Pains of pocket money

Pains of pocket money

About fifty years ago, people living in villages were strangers to the concept of pocket money.

This had often led youngsters to pinch money from their houses for an occasional outing with friends, a trip to the movies or any other out of pocket expenses. My uncle, living as he was in the village and yet to be employed, was no exception.

He was very fond of gymnastics and zealously practiced it. His gymnastics regimen called for better nourishments than what he ate at home.

Being strict vegetarians, non-vegetarian food was anathema to his parents (my grandparents). Uncle would often tell granny, “Look, if I have to build my muscles and try for a job in the armed forces, I need to ensure that I eat eggs, fish and meat. The vegetarian fare I partake of daily won’t suffice. So, I need money.” Granny’s response would be an empathetic smile.

Being mired in court cases concerning the partition of the property they commonly owned, and income from all sources having declined considerably, grandfather, his brothers and cousins were passing through difficult times then.

He was very careful with his finances and he had no inclination to give money to uncle whenever he wanted it. Gymnastics had no appeal to him. So uncle was left with no other alternative than help himself to money from grandfather’s table drawer.

Grandfather always locked the drawer and hid the key where it was easily accessible to him. And uncle could locate it with effortless ease. Grandfather had never secreted it in unbecoming places. Had he, he wouldn’t remember its location, and in such cases he would’ve to seek uncle’s help to discover it!

The table lay upstairs. Its drawer, when pulled open made a screeching sound, loud enough to be heard all over the house and nearby. Lest it would bring grandfather upstairs, uncle employed a trick to muffle the sound.

While opening it, he would call out my name so aloud that his voice would drown the screech of the drawer. Once I went upstairs in response to his summons, uncle would ask me to park myself there. He needed my assistance once again. For the drawer made similar din while shutting. He would make me climb down the stairs as if I was tumbling down them and the resultant noise made sure that it muffled the drawer’s.

As he came by a job in the armed forces, he left for a far away city. As though taking my cue from him, I too started flicking money from the drawer only when none was at home for I had no accomplice unlike uncle. But before long, grandfather noticed the progressive lessening of moolah in the drawer.

The needle of suspicion pointed towards me as barring grandfather I was the only male member in the house. He became furious when he knew for certain that I was the culprit.

“I don’t want him to become a thief when he grows up. So I must nip this habit in the bud itself,” he said firmly. The pangs of ensuing cane lashes is not something I could forget in a hurry.