Today I would tell you about one story that appeared in the kids’ section of the Sunday supplement of Navabharat Times and which has made the biggest impact on my lifestyle and brought the biggest change in me.
This boy was very demanding, always asking his father for one thing or other — sometimes sweets, sometimes toys and games, sometimes clothes, but most of the time only those things which brought him instant pleasure. His parents knew that it was a passing excitement and if he could just wait for few days, his interest in that object would fade away by itself. But when the desire for any object arose in the boy’s mind, he used to become restless and agitated, and raised whole house on his head, shouting, screaming and throwing tantrums to get his demand fulfilled. Nearly always his father, who was a very calm and quiet person, fulfilled his demands without complaints and never rebuked him.
The boy had noticed that his father writes a diary every evening after returning from office. That time nobody disturbed him, and he did not talk to anybody, and was deeply absorbed in his writing. One day, when his father had gone to the market and his mother was talking to neighbours, the boy got the opportunity, rushed to bedroom, took out his father’s diary and with great curiosity started turning its pages, quite confident of discovering something very exciting, something which was supposed to be a well-kept secret. Hidden treasure, forbidden knowledge. But there was nothing like that in the diary. Nevertheless, the boy was stunned, speechless and silent after looking at the contents of the diary.
In the diary, his father had written — in great detail — all the expenses that he had made in the course of the day right from early in the morning — bus ticket, auto fare, canteen tea, vegetables, ration, bread, milk, everything. You people are grown up and most probably already have a family and also have this practice, but for that boy it was something very new. He knew that his father works and gets a salary, but had no idea how much it was. He had no idea how the home was run, what were the various costs and expenses, and how did his parents manage. It is not that they were very poor; on the contrary they were quite fine, belonging to lower middle class. Yet, you know, how homes and families are managed. The boy had never paid any attention to such things; whenever he demanded anything, his parents bought it, never letting him down. But now he realized first hand how much burden his demands for small useless things put on his parents. Yes, that was true, his father had even noted his school fees, the cost of books etc and the games he had insisted on buying. Well, rest you can imagine — you already know how most of the children stories end. After that day, the boy changed his behaviour, stopped demanding and complaining for unnecessary things. This made him feel more responsible and feel like he was giving his little contribution to the home affairs. Yes, the boy had grown up. Of course, he never told his parents about that experience. His parents noticed the change and were surprised, but never found out the reason. They concluded, rightly so, . . . their child had grown up.
It was a very simple story; however, the writer was a master craftsman, and the portion where he described the contents of the diary were written with masterly skill. Though I have simply passed it over, yet the writer had described it in great detail because it was the pivot round which the story moved. And he succeeded very well in his narration. How can I say that? Well, read on.
As soon as I finished reading that story, I myself became very curious and went to my father’s desk and took out his diary. I found exactly similar details there also, it was as if the story writer had described my father’s diary. Though he did not go to that extreme where he would write about the tiny and small things he bought for his children, yet he recalled and noted all the major expenses. This helped me realize and understand first hand the value of money, how it is the very small expenses which add up and become large sums and eventually eat up your monthly salary, how insignificant and useless your trivial expenses seem when they stand next to monthly ration, clothes and school fees. In short, it puts everything — your whole life — into correct perspective. You get to see what is important, what is not, what could be postponed, and what could be discarded. No, it does not make one miser or niggard; in fact, I spend and enjoy whole heartedly. However, I do value the cost of everything I consume. It was more important for me personally as my father never discussed financial worries with his children, and let us enjoy and live life to its full, free of worries and concern. But his diary revealed all and imparted that education.
I never had to manage a home with my salary, so that type of discipline was never required. I just stopped unnecessary expenses. On my part, this is one habit that I developed immediately after reading that story and which I continue to this day. Every night I make a note of all the day’s expenses. It has made me more accountable and responsible. During college days, while going to Delhi for exams, my father used to give me money which was much more than required for the trip. On my return, I would give him all the record of every expense I made — bus fare, tea, etc. He would get annoyed, but satisfied at the same time that I had learned to value money.
All learning is connected, one item leads to another. Once I learned to value money, I also became aware and conscious of other expenses — electricity, fuel, food, time and so on. The underlying philosophy is the same — small amounts add up to giant sums. If one just maintains accounts or spreadsheets of various expenses in any area, the whole picture becomes clear. And then like in every other field, knowledge leads to action.
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photo credit: wuestenigel Office table with notebook, computer and reading glasses via photopin (license)