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Friday, August 31, 2012

Of a ‘Broke’n Existence

Of late I have found myself precariously positioned at the edge of bankruptcy, every month-end. It’s been a while and I must say being broke is possibly the best education on life, economy and relationships that you can get for free. Learned the ‘penniless’ way, these lessons may just make you wiser.

Lesson 1: ATM

There is some way, I don’t know how, the ATM machine senses your state. It’s almost like animals sensing their inevitable perils and going into the death hole (aka Madagascar 2). As you approach the ATM machine, it cringes at your sight and wishes that you do not shove that useless plastic card through it. But you are desperate. Granted that you have not checked your bank balance for fear of the inevitable, but then there are those moments when you just have to hope for the best, you hope as you may not have hoped before for a better exam result or a nod from that special someone, as much as you hope for some despicable figures to show up on the Account Balance screen. The ATM machine is also poised to resist insults. This is how the whole scene unfolds:
  • The one before you grabs his handful of paper and walks away.
    • The ATM machine nods in pride.
  • You put your card in the slot.
    • It refuses to take it.
  • You try again.
    • It reluctantly takes it.
  • You enter 200.
    • It reluctantly spits the notes out.
  • You try to grab those ‘precious’ notes.
    • It tries to hold on it.
  • You snatch it out.
  • You win!

Moral: Do not give up. At the end of innumerable insults, you will have your moment worth 200 bucks.

Lesson 2: Economy

We crib. We crib all the time on inflation, on price hike, on cost of living, on Congress government, on corruption. When you have been broke for a while, and you have resigned to it, you learn a lot of lessons on economy:

Lesson 2a: Interest is the money that bank pays to the customer for keeping their savings in the bank

Your learning: Load your fridge in good times. In lean times it might pay you interest through some long-forgotten cheese block, some ‘refusing to rot’ vegetables and semi-fermented curd. Who cares? Curd is rotten stuff at the first place ;).

Lesson 2b: Barter is exchanging goods in place of currency

Your learning: This one is a gem. Barter a coffee for a smoke, barter a good deed for a cafĂ© late, barter a working from home with a 9-hour online status on office communicator (don’t sleep in the name of working from home) and save auto fare.

Lesson 2c: Assets-Liability=Net Worth

Your learning: Get real. You rent an apartment, you rent your furniture, you pay your maid, you pay fare to reach office. Believe me none of these are your assets. All are your liabilities. Your net worth is zero, get real, my friend.

Moral: Economics does make you burn midnight oil when it is part of your college curriculum, but when you are broke is when you crack all the theories of economy.

Lesson 3: Life

You look at life in a completely new way. You are a lot more open, accommodative and observing.  You realize that there are options, it is all not that bad. You also appreciate options that you overlooked before. Did you know that there are half litre pouch packs of vegetable cooking oil? Or that old newspaper is selling at Rs8 per kg that you can request your building’s guard to sell old newspaper and adjust towards the electricity bill for the month? Or did you know that at your despicable situation, your cook may not hesitate in borrowing a couple of tomatoes from the neighbours’ to cook your lunch? Such is bliss.

Moral: You are never out of options. At all roadblocks in life, get broke and you will find your way out.

Lesson 4: Relationships

Well, they say you know your true friends in bad times. Wrong!! In your bad times, you get to know yourself the most. Friends more or less are always trying to bail you out of the situation, it’s you who springs surprises at yourself. For example, you suddenly realize that you are really not that fastidious about that special brand of coffee or that you can in fact eat semi-fermented curd. You also realize that you can count really well to put together the dimes to pay auto fare or that you have never ever been so happy when you finally see the bank account refilled.

Moral: Give being broke a chance, you will know yourself better.