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Life Without Money (24 Hours x 29 Days x 60 Months)

I know the title create some ambiguity around its meaning. Here’s the story: the author was a medical student studying at Surat during 1969-1974. Being an offspring of a middle-class family, all his parents could send him every month was Rs. 100 (One hundred). No doubt, this was more than 25% of his father’s salary and the rest 75% was to be spent by remaining nine members of the family. So, I used to receive Rs. 100 by MT (money transfer) at Bank of Baroda, Vanita Vishram (Surat) branch. Now this amount was exhausted in total on day one itself – so the remaining 29 days of the month had to be spent without any money – ‘zero balance’ stage, for all five years of the under graduation. This makes the story titled "Life without money - 24 hours x 29 days x 60 months"!


The money I received would be spent on day one itself, paying the mess-bill, buying soaps, toothpaste, and monthly milk and canteen bills. If Rs. 5-10 remained by any chance, it had to be blown off the same day, to see a movie in cinema hall. The ‘zero balance’ state would start the very day and last for 29 full days to follow. The cycle of this 29-days-of-no-money state lasted for five full years of my MBBS study.

Well, I was not alone - the same was the story of my other friends Bhaskar Acharya, G P Patel, Chhotubhai, and Nagarbhai Patel also. But yes, on the other hand, two other friends were spared of this stretch – Balvantsinh Dodia used to get Rs. 800 a month, because he was given a lose rope being the only son having many sisters. The other was Laxmansinh Solanki, the only married person in our circle, having income of his wife at PTC College, Vapi. Yes, they were our ATM for emergency need.

You may ask "what was it like living without money?". This key question needs honest answer, rather, a confession. Because being a hostellite, meals were served in the mess, tea at our hostel tea-club and breakfast at the college canteen. The only time the young men would be out of food, was only on Sunday evenings when the mess remained closed. Let me describe one of such three-staged evenings.

One Sunday evening we two friends – Bhaskar and I – went to one of my high-school friends’ place, hoping to be served dinner there. His parents did not offer even a tea because the said friend was not at home. We had no option but to go to a small hut-type canteen situated near the ST stand, where we ordered for some farsaan. The shopkeeper gave a packet just to take it back immediately because our debt of Rs. 30 to him was still due. Now sleeping without any food was certain for both of us. As planned for the evening, we went to say hello to a veterinary surgeon friend (from Umargam) who was admitted to the hospital. He offered four biscuits of "Parle-G" to us. Both of us ate two biscuits each to complete the dinner with a huge amount of free water.

Another incidence was about the pants. I had only two pairs of pants to wear. Of them, one was of good fabric, but had a patch stitches on the gluteal back region. I always used to wear those pants by hiding the back-patch with the long apron.

One more event: After the marriage, we were staying at Ahmedabad. My wife – Bhavana was doing her internship without stipend and I was completing post-graduation. It was again a life without money because we newlyweds always had too many plans to spend away from the meagre stipend of Rs. 450. One fine evening, my wife wanted to see a movie. I requested my neighbour Dr Dilip Hajariwala a loan of Rs. 10 (ten). He denied stating he did not have any change. I offered that I would take it and return the remaining amount. That is when he uttered, "No, I do not want to give." I leave the analysis of this event to you readers!

I cannot stop from telling this one more event: My wife comes from a financially well-off family. During her studies at Goa Medical College, she always used to have more money than she needed. She used to give loan and even help other students financially. One of those beneficiary friends Dr Prajapati took up general practice at Vadaj, Ahmedabad after MBBS completion. On one of the rainy days, we contacted him requesting for Rs. 500 as a loan. He asked us to come to his place and collect. We only had money for the bus-fare for one side journey. For reasons best known to him, he refused the loan. We had had to walk for more than five km to reach our residence. This is to show an example of how the friends who were helped financially many times in the past became completely useless in the hour of need.

I have so many other bad experiences of poverty, but I shall conclude with this last one. It’s about how useless the close relatives can be. My “Mama” (mother’s brother) completed his school education at our home, supported financially and otherwise by my father, his brother-in-law. I thought, it was only fair to take his help of Rs. 200, during my final year. He gave me the loan, only to be asked from my father, humiliating me big time.

Interestingly, during the first year MBBS 1969-70, my total expense was Rs. 1700 including the college-hostel fees, mess bill, books and all miscellaneous expenses. I had gathered Rs.1000 from the state government's study loan, Rs.600 as loan from Anavil Samaj Mumbai, Rs.120 as scholarship and additionally Parsi Trust of Killa Pardi was giving Rs. 100 as scholarship. I used to give the full Rs. 1820 to my parents, and take back only the bare minimum required amount.

The end this moneyless-29-days era began when I passed my MBBS. I started getting Rs. 125 a month as stipend. As a post-graduate House Surgeon, we were now two (after the wedding) living with Rs. 450 a month, for one more year. As a Registrar, my stipend was Rs. 650 for the next two years, to be shared by three of us (our first child had arrived!). The end of this poverty came on 1st August 1978, when I received my first salary of Rs. 1300 as Ophthalmologist at Rotary Eye Institute, Navsari. Sometimes when I look back, it seems so unbelievable how my wife and I have come so far, so strong.

All I wanted to convey here was the importance of this post. "There are so many students in the hostels living their life in meagre fund to complete their studies at the earliest." Simplicity, self-discipline and self-respect can help to pass this crucial time faster. Do look after the friends and relatives with low income and help without much fuss and show. The present generation is smart enough to get loans and other help to be found out on the internet!

Comments

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Dear Pappa,

    I must admit reading this story that you have come very long way. In a complete contrast to your graduation days, I have always been made to feel all through my childhood, graduation days and even after getting married that I never had to worry about money. For that matter, Mommy and you have always comforted us (Vaishuben and me) that nothing in our lives would ever be constrained because of financial scarcity.

    Interestingly and thankfully, my experience has been completely opposite to yours. At many stages of my life, I have fallen short of cash (mainly due to my poor money management) and I have always been able to count on my friends. I have never been disappointed, and in fact, there have been a couple of instances when my friends have borrowed money from somebody else or disturbed their budget to help me.

    Like Shivani often says, we are very lucky, in so many ways! Reading your story just reinforced this thought. :)

    Regards,
    Rahul

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    Replies
    1. Beloved Ravi,
      I am happy reading the response.
      One of my elderly friend said,"You should not remember the painful,if at all,past." I said, "this is not crying over the past, but just telling the real life story for record."
      If I donot write all that I did here, nobody would have known this,but this may mean they missed a lot.
      To appreciate poverty, one has to know and feel it. May be all these experiences made me more sensitive towards the poor and I never learned to earn in medical practice with even a solo-monopoly type of practice.
      Out of 66 years of life,first 28 years were full of crises and extreme struggle.So the desire to become rich by earning from poor was never my ambition. People around me as patients might not have known this or appreciated this at all.
      But, self-satisfaction and self-certification at this time give feeling of life-time-achievement.p

      Delete
  3. Very inspiring and thought provoking read uncle.the great thing about your generation is, almost all of you have given best of what you had to your kids.

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