Monday, July 17, 2006


The big bound notebook

On the 28th or 29th of each month, my dad would bring home with him a special brown cover sealed with cellophane, bearing his bank's seal on the top right corner. The packet would go into my mom's hands which would then lie in the 'puja' room until late at night. The following day, my mother, in her free time, would sit with a pen in hand, writing a few combinations of numbers in the long bound note book. She had learnt the knack of opening the bundle of currency from dad. It definitely looked like a rare art that only a few could manage gracefully. A strong hold and a swift twist. The bundle would break into loose sheets of currency. Every time my mom managed it in a single attempt, I derived a sense of achievement. Then, she would draw out cash from the bundle, bind a few notes together with a rubber band and wrap it with a titled slip of paper. The titles ranged from 'maligai saman' (groceries) to servant maid's salary. After finishing with hour-long binding and naming, mom would go to the bank to deposit the remainder. My curious questions about what she did were always answered in simpler terms than I anticipated. I understood the overall nature of the activity but never clearly understood why she did a specific thing until I was ten or more. Then, there was this strange thing my mom always did. A note or two would find its place underneath the newspaper spread on the shelves of the cupboard or sometimes, under the last saree in her wardrobe or in the 'paruppu dabba'. This, she classified as 'dash'. The dash, I later understood was unaccounted reserve for a quick outlay. Sometimes, the dashes would together make a singer sewing machine and at other times a valuable birthday gift for my dad.

Later, when my school curriculum taught me the concept of income, expenditure, saving, budgeting, interest etc., I realized I understood the meaning of each of those terms without much help from the text and teacher.

Years later, when I started to earn, I never received my salary in a packet nor did I draw cash from my bank account to hand it over to my mom. The plastic card took care of everything. There was no budget, nor an expense account to keep track of the long list of my expenses. The 'hidesign' leather bag never held its value because it was not earned from the saved dashes, unlike my mother's sewing machine. The number of my footwear, my father would humourously remark, was more than the number of his hand kerchiefs. I never took pain in a library account. If I needed to read a book, I had to own it. If I lost interest in a book within the first few pages, it would sit unopened on my shelf for the rest of its life or until an absent minded friend borrowed it without caring to return it.

Last week, as I checked my dwindling bank account online, I suddenly remembered the little pig toy I received from my dad as a gift for my tenth birthday and how I collected Re.1 everyday in the toy until it overflowed its way into my bank account. I remembered how I had enjoyed the toy swell with coins. I remembered my mother's huge bound note book and her crucial calculations. I recalled that my dad bought books too. A lot of them, in fact. But, he had a plan. He clearly set aside one-tenth of his monthly income for books. Intuitively, I decided to get back to my basics that I had learnt so perfectly well as a kid and eventually unlearned, as an adult. I went to "Barnes n Noble" and bought an Accountancy notebook.

This morning, when I spoke with my mom, she told me that she started using her debit card. For more than a year, it lay in the envelope it came in. She had come to this decision, after several months of my insistence. She confessed how easy it was and that she enjoyed swiping it in 'Food World'. "But, don't forget to make an entry in the big bound notebook." I added quickly. "Of course not," she said with absolute certainty. In her certainty, with unspoken words, she spelt out the importance of big bound notebook which has been an important part of our family for decades.

My mom sometimes had so much dash,my dad would borrow from her. :-)
ya but dash reputation is bad. my dad wud borrow even if there was nothing left in dash. he wud assume dash to be a bottomless pit
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hawkeye & sowmya, Fathers, I tell you...:)

Hmmm, if only I were systematic enough to account for kothamalli...sigh!
I wish they still pay us in big brown package. I realized it is so much easier to spend money when you can't see it (as in swiping a credit card). When I was visiting Europe, I was paying everything in cash, it was so difficult to part myself from the green stuff.

We all should have those Big Bound Books to remind us how we are spending our hard-earned money.
y are middle class families so similar!
lol .. i used to borrow from the dash .. heheh .. most of the time ..
it was nice extra pocket money hehehe
Ujwal, the word 'borrow' is used only when there is an intention to return it. I know how you 'borrowed' more than 20000 from ur mom for ur mobile and returned it with a 200 rs salwar kameez;)

its like asking why middle class families arent rich. maybe certain economic slots give rise to a specific set of behavioral patterns. malai makkal kaatu makkal, middle-class makkal all are some species with peculiar habits
hay hay .. i have give it back now.. u can ask her
i am not that bad .. gave it back ...
even though it was after a year or so ..
and it was nto 20000 it was 13000 and she paid my credit card off heheh
Please post everyday:-) Really good one.
Thanks Deepa...Ill surely try...Aana, everyday ellam romba adigam! Idey thozhila irunda daan, daily panna mudiyum. Well, there are some ppl who post multiple posts in a day with a regular employment. But, they are a different species and I call them superhumans:) May be thrice a week is a decent number. What dya say?
Lovely post, Casement.
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