My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.

"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

Sign up for my newsletter: The Internet Personified

18 August 2013

Tippy tippy tap

If you've never had the pleasure of being in Khan Market and looking for a parking spot, LUCKY. The market boomed from being small and intimate (Pat A Cake! Chona's!) to a large teeming mass of designer stores and expat-centric grocery stores. The little guys are mostly gone (bye bye The Book Shop, your relocation to Jor Bagh was lovely, but I seldom see you any more) and everywhere you look, there's a pan Asian restaurant or someone trying to sell you big ass sunglasses. I would choose to go elsewhere (I'm trying to make Nizamuddin East market happen), but the fact of the matter is that everyone knows Khan Market and for evening drinks that are close to everyone and don't require too much planning, here you go.

NO TIPS say the signs just above the FREE PARKING signs. No tips, and yet, I--and everyone I know who is a regular frequenter--have a favourite guy who gives us a good spot and I pay him for that good spot. I used to have another guy, on the left instead of the right, and once, after a full day at Khan, I had a choice between a five and a hundred and I assumed that since I had tipped him many many times, he'd be okay with the five. But nope. He was REALLY pissed. Like in a "don't ever come back and park here" pissed. He even said exactly those words to me. So I found a new guy and a new spot, but just to make sure, I always tip him Rs 10, whether I've been there for five minutes or five hours. "Thank you," he says, gravely, and I go on my way.

The entitlement around tipping especially in the US got me thinking about tipping here. There was some buzz about the Khan Market parking sitch in 2011 and then more recently this year. In a nutshell, at the moment, your free parking is brought to you by the traders, who pay a monthly fee to ensure that you can park your car with ease and get away with not paying anything at all. There's a different kind of scam on in the rest of Delhi though, where the parking lot attendants tear the slip they hand you in such a way that you can't read the "Rs 10 for 5 hours, Rs 20 for full day" and try and get you to give them an extra ten. This has nothing to do with tipping, just pocketing some extra money for themselves, and I usually fight with them, unless it's very late at night and then I'm like, "Hey, I'm paying them for walking me to my car without incident." It can get frustrating for people to overcharge you,  usually my rising feeling is of anger: AT LEAST GIVE ME A CHANCE TO TIP YOU WITHOUT SCAMMING ME. But normally, the Great Indian Guilt kicks in, and they play on this guilt, and you look at your Rs 10 and you look at the person asking for it and you let them have it.

But then tipping laws in India are loose and random. At a recent engagement party, a waiter danced attendance on a young friend. "Why is he going on after me?" he asked and I said, world weary, "He wants cash, yo." The waiters are paid for the gig, and they all get money, but while I could see my friend's frustration, I could also see the waiter sizing him up. He was quite a young waiter, there, but for the grace of god go you, and I guess he thought by playing to the rich kids' section, he'd make some extra cash that evening. I tip the building watchman for carrying my suitcase up three flights of stairs, but that could be considered payment for his service. I give my regular help something extra for festival time--but still, there's no chart. How do you calculate? If Rs 500 is what you'd tip at a five star restaurant for one meal, shouldn't what you give your help, who probably works a lot harder to make you happy, be double or triple that?

There was a whole hoo-ha (which is also my previously beloved term for vaginas, so feel free to randomly toss that into conversation today) about service CHARGE versus service TAX. Let me break it down for you: service charge = what goes to the dude/lady who serves you, service tax = what the restaurant pays for running the air con in the summer time so people don't die. My tipping system on such occasions follows no fixed rules. Sometimes I'm like, "Oh, I already paid 10 per cent or 12 or whatever", other times I'm all OH I JUST GOT PAID HERE HAVE SOME MONEY, and leave all my change behind. I have no system.

There's no system evening out the rich and the poor in India at the moment. It seems designed to fuck everybody--but at least, if you're richer you don't have to depend on your awesome scamming skill sets (except maybe when you're charging per word for an article and you're like, "Okay, my NORMAL rate is Rs 100 per word, but for YOU I'll make it an even Rs 20.") So tipping. Should you have a system? DO you have a system? Do you also get pissed when people act entitled to it (or are you a better human being than I)?


  1. The biggest scam going is that most restaurants DON'T pay the staff any service charge, and keep the money for themselves. So always ask the waiter before you decide how much to tip.

  2. Sometimes it feels guilty not to tip the waiter for his extended service...
    but it's all designed to make a big hole in the customer pockets..


Thanks for your feedback! It'll be published once I approve it. Inflammatory/abusive comments will not be posted. Please play nice.