Monday, June 11, 2012



I still vividly remember an incident which happened in the 1960s when I was a small boy and lived in Pune.

My mother believed in and practiced the concepts of thrift and frugality. She believed in building up savings rather than borrowing money.

We were taught to live within our means. We never took loans. In case we wanted to buy something expensive, we saved money till we had enough funds to buy what wanted.

After I got my job I opened a recurring deposit, saved money every month, and purchased my first scooter after nearly 3 years. I still remember that I bought my first car after working for more than 15 years. I bought it from my savings and did not take a loan for buying a car. If we could not afford something we had no hesitation in saying so and curtailed our desires instead of having false pretences. We had not fallen victim to the disease of instant gratification. We believed in “cutting our coat according to our cloth”.

We never lived beyond our means and that’s why we were financially sound and our savings gave us a sense of security.

We did not believe in “keeping up with the Joneses” and that is why we never felt any sense of inferiority or envy if our neighbour was better off than us or if he had something which we did not.

I have digressed. Let me take you back to the incident which happened more than 40 years ago. As I have already told you, since my mother believed in thrift and frugality, she always travelled around by public transport Pune Municipal Transport (PMT) Bus. Commuting by auto-rickshaw was considered a luxury and was resorted to only when absolutely necessary like when we had luggage and had to go to the railway station to catch a train or when there was some elderly or ailing person who could not travel by bus.

One day an aunt came to meet my mother. She was much younger and fitter than my mother. She had come to borrow money from my mother. At first my mother was quite reluctant to lend her money. I too seemed quite surprised that my aunt wanted to borrow money from us since she was quite well-off as compared to us.

Seeing my mother’s unwillingness to lend her money, my aunt pleaded desperately to the point of emotional blackmail (I could overhear something about cheques bouncing etc). Finally my mother succumbed and gave my aunt the money. Then she asked me to see my aunt off to the bus stop.

As we were walking towards the bus stop my aunt asked me to hail an auto-rickshaw.

“You want to go by auto-rickshaw?” I asked surprised, “Why don’t you go by PMT bus – it goes right near your house?”

“I am not used to travelling by bus,” she said with disdain, “these PMT buses are so dirty, crowded and uncomfortable – I just can’t travel in these terrible buses. Just call me a auto-rickshaw.”

And off she went travelling in the luxury of an auto-rickshaw.

Of course, my snooty aunt would pay the “exorbitant” auto-rickshaw fare out the money borrowed from us while we would travel by bus – that’s what hurt me the most.

How can someone who borrows money have a higher standard of living than the person who lends them the money?

In fact, why should someone who is well-to-do and has a higher standard of living borrow money from someone who is less well-off?   

Isn’t it logical that the standard of living of the lender should be much higher than that of the borrower?

My mother travelled by cheap public transport bus. My aunt travelled by expensive auto-rickshaw.

We lived in a modest home in a middle-class neighbourhood whereas my aunt lived in a stylish house in a posh locality.

Yet, my aunt would always borrow money from my mother when logically it should have been the other way round.

My spendthrift “pound-foolish” aunt kept on exploiting my thrifty “penny-wise” mother.

I did not understand the paradox.

How can the rich borrow from the poor?

Does it make any sense?

And, why should the rich borrow from poor?

But now I see this happening all around when I hear that familiar term “BAILOUT”.

Rich organisations like banks and airlines (who have the most highly paid employees) are being “bailed out” by the comparatively poorer tax payer. Yes, the poor tax payer is being penalised for the extravagance of these lavish spendthrift organisations who have landed themselves in dire straits because of their own incompetence and profligacy.

Why should a person who earns much less than the highly paid employees working in these organisations be expected to bail them out?

Is it fair to ask the middle class to bail out someone who is much more well-to-do?

Why must the economically prudent subsidize the financially reckless?

It seems the same thing is happening with nations too. Developed nations like Greece and Spain are seeking bailouts. If you have a look at the luxurious lifestyle and plush high standard of living of these European Nations as compared to underdeveloped or developing nations you really wonder why these developed and modern nations should be “bailed out”.

It is inexplicable – how can someone with a lower standard of living “bail out” someone with a higher standard of living?

It would be much better if these cash-strapped nations and bankrupt organisations be asked to cut costs, reduce salaries, prune expenditure, implement austerity measures and practice thrift and frugality rather than giving them bailout after bailout despite the fact that they continue with their spendthrift lifestyle. And if they refuse to mend their profligate ways then it is better to let them go bust.  

The poor subsidize the rich.

The “pound-foolish” keep on exploiting the “penny-wise”.

Strange but true – an inexplicable paradox – believe it or not.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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