I don’t understand money. But I love money. I respect money. I have lot of respect for men and women who earn their money through hard work and honesty. I believe money can change lives. Yes, money can be destructive. But then passion can be too.
One of the greatest highs of my life was when I got my first pay check. I started my first job with a Delhi based research organisation and my first project was ‘Juvenile Delinquency and impact of mass media.’ Getting the first salary was equivalent to having a feeling of freedom. Its sweet taste lingered in the mouth for a long time and erased the pain of a really hurtful break-up I just had then. I still remember the thrill of taking a DTC bus and going to Connaught Place to do justice to my first salary. I bought my Kodak Korma camera for Rs 1500 from Studio India. The handsome elderly gentleman who owned the store said to me lovingly “May you have years of exciting journey with this one.” Seventeen years have passed since then and I still have that camera (I must add that my husband has changed more than six cameras in last three years). On the same day, I also bought the music cassette of Scorpion (those days everybody sang ‘Winds of Change’, ‘Still loving you’ and ‘Always Somewhere’). I still listen to ‘Still loving you’ and ‘Always Somewhere.’ Now on a blackberry connected to an iball speaker.
In the mid 90s, money was never much. And even when I changed my job to India’s leading news agency, money was still not at all impressive from any point of view. We used to call ourselves ‘moongphali patrakar.’ Moreover, finding a flat in South Delhi in limited money was not an easy task. But somehow we sailed through— you know there’s something called chance or luck. I had no money to buy impressive artworks or artefacts to fill up the blank walls in my home but I did go to the Cottage Emporium to buy a huge batik painting of Buddha and got it framed. If it’s my home, it got to have table lamps (daddy darling, you must be laughing from up above there for this obsession of mine). I did go slow on my expenditure to bring home that beautiful table lamp from the Cottage Emporium. Little money made me ‘think creative’. So I bought three colourful matkas from a roadside potter and just kept them in one corner of the room to add that element of ‘ethnic, colourful touch’ to the decor.
Strange as it might sound, I never had then any feeling of deprivation. I still don’t have any. I am happy with what I have. I am not the one who romanticises lack of money. I personally feel poverty is the greatest curse on earth. Not being able to buy the medicine you want to buy for your loved one can be soul destroying. At the same time, to nurture a material desire, saving money for it and then buying it is also a great act of pleasure.
But looking back, I feel that those days I along with my friends had no concept of saving. Anybody who had a little more than Rs 5000 in the bank (in our friend circle) was envied!!! And when my back account showed an amount of Rs 10,000, I happily booked a second class ticket in Tamil Nadu express and travelled all alone from Delhi to Kanya Kumari. Credit cards were not popular then. So, I had taken my money in Travellor’s cheque and I did manage to save a part of it too. The pleasure money gave those days were pure, unadulterated. When we had less, we lived for the moment. When we have more, we live for tomorrow.
Indulgence at home came in the form of fruit custard and chicken curry with chunks of potatoes. And indulgence outside meant relishing an ice-cream named as 21 love or Manhatten Mania at Nirula’s. Nothing matched the joy of having a Chinese meal at Golden Dragon in Panchsheel Park. On most occasions, the dishes we ordered were the same — Golden Dragon special fried rice, chilly chicken dry and diced vegetable in hot garlic sauce.
It’s a different story now. Money has different connotation now. But I still don’t understand money even though I love it. And after all these years of being in a profession laced with temptations, I am sure of one thing —- Money can’t buy my soul, my heart, my core. I would rather happily eat a humble meal at my home than have a ‘free’ meal at a swanky five star restaurant. I will not have the burden of ‘obligations’. I will earn every morsel on my plate through my hard work and my skill.
And yes I do miss Nirula’s 21 love and Manhatten Mania. More so when I am in Ahmedabad—!!!!!
PS: I read somewhere that when the gypsies curse, they say “MAY YOU WIN A LOTTERY.”