My Financial Journey

My financial journey started when I was ten when we, my sisters and me, shifted to unit family existence in 1966. Baba earned Rs 250/- then monthly. I do not know how I became aware of this. By then I had absorbed a lot of economics — Bouma, my mother was a rich woman who thought herself to be poorer than my father’s family so she did almost all the work inspite of having a job (she left in 1961 after Shim my fourth sister was born) but remained invisible to all; Baba, my father even though he considered himself financially poor, as he carried the baggage of begging from his mother’s parental home as a child, was rich with his unconditional love; both parents and my Pishi, my paternal aunt, who was second mother to us, earned money to run the house, Mummum, my larger than life grandmother was the decision maker; Dadu, my grandfather could not keep a job, Kakamoni, Etu, Monikaka, Chhutkaku and Chhoto were studying; we never needed to ask for visiting our three married aunts who lived in Jabalpur, the city I was born in; Boropishi, my eldest aunt had a job in Railways and others were home makers, one of them was Baba’s elder sister — I still do not know how, (as she was not born to my grandparents, which I got to know much later); I had access to my neighbours’ kitchens and food on both sides of the home I lived, the same way as the home I lived in; me going to an English medium school with higher fees and my sisters going to Hindi medium Montessori primary school did not raise queries or issues in my head, as it was Mummum’s diktat and obviously no one could even think of questioning that so it did not matter as both schools were at par in my thinking and still are; Monikaka died in 1960 and Dadu in 1961; When Baba was transferred to Gandhisagar he took Bouma and my three sisters, that was a good time for both Baba and Bouma; Baba arranged for Etu’s marriage and later Kakamoni’s, the expenditure of marriage did not register to me; Baba convinced my Kakamoni, his younger brother to shift to Bhopal for job with his newly wedded wife my Kakimoni, which he did only physically, he and Kakimoni were always with the family; Pishi drilled in me not to waste a drop of water and use electricity only when required; a whole lot of economics for a ten year old!

I shifted leaving my Mummum with whom I would sleep from day one of my life only because Baba said that I am his first child and how will the younger sisters go without me but it was a difficult transition for a ten year adult; Amma and Bapu’s unconditional love in the process cannot be evaluated in terms of economics! There was a pleasant way of getting connected with money soon after shifting to the MPEB quarters. Shim my baby sister whom we always considered the wise one amongst us would say ‘chaar aane ki Manni, paanch paise kaa bapu, Bula (that is me) athanee’ (I can hear her say and see her face light up saying this — Mother is four annas, Father is five paise and Bula is eight annas)! She was probably six then and I was very old at ten, somehow her age always fluctuates in my mind so the ‘probably’. I never doubted her understanding of the relative value of money she was quoting but still it was a wonder to me that she could actually equate the relative money value. There are unpleasant aspects which acquainted me further to the financial world. Baba gave full salary to Amma but I would stay awake subconsciously till my parents did not sleep as Baba asked for accounts. Three years this continued, Amma started earning doing various things, her benevolence to one and all, covered Baba’s insecurity towards money, she would say — do not give with closed fists as nothing comes in it and she was never scared. I soon learnt how to cycle and started going to school on cycle. I would wonder when she gave money (Re.1/- was a big amount for me) for any emergency, as I would wonder how she would account for it. The money was comparatively miniscule in relation to the fee that was paid for the school but I would not get affected about the fees as receipt would come for the fee but there was none for money for emergency. When I was thirteen I once slapped Shim as she was throwing around Baba’s salary. It stunned us both as neither of us could imagine me getting angry with her. It was disrespect of the money that represented the pain, insecurities, our parents’ hardships and their efforts to give the best to us. Neither I could have understood it then nor could I have expressed it.

Baba Ma made a house and we shifted on 24th August 1971, for the economics of that I will have to write another blog! At that time I thought Baba got it made along with Basant Chacha (Baba’s dear friend). It was made with loans all worked out by Baba, for everyone who got a house made in that cooperative, the repayment to complete before his retirement. Baba underwent a major operation in 1971 financially supported by friends; I don’t even know who all pitched in. Ashok supported Amma full heartedly and encouraged her to go for the operation in Calcutta leaving us sisters in his care. She loved and respected him for that all her life. I married Ashok in 1972 at 15 soon after my school into a comparatively richer household! Every day when parathaas (koki in Sindhi and a sign of richness to me) were made for breakfast I would think I wish I could share them with my sisters. We would regularly communicate via letters — Postcards were 25 paisa Inland Letters 50 paise and envelopes Rs.2.50/-. I had kids in 1973 and 74, we shifted to Delhi in 1976. My first salary was probably Rs.150/- per month in 1977 for a job of Librarian cum helping teacher for a couple of months in a school Lahore Montessori School in Kirti Nagar, New Delhi which I took as Punu and Tunu, both my sons were studying there, in Class 1 and Upper Kg with encouragement from the acting principal, Mrs. Bambani. I was Higher Secondary but I got the job with an application and a lot of confidence in preference of many with a bagful of certificates. The second job was in 1981 in Bina Fashions, Naraina, this too in New Delhi, again no recollection of the salary. I worked there for maybe three months and then for an exhibition cum sale on daily wages of Rs. 20/- I am sharing my financial journey so not going into other aspects.

In 1981 I came to stay with my kids aged 8 and 7 years with Daddy, my Doctor father-in-law, on his invitation. He would give Rs.200/- every month, a packet of 100 of Rs.2/- new notes which I gracefully accepted with hardly any need, as he provided for everything. I started studying BA in 1984 through Distance Education from Jabalpur thanks to Nil who thought that I should get formal education. The need for me to work was beyond Daddy. I shifted to Bombay in my mother-in-law’s house after putting my kids in school in Jabalpur for six month due to mid-session.

My next job was in Happy Hours, a preschool nursery @Rs.250/ for five years. The day I got the job in 1986 I had fixed to give Rs.250/- a month to Padma who would make chapattis, clean vessels and wash clothes. I did not think about how I would manage expenses for the month. I started giving tuitions and the finances somehow managed me. Every year I also opened a recurring deposit and my sons collected notes ending in 19 numbers. These two savings when the recurring deposit matured we would think what to buy. We bought a cupboard once, the only purchase I remember. Once a month I would go to the Sahakari Bazaar in Bandra by bus which went by the ocean. It was one of my few outings and I relished the trip by the ocean. This continued for five years. As I completed my Masters (1991) Suhas, the school owner and Principal, an amazing woman, forced me to find another job as she could not pay me more. She was paying back loans incurred by her father-in-law. I got a job for long dictation, advertised in Times of India with a Post Box number, in Prabhadevi for Rs.1000/- That continued for almost two years. I became bed ridden with arthritis so had to leave. Daddy, my father-in-law passed away that year. The house in Khar was made over in my name thanks to my sisters-in-law, both Didis and Bade Jijaji. Daddy left some money for the boys. Since Punu turned 18 we got a bike for him. In 1993 I decided to sell the house and buy one in Kalina. I took a year to convince all concerned as I was unable to work and the boys were still studying. Punu took up night jobs and pitched in.

In 1994 we shifted to Kalina. Punu went to Bangalore to work with his father and Tunu went to stay in hostel for final year B Sc. The money that was remaining from the sale and purchase of houses was used in Monu, my niece’s marriage. The house was my mother-in-law’s and it seemed she was keeping her promise to get this granddaughter married. In 1995 a little mobile after being bed-ridden with arthritis I made my first trip to Shim in Philadelphia. I came back with Mana, her four years old daughter as Shim was expecting her second child. I went again for her delivery. Ticket fares were paid by Shim. Gobu was born March 22, he avoided being born on Punu’s birthday on 21. They had an amazing equation inspite the age difference — Punu Shim’s first baby and Gobu her first born! Anyway after Gobu became six months I was unable to take care so his grandparents took over. I found a job of baby sitting there for $700.00 in Philadelphia within vicinity of Shim’s residence for a year but as my visa did not get renewed I had to quit after six months. I saved enough to buy a computer with a lot of convincing from my sons.

1996 I came back and again searched for a job and accepted working in a project of Centre for Rural Development (CRD), SNDT Women’s University for setting up an Audio Visual Resource Centre at Rs. 4000/- honorarium per month. I worked till 2000 and again I was unwell with heavy bleeding. In between I did a once a week Certificate course on Women’s Studies (1997–98) with an Indian perspective from the Research Centre for Women’s Studies in the same SNDT Juhu campus where CRD was situated. The fee was nominal. I also did a three month sponsored residential Certificate course with world perspective (2000) from Institute of Women’s Studies Lahore. I started research after that which continued till 2004 but documenting continued for a much longer period.

2010 I got a job teaching Women’s Studies Foundation Course in IIS University Jaipur. This was a UGC funded programme for the Centre for Women’s Studies, so the salary started with Rs.20000.00 a month and reached Rs.30000.00 per month when I left in August 2019. I started working soon after lockdown in July 2020 in Eminent TT Girls’ college, Soda four days a week till December 2021 when I came to Tiruchirapalli and started studying for a Masters in Women and Gender Studies.

This financial journey is in lieu of the fact that I never made a bank balance. My three sisters and my elder son have been part of my journey, financial and otherwise, still are and have recently been joined by my daughter-in-law. I have family that I love and cherish, by birth, by marriage and that which defies any blood relation and economics, as I have no sense of family planning.

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