Saturday, July 4, 2009

CASH OR CHEQUE? OR DIRECT CREDIT?

Recently, the television channels have been beaming this nostalgic, retro-looking ad for Cadbury's Dairy Milk Chocolate, where a dhoti-clad man is given a wad of currency notes by his Boss, "Banke, tumhara pagar (Bankey, your salary)" and the chorus breaks into the happy-go-lucky jingle, "Kuch meetha ho jaaye, aaj pehli tarikh hai (Let's celebrate with something sweet, it's the first day of the month)" - the "meetha" obviously referring to the chocolate.

When we were young, my Baba (father), who was an engineer working with the West Bengal State Electricity Board, would come home all happy and flushed on the first (or second, or third) of every month, one hand joyfully holding up a celebratory cardboard box of mishti (Bengali-style sweets) and the other hand cautiously clutching his trousers-pocket, which contained his monthly salary in cash (less the amount spent on the aforesaid sweets).

Most of his trousers had a special inner pocket (hidden under the lining of the front pocket) sewn on to them specifically for the purpose of guarding the salary - it was always paid in cash those days. As he usually travelled by local train, he had to be aware of pickpockets, who did brisk business in the early days of each month. In the crowded trains from Sealdah to Barrackpore, you had to take every precaution to guard the amount in your secret pocket.And that four-figure amount (which now looks almost impossibly meagre) was sufficient to provide for a family of six (my grandparents, parents, brother and myself) - food, shelter, clothing, education, healthcare and the occasional indulgence like the box of sweets.

The box usually contained the lethally high-calorie and syrupy "atom-bomb mishti". Perhaps Baba felt it was appropriate to start each month with a big-bang splurge. Sometimes, especially towards the end of the financial year when tax-cuts truncated the take-home pay, he would be more prudent and come home flourishing an earthen pot (a BIG one, mind you) of rasogollas (the famous Bengali sweet made of cottage-cheese balls boiled in sugar syrup).

For us, however, the effect was same. The beginning of the month meant a worthwhile wait for Baba to come back from 'office'. Sometimes, he would come late, because he would refuse to board too-crowded rush-hour trains. He would let the crowded ones pass, before getting up on a train which had space to sit, which made it difficult for pickpockets to pilfer your salary. But, late or not, come home he would. Spreading happiness and sweets. While we carefree-ly chomped on the calories, Maa (mother) carefully counted the currency and put the notes in various envelopes (for various household expenses) in the money box in the almari (cupboard).

Today, our salaries have increased by a few more zeroes at the end, and they are conveniently credited to our bank accounts. But the tangible thrill of clutching a fistful of hard-earned, my-own money and the small but immediate pleasure of splurging on a treat for myself and my loved ones has perhaps decreased to zero.

ANY FIRST DAY, CASH-PAY MEMORIES?

21 comments:

Nona said...

The sweets and the guarding of your baba's salary is truly moving.

Kavi said...

The second 'inside' pocket was the way of life back then. You have to do it with anti virus software these days...

The ad brought back memories of yesteryears for me as well. And back then, you didnt have a care. For money. For worry. Or for atom-bomb calories either.

And you lived !!

What a memory.

Lazyani said...

Reminded me of that first salary day in my first job 15 years back which was also paid in cash. I had taken a taxi back home and bought a packet of sweets too.

These days the salary day provides the thrill but not to the level of that particular day.

ZiLliOnBiG said...

ha, reminds me of my childhood. we too had dad bringing sweets(mostly jalebis) on the 1st. It was truly celebration times. I traveled back in time reading this post. Nice one:))

Swaram said...

Oh yeah .. those days. Remember how my mom's entire salary was stolen once while commuting by bus n from then on she started taking the auto on the 1st of every month from office to reach home.

She nw drives the car to office but the bundle of notes that she had to protect is replaced by one single magic card that she has to carry :)

sujata said...

those days baba always came home from work with something to eat, shingara kochuri mishti..the wait for him was so eager, you made me nostalgic, the elation of that one shingara can overshadow a thousand trips to pizza huts.

Chandrashila said...

Your posts are all beautiful and this one really hits home... thank you for taeking me back to those times...

HAREKRISHNAJI said...

You are right. The thrilling, joy of salary days is missing nowadays

♥ Braja said...

I loved this :))

Miss M said...

Extremely late reply, but thanks for commenting on my blog. :)

Have been busy all this while..but only until now. Finally updated my space! :)

Mampi said...

Your posts always move us to the days of past and make us smile. However, I do not remember when my parents brought home salary.

numerounity said...

Nice one… I remember how excited I use to get seeing my pa coming back to home from work or any trip. I was even more excited to see what “new” he has bought for that day incl any mails for me or stuffs like that…

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

Yes, I remember first salary but may be I handed over it to mother.

indyeahforever said...

beautiful! beautiful! beautiful :))
loved how you brought the whole scene come alive! (but then when do you not?)


my first salary was spent in getting something special for all my loved ones and giving the rest to ma and dad:)

lopamudra said...

I remember the thrill of clutching my first salary which was paid in cash because I did not have a bank account in the new place.The memory of the tangible hard earned-own money feel was something that I still cherish.

Priya said...

As usual..awesome...how do you remember things so specifically and more than that how do you manage to put all that so beautifully in words!!!!
well..as our family is into business..i never understood the grandeur of the first day of the month...*sigh*..:(

Rajesh said...

Today salary not only credited directly to account and even the sweet box has gone missing.

Pradip Biswas said...

Sucharita
Just at the crossing of S.N Banerjee road and Ganja golly there are two sweetshops and they are the best. Although there are sweet shops Annapurna And Jharna just near my Flat Subhankar I buy sweets from your locality for any good moments or guests scheduled to arrive in evening. I myself do not like sweets from my childhood although I am a Mota Haathi.

♥ Braja said...

Sucharita, just to let you know that finally I'm able to comment after 3 wks of not being able to!

Actually now that I think of it, there are many who won't be happy about that....

I know I commented here but just saying hi. And telling you, there are some sounds on my blog. Seriously!!

:)

The Scatterbrain said...

I got my first pay in 2005. Although credit cards, ATM machines and internet banking was very much present in India by then, I got my salary in a white envelope with my name on it.

My first job was at the school where I studied, in a rural part of Tamil Nadu where my salary was a meagre Rs.3500!! I still remember the excitement of rushing back home to count the crisp notes and the joy of being able to buy small gifts for my parents and grandparents with MY money!!

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi everybody, thanks for sharing your salary memories.