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  • Writer's pictureKaren Divya Shekar

When the Cheapness Seeps In....

I’ll begin by assuming you listen to music on Spotify (for free) and that you’re an Indian.

Don’t you find it cute how Spotify tries to persuade you to subscribe to their paid service claiming to offer a better quality of sound and ad-free music when the free version is just as good?

It makes me stop and wonder.

What ad-free music? Who needs ad-free music? Who needs to download music to listen offline when you can listen to music anyhow on the App with just a couple of interruptions in between?

(Side note: I’m paying Reliance Jio Rs. 356@28 days for 3 GB a day. What else am I supposed to do with the extra data once work is over?)

I don’t think Spotify understands Indians.

I won’t incriminate the rest of my countryfolk, but I know I’m cheap.

Very cheap.

Cheaper than an Indian.

Today I’m going to be talking about why this is a huge problem and what I’m going to do to change that.

But first, some illustrations from my life so far.

Cheapness Example #1: I won't upgrade from the “free” versions

Before there was Spotify and before there was Youtube, and before the Internet exploded, music could be got from Planet M on Park Street and Music World on Camac Street, and they were both pretty expensive outlets for me as a youngster.

As I browsed through the shelves of Westside, Backstreet Boys, Shakira, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne among others, I vowed that when I would have my own money, I would buy all their music—legally, and self-respectfully, because there was no other option available to me to fuel my interest in pop culture.

However, that day never dawned, thanks to Spotify, Youtube and other music Apps.

And the only price I paid apart from my reasonable mobile plan?

A maximum of 5 seconds of advertisements (on Youtube) which you can even skip before the song comes on!

5 seconds? Did I hear that right?

I’ve waited my whole life for this. Does Spotify or Youtube think I don’t have the patience to wait out their ads every four-five songs? They assume I’ll feel pressured or irritated and upgrade to a paid version to keep from hearing their ads!

No, bro! That won’t happen.

Every time I hear one of Spotify’s ads begging the listener to upgrade to the paid version, I laugh.

They had to hire a voice actor, a content creator (like me!), make a script, polish it over meetings, just so that I would get irritated enough to subscribe!

What they don’t get is this: I grew up with ad breaks. I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t an ad break on TV, which was irritating, but those ads ran for minutes, not mere seconds!

So I’m conditioned. I don’t know a better life.

I can live with the ads, Spotify! Try harder elsewhere.

While artists need to make money if they’re to survive off their craft, I appreciate Spotify and Youtube for making access to music cheap.

Artists need recognition.

I need the mental stimulation of another’s person’s genius.

Youtube, Spotify can makes money off the ads.

Brands have found the new marketplace to hawk, and creators are making the content on which ads can ride.

Everyone wins here.

It’s the perfect Indian market place. I’m used to this.

Bottom line: So why is Spotify pushing me to upgrade to Waitrose? I’m not posh. But does that make me cheap?

Cheapness Example #2: The cheapness is threatening to invade my mind space

“Indians ask for free samples, Americans for quality content.”

I heard that statement at my office. And I think they ran a social media thing on it.

All the Indian companies ask us for a free sample before giving us a project.

I think they just want to have a look at the dish before tasting it. To check if it isn't dodgy.

But the Americans/Westerners want quality—which means they will ask you to change the dish or recreate it if they don’t like their first look or bite of it. And you will have to redo it till they are “100% satisfied”.

In fact, they will set up meetings to discuss how we can improve the quality of the content we’ve supplied, while Indians are fine with anything that is grammatically correct and reads well. Not the West.

It made me think.

And I began to notice a stark difference in my attitude to life versus the average person’s from an economically affluent country.

People in the West and I’m including Japan, South Korea and China in this as well, want quality life experiences. They want a quality life with good quality products and beautiful craftsmanship.

And as an Indian, I don’t get that.

I’ve always made do with whatever I had or was affordable.

Any attempt to aspire to a better quality or experience of life was met with disdain from my family. (Unless they got there first, of course, which is plain old Indian hypocrisy).

I remember the one time I started training myself to eat with a knife and fork. Everyone at home laughed. Were my fingers not good enough? Was I trying to become English? I gave up then and there.

As a middle-class Indian, my main agendum (set out by my parents) is to survive.

Not thrive, not experience, not enjoy, not relish, not feel.

Just survive.

My parents never asked for more. And they think it’s good manners that I shouldn’t too.

Bottom line: I’m just looking to get by. Others are looking to make the best of life. This is cheap thinking.

Cheapness Example #3: I give up on what I want because it’s out of budget.

I earn money now.

And I have waited for this day all my childhood, all my teenage years, since forever.

I had an idea of the books, clothes, shoes, plants, furniture, and other things I wanted, but now that I do have the money, I don’t spend it.

I have a ton of stuff in my online carts, and I only buy when Myntra “notices” that and offers me a discount on the items in my cart.

Also, I wait for the sales.

I never buy clothes unless there is a sale. You sure can feel the acid in your stomach rise when you see what you’ve purchased in summer available at half-price in autumn.

But what about those items that don’t go on sale?

I confess, I just salivate over them and keep doing so until they go out of stock.

I do miss out. But I feel a little proud for holding onto that money.

Bottom line: I think it’s ridiculous to pay “Rs XXXX” (4 figures) on anything. Ridiculous. But what if that dress was a good buy that I could well afford? Why behave cheap when I can very well afford to buy?

Given these examples of my psyche, here’s the question I want answered:

Is it worth shelling out for some life experiences (and which ones are they?), or are all life experiences “moh-maya”, marketed just to make you part with your money? Or do Westerners/others experience something more than us by insisting on better a “quality” for almost everything?

(For more on what constitutes “moh-maya”, click here. But if you want it properly explained, contact your local Indian guru.)

What constitutes quality of life? It’s subjective, isn’t it?

I think I grew up to expect “this” much from life and nothing more. Others grew up to

expect more.

So here’s my plan of action.

Plan of Action

1. The mental cheapness has to go. I can live with stinginess and other middle-class forms of miserliness, but the mental cheapness just speaks volumes. It’s not fair in the workplace to do a “cheap” job. Also, it doesn’t build skill. The only way to make myself appreciative of a job well done, is to associate with others like that. Eliminate the lazy, the half-hearted, and the poorly done.

2. As for paying for Spotify, Netflix, Youtube, country club, I’m sorry. The only facility I will pay for is a library. If at all I’m missing out on higher-quality ad-free music from Spotify, sadly, I can’t tell the difference.

3. As for the things my materialistic heart wants, I don’t know. I do think it’s time I learnt how to spend money and appreciate the “fun” side of life, but what if I feel guilty later that I should’ve saved the money instead of blowing it up? After all, rainy days do come!


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1 Comment

Sriyanka Basak
Sriyanka Basak
May 30, 2021

Intriguing, relatable and definitely not ‘cheap’ in quality!

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