I earned my first rupee when I was still in school. In the primary section. It came from having no pocket money and a whopping collection of books. I created a home library, where I carefully catalogued the books and lent it out to other kids for the princely sums of 10 paise per comic book, 25 paise for a proper paperback/hardbound book, for a week. And yes, I’d factored in late return fines as well. The model worked pretty well, and my natural parsimoniousness and burgeoning entrepreneurship made the library a hit in a one horse suburb public bank staff quarters where parents thought buying their kids books was an indulgence best done without.
This was start up entrepreneurship before start-ups became the hot stuff they are today, and the money I earned from running the library kept me on Phantom cigarettes, Pepsicolas (not the carbonated stuff you get these days but flavoured ice-water packed in transparent plastic tubes) and gold coin chocolates. I had then tasted, if you please, at age seven, the pleasures of earning my own money and not being answerable to anyone as to how I chose to spend it.
My entrepreneurial bug was on permanent itch since. I became the de facto agent for IYF, a penpal matching outfit based in a Scandinavian country, this in the pre internet era, where I collected the application fees plus commission from school mates to do the documentation and the thankless job of visiting the post office, standing in queue and posting it.
A little later, by Grade 9 and 10, I began scouting round export surplus streets, picking up clothes at discounts on the already cheap rate by begging and pleading and would sell them to friends in school and the building at a decent mark up. In college, I was giving tuitions to smaller kids and earning my pocket money. I began working when I was 19. I’d always earned my keep.
And then I had my baby. By this time, I’d been a journalist, quit to start my own content supply firm, closed that when the first dot com bubble exploded rather nastily, started an advertising boutique firm with the hubby, where I handled the creative side of the business, and continue freelance writing and editing industry specific magazines.
When the baby came along, work-life-balance went for a toss in the initial years. I did have wonderful support at home with my mother-in-law to watch the baby, but getting back to full-time work was impossible because it was tiring for an ageing person to take care of a hyperactive baby who insisted on scooting all over the place all the time. I did continue work, writing the occasional freelance article but those were few and far between, and the payments delayed for months, and when they came, puny enough to be laughable. For those years, I was completely dependent financially on the spouse.
For someone who was used to earning her own money all her life, these years were a trifle tough. As the child grew, and freed up more time for me as he went into nursery and then big school, I upped my working hours. Working freelance, but there was an income, humble as it was, and it was mine. It made me a happier person to have around when I had money in the account that was mine to spend with zero guilt. But having said this, I acknowledge that I had the luxury of choice. Something that most women in similar situations don’t.
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