Honk Honk…Screeeeeeeeech… I would stare in envy when I saw my best friend being dropped off to school in a posh Merc, while I had to travel in the humble BEST bus. When I would beg Dad to buy a car and drop me to school every day, he would just laugh it off.
I would feel hurt and would stomp out of the house in frustration. A couple of hours later, when I would return, he would make me sit on my lap and explain, “Beta so what Meena has a Mercedes? You have such a big bus to take you around wherever you want. And it is in your favourite colour, right? Her Merc is black and don’t you hate black na? And darling, both the vehicles fulfil the same purpose right? Then what difference does it make” I would be mollified and happily go to sleep. But again, after a couple of days I would nag him about buying a car and he would explain things to me all over again.
As I grew older, and entered the primary section, I was the only person in class who did not get daily pocket money. I would see all my classmates munching on Gurukripa samosas (they are really famous in Mumbai) and licking ice lollies whereas I would be stuck with my Dabba. The only day I got to eat samosas was on the second and fourth Friday of every week. And, I was given exactly three rupees for a samosa. If I wanted extra money, I had to household chores. Cleaning the room would give me Rs. 5 and helping mom to fold clothes would give me Rs. 10
On entering secondary school, I started getting Rs. 50 per month from my Grandmom. But I was not allowed to spend it all. My dad insisted that I save at least Rs. 20 and put it aside for a ‘rainy day’. I used to hate it when I could not go out with my friends to McDonalds for a happy meal.
I was embarrassed about my birthday parties too. My friends would take me out to five star hotels, whereas my party would be held at home. Mom would make bread rolls, samosas, custard and jelly. Dad would buy Fanta, ice cream and wafers from outside. I did not even get a chocolate cake from Monginis. I would get a ‘mithai cake’. Dad would bring in a kilo of mithai and mom would put it in a heart shaped mould to make a ‘cake’. Why? Because a majority of people in my joint family did not like chocolate. At 12, when my birthday was about to end, he and mom would give me a chocolate pastry to appease me.
When I passed my tenth standard, I did not get a cell phone. I had to wait till 12th to get one. That too, on a condition; my percentage would be multiplied in 100 and I would get a cell phone of that amount only.
Now, this may seem like an awful lot of complaining and maybe my Dad may come across as a harsh disciplinarian. I thought so, too. But it is only once I hit twenty that I started realizing what he wanted to convey through his actions.
Lesson 1:My dad taught me to always look at the brighter side. I didn’t have a Merc, so what? My vehicle was still bigger than Meena’s.
Lesson 2: He taught me work ethic. Even if my room was a little dirty, he would minus 50 paisa from my ‘salary’. And that 50 paisa ensured that I could not enjoy an extra treat with my friends.
Lesson 3:He taught me to live within my means and not envy those who had more than me.
Lesson 4:He taught me the importance of saving. I would grudge Rs. 20, which I had to give him every month for savings. But at the end of the year, my heart would swell with pride when I saw that my bank balance had increased by Rs. 250 (Rs. 10 was the interest). These savings helped me buy all the 7 Harry Potter books in the future.
Lesson 5:The home parties ensured that I understood the value of things done from the heart. My aunts would help mom prepare the snacks for my friends and my uncles would coax us to have second helpings. My big fat joint family would ensure that my party went without a glitch.
Lesson 6:The mithai cake taught me to take others feelings into consideration.
Lesson 7: And the chocolate pastry? It taught me to pamper myself once in a while.
Lesson 8:In order to buy a good mobile phone, I had to slog and score good marks. In the end, I scored a good percent and even topped in my college. I learnt to work hard for things I aspired to own.
Lesson 9:And even though I scored 83 percent, which meant I could buy a cell phone worth Rs. 8, 300, my dad added Rs. 2,700 and got me a phone worth Rs. 10,000. When I asked him why he did that, he explained, “A person should get his dues.You stayed without a phone for two years and even came first in college. So this is your bonus.” I learnt to appreciate people when they did something little extra.
And his 10th lesson? He taught me not to be Daddy’s delicate little princess, but his warrior maid who can overcome every adversity (be it not getting a chocolate cake or failing the Economics prelims) with a smile.