Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Livinghigh was here at 7:21 PM /

Show me the money!!! (say it like you mean it)

Money, money, money
must be funny
in a rich man's world...

- ABBA, circa 1970s

It's like the seven ages of man.

In the first stage, you don't even understand the concept of money. It's just... there, and if it's not, then it's not. You care about the latest GI Joe fighter plane, and if you don't get it, you bawl your brains out, to be pacified by a chocolate, or maybe some other thing much less flashy.

In the second stage, you were suddenly aware of wads of currency that your dad had in his wallet - but they were still perepheral in your Grand Scheme of Things. You were more concerned about the fat wads of bills and useless cards and slips of paper that made your dad's wallet bulge out so humongously that he found it difficult to sit with his wallet in his back pocket.

Maybe it was in that stage that you made that unconscious, infallible and unassailable decision to carry your own wallet - whenever you got one, in the unforeseaable future - in your front pocket.

In the third stage, you suddenly realised there was this phenomenon called pocket money, but that you had never beheld this strange wonder. A wallet was now very much a part of your reality - you even got a couple for some birthdays - but it was still very much empty, and neatly packed up in its wrapping inside the cupboard. To all your entreaties and pleadings, the answer you got was the same: You don't need the money, son. You just ask us for whatever you want, and we'll buy it for you.

Actually, it made some sense... at some 3rd stage level of thinking.

In the fourth stage, you graduated to college, and now, it was very clear that Pocket Money would finally be yours. So, the mildew was dusted of one of those wrapped-up wallets in your cupboard, and you were granted currency. Or... not. You were shown an envelope stuffed with ten-rupee notes in the cupboard, and you were to use those notes everyday for your daily expenses - travel, and some food at college, and maybe, if you saved enough, you could even go and chill out at Coffee Day.

As archaic as the system may sound, I actually did pretty well with it. The freedom involved was actually quite great, and in case I wanted some cassettes or whatever, I could still go to mum/ dad, and they would buy it for me - quite independent of the wad of ten-rupee stack in the cupboard.

In the fifth stage, it was time to say 'hello' to sunny Chennai, and I got my very own super-cupboard - a bank account of my own at ICICI Bank. Thereby began trips to the ATM on Nelly's bike, sometimes free-wheeling, sometimes free-dealing, sometimes chattering with Kunal, sometimes just maintaining silence... It was a carefully budgeted experience, however, and weekly trips to Sweet Chariot, or monthly binges on Cornucopia, had to be well-balanced with idli-vada at Vasanta Bhavan - all in a neat little shoe-string of Rs 4000 per month.

(Actually, not so very shoe-string at all, when you come to think of it!)

But it was a phase - the end of innocence perhaps in these matters. The realisation that money mattered, and managing it right mattered the most. It was the phase that saw you wanting to put money in your spanking new ICICI account yourself - and not your dad, sitting half-way across the country. It was the time when you shed a lot of heart tears and asked yourself a lot of questions, whether you could subsist on a meagre amount, whether you could be happy, and whether or not, money really wasn't at all that funny - but quite, quite important...

In the sixth stage, you found yourself in a strange new city with a strange new job, with a pay packet that delighted you at times, and depressed you at others.

But it was the beginning of responsibility and earning your own life. There was another spanking new ICICI account made in your name, and each time you withdrew money - your money - you smiled inwards at the knowledge that the money left-over in your Chennai account was still untouched and sparkling old. It felt good... as much as to hoard it, as to fritter it away of Rs 250 vodka-sprite combos and Rs 850 Globus shirts. It felt wonderful to tell your mum at night that you went shopping that morning, and you had bought a pair of khaki pants at a steal. It felt wonderful to take your parents out for dinner to a fancy restaurant and quibble over who was going to pay the bill. Of course, your days were now scheduled for the Punjabi-version of Vasanta Bhavan, a-la Gupta da Dhaba and Mitra da Dhaba, and each of those spending binges was balanced with Rs 8 aloo paranthas and Rs 20 thaalis.

It was a phase.

All you need in the seventh stage is a roof over your head, and the hope that that you don't get into any trouble with the mafia for arranging it.


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