Dreaming in Dollars

I bought a six dollar coffee this morning that is four hundred and twenty Rupees on just caffeine and milk! I could have had three meals in that much money in India. I could have bought 42 packets of 10 Rupee Lays. This is outrageous. I think I am hyperventilating.

That is me from one and a half years ago. Why was I like that you ask? Read on, I’ll tell you.

When i was in high school, I could take up to an hour deciding what to wear, but I didn't need much time to decide that I wanted to migrate all the way to the United States of America to get my Bachelors in Journalism. My middle-class Indian parents supported my dream to become a writer; my father shed a good chunk of his savings (money he had saved for my marriage apparently) and my overdramatic mother emptied her stack of home made pickle. Sitting huddled together with our faces inches away from the laptop screen my dad, my mom and I, scrolled through the list of top journalism colleges in the US screening those that were above $28,000 per academic year because Indian weddings are grand but not that grand. 

 I come from a family that splurges without constraint only when it comes to buying good food. Everything else that we needed to buy had to pass the most accurate price check, my mother and a nod response by my father. My father was employed as soon as he got out of college. My parents didn't receive a single Rupee from my grandparents when they got married. Everything they owned was the labored fruits of years of saving hard earned money.

  Keeping that in mind I knew that moving to one of the most expensive economies in the world was no child’s play. I knew that my rent would devour almost all of the money I would earn from my part-time job. I remember after I had applied to Mizzou my father and I started searching for economical options for a place to live. I was clear that if I had to choose between food and friends, I would choose food. And so I decided not to stay in a dorm for my freshman year (a decision my lonely sophomore self regrets). Instead, I shared a two bedroom apartment with three complete strangers and live in a space that was almost half the size of my bathroom in India. I actually only realized how rich my middle-class family is once I moved to the United States because in a country where the currency is very cheap the purchasing power of the ‘common man’ is automatically boosted.

  It’s been years since I fought with a ‘rickshawala’ (men who drive rickshaws) to lower the price or go by the meter. If I had to go back in time I would have traveled in rickshaws without uttering a single word of resistance or bargain because it was only after 20 dollar Uber rides did I realize how insanely expensive it can be to travel in America especially if you do not own a car. In India I never really thought about the logistics of traveling from point A to point B, I could just pull out my scooter and ride away or I could hail down a rickshaw. Having two cars parked in the garage also helped. I had freedom of transportation. When I moved to Columbia, Missouri one of the first, and to be accurate, failed, investments I made was in a peppy purple colored bike for which I got an extremely high-quality unbreakable lock and lost the keys. One of the many keys I was bound to lose at some point in my new ‘responsible adult’ life. For months I was at the mercy of my friends’ class schedule and Como-Connect busses for rides to Walmart or wherever I needed to go. The Walmart Supercenter on campus shutting down was probably the most unfortunate thing to happen to me all year.

  Sometimes, when my bank balance and I are at a low point in life I think back to the time my father and I were having a very deep and important conversation about how the world works. I remember him talking in the annoying numbered way that he does and listing all the things I needed to be careful about- Health, Studies, Attitude, and Finance. By the end of his monologue I was almost half-asleep but when he finally started talking about finance I shook myself and sat straight because I knew absolutely nothing about handling my Finances. I used to think investments were types of houses for some reason.

‘Value and Cost are two very different things’ my dad had said. Some things could cost a bomb but hold very little value like a six dollar coffee that is filled halfway with ice and the other half with whipped cream. Some things could cost very little but hold a lot of value like building relationships with people. We should make our investments (not houses of course) accordingly.
Having been a college student for more than a year you would think I would be better at handling my finances. Truth be told, when all you have eaten all day is pop tart and you are sleep deprived and extremely tired to cook an expensive bowl of noodles seems pretty valuable and it becomes very difficult to remember that twenty dollar budget you had set for the week.


  1. Superb ! Very nicely pen down ...proud of you ...

  2. Greetings from the UK. Sorry for your troubles. Good luck to you and your endeavours.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.


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