Gulab Bari Faizabad, India

It’s no great revelation that our lives today are far more comfortable than our parents had growing up. That said, it’s still interesting sometimes to learn just how far things have come in a few decades. A few weeks ago I caught my dad in an uncharacteristically talkative mood and he told me some random and interesting anecdotes that I felt I should save for posterity.

It all started when I was trying to open a packet of cookies and getting mildly annoyed that some of them had gotten crushed. In amusement, he told me about a bakery shop he used to go to when he was young. They used sell different kinds of biscuits and would sell broken ones cheaper. Dad was not from a well to do family so he would buy the broken ones, rationalizing correctly that there was very little difference between those and the ones that weren’t broken.

He then told me that he used to go to a public garden named Gulab Bari (shown above) in his home town of Faizabad to study. When he had filled a page with written text, he would go to the fountain and put the paper face down in the water to wash the ink off. Then he’d dry the paper and re-use it “at least once more”. It’s difficult not to feel humbled when you hear that story and then look around at all the electronic screens within an arm’s reach.

We then talked about the currency back then. My grandfather was a postman who used to earn 128 Rupees in a month. Apparently one Rupee back then was divided into 16 ‘annas’. My dad’s family had a tenant who used to rent a room in their house. He apparently ran a shop that sold sweets and desserts. Sometimes, when my grandmother was feeling particularly generous, she would allow my dad and his siblings to go and buy Rabri from that shop. The cost would be one or two annas and it would be deducted from the total rent that was paid at the end of the month.

Just imagine that. Dessert to offset part of your rent.