During the toughest ever training at Mysore campus, I used to get around INR 13,000 at the end of each month as salary. When my new account was credited for the first time, a new sms appeared on my mobile. I had just come out of bathroom and my roommate rushed in for her turn. It was 7:00am sharp. I reached for my mobile on the study table and viewed the new message. Excited, I spent the next half an hour spreading the news to my mother & father in Delhi, brother in Chennai, cousin sister in Bangalore, grandma & grandpa in Gorakhpur and my favourite aunt in Mumbai. My mother in turn spread it to her friends at a kitty party in Dwarka.
Nobody paid much attention to a java class going on that morning in GEC. Everybody was whispering to their neighbours, hiding themselves behind their computer screens. The topic of the day being taught in the class was Object Oriented Programming. But we trainees were busy discussing on what to buy from our first salary. One of my neighbours towards my right gushed about buying that bright red saree for her mother that she had spotted in the market yesterday on her way to a date. My close friend ducked her head and as a precaution pushed herself lower on her rolling seat and whispered about buying three tops and a pair of jeans. Another one was talking non-stop about buying a laptop till we reminded her about the wide difference between our first salary and the actual amount of an Apple MacBook Pro. Few male trainees were inviting others for a late night hang out at La Gardenia.
Personally, I wanted to divide my first salary between my mother, grandma and donate some in a temple. I called my mum and told the whole plan. But she went seriously silent on the other line of the cellphone. Later after few seconds, she scolded me and ordered to start saving money! During the whole training period, I didn’t spend one single penny from my Infosys salary. Yup, mark that! My father, like some kind of a ritual, transferred his own money into my account at the end of each month. Even when I argued a hundred times, he didn’t budge. I don’t know why, maybe all fathers are like this, but he kept transferring money and as a result I was able to save a lot of my salary. I used to spent money mostly on buying novels from DD Road or ordering from Flipkart. I was forced to go for shopping only when my heels broke or if I was fed up of wearing the same kurtis.
So after the training finished, my first salary and including the rest of the money I had earned during the whole training period was quite good. When I finally came home after a seven months long training at Mysore, I decided to buy something for everyone. As a token of remembrance that yes, your girl has indeed started earning! Plus I had enough money and was over the moon about it.
Little did I know that my fate had something else in store for me.
I got a break after joining at my base location. Thanks to a marriage ceremony of my chacha in my hometown. After just joining and spending 2 days in my new cubicle, I went to my manager and applied for an earned leave of straight 12 days. The following week turned out to be a realization week for me. Firstly, I was about to realize what happens when money starts flowing away from your account like running water from an opened tap. Secondly, I was about to suffer from depression just the way a businessman goes during heavy business losses.
We went in a designer store, me, my mother and her few kitty party friends, and went through various new sarees that had arrived in the shop. There are many functions that take place in a Hindu marriage. Like tilak, sangeet, mehendi, marriage day, Bidaai and the final reception. Each requires a new dress. God knows why but if you want some respect in the women folk, aunties and their girls have to wear very nice sparkly dresses and heavy jewelries in each of these functions. Then only you-are-looking–nice and where-did-you-get-this-dress-from-because-I-also-want-to-buy dialogues are thrown around. And if such dialogues are not uttered about a lady, chances are, that particular aunty may go into depression. I didn’t want the same happening with my mother. So I bought 3 new superb sarees for her during her constant flow of no-no-no. But I just would not listen. The total bill cost around INR 9340. Then came my personal shopping spree. I wanted to buy that kind of floor length anarkali dress which Akshara wears in Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai. I bought a particular pretty looking yellow one with black sleeves. It cost me INR 5000. I was about to go out of the shop when my mother stopped me.
“Are you going to wear only that one dress in all the functions?!” she snapped.
I looked at the bill. It had totaled to an unbelievable INR 14,340. I didn’t want to further shell out money on myself.
“Buy one more! See that blue dress, it looks good too! Quite eye catchy!” she looked at the dress fondly.
Yes mom, the dress is eye catchy and so is its price-Rs. 6,754!
“Arrey…your Nishi didi has bought four new dresses! And what will you wear? What’s the point of earning if you cannot groom properly for a wedding? What will our relatives say?!” my mother tried to insert some common sense into my slowly comprehending mind. But I was busy calculating the final bill amount mentally.
It was with a small ache in my heart that I gave my debit card at the bill counter.
The next day, it was time for shopping for my brother. He was in good spirits. We fight like kids many times but still I love him. I fondly went with him to a men’s apparel shop with my parents. I had already declared in the house that I will pay for my brother’s expenses, since I had never bought anything for him before out of my own salary. Everybody had accepted reluctantly except my brother. He jumped, whooped and asked me to just hand over my debit card to him and he’ll go and buy whatever he wants. I uttered a big NO.
He liked a handsome looking kurta pyjama for the wedding. Its cost was around INR 3,220. Next he went through some sherwanis. He liked one a lot and went two times to trial room for that. It was costly though. He gave a brief glance in my direction and then declared that he is fine with the first dress that he has chosen. He didn’t want anything further. I intervened and told him not to look at the cost. Just see and tell if you like it. I’ll buy it for him. My father intervened now. He must have peeked at the price tag of the sherwani too and said that he would purchase it himself. I became frustrated and argued with him. I was going to buy that at any cost! Seeing that someone will definitely buy it for him anyway, my brother told the man behind the counter to pack both the dresses!
After a lot of tantrums, including a race between my father and myself, he opening his wallet and I thrusting my hand inside my handbag, I confess that I won. Sorry papa! But all your life you have paid money for all our expenses. You worked hard for each penny you spend on our silly demands. Now take rest! Let your daughter take it from here onwards! Now thanks a million to my brother, I spent an exact INR 8,918 that day on him. I asked my father to buy something for himself. But he refused point blank. I don’t know why but he never allows me to spend money on him. Again, are all fathers like this? Or is this just with my dad?
Before I went to my village, I had spent around Rs. 30,012 in two days. When I reached my favourite aunt’s house, it was with a mission. After my mother, I respect my aunt. She loves me and my brother a lot and doesn’t differentiate us from her own kids. I wanted to buy her a brand new saree. She resisted while giving me the old I-cannot-let-you-buy one-liners till I reminded her that I have started earning. So c’mon, let’s go out for shopping! I took her to a market shop and purchased a beautiful designer saree worth around INR 4,980. She went so far as to call my mother and let her know that her daughter is buying a very, very costly sari and shelling out so much money on her.
When one of my other aunts heard this news, she went berserk. She pounced on me when I was having dinner.
“Beta Sony…I have heard that you are buying dresses out of your salary for everybody!” she squealed excitedly.
“No, no, no…that was for-“
“How Chweeeeet! My munna’s daughter has finally grown up!” she pulled at my cheeks roughly. I let her do it till it started aching. Then I pulled myself away from her firm grasp.
“I’ll tell you now only! See…I don’t like those banarsi sarees! That’s old fashion now. I want a net or a lehenga saree! That Achhu mami also has one. She said it’s the latest fashion in the weddings!”
The next day I shelled out Rs. 5,897. That night, my mother lashed out at me for being a complete dumb. News started spreading and I was looked upon like some newly found gold mine. Cousins asked me for a treat. So I had to take out 5 cousin brothers and 3 cousin sisters, including 4 village kids who had just arrived day before yesterday for the wedding. I didn’t know these village kids personally but it seemed rude to not ask them. So I took everybody to a nearby restaurant with my own brother. Everyone ordered their favourite items- mishrambo juice, momos, veg spring rolls and malai khulfis. The bill arrived with a bang and made me cough loudly on my Mango kulfi. It was Rs. 1287. Seeing my shocked expression, my brother snatched the bill from my hand and stared at it himself. He called the waiter and we, for the first time, saw the prices of the items we had ordered in the menu card.
Which fool said that only cities are costly?
Finally when I checked my account balance, it was some 4 digit number. I had spent around INR 42,176 in the last 7 days. This fact was pinching me. I had no issue on spending money on my loved ones. But I think that as it was my first time, the reality of importance of saving money had struck a chord. Also I gave a mental salute to my father. He spent lakhs of money over me and my brother’s education throughout his life. He paid for house expenses, electricity bills, water bills, landline bills, mobile recharges, hostel fees, trips, picnics etc. He purchased an awesome looking smartphone and a laptop for my brother. He books tickets for my train journeys during weekends. Also he takes care of his parents living 742 kms away. But all this while, he never complained or even discussed money issues. Even in his worst time when he suffered from a brief period of unemployment, he made sure that lack of money didn’t hinder his children’s education. He exhibited so much control and dignity during any financial issue. He kept us happy and healthy, ignoring his own comforts and luxuries.
And l like an idiot, was sulking at myself. God knows why. Maybe because I had never spent this much before? Or maybe because I had just realized that all my savings had gone? As I crushed the transaction receipt and walked out of the ATM, my purse felt oddly light. I sighed and looked up in the sky. Seriously, where are you God?