Here in India I have to downplay the cost of everything to avoid ridicule. On a recent work-related endeavour in Delhi I bought a USB-powered desktop fan to sit under my laptop and cool it. It cost Rs. 1100, but I needed it. They’re not available in Ajmer, and my laptop overheats in minutes without it. To me, it was a worthwhile investment to avoid running my precious Acer Ferrari into the ground.
I told my community it cost Rs. 600, and they barfed at the ridiculous expenditure. Someone told me they could get me one for Rs. 100. People always tell me they can get me the same thing for a fraction of the cost. My Manchester United shirt? I told them it cost RS. 800 (about a third of the real cost), they laughed at my naïve spending habits and told me they could get me an exact replica for Rs. 200. They continue to tell me that I would be better making an annual shopping pilgrimage to India and sending everything home (or better yet, buying things in India to sell at inflated prices in the UK). I try to explain the many reasons that make this a bad idea, but they just don’t get it. To them, I’m an idiot who is wasteful with money.
I bought my nalgene bottle in 2008. At $19.99, I thought it was expensive, but I was in one of those instant gratification moods. It would have been cheaper online, for sure.
Yesterday I sat drinking chai with Nadan, Bhagchand and Devinderbhai on campus. They complained about the dirty state of my nalgene, asked why I hadn’t thrown it out, asked how much it cost. I recently decided that honesty was the best approach to cultural differences, so I told them the correct exchange cost, Rs.900. They all laughed at me relentlessly, clearly I’m an idiot for wasting my money/not cleaning something so expensive.
I explained that nalgene bottles are extremely strong while they told me I could buy another plastic bottle for Rs.10. Somewhere during the discussion I got frustrated (my hearing aid stopped working) and buried under the avalanche of mockery, I snapped. I threw the bottle across the hall and watched it smash into the wall, bringing down a little plaster with it.
But the nalgene bottle remained intact, unscratched, completely flawless. Look! I explained, Look how strong it is!
A little startled, and in disbelief, they were curious. Was my nalgene worth the investment? They’d never questioned my infallible plastic container, just scorned my attachment to it.
Things got very funny after that. I challenged them to break it. They started easy, knocking it on the floor. Nadan and Bhagchand attempted to karate chop and punch it, hurting their hands. Devinderbhai started to stomp on it, and hurt his foot.
I was in hysterics by this point, but it got better. Unsatisfied, they found some bricks outside. First they threw the bricks at the bottle. The bricks shattered on impact (bricks here have the consistency of a grass and hay mudpie). Then they found some larger rocks and tried to bring them down on top of the smarting bottle. Apart from a few exterior marks, it remained pristine.
At some point between throwing the bottle across the mess hall and bringing out a flamethrower, they decided to give up. I calmed down a little. They conceded that the bottle was impressive, but continued to tell me that I could buy it cheaper in India.
This morning at breakfast the nalgene bottle became the topic of conversation again. My friend Kush had returned from a wedding and the others challenged him to break the nalgene. He was hesitant, he didn’t want to break it. I explained that it was fine and he could break it to prove the others wrong.
I’m not sure what possessed him, but he seemed set on destroying it with his fists, and now has cuts across his knuckles and side of his palm. The nalgene earned a few more scratches, but is otherwise reveling in the attention.
I don’t think I was proven right – that the investment was worth it – but my friends are now fans of nalgene. That said, I’m sure they could buy it cheaper in India.