Sunday, January 11, 2009

collections-II















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Money: A necessary evil, A cruel teacher

Something happened during my trip to Manali that forced me to this post. We had gone to the Solang valley, enjoyed the trip so far. While returning there was this guy surrounded with people and constantly shuffling three discs the size of a carom board striker. There was one disc having a red mark under it and after he is done with the shuffle, you have to pick the red one. It was 500 bucks per bet and you get 1500 in return if you win else, just forget your 500. We watched this for some time. It looked easy. We closely watched the disc he had shown us to be red, never lifting our eyes off it and when it ended, our pick was correct. Until now we were just playing it in our minds never actually putting in the money. Some were putting money and sometimes were lucky, other times I just couldn't believe one could be so nuts to pick this disc when it was clear that the left one is the one. I later came to know that they were the shuffler's accomplice. Its a common trick to attract others which I couldn't grasp then.

With time I grew excited and after one such shuffle, confident of my tracking ability, I put my finger on one disc. The shuffler abruptly held his hands which were counting 1000 bucks to pay me and told me to put my money first. This movement propelled me, I took out my 500 and put it right there. Then he flipped the disc and to my utter disappointment the red wasn't there. It felt as if I swallowed a bottle of poison. My heart sank. I was leaving the place when he challenged me to pick the one from the remaining two. I guessed on one and I was down by 500 more. I got a blow. I became angry and people around me told to put once again and if lucky I'll recover my lost money. My anger and frustration drove me to another bet and I was broke by 1500 bucks. I left the place as soon as possible. My friends were dumbfounded. If I hadn't placed my bet first, someone from them would have done it. But they were wise enough to hold back their excitement when my first bet didn't work.

The incident was an eye-opener for me. I couldn't possibly express how I felt on my way back. I cursed myself to no limits. My ego was never crushed like this. I felt I am the biggest fool in this world. All I could think of was the enormity of my loss, 1500 bucks, in a matter of minutes. Those money could have revived someone's health, filled some bellies, paid for someone's education or bought some naked his dignity.

What made the matter worse was that I had similar experiences before and it involved much larger amount. I along with my roommate were duped by a charlatan property dealer when we were looking for a new place up for rent. I had felt terrible then also and made many promises to myself. The occurrence of the loss of 1500 within 6 months of my first greater experience clearly showed that I failed to learn. There were some other minor similar incidents also but it all boils down to this. I failed to learn. I failed to learn.

On new years eve, I looked back. I saw my past. I decided to only take the teachings and forget everything else. Then I looked ahead. Its a new day, a new start, a new beginning. Lets not become a fool again from this day onwards.

Money has always been secondary to me but I have always been careful not to waste it. Before I was able to earn, I was living a stringent life, because its not my my money but my parent's. I admit, after I have been earning, I became little reckless. I am poor at bargaining and usually give up after some argument but I do try to bargain for the best price. Even if I manage to save 10 bucks, its better than the other way round. I don't mind spending money but I try to purchase things that I would actually be using and its worth the use. Everybody tries to extract the maximum gain from their money invested and I am no different. I don't mind spending a little more for better quality. One must understand the worth of it rather the size of it. I would rather pay the bus guy Rs 2 more rather be in an argument that would cost me my 2 minutes of peace, self realization, contemplation. Why arouse my blood pressure, raise my body heat and hairs, waste my voice and spoil the calmness just for few more bucks.

You know what, money is a rude teacher. It seems to stay with you like a friend but always tries to move to some other place. It hates being at one place for a long time. You may never know it but every time it slips off your palm, it teaches you something. While purchasing a smoke, it begs you not to do that and when you avoid, it leaves a mark in your lungs and takes away some seconds from your life. But it arranges for the food of the shopkeeper and his family. In a way, the money had to leave you. Its better to be some hungry child's food than to be wasted on a smoke, a puff of fumes, that leaves no mark after seconds, the air is the same again. The Rs 5 note had made its choice. Later on, when you are in the hospital and being treated for cancer and your grandchildren around you, you curse you purchases, every single spending of that same 5 bucks. But again, your presence in this state is feeding the doctor who is treating you. Its all the game of money honey.

You sympathetically throw a 100 bucks at a beggar and you feel comfort. You think you just lifted a family from the worries of hunger for some days. You feel the note is all praise for you, you derive a respect out of it but what if you come next morning see the same beggar at the same place in the same state but somewhat more intoxicated and trying to hide a local brand of whisky. His kid, still rolling on dirt unaware of whats going on. How do you feel that? You feel humiliated, angry? Suddenly the respect is gone and the same 100 bucks note is cursing you because you just made it worse. What did it teach you? What will you do next time you see a beggar? Will you go on trying to pretend you didn't hear anything or place Rs 50 on his hand and take a promise from him that he will bring food for him and his family and not gamble on it. Suddenly your decisions have been shaked a little. Why, what happened? Did you just learn a lesson?


Once when I was in my granny's place, my uncle was there. He was telling me an incident where his car was almost hit by another one driven by a drunkard. He was a teenage infact. Uncle dragged him to a nearest police station. He was pleading, begging for mercy and kept repeating he will never do it again. He paid a fine of Rs 6000 and left sobbing. Uncle said, thats a very cheap price to learn a lesson, he is lucky. When I asked him how come its cheap, he explained. If he really had learned a lesson he wouldn't dare to drive while drunk but what if he still drives and this time meets a truck or bus instaed of a rickety Maruti 800? Compared to one's life, 6000 is mighty cheap.


When I got home from the trip, I narrated the incident to my roommate. He laughed at first, as expected. Then he told about one such similar experience he had many years back when he and his friend came across one such guy. His friend lost Rs 20 and vowed never to gamble again. I thought, yeah, maybe one such shock was due on me for long. I lacked similar experience before and so was tricked. But I should make every penny of 1500 count, by learning a lesson. Maybe today I wasted 1500 so that in future I could save many time more.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009