She really can be trusted for fiscal prudence

Rajesh Mishra *

I was wedded to Maharshi Charvak's utalitarian philosophy of Yavat Jivet Sukham Jivet, Rinam Kritva Ghrtam Pivet, which when loosely translated would means, 'Eat, Drink and be Merry as long as you live even if it is on borrowed money'. Salary wasn't fat but wasn't meagre too as per the value of our currency then.

And with friendly bankers always happy to give me an overdraft up to a month's salary, I enjoyed those heady days of bachelorhood to the hilt without having any material possession in tune with the advices of all saints. However, all the fun and frolic came to a naught when I decided to shun my singledom to another bachelorette who was a friend once upon a time.

Once married, my overzealous relations and friends were quick in rendering their free-counselling to my better half regarding my wayward finances. And lo! Before the initial honeymooning bliss was over, I had surrendered my fiscal liberty. Loan became a strict no no. Bare essential contribution towards provident fund increased to ensure that not a dime from my sweat-earned money goes towards enriching the Govt coffers.

Usual binge made way for social drinking and smoking a strict taboo. I would barely get a sustenance allowance since an empty purse or no purse in the hip pocket would not be in tune with my respectable standing in society as also a cause of embarrassment to my other half since every Tom, Dick and even Harry knew that it is she who controls every dime.

And to top it all, every now and then, some or the other non-spiritual assets which I had hated thus far were added to household inventory. She would invite relations and friends every now and then arguably to demonstrate her achievements.

Needless to say her fiscal prudence would be admired unequivocally by all my well wishers in chorus like a political ally while my most genuine complaints of constantly dwindling allowances would be considered a usual whimper akin to an irresponsible opposition.

In all fairness, I too would grudgingly admire her financial management skills and often thought that the country would've been better off if the Finance portfolio was entrusted to a middle class housewife since independence. Notwithstanding the efficiency, loss of my budgetary autonomy always bugged me. I'd decided that I would turn a believer only when my fiscal-liberty was restored.

Honest prayers I think are always honoured by Almighty but when the intent isn't good, they "nay not be realised fully. And that is why my prayers were being answered at least partially. Through a member-get-member scheme, I acquired my credit card, courtesy a friend who seemed to be facing the same Crunch as I.

While a lot of our citizens have them how, in those days of initial introduction, such cards were rare and considered a" status symbol. I would often flaunt it but never use it. The very possession of the card raised my sagging morale a bit.

And then came the moment considered to be a milestone for a Govt or a Couple - our 10th Anniversary. Suddenly the realisation dawned on me as to what a lousy husband have I been. Never did I evince any interest in taking my spouse out for a dinner or bought a present. But the very next moment I thought she deserved it for depriving me of my liberty to spend. Suddenly I felt the credit card in my breast pocket and decided to surprise her.

I took my sweet heart for an outing telling our two brats to stay indoors. While window-shopping, she displayed a keen interest in a dress but withdrew on learning its price. I also knew the fact that she was so committed to the household that she never ever spent a dime even on her clothing leave aside jewellery. Suddenly I also discovered a pin-up in that . store, "All Credit Cards Accepted" and my spirits were high.

I told her to try the dress to which she replied in her usual tough tone, T don't have the money and even if I had, I'd never buy such an expensive gift because I can't afford it'.

"Please don't humiliate me in a shop, people are watching, just try the dress", I too retorted. She went to the trial room and I must admit 10 years of domestic pressure and managing the household along with the two brats hadn't diminished her charms. I made that circle using my thumb and index finger and winked at her in appreciation of what I saw. She blushed and smiled but the very next moment came out in her original attire handing over the dress to the sales girl.

I got the dress packed, using my card for the first time and came out of the store triumphantly. Rather than being pleased, "where the hell have you paid from", came the reaction from my woman since she controlled every leaf of the cheque book. And for the first time in a decade she started doubting my integrity. But when I said "Can't i present you a dress in ten years"?

"Oh my God, you have been saving those mere sustenance money that I sometime give you to buy a present for me.on our Anniversary"! she said. And she hugged me and indulged in a public display of love for the first time in a decade of our marital bliss and probably the only time as I look back now. I handed over the first ever anniversary gift and repeated those three words on hearing which she replied in ditto adding 'too' to it.

My bride suddenly became radiant. "Let's indulge a bit. I can treat you to a five-star ambience provided the bill is within my range" she said setting the upper limit. And before I could say 'Wow", we were in a continental restaurant of a five star hotel. I enjoyed my single malt; ordered a Bloody Mary for her and an array of dishes which would indeed be a glutton's delight.

I knew the bill would be much more than the upper limit she had fixed. Hence, when presented, I picked up the bill and like a gentleman wooing a damsel, never allowed her to see. I went to the counter and used my card again second time in a row the same day. Her suspicion which had appeared on payment of that gift but had vanished resurfaced about the source of the fund which I was so lavishly spending on her.

Hope this isn't ill-gotten money, she silently prayed. We returned home and found kids waiting for us and their constant inquiry from their mother as to how did the day go totally distracted her mind from all those nagging doubts about the funding of such an exhilarating anniversary.

Fortunately, the bankers sent the details when I'd left the station for another place on a new assignment. We spoke on telephone after a fortnight (Mobiles were far and few between). After initial pleasantry she came in her true colours while inquiring about credit card bill. I put my best performance and told her that this was the first time in a decade that I pampered her a bit.

In between I kept cursing my middle class existence and not doing enough for her. This really worked. I could see her quivering lips and tears rolling down. She calmed down in a while and started advising me in her sweet-as-ever melodious voice. "Please remember, these (Credit Cards) are tried and discarded system of the West.

Since there aren't any takers for them there, these condemned value system are being thrust upon us". I wasn't interested in countering her swadeshi logic for obvious reasons. "Remember darling", she resumed again, "I know you love me. Gifts are only symbolic gesture and needn't be expensive. Use your card as a facility and never for credit".

"Yes Ma'am" said I and hung up thanking her for making the payment. And yes she also admitted that she'was relieved too that the bills were paid by credit card and no dubious money was involved in celebration.

Is financial prudence on the anvil now that we have a lady Finance Minister? "We hope" and "we hope not" is how the opinion will be divided. Hope she takes a leaf from the economic shrewdness of a housewife. Insha Allah. Amen.

* Rajesh Mishra wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is former PRO of PIB (Defence Wing) and posted at Imphal for three years and earlier at Jessami from 1985 to 1988
This article was posted on February 10, 2021.

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