Thursday, September 25, 2008

A POCKET-FULL OF MEMORIES - I

We had two types of pocket-money when we were young, none of them regular, and both of them depending on the whim and will (and wallet) of the donor.

The first type was the money we “earned”, inspired by sundry Enid Blyton characters like Betsy May, who, whenever they coveted something, would work hard at chores and get paid in pennies which they saved up in shillings. To achieve this in our decidedly un-British Barrackpore, we would pester various reluctant and unbelieving elders, who would give us some errand (usually involving running to the nearby shop/market) and the money (usually the now-obsolete 10 paise, some-couldn’t-believe-our-luck-times 25 paise), more a ‘good-riddance’ money than a ‘good-you’re-wanting-to-stand-on-your-own-feet’ money.

In this, our favourite donor was undoubtedly my barama (aunt – my father’s elder brother’s wife), who would pay us 10 paise for every 10 grey hairs we would pluck off her head. As she had a full head of hair, mostly grey, this was an easy task. The only hitch was that each hair had to be fully white/grey from root to tip. So we would painstakingly separate the hair from its mates, raise it to check its greyness, and then give it a sharp tug. She got her scalp massaged, and we got our pockets filled. We loved the deal and, if it were left to us, would have plucked off her hair in hundreds in order to earn the elusive rupee. It’s a wonder that she didn’t become bald with all that pulling and tugging!

The other type of pocket money was the purely donated one. This was given only on special occasions like fairs and festivals. Durga Pujo, for example, was a five-day financial extravaganza for us, because we got at least 2 (at most 10) rupees every morning. Some of it would be used to buy the daily round of ‘caps’ (tiny pink rolls of firecrackers) that we would put in our toy guns which, irrespective of gender, we would strut about with in the parar pujo pandal (festival tent in the locality). The rest of my pocket money would go straight to my tummy, as I splurged on dalimer hajmi (a tangy-sweet eatable) and tetuler-achar-on-a-stick (tamarind pickle).

A little money sure went a long way those days.

ANY MEMORIES OF MONEY RATTLING IN YOUR POCKET?

11 comments:

Paul Bernard said...

Loved the story about your barama - a great image.
And you've reminded me about those little caps of explosive. You could put them in toy pistols and they'd band and smoke (are they the ones)?
My memories of pocket money involve trying to convince my parents that everyone else in the known universe (my school) got more pocket money than me. They didn't believe me though.
But fair enough, what did I really need money for, back then?

Aleta said...

My parents gave us chores to do around the house when we were younger. If we did the chores, then we would be given an allowance, but only if the chores were done (such as clean the kitchen or fold all of the clothes, clean the bathrooms).

When we went to my grandparents' home on my mother's side, my grandfather would ask, "How did you do in school this year?" If we had a good report card, he would give us a dollar.

One time my uncle from California came to visit us. It was the first time I remember seeing him. Before he left, he handed me two bills and said, "One is for you and one for your brother." I was a young teenager at the time and when I saw what he gave us, I couldn't believe it. After my parents dropped my uncle off at the airport, they asked me what my uncle had given us. "Fifty Dollars each!" I was dancing around happy. My parents asked me what I would do with the money and advised me that I should open a savings account. I can say that I know with a certainty how I started saving money ~ from the gift given to me from my uncle!

ugich konitari said...

Sucharita,

I have something for you at my blogsite.....

ugich konitari said...

Forgot to add, that in our time, we had NO pocket money as such. But one Divali (circa 1950's), my younger brother and I were given Rs 10 each to buy whichever crackers we wanted, , and we kind of really looked around and mnanage a heap of stuff and still saved like 2 Rs. Today I wonder at how things were so cheap then. And the stuff you call Caps we used to call Tiklees. Sitting around bursting them by banging a stone on them on the ground, was considered a very smart thing to do :-)

Niladri said...

Loved it...brought back fond memories as usual. I had my first taste of well-earned pocket money in the same way...except that in my case it was my Jethu who provided me with the head full of grey hairs! I remember the year I reached 5th grade because my mom suddenly decided that i now deserved to have some pocket-money every week. She gave me what she still claims to be a "princely sum" of 30 paise a week!!...all i could afford with that was one idli with chutney splashed all over it from our subsidised school canteen. Maybe that's the reason why the taste of that chutney still lingers in my mouth!...we had very little then but we valued every single penny we got...something which our kids today will probably never know.

Aleta said...

*whispers* I enjoyed your comment on my blog. Would love to know more about the nicknames that you mentioned!

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thanks Paul, Aleta,UK, Niladri,

for the memories.

UK, Thanks very very much for the cute award. I really value your appreciation.

Aleta, what I was trying to say was that with us Bengalis, the nick name is not just a diminutive (like Jennifer-Jen) but a separate name given to us after much thought. My name is Sucharita (meaning Su - good, Charita - character; one who has a good/pure character/nature). My mother's father had apparently wanted to name me Mitali or some such, so my nickname Sumi (Su of sucharita + Mi of mitali) was a honourable compromise, so as not to hurt anybody's feelings. So you see, nicknames are serious business most of the time.

HOBO said...

I have never requested father for pocket-money though all money is his only diretly/indirectly.
Mmost of the time he was on tour and before going to tour he used to give Rs. 10/20 always.
Those were the days...

Jaquanda Rae said...

Sucharita, I'm lacking sleep so my brain is working abnormally. This usually means I'll get an epiphany: I realize today that based on this memory blog of yours, where you think about the past long enough to blog about it, that...............you've had a good life and you're grateful. What a pure blessing.

sukku said...

Well I vividly remember the money that we used to collect for Deepavali and there was on occassion where I had collected enough to buy my battery operated car with the tracks and I had purchased it but to my dismay my mum told me to return it back to the shop for a refund, but the shopkeeper had refused for the refund. So I ended up buying photo albums instead and ended up with lots of albums.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thanks for filling my pockets with your memories and good wishes, which, in their turn will build new and lovely memories.