Two innocuous looking men sit on the pavement of Jayanagar 4th block and apply magnificent mehndi on girls’ hands. They are experts. They can complete intricate designs from fingertips to elbow for both hands within one hour. Since they are so good, there is always a queue of girls waiting in glee to get their hands all painted, be it weekday or weekend.
The fare charged for fingertips to elbow for both hands is Rs 500. Lesser the distance from the fingertips, lesser the amount, subject to a minimum of Rs 150 (which covers just the palm). If the Rs 500 takes about 1 hr, the Rs 150 takes about 15 minutes for the mehndi man to apply.
They usually start their business by about 10 am and go up to 10 pm. The demand for them is less in the morning and more as the day progresses. Assuming an average income of Rs 300 per hour, the daily income of one mehndi man is Rs 3600. (I am sure this is the bare minimum because every time I have seen them in evenings, they have a huge queue; and almost every girl gets the Rs 500 service) Assuming they work for 6 days of the week (weekends are when they get more customers), this would imply their weekly income is Rs 21600 per person and monthly income per person is close to Rs 1 lakh with almost zero investment on equipment and real estate!
So these simple looking men on the pavement applying mehndi on girls have a gross annual salary of about 12 lakhs per person and completely non taxable because there is no bill provided and transaction is all in cash. They don’t even have a shop. On the contrary, its better not to have a shop and not to expand as having a shop will only eat up their profit in terms of taxation, real estate, shop equipments, etc. And in any case, girls prefer mehndi on pavements (thinking they will be cheaper) than mehndi applied in shops (thinking it will be costly).
My happy-happy mehndi-laden wife finally came to where I was waiting and my hour long wait came to an end. I stopped thinking further on the mind-boggling intricacies of small-time lesser-known Indian economy.