Now that I am back here in Mumbai, I feel quite relieved. Of course my heart lies in Mizoram, but I like it better here because Aizawl is too damn expensive! I used to think that the cost of living here in Mumbai is high… oh I was sooo wrong. I’ve been all over India at every Metro and most of the major cities, and there is no place more expensive than Aizawl.
Sure Mumbai contributes the highest tax in India, and has been in the top 10 most expensive city in the World (in terms of office space and property) consistently for the past many years, but there are many other locations that are not that expensive and quite rentable. And sure, there may be discotheques and restaurants so bloody expensive that I can wipe out my entire monthly salary by simply raising my forefinger to the waiter to signal that I want “one more”. But again, there are many other places that are cheap and affordable without compromising on quality and service.
In Aizawl, to take the taxi means you’re filthy rich! Traveling from my locality Chaltlang to the next locality Chanmari by taxi costs 40 freaking bucks! And that distance is less than the minimum auto fare of 9 bucks here in Mumbai. Yes the people are annoyed too. They grumbled, “Prices of fuel went up and the very next freaking day, taxis jacked up their fares while the petrol pumps were still selling fuel by the old (cheaper) cost. And then fuel costs were cut a long time ago and the drivers still refused to bring down their freaking fares till now.”
And of course, if there’s any talk of making the taxis run on alternate days (odd and even license plate numbers) so as to trim down the congested Aizawl traffic, there will be hundreds of articles and protests bombarding newspapers like Vanglaini, Mizo Aw, Aizawl Post etc about how these poor taxi drivers were made victims of circumstances, and how capitalism is evil and that all rich people are dirty and corrupt while all poor people are honest and exploited etc etc. I am not getting into this debate right now, but it did hurt a bit to be “taken for a ride” when I noticed that many of those so called poor hungry taxi drivers were sporting mobile phones way more expensive and sophisticated than mine.
When my friend OPie met with his accident, I visited him daily. And I always bought junk-food for him, like chips, pepsi, biscuits etc. Not even once did I buy those items by the exact MRP printed on the box/bottle! No sir, all the shop-keepers near his house were selling every item for around 5 bucks more than the MRP. At first I didn’t protest, but later when I did, I was “politely” asked to buy from the other shops if I had an issue with the cost. What nerves! Eventually, I had to buy them from my locality if I wanted to save a few tenners.
The same with cigarettes. Recently, small Goldflake (chhota goldflake) increased their cost from 28 to 29 bucks. In Mizoram, supposedly it had been 30 bucks all along, even before the increment.
Vegetables and meat are expensive too. And my oh my, don’t get me started with the restaurants. Sure there are a lot of good roadside restaurants that serve great food at really economical rate. But the (upper-middle class?) hotels like Hotel Chief, Ritz, David’s Kitchen… damn, taking into consideration the ambience, the service and the quality of food, it is definitely not worth it. There is no value for money at those places. I can sit in a much better restaurant here with finer service and dining for the same cost that they charged me there.
Magazines? Wowwiieee is all I can say. I will not name any magazines here, but from my point of view, most of the popular Mizo magazines are over-priced. And here’s the sad part – most of the articles in those magazines were ripped off directly from the net and translated into Mizo. I wanted to read thought-provoking opinionated Mizo articles written by Mizos on various issues ranging from socio-ethnic topics to politics to sports etc etc. Sadly, the mags weren’t the place I should have looked in.
I also wanted to buy Pu Zamawia's best-seller “Zofate zinkawngah” badly. Unfortunately, its monstrous price of 850 bucks turned me off completely. If any Mizo here in Mumbai have that book, can I please borrow it?
Long time ago, I used to look forward to going home for one reason – the second-hand flea market. You get amazing apparel at dirt cheap price. Now it seems people hardly go to those places and instead indulge themselves at shopping malls and showrooms. And the price of a good pair of jeans at a show room there? 3.5 K !!! Mon Dieu! Aren’t show-rooms of the same brand supposed to sell the same item with the same price uniformly all over India? Or that’s not how it really works? Do enlighten me please.
At the end of the day, I have just a couple of questions. How are we able to afford all this? Where’s all the money coming from when we are so underdeveloped as compared to other cities? Is it because almost everything is subsidized hence the reason some (if not many) people living Below Poverty Line can afford to own refrigerators, mobile phones, TVs etc.? Mizoram is a Notified Backward Area… yet, one look at Aizawl and any humanitarian is bound to be shocked. Children sporting the latest mobile phones, designer wear, expensive shoes, extremely high car ownership per capita, westernized style of living, and in spite of all this, the capital Aizawl is also (ironically) known as the cultural capital of Mizoram! What culture?
Seriously, I am not anti-development or anti-progress. But we cannot let ourselves be bullied by merchants and industries that monopolize the system. Look at our Telecom industry. A few years ago, BSNL used to happily rape our arses because they were the only cellular company in Mizoram. Now look at the scenario - Aircel, Airtel, Vodafone, Cell One, Reliance, Tata Indicom, etc etc have all entered the market. Nobody can now afford to exploit us anymore due to competition. Likewise, we the consumers need to stand up to those shopkeepers, hoteliers, publishers, associations and others who think they control the market.
Of course, one need not necessarily indulge in all that is mentioned above. But for those who want to get a little nibble from the luxury pie, the financial requirement is extravagantly high. I guess I can conclude like this – If you are planning to buy or do only the bare-essentials and necessities, then Aizawl is probably the cheapest place in India. Otherwise if you want to cross that line even by an inch, then it is the most expensive place in India. Period.
Meanwhile, for a person like me, Aizawl is definitely one place I cannot afford to live in anymore.