Madhu?’

Let the boy study well, get a good job, take care of his illiterate parents . Let him marry a girl who supports his intention of helping his old parents.

I tell him in short: study well and come up in life!

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