On my first visit to India as an economics undergraduate in the 1990s, I had £900 to last for three months — a budget of £10 a day. I travelled in unreserved second-class trains which involved an often brutal scramble merely to board the train; actually finding a seat was at best an occasional and unexpected pleasure. I stayed in some fairly seedy hotels, some of which cost not much more than the price of a newspaper at home. But I always treated myself to a good dinner, and in small towns this was often at the best restaurant in town. My fellow diners were the prosperous families of the town with often a driver sleeping in the car waiting for them to finish. If the restaurant was a bit quiet I would often chat with the waiter. Where was I from? What job did my father do? Why was I not married? A common lament I often heard was that the waiter had graduated from university, sometimes having an MBA degree and so was working in a restaurant until finding a job in a ‘respectable profession’. It was odd. Why was a poor student able to eat in a good restaurant among the prosperous and be served his food and drink by a waiter with much better academic credentials?
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