Fudging our funds

Fudging our funds


Fudging our funds

Forty years ago, salaried hubbies, including those like me in uniform, could be pigeonholed in three categories.

Group A: The tightwad. On pay-day, he would come home with a bulging wallet, hold it close to his chest, lick the fingers to pull out the currency notes, roll them up and place the lolly in the eager hands of his wife. “Darling,” he would say, “here’s your bonanza.”

Group B: The even handed guy. On the first of the month, he would return home from office with a song on his lips, buss the wife on the cheek, and then putter away in the house until chai and pakoras arrived.

Contended, he would produce the wad of tenners, fivers and ones and place it reverently before the spouse. “Doll,” he would say, “I got 800 this month; seven are here and 100 I have with me for my expenses.” “Good man, the laltain!” she would shabash him and grab the moola. These Bs were dream husbands.

Group C: Becharas like me. My month would start joyfully with a jig to the beat of Kishore Kumar’s song Khush Hai Zamana Aaj Pehli Tareekh Hai blaring from the radio as the aroma of poori-bhaji and gajar ka halwa emanated from the kitchen. In the evening, when I got home, the wifie would welcome me with a kiss and a cuddle as 11 hungry OHMS, On Her Majasty’s Service envelops waited to be fed. I had got them in a barter from a Royal Navy officer.

Sipping tea, I would watch my pay disappear into the envelopes she had marked for meat, vegetables and fruits; Bittoo’s and Nomita’s school fees; bai; dhobi; Jesse’s pocket money; gas... and I would then watch helplessly as these envelopes would vanish into her steel almirah. I, the breadwinner, lived on the crumbs. The problem had to be solved.

The solution arrived in the person of my boss; the Commodore-in-Charge of the old Portugese Castle in Bombay. I was his aide de camp. One sultry afternoon, he tiptoed into my office. “Look Jesse, I have a problem at home,” he whispered, “long ago, I succumbed to a bad habit of handing the entire salary along with the pay-slip to my wife. And recently, she has slashed my dole so much that I cannot even afford a decent tin of pipe tobacco. We must right this wrong and you will help me lad.”

I got a feeling of déjà vu. “At your service, Sir,” I said. “Get hold of some blank salary forms, and every month you rewrite my pay entitlement...cut down the credits and increase the debits for my wife’s eyes. I could do with a good smoke and a spot of beer,” he commanded.

“Aye aye sir,” I said, exchanging satirical glances with the boss. And I pipped across to the Naval Pay Office, approached a friendly sailor and returned with a sheaf of blank pay forms. Later, when our pay-slips arrived, I fudged our funds by cooking up the credits and debits. I made Commodore richer by Rs 325 and myself with half of that in ‘black money’ without either wife smelling a rat.

Good things are short lived. One day, over the intercom, I heard the Commodore croaking. I dashed to his chamber and stood quaking in my trousers as I watched him shed dollops of tears. “Arre Jesse,” he squeaked, “Mar gaya re. I have been promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral and posted out.”

“Congratulations, Sir. Sorry, Sir,” I said.
“Be sorry for me Jesse boy. From now on my salary will go to the bank and my wife has the cheques and the passbook.” And both Ganga and Jamuna continued to flow from his eye sockets.

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