There was a funny part of the story of 2008 Indian, coming of age comedy film, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. The protagonist was told that for a boy to truly become a man in the Rathore clan, he must complete three conditions: Thrash someone, Get arrested, and Ride a horse. The protagonist ends up meeting all of them eventually by the end of the movie.
I then wondered, what could be the conditions to be the man of the Kondekar clan and I made this up – A boy to truly become a man in the Kondekar clan, must complete three conditions: Teach for living, Let out a property and Be a treasurer of a society. Just a year after, in 2009, I let out one of my properties and declared myself to be the man of the Kondekar clan. I had already been a teacher in an engineering college for few years and was treasurer of our housing association for six years, till I moved from Hyderabad to Mumbai.
It might look like a matter of my convenience when you look at these three conditions, but if I tell you about my parents, you will realize that these epitomize their lifestyle.
Both of my parents who retired many years back were school teachers. We not only learned our subjects at home from them but also absorbed the tricks of the trade. The study was never a “work” when we were with our mother. We (brothers) read lessons in front of her when she went on through her house chores and commented on whatever we read. While reading the drama contents from our language books, we did role play. We brothers set out mock question papers for each other and solved them. Even on holidays, we maintained the school timetable and did our studies. We couldn’t stop laughing at some of those funny answer sheets that our parents got for corrections, after the exams.
My parents were so dedicated to their profession that the whole environment at home was always scholastic. We had subscriptions to libraries and we had a steady flow of books and magazines at home. Our parents always ensured that we participated in extra-curricular activities, which helped me to set the foundation for public speaking. My mom was very particular about going the extra length to express things in the most entertaining way, be it a writeup or a speech which has become second nature to me now. We had turned one Raj Kapoor song on its head and said this – “सीधी सी बात ना मिरची मसाला कैसे सुनेगा सुनने वाला”! Even, many years later, whenever my mom visited us, her first action would always be to ask her grandchildren to hand their language textbooks over to her, and then we would see her deeply engrossed in reading them.
Letting out the house is symbolic of striving and working hard to secure the future financially. Both of my parents did not have a cozy childhood. My mom lost her mother and my dad lost his father in their early childhood. They had to grow up with their uncles who themselves were barely able to make the ends meet. Eventually, when they got married they hardly had any resources or support. But they kept working hard through several jobs, saved every penny that they could, and never indulged in wasteful expenses. When they built a three rooms house for themselves, they had let out one room to get some additional income. As the house got extended, today they have a 12 rooms house, with 8 rooms let out. This not only gives them additional income in their retirement lives but also gives them a lively house when their own kids are away in cities pursuing their dreams.
We were taught to be never ashamed of doing any physical or menial work of our own selves. My father always says – हात फिरे तेथे लक्ष्मी फिरे – that means the goddess of wealth blesses only those who work.
The biggest value that we learned from our parents was about being honest. And probably honesty gets tested the most when it is a matter of money! My father had always been the first choice for roles to guard the money and accounts on his jobs, right from his first job where he was entrusted to carry salaries of staff from town to the village where he worked, to till today when he is now in his eighties and still is a treasurer on two temple trusts.
At the core, we are always what we learned from our parents. As a teacher, I was liked by students as I kept the spirit of not forgetting to have fun while learning. I love working physically even today as that keeps me humble and nimble. When I had taken over accounts of our housing association, the accounts were carelessly maintained and the staff was swindling the money. Within few months of my taking over, I brought transparency to the accounts. The same staff looked loyal. I spent hours together to catch a difference of even Rs. 2, in the balance sheet, rightly so, as that eventually led me to correct a bunch of transactions, which would have remained concealed and questionable.
Although things are different for me now, some of these values will always stay with me. And this is my way to express my gratefulness to my parents on their 55th marriage anniversary today.
Happy Marriage Anniversary Aai (Mom) and Dada (Dad) and many returns of the day! And if you are wishing that I should have written this in Marathi, you will not be disappointed. Check it out here.
(28th February 2021)