lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Little drops of water, little grains of sand

In Telugu, there is a proverb that says small change is the goddess of wealth. I was reminded of it as I opened my piggy bank the other day. Piggy bank is a misnomer, though. It is an 8 by 4 by 2 aluminium box, with a coin slot on the lid, which I keep locked with a dinky lock that even I can pick.

My mother always had a piggy bank. It was a proper piggy bank, with a stopper at the bottom, and we used to sneak change out of it with a pair of tweezers for bus fares or canteen money. That doesn't count as theft, really. It's just saving my mother the trouble of bankrolling us for the day.

As you learn, so you do. I have a piggy bank, too. But since I know what I used to do, I made mine pilfer-proof. That lock is merely symbolic, so that I wouldn't be tempted to open it whenever I needed small change. I empty my wallet of change every day, as I do my household accounts and all one Rupee, two Rupee and five Rupee coins go into the piggy bank.

The anticipation mounts as it gets heavier. Soon you have to shake it to stuff more coins in. Then comes the day when you open it ceremonially, pouring the coins out. And then comes the pleasure of sorting the coins, stacking and counting them.

Most shopkeepers are glad to exchange your coins for notes. Mine go to my pharmacy. I used to exchange them with my potato-wallah, until I realised that his tally was always five Rupees less than mine. He was charging me to exchange my coins. Well, my pharmacy doesn't, so they get my coins now.

When my son was young, he looked forward to the ceremony of opening mom's piggy bank. He made plans about what it would be spent on, whether books or games. This money feels different from his allowance or the occasional largesse of his mother. This money was accumulated coin by coin, under watchful weighing of the box to see if it is ready to be opened and spent. Now, he isn't all that interested in the process of sorting and counting. He is still interested in the money, though.

My father had a piggy bank too. His was a simple pot, and the only way to take money out of it was to smash the pot. He collected coins for his grandchildren. When they came visiting, he'd invite the toddler or three-year old to smash it, gather up the coins and spend them.

My father certainly knew how to bond with his grandchildren. Combine the chance to break something and a cash incentive. All his grandchildren loved him.

Happy birthday up there, Daddy.



Anonymous Rajesh said...

Nice post. My grandmother had a piggy bank, too. But she never opened it for us. :(

5:49 pm  
Blogger Priya said...

I had a piggy bank too, thanks to my Baba. Unfortunately, couldn't carry on the good habit and don't manage to save even a rupee these days. Last time Baba visited, he bought a simple terracotta one for G too and inculcated the habit in her. Smart babe now just helps herself to my purse and empties it off all its coins to fill her piggy bank! More recently, N bought her a fancier Tom & Jerry one, so she's thrilled. I hope, she turns out better than me, and can carry the habit forward.

11:44 am  
Anonymous Ash said...

That is a lovely way to remember your father, Lali. Nice post.

11:58 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rajesh- sere you right. :-)

Priya- It's a good habit. There is something about piggy bank maoney. It feels special because of the patient wait for the bank to fill up, I think.

Ash- It is a bit personal, but I wanted to talk about Daddy. Thanks.

12:59 pm  
Blogger Raj said...

Isn't it amazing how some traditions are carried forward in certain families? I know a person who meticulously notes down in a diary, details of all his expenses - down to the last 50p. His father had done that, and his grandfather before that.

8:47 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Raj- Sigh. My Grandfather did it, and my mother does it and so do I do my daily jotting down of expenses. I add private notes, but the point is I write down daily accounts. Sheesh, good grief and all that. :-) Traditions indeed.

10:03 pm  
Anonymous badari narayanan said...

Does accounting help? I prefer to know how much is left after a day's expenses to plan future spending.

10:35 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Badari- Yes, it does. I like keeping track of things, too. K does the adding up, though. I only record the numbers. :-)

3:03 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

That's a lovely post, but of course you didn't need me to tell you that. This is just to tell you that my mum goes into fevered bouts of 'oita' (in Bong, that is). She needs something SUPER quick, and goes "Mana, oita de. Taratari!" And I almost run for it, then realise I don't know what it is that I'm looking for, and the more I ask, the more flustered she gets. "Oita, uff Mana, oita! Why don't you understand, oho, oita."

Tangential, but then...

9:15 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Rimi- Too right darling...Wossname, wossname...

8:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saving?? Its an alien thought for me Matilda...the only saving I manage is the change that I keep putting all over the house from my purse when it gets too heavy with coins...But my son dutifully follows me and picks up the change for his daily dose of Pepsi and chips...

I did try your way too once, but gave up...too impatient to wait for the money tree to grow..grins

1:30 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ah, it is a bit of family trait, I suppose. You pick it up from watching your parents. So your son will be trailed by his son, I have no doubt.

5:32 pm  

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