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No ‘˜Money For Nothing’

MY MONGOLOID looks resembling those of foreign tourists from East Asian countries is an added advantage while strolling around Delhi where I’ve been staying over the last 15 years. Though I travel everyday on dusty Blueline city buses, my hyper-artistic beard and accent slightly laced with American English, which was cultured during my last job in a company owned by some Canadians, have curtailed the fact that the wardrobes wrapping from my toes to head are bought from Sunday (flea) Market.

As though it has been tailor-made for me, summer and winter wears of GAP, Nike, Adidas and other high-end brands with ‘˜Made in USA’ tags available in a range of Rs 35-65 in the flea market  flawlessly fit on me. This is how a penniless Manipuri fellow like me builds up my elegant but fake stature in Delhi.

Thanks to the availability of imported wears, I salute to the flea market for letting me live life to the fullest, regardless of my illness from a noxious disease called HIMDS infecting since the day I first alighted from a second class sleeper coach of Brahmaputra Mail at Purani (Old) Delhi Railway Station on a torrid summer day in 1995.

While studying in Delhi University, 30 percent of my monthly allowance (Rs 2,500) was sent from home was spent on buying Sunday Market wardrobes and audio cassettes. After segregating the rest for room rent and food shared with three of my best Manipuri friends, just a few paisas left as my monthly pocket money.

This was how my HIMDS (hectic immuno money deficiency syndrome) developed into a critical stage. Research findings show that there are no instant remedies found to treat this financial disorder. Recommended care had to be taken up (without guarantee for total cure) is to simply borrow money from my friends.

Pradeep was one of my closest buddies whom I routinely borrowed Rs 200-300 every month end to buy branded T-shirts from Sunday Market and audio cassettes from Kamala Nagar market. Unlike me, he hardly disposed money on items like flea market clothes, audio cassettes, pork, rum, VHS porn movies on a regular basis. But he was a hardcore rock and roller, like me, who loved to play Dire Straits on his guitar left by his brother, who eventually joined ISKCON after enjoying every sinful thing prepared in our kitchen. Pradeep strummed Brothers In Arms better than Mark Knopfler. Don’t laugh, I am not lying! But I asked him not to play Money For Nothing, which sounds nonsense to me lyrically.

When Pradeep left Delhi for a business establishment back home in Manipur, a big cavity developed in my money-borrowing activity. No other fellows in my circle of friends could do the way Pradeep amicably did for me. But tactics of an experienced borrower like me somehow managed to find many a Pradeeps in any circumstance. I started to borrow even from non-Manipuri friends.

Whenever I met new friends, my first impression of the fellow was nothing but his/her money lending capability. Every month end, everybody in my circle seemed to have maintained a distance from me. They could somehow run but never able to hide away from me as they all were hysterically roped in tight under my spell.

Arrived after my closest money lender Pradeep was Phulen entering into my proximity to save me from HIMDS. Kind, mannered, dedicated, romantic’¦ these ‘˜adjectives’ collectively define the attribute of Phulen. Mahabharat’s Karan the great donor positions at distant second to Phulen when it comes to comparing money lending power between the two daanveers. Phulen wouldn’t mind to give Rs 20 out of his total of Rs 30 to a needy person like me. Unlike me, he didn’t mind to live all week long without a single paisa but a morning without Fair & Lovely cosmetic cream made him upset.

Phulen couldn’t compromise with the absence of Fair & Lovely in his room. The fairness cream to him was something like a magic potion giving magical glow to his face, which he assumes closely resembled with Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah. One fine early morning, Phulen stood at our front door knocking on it fiercely like fire brigade bell. I still rubbed my eyes to find out clearly what brought him to our place at that odd morning hour. He had no money to buy Fair & Lovely! I didn’t either! But his visit wasn’t meant to collect the money I borrowed from him. He just wanted to get just a mince of Fair & Lovely cream from us.

My lazy-bone roommate Bobby, who was supposed to bag a special award from Sanofi-Aventis in recognition of his mega consumption of phencidyl syrup in 1999, was also a hardcore Fair & Lovely user. But he measured the degree of requirement between him and Phulen, and immediately handed over our half-used Fair & Lovely to the needy guy. I can’t express in words the grin of happiness Phulen carved on his lips, showing full view of his extra-large pink gum visible to everyone standing a few meters away on the verandas of neighboring buildings. His happiness gave me a satisfaction for being able to do something at last for my big money lender, irrespective of my inability to return in time.

Toso from Nagaland, Murari from Bihar, Bhagat from Uttar Pradesh, Srinivas from Karnataka, Shinto from Kerala, Binoy from West Bengal, Jarmenjoy from Meghalaya, Chandan from Uttaranchal and a group of Manipuri friends were constantly trapped into my money-borrowing spell from 1995-99 during my Delhi University and YMCA Mass Media days. But things got changed all of a sudden with a new twist after I started working as a trainee sub-editor in a national newspaper. I stopped asking meager amounts to my psychedelic friends, who were still depending on their parents to burn midnight oil for UPSC competitive exams.

As soon as my status transformed from student to a working professional, my target cohort significantly changed as well. Now I borrow only from my office colleagues and big-fat-salaried chaps like Jiran, a soldier of fortune, who luckily, I mean meticulously, absorbed into a permanent post of lecturer in a Delhi University college. Of course, he is a super duper moneylender for me as I still have to return him Rs 2,000 which I borrowed almost a year ago. Alongside Jiran came other kind-hearted follows, such as Nilakanta, Robertson, Dilip, Pradeep, Akhu, Brother Muhindro, Sunita, Ibu, Abung, Chandan, Japan, to name a few long-term money lenders without whom I would have landed at traffic red lights with a beggar’s bowl in hand.

Not all my moneylenders are as benevolent as those aforementioned. I found some short-term lenders who sometimes showed me nasty warning to return their money at the shortest possible time. Well, what they do is right as a single paisa from their hard-earned money shouldn’t unnecessarily dump into stray pockets. But I guarantee, it’s just a matter of time, all that money I borrowed will definitely return to its native wallets. I don’t want to be in the Guinness Book of World Records or Limca Book of Records, famously for an infamous activity. More or less, Sheila Dixit is responsible for my downfall. Blame on her anti-aam aadmi budget that increasingly favors city brigands like auto rickshaw drivers, bus conductors who rob me of my meager earning every single day.

Smt Sheila increased bus fares, revised auto rickshaw fares to please the employees of these two public transport systems with a hope of correcting their hooliganism into a bit humane way.          But things got dirtier than ever as auto rickshaw drivers still continue their business of looting commuters on the pretext of defective fare meters and Blueline conductors rather gleefully deceiving passengers the distance travelled after the fare increase. Smt Sheila’s policies are always blown out of proportion to mutilate the meager increment in my salary every year.

Living in Delhi on a scanty salary is hell sort of a struggle for a poor Manipuri fellow like me who appears to be a wealthy foreigner to greedy landlords, local commodity vendors, auto rickshaw walas, etc. So is the reason why I eventually clutch on to the money-borrowing practice, the only way to meet the hustle-bustle of expensive city life. Now that I am 15 years experienced in borrowing money from my friends, I might jolly well continue the task in the years to come. Be there my friends to lend me some!

*The article is written by Jyaneswar Laishram

(Courtesy: Merinews)

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