Effects of the seventh pay commission have percolated to the political class. The pay of an Undersecretary may be more than the MP now. How can this be palatable to the Mantr ji? I heard one of the MPs saying that we have to maintain three houses, one at Delhi, one in the constituency and one own home. Government needs to pay us for the taam-jhaam therefore I need a pay hike. How is Jaitley ji going to get this money is his baby. Who all will be squeezed is the FMs problem? The FM is looking towards me, why me sir? Get hold of Malya and gang please.
Let me tell you how I felt after the implementation of various pay commissions. Initially, I felt elated and jumped up and down my bed on receiving my pay slip. This happiness used to last a very short while, around six to seven months. Then inflation used to catch up and we were back to square one. We turned back to looking at the prices in the menu card first and then deciding what to eat rather than the other way around. I remember I had to compromise while buying my first car. I was falling short by 25000 and had to pick up a non AC one. No regrets though, we drove it like hell and she was my darling for more than ten years.
I remember my rank pay got stuck as there was some issue way back in 1987. I had picked up as a Barsati Captain in 1987 with just two years of service. The rank pay then was 200 if I remember correctly. In those days mess gave us khana and mess was home so pay never bothered me. Later I got married and got posted to high altitude. There, food was plenty, expenditure was negligible and the bank used to be our unit Baniya and his famous note book in which he used to write every hisaab-kitab our pass book. I was in Ladakh then and baniya used to get us all what we needed. My only expenditure used to be on fags. In those days the DFR dollars used to come in handy. Another bank used to be the field cashier. I remember carrying lots of field cheques to Leh for many officers when on pay collection duty. I had to cross Changla pass many a times to get pay.
Soon I got posted to a place near Dehradun. One fine day accumulated arrears with pay around 40,000 got released in 1992. I almost jumped through the roof. I showed my pay slip to my wife, she too rubbed her eyes at least 20 times to see whether the figure had a comma or a full stop after 40. We started making plans as if we could buy the whole world. My wife said save half of it, so next day I went to the field cashier and withdrew the money. He gave me bundles of 10 rupee notes from the RTC. I rushed straight to the post office and bought NSC certificates worth 20000. In those day’s money used to double in five years. That was my first and last investment for more than 3/4th of my Army service.
I carried the rest of the bundles in my brown VIP briefcase, with a suspecting eye on everyone. I laid those 20 bundles in front of my wife on the small coffee table and asked her have you ever seen so much of cash in your life. I still remember I could hear her heartbeat sitting across the table. Well, like a chivalrous man I said all yours and she picked them and hid them in the cupboard under her third sari, well that was all she had then. We bought a new lock for that cupboard and watched it every night. We used to bring out the notes sometimes and count them and as luck would have it I always either counted one extra or one less. Then she used to recount it. I used be sent back from parties to go and see if the house was ok. I used to quietly go down to the bar. Refill my drink, come and say all is well. We were posted in such a remote place where leopards used to visit our quarter guard not far from our house quite often.
Well, next weekend I put my name on the bus to Dehradun and we had made up our mind to buy a VCR. I had just bought a BPL-Sanyo TV and this would compliment it. Moment we touched Doon we hired a taxi to Mussoorie. On our return we went to this big VCR/TV shop close to the famous “Moti-Mahal” restaurant. We picked up the best one which cost us around 14000. We asked for a guarantee, the shopkeeper said there is none on imported stuff. In case something goes wrong we shall repair it. I told my wife let us take a chance, she reluctantly agreed. From there we rushed to Kumar sweets at Ghanta Ghar and picked up “Ras Malai” and stick jaws. We were going to stay with one of our relatives. First thing I told them that tonight is movie night; get as many cassettes as you want to see. We finished dinner and inserted the first movie. My happiness knew no bounds as the clarity of the video was impressive. I told my wife to get the sweets to celebrate our moment of joy and we gave everyone a bowl of Ras Malai.
Believe you me my heart sank as the first spoon of the tasty Ras Malai went into my mouth. I saw smoke rising from the brand new VCR. I jumped and switched it off but by then it was too late. I looked at my wife who had turned into a statue. That night was the longest night for both of us. We would have kept awake watching movies with the family but that night we were consoling each other as tears of my wife were unstoppable. We had a quick breakfast and caught the first Vikram to Ghanta Ghar and by 9am we were at the shop. The assistant came at ten and half an hour later came the owner. He saw our faces and understood and I meekly said that the VCR got burnt. This man was cool and said chotu get another one from the attic. My wife said no we will take a VCP instead with a proper bill and guarantee. I had no choice but to agree and bought a KRISONS VCP. We were sceptic but it gave us fantastic service till the VCD mania took over.
Hard earned money can become hard burnt money in seconds. That was a lesson for me in life and I carry it with me still. Nothing without a bill otherwise be prepared to take a chill pill. Are you guys and gals listening, I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis