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March 06, 2018 Tuesday 03:32:45 PM IST


Cover Story

A man once told me ONCE TOLD ME: “Son, everything that you aspire to have in life must come from the fruits of your own effort. Do not bank on your legacy — it’s pitiful. Do not expect anything more than the bare necessities from your parents.”


Today, when I look back and retrace all those steps I have taken in time and all the stops I have made, I know those were the words that had set off a spark deep within. Such was the luminescence of those words. In the years that followed I knew I had come to appreciate the true value of money. For nothing else could have excelled the fragrance of sweat on gooey skin!


Those ringing words made me take a decision that completely changed my outlook towards life. So, at 12 I started to work in order to meet my needs. I set out by selling scrap metal. It wasn’t exactly a lot of fun let me tell you. My companion was a pretty sturdy bicycle and together we made our way around picking up nasty and rusty stuff and deliver it to the local scrap yard.


But I wasn’t all scrap. So, I took to catering where I could earn a dime or two. A day of catering service at a wedding or a party meant I would be up nearly Rs. 300, besides earning two square meals for the day. All perfectly legitimate!


By 15, I turned to real estate. I couldn’t have been a shark at that age, but I pulled off a few deals on rather difficult pieces of land, peppering it all with a persuasive story or two. That was the first time I laid hands on a pretty neat sum of money. But what gave me far greater satisfaction was experiencing the sweetness of the fruits of one’s own labour.




To me, understanding the fundamental difference between necessity and luxury was the first step towards understanding the value of money. Most of us students these days rest our heads in sublime peace every night and drift into sleep ensconced in the belief that our life is secure —secured as it is anyway by the blood and sweat of our parents. Imagine a situation if we were to be thrown to the wolves one day, well not literally! Will we be prepared to take on the fangs of life?


The moment we realise that the so-called safety net thrown around us by our parents isn’t going to last forever, would be the moment of a life-changing revelation. We could do with such moments.


There was one other thing. It wasn’t long before I realised that I couldn’t possibly live the life that I wished to, because the life that I lived was designed in a manner that inhibited my desires to experience what our world had to offer. The reason was not that complicated, it was only the want of resources.


My parents were ordinary company employees and the nature and manner of their work meant they couldn’t have provided me with the many things that I often desired to possess. But could I have put the blame on my lineage? No. Our society has been programmed to believe in a pattern that neither does particularly encourage change nor acknowledge the inevitability of change and what it can bring in its wake. So, all they did was just follow the line, could they have done any differently...


So is the case with most of the families out there. When this realisation struck me hard it brought forth a sense of optimism — a resolve to create the change that was necessary in our lives. I dreamt of a life where I would be able to provide my children the right things at the right time without them having to go through thought chains imbued with guilt for using their parents’ money for whatever they wanted to do. For that I had to inflict a change in my thought process. I had to dream bigger. Set the bars higher.


So, I decided to become a businessman. I set up a business of rigging up mosquito nets for homes. At 18, I launched myself into door to door sales, promoting and getting orders for my business. Times were rough and business was tough. While my friends were busy planning trips during the summer vacations I went around knocking at one door after another. Although the scorching sun left a lasting impression on my face, that phase of my life gave me one of the most unique experiences ever.


Every home I visited had a story to tell. While some welcomed me with wide arms and served me chai some others barely acknowledged me. It reminded me of the fact that even if you get to choose the path of life, or the path of life chooses you it’s the way you walk the path that matters. Life can be full of surprises and there will be plenty of it strewn all along. With the profits I made out of my business and the blessings of many I was able to save up enough money to buy a phone for myself and also for both my parents.


Cut to the present. Two years ago, I presented both my parents with smartphones. My mother was immensely happy about it and there was a sudden outpouring of emotions sprinkled generously with happiness and praise. My dad, however, maintained a grim face and asked me to keep the phone on the table when I presented it to him. As I quietly kept the phone on the table and retreated to my room I could hear him from the other room. He was having a look at the phone. But his voice was modulated as if to convey that he was genuinely ‘unimpressed’. I silently shut the door.


One day as I sat in my room, I heard someone sobbing in the other room. I walked out to investigate. It was my dad. In his hand was the self-same smartphone I had gifted him and on its screen was a picture of mine. Tears rolled down his eyes as he kept gazing at it. I came back quietly to my room, sat down, and shut my eyes with satisfaction and pride. It was by far the happiest moment of my life!


I remembered the man whose words had instigated my journey, it was the same man from whose face tears were rolling down as he glanced at a picture of his son.


It was my Father.


My life so far has nothing more to it other than the experiences that I have gathered and the value that I have learnt to attribute to money and the life that I have.


To all of you who are reading my little story, I have got only one thing to say: “Life is like a storm my friend, you may bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next, what makes you a man is what you choose to do when that storm arrives.”

Arjun Sethunath

The writer is a final year student of  Applied Electronics (2014-2018) at The Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology.

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