Cheap and Best

A lowdown on happy deals

Written by Prajakta Hebbar | New Delhi | Published:September 29, 2013 5:29 am

A lowdown on happy deals

Cheesy songs and esoteric books have long taught us that “money can’t buy happiness”. Yeah right,you may say. Movie tickets,holidays and awesome food — all of which give us joy — are “bought” with “money”. At a time when money is scarce,and when even onions have become a luxury,we decide to look for ways to be happy without burning a hole in our pockets. As LM Montgomery once said,one can always enjoy things if one makes up one’s mind.

Binge while you Scrimp

When hungry,and in the mood for great food,but with just a few hundred rupees in the wallet,dump the swanky eatery and walk through the narrow lanes of the city. Old Delhi bastions,like Sitaram’s chole bature in Paharganj and Zaika’s kebabs in Daryaganj,can fill the largest bellies in under Rs100. Or if you stay in Mumbai,the hole-in-the-wall Crystal at Chowpatty beach offers you a view of the sea,and ghar ka khana — stuffed paranthas and kheer — for under Rs 300. If you prefer indoors,visit the century-old Iranian cafe Kayani & Co and gorge on qeema-pao (Rs 50),wine biscuits (Rs 12),chicken farcha (Rs 25) and Parsi custard (Rs 30).

Want to unwind with a drink? There’s always the cheap watering hole. Like 4S and MyBar in Delhi. Newer entrants include Bootlegger in the city’s popular Hauz Khas Village market,touted as “for professional drinkers only”,which serves 1-litre cocktails for Rs 500. At Peco,a popular and homely space in Bangalore,a bottle of beer sets you back by Rs 100,while the average cost of a dish is Rs 160. For the impecunious,the neon signboard-lit establishments on Brigade Road offer the best refuge with low-priced pitchers of honeyed beer and fried peanuts.

If you still don’t want to be tied down by fixed prices,there’s the “pay-as-you-wish” model. Kunzum Travel Cafe,in Hauz Khas Village,Delhi,lets you loll,read,write or catch up with friends over a cuppa,for as long as you want. Started by travel enthusiast Ajay Jain,Kunzum’s patrons pay anonymously into a box as they leave; youngsters on a shoestring part with tenners,the better-heeled add more zeroes. Over coffee,cookies and music,strangers share travel and other anecdotes,creating impromptu friendships. “Travelling is happiness business. Everybody is happy while travelling or thinking of it,” says Jain.

And some are happy when they serve. Or so,believe founders of Ahmedabad’s Seva Cafe,which follows the “gift economy” model. After eating an “organic” meal in steel plates and bowls,one pays as they wish,or if they choose not to,they can opt to serve in the kitchen. “Curiosity lands us many generous guests at time,the last of whom gave Rs 90,000 at one go,” says Uday Shah,a volunteer with the cafe.

For snooty connoisseurs with not-so-snooty pockets,the Pune Farmer’s Market held at Westin hotel almost every month has free walk-ins; one can taste varieties of wine,cheeses,cakes,juices,and organic products,and watch live cooking demonstrations.

Budget Movies

Chennai Express made over Rs 200 crore. You see,that’s partly because movie tickets have become costlier. And there are more pressing needs than watching movies. But for the die-hard cinema buff,there’s always an option. Like enrolling at the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) in Pune,which has the country’s largest collection of rare films. For Rs 1,500 a year,you can watch a classic each Saturday. You can attend other screenings too,as well as workshops held at the NFAI. Plus,you get to watch movies at discounted rates at the Pune International Film Festival. Mumbaikars,similarly,can watch for free a rare film every Saturday at the Films Division (FD). On alternate Monday and Thursday evenings,Alliance Francaise de Bombay hosts screenings of world movies,documentaries and short films.

For your fill of Bollywood flicks,multiplexes across the country offer discounted rates for morning shows. Theatres run by PVR,Big Cinemas and Inox in Delhi,Mumbai,Pune and Bangalore have rates as low as Rs 70 for the morning shows on weekdays. Older theatres such as Gaiety,Gem Galaxy and Glamour in Mumbai and single-screen halls such as Alka Talkies and Prabhat Talkies in Pune also offer cheap movie-watching deals.

Let the Music Play

While drinking at a club may still be expensive,if you are one of those who attends gigs only for music,there still is hope. The Scene,a series of free gigs started by NH7 and Blue Frog in Mumbai and Pune,promises a good night out and the chance to catch new talent for free. Similarly,three young musicians in Chandigarh have founded Ruff Sound System (RSS),which is based on the philosophy that music is “of the people,for the people,and by the people”. RSS saw its first gig,which featured local artistes,in July. The publicity was via word of mouth,the venue was arranged at a rundown warehouse,and anyone could walk in. “We pooled in our own money,about Rs 2,000 each,and made space for about 40 people,” says an RSS founder.

For classical music junkies,the Swaramayee Gurukul in Pune organises free monthly musical baithaks. The gurukul invites artistes such as sarod player Zarine Sharma and vocalists LK Pandit and Jayateerth Mevundi among others. The baithaks are a platform where artistes can interact with the audience. “We are hosting them to revive the culture of ‘bharatiya mehfils’,” says Bharathi MD,a teacher at the gurukul.

Soul Curry

Always wanted to perform,but didn’t know where to start? Nouveau Art Play Reading Group in Mumbai could be your stage. Started by art and theatre aficionado Noel Gomes,it is a community of theatre enthusiasts who gather every weekend to read from popular plays. Members connect through Meetup.com,and decide on details such as venue and time for the reading. “We plan to do some absurdist plays,monologues,one-act plays,two-act plays,more of Shakespeare,Samuel Beckett and Tony Kushner,” says Gomes. 

For art buffs,a bunch of galleries in South Mumbai such as Chatterjee & Lal and Chemould Prescott Road keep their doors open till 9.30 pm on the second Thursday of every month. Here,you get a chance to interact with artists.

Artists are also doing their bit to keep it cheap. Dilshad Lityani,a painter from Ahmedabad,recently offered 30 of her line drawings for Rs 10 at an exhibition called ‘Selling ourselves for change’. Lityani’s tryst with the concept of “value over money” began two years ago when she sold many of her black and white acrylic paintings and character portraits on ink at Rs 4,Rs 5. 5,Rs 6,Rs 9 and Rs 1.3. Her deal: people had to shell out the exact denomination for the artwork,could buy only one work and were photographed with it.

Out in the Wild

If you want to get away from urban chaos and not pay for this luxury,there are enough expeditions on offer. Put on your shoes,grab a camera and a water bottle,and walk along idyllic trails around the city. In Chandigarh,for example,the Chandigarh Adventures,Treks and Sports organises nature walks and biking trips for people in the age group of seven to 70 for a “token amount” that’s charged only for a sumptuous breakfast.

If ghosts of the past interest you,there are plenty of heritage walks to choose from. An early riser in Pune,for example,can catch the Pune Municipal Corporation and NGO Janwani’s heritage walk every Sunday at 7 am. With guided walks in Marathi,Hindi and English,one can see up to 18 heritage spots for only Rs 100.

Blessed with lovely weather,Pune residents often head to a mela or local fair. Be it the the circus at the SSPMS grounds or annual fairs such as the Manoranjan fair,one can often find youngsters socialising over popcorn and cotton candy. “It’s cheap,and we can enjoy ourselves for a few hours,” says Mihir Somik,a sociology student from the University of Pune. 

Shop till you Drop

While a visit to Colaba Causeway in Mumbai will bring a smile to your face,with their array of trinkets,electronic and gift items,sunglasses,shawls,clothing and footwear,the city’s Fashion Street promises good deals for the trend-conscious. For those in Delhi,the good old Sarojini Nagar market and Janpath are alternatives to the upscale Select Citywalk or Ambience malls.

If you covet haute labels,though,log on to the Secret Wardrobe website and rent designer outfits and accessories for a fraction of their price. For instance,a Rs 45,000-sari by Sabyasachi Mukherjee can be rented for Rs 6,000 for two nights.

With inputs by Vidya Prabhu,Shantanu David,Lakshmi Ajay,Dipanita Nath,Debjani Paul,Parul and Jaskiran Kapoor

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