The reference price of this one was known as we used to purchase it regularly. In 2018, when the whole country is as-it-is, the price of a bottled mountain mineral water was 20 rupees. No fair tactics except highly wooden floored 18 degree rooms on a hotel roof-top. It was cold and dark that evening. To add to it, rains were just starting to make us uncomfortable at 7500 feet at a small tucked away village named Dhanaulti off the known track of Mussoorie in Uttarakhand, India. Almost all vacation tourists had left and we were almost the only ones. The shopkeeper kept playing on an android Chinese phone while not even bothering to look at me. I had expected it to be 2x or even 3x costlier atleast. Then, we sat in a cozy small restaurant waiting for some hot dal-rice. In between we gave 50 rupees to a service boy and asked him to get a bottle of drinking water.
In big malls where we pay 300 plus tax for a movie ticket, I have paid 50. In airports, I have paid 50. Even in supposedly cozy star hotels, I had paid 50. The citizens had to recently move to the court asking for an order where restaurants and malls cannot charge more than the maximum retail price but I have yet to see that in action.
After a while, the boy returned – wet. He smiled and gave me two water bottles which means the price must have been less than on equal to 25 rupees. For a while, we were kept wondering whether the shopkeeper had actually charged the MRP of 20 rupees – something a shop charges in an easy-to-do business location. That would mean that the service boy assumed 10 rupees to be his tips and did not take the pains to return it back.
But, now visualize this: The place has one small bank, almost no public transport, no proper infrastructure, the peek season was gone, monsoon and a big black blanket of cloud was covering the place, the nearest big town (Mussoorie ) was 45 kms away and everything had to be brought up through obvious transport charges. Still, the price of water was 20 or 25 rupees.
With quite a bit of shyness, i pointed out to a pack of biscuits which was priced at 10 rupees in a typical city and waited with awe to hear how much would the price be there. “10 rupees, sir”.
We were ashamed looking at this shop owner and wondering can we learn something from him? While returning, we saw this person happily smiling with his group of friends with a board saying the town is facing acute shortage of water beside two neat bins for garbage painted blue and yellow.