I want to state, for the record, that I myself never really had anything in the super-low price range, save for a “katana” I once bought from a visit to the New York Chinatown (have since parted with it as well). Instead, I have wound up with a few good things that I am quite pleased with.
That said, my interest in this thread is looking for what might be out there that’s actually worth half a damn, either for budget use OR as a low-cost hobby project. As someone who much more easily imagines having hobbies than actually engaging in them, it’s a fun mental exercise. After all, if you can manage to turn that sub-$200 sword into the equivalent of a $500 sword, that’s a win! And if you like the sword, even better!
…Of course, the biggest problem that you brought to light was the quality of the steel. Cutlery-type tasks, or just finishing the steel, is an artist’s and patient man’s game. Heat treatment, to me, is more akin to magic. I don’t know what it might possibly take to refine the grain structure you saw on that Deepeeka, but it’s certainly beyond my meager capabilities as of this writing. If you could do that, however, you could certainly evolve that lackluster sword into a really nice one, and I find the concept of doing things like that very interesting indeed.
The point on maintenance is brilliant – the more things you have, the more things you have to take care of. At the same time, I think there are things you can do to make your life easier. One of those things is to get into the habit of waxing your swords and knives. Set up a regular interval in which you inspect them and just wipe them down with oil. Know when it’s appropriate to use certain “oils” and when it’s not to. For instance, avoid using Ballistol when there’s copper alloys in or on your sword. Wall fixtures don’t like WD40. If you don’t want to take any chances, just use food-grade mineral oil even that old bottle of baby oil you find under the bathroom sink. But, putting a layer of wax to polish and protect your sword is going to hold up far better than just a coat of oil. And if you add oil afterwards, it’s just another layer of protection. In fact, I wonder if they used wax for this sort of thing way-back-when. It almost seems it would have been more available than oil for protecting tools!