‘Penny wise, pound foolish?’

'Broken savings!' Image courtesy of cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
‘Broken savings!’
Image courtesy of cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Any attempts to live within one’s means are vulgar, adopted by all and sundry so I cannot be a party to it. To spend money is an art, to save it is a science; can I be blamed if I have an artistic temperament?”

My father provides me with what I like to call a ‘Monthly Allowance’. Also I keep the revenue raised from the disposal of newspaper raddi  and milk bags for recycling. At times I get legacies from my relatives, especially my elder brother. And finally I make a little from my writings too.

And as Nevil Shute has said in his novel, ‘The Ruined City’, “If you are careful and wise, and prudent, you can live on that amount of money. And you have to be intelligent and well-educated too, and rather selfish. If you were like that you’d get along all right but you wouldn’t have a penny to spare. But if you were human, well you’d be in for it.”

After some introspection, I concluded that I was the most human human being on the Earth. Like if watching the movie ‘Raja Hindustani’ at Rahul cost me a neat packet, then the party that we had at Vaish wasn’t for peanuts either. Add to that a Greeting Card for my friend’s birthday and a Ghulam Ali audio cassette and one knows where the money has gone.

No wonder I always ended up being broke. I didn’t quite understand as to why I couldn’t stop fooling around a bit for that would have put the skids on my runaway expenditure and I would have managed to live within my shoe-string  budget.

Gandhiji has said, “A young man will profit much by maintaining an account of his expenses.” I took this advice to heart and with misguided enthusiasm spent Rs. 10 /- on a small pad and a Reynolds pen to help me keep accounts. Penny Wise and Pound Foolish as usual. Then I adorned the cover with a thought by Franklin, “Beware of the small expenses, a small leak will sink a great ship.”

I informed my friends about my efforts to reason out as to why my ship was always capsizing. But they didn’t appreciate it. They felt that I was ‘far too old and dried’ to turn a new leaf. Besides it was winter and not spring, so a closed season for changes and a time to hibernate.

My initial entries were copious as I recorded my life’s minutiae in great detail – the date, the amount spent, the reason for the expense and the position of my reserves. But it didn’t take long for the novelty to wear off and I gave it up as a bad job.

Really can anyone show me the sense in noting that a rupee was spent for parking, another for a phone call and then a couple to mend ones slippers etc etc. It sounds so dreary and the position of my reserves would depress anyone.

So anyhow my resolve failed and there was no dramatic change in my lifestyle. I ended up being short of cash on numerous occasions. But I derived some solace from Robert Lynd who wrote, “But as for those of use whose promises are apt to be Himalayan, how can we expect the little pack mule of performance to climb to such pathless and giddy heights? Are not the Himalayas in themselves a sufficiently inspiring spectacle – all the more inspiring indeed if some peak still remains unscaled and mysterious?” Truly money management was a Himalayan task for me.

Any attempts to live within one’s means are vulgar, adopted by all and sundry so I cannot be a party to it. To spend money is an art, to save it is a science; can I be blamed if I have an artistic temperament?

But the scientific mind smells a rot and question as to how I dare defy the basic concept of Economics.

Well it is really simple for my mother is my IMF and the World Bank. She slips me some funds all the time. And at times I cajole even my father to spare me some additional cash. Some may say that this can’t go on forever. I have mortgaged my future and am living on borrowed time.

Still I don’t mind it that much, for we, the artistes, have nary a care for tomorrow.

The article appeared in the column, ‘Word Stark’ in the supplement of a local English newspaper,  The Indian Express in Pune, India on March 9, 1998.

Being a Banker I have moved on to learn to balance my budgets and produce a surplus.  I rather diligently track my progress over a spreadsheet with all kinds of ‘bells-and-whistles’ analysis of the facts n figures.

Yet you do miss the carefree days as a young lad wherein even under rather straitened circumstances the ‘joie de vivre’ was far better.  May be as they say in Nepal, the GNH (Gross National Happiness) matters more than the GDP (Gross Domestic Product).


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