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The Spendthrift: A Story About Taking Privilege For Granted

There is a huge difference between being a miser, a frugal, and a spendthrift. Deepika had to learn them the hard way!

Deepika and Aparna were roommates in Mumbai. Deepika was a spendthrift girl who never cared for money, while Aparna was frugal and seldom wasted resources. They were good friends, and thus, Aparna had on several occasions tried to explain to Deepika the importance of savings– the financial security, and freedom that money provides- but to no avail.

When Aparna had first met Deepika, she thought her father must be a rich businessman, or a high serving official with loads of money. However, she found out slowly that Deepika’s father was a working-class man with a meagre income, and a family of five.

When life was easy

Deepika had two sisters, and she was the middle child. Her elder sister was a government teacher and the younger one was an engineer. The house was managed with the help of the salary of the two sisters.

After completion of graduation, Deepika had enrolled in several courses, and diplomas now and then, but left them soon after they started demanding hard-work. For the parents, their own comfort was paramount, so they never asked her that why she was wasting resources and precious years of her youth on courses that she was not capable of?

But when the pitiful glances of the relatives and friends made it unbearable for her to stay home, she told her elder sister Diksha that she wanted to go to Mumbai for doing an MA in English. Diksha readily agreed, but Kiran–the younger sister resisted.

“Deepika, you can do this MA from here as well. Why do you want to go to Mumbai? There are so many colleges in Nanded that offer a degree in MA English. Do you know how expensive it would be in Mumbai?”

But Deepika persisted, and Diksha did not like confrontation or arguments of any sort. She asked little, and agreed to Deepika’s demands. The latter went to Mumbai, eventually.

Aparna soon realized that Deepika used to buy whatever suited her fancy. Her cupboard was full of crumpled clothes that used to fall on the person who dared to open it. The drawers were full of countless half-filled bottles of creams, face washes, lotions, deodorants, facial kits, and God knows what.

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She never cared to put her room in order, resulting in the same thing being purchased several times. Finally, all of them went to the dustbin, save a few.

Deepika was impulsive in taking decisions, and instant gratification was what she valued the most. While Aparna used to ponder for hours on the need to buy something, compare prices in several places and could wait for weeks for any decent discount to arrive, Deepika never blinked an eye to buy whatever came to her whimsical mind.

Deepika had one more peculiar habit of daydreaming, and making big plans. Aparna still remembered the initial days of when they started living in this apartment. Deepika would tell her that after her master’s degree, she would do a specialization course, give entrance exams, consult companies for her brilliant entrepreneurship idea, try to launch an app, etc.

The list was endless. Aparna thought of her as a girl who needed a lesson or two in frugality, but was a real go-getter, a no-nonsense and focused girl.

Deepika always carried a book–a novel, an autobiography, etc–with her. There was always a picture of a book cover on her WhatsApp status message that she had been planning to read. Aparna was really impressed by her flatmate.

***

However, as weeks passed by, Aparna realized Deepika used to make endless big plans, but showed no sincerity or inclination to achieve them. After coming from college, she used to lie down idle on her bed and talked for hours on the phone, partying with friends every single weekend, and roaming around in her spare time.

She seldom finished any book either.

Aparna thought of the seminar she had earlier attended entitled, “Why do people boast and show off”

According to the speaker, people want to be seen as ‘book lovers’ because of two reasons-

Firstly, they fancy the idea that they were intellectuals who love to read and thus constantly showed off things that reinforced that identity.

Secondly, they thought of themselves as undeserving and believed others to be judging them negatively. To garner their attention, they show off.

Whatever the case was with Deepika, one thing got clear to Aparna- she was all foam, no beer.

***

It had been almost two years in Mumbai, and their degrees were nearing completion. One weekend, Deepika’s elder sister Diksha came to visit her.

Deepika said to Diksha, Didi, my final exams will be over by next week, and after that I want to do this six-month interior designing diploma from Bangalore.

Aparna was making tea in the kitchen.

On hearing that, she thought to herself, ‘I am sure her sister knows she is just a slouch who talks big.

But to her surprise, she found Diksha was listening intently and finally said, Deepika, you can do whichever course you want. I will transfer the money to your account. I would only say that do it sincerely, and try to work hard.

After that, Deepika spoke for almost half an hour about the articles she had written, the presentations she had given and the applaud received, the research paper in her pipeline etc. Sister seemed to be impressed.

Certainly, Deepika had been doing this big talk her entire life; how can her sister fall for these shenanigans?

The next day, Diksha left.

Now one problem arose: this diploma course had an entrance exam. So Deepika decided to do its coaching.

The exam was almost four weeks away. She found an online coaching centre but on contacting them, they said that the coaching had already begun three weeks back. Four weeks of coaching was still left. However, Deepika had to pay the entire fees of rupees twenty thousand.

To Aparna’s utmost surprise, Deepika happily agreed to do that! Even if that meant that she could only do four weeks of coaching instead of seven. She instantly transferred the money and the next week, the entire course material arrived.

As expected, neither did she attend any online class, nor did she give any mock test. The entire material went to her cupboard, and she never cared to look back at it!

Having failed the entrance exam, Deepika decided to go to the other college in Bangalore called UW College of Design and Business. It was a fancy and expensive college.

Deepika immediately called Diksha, “Didi, I want to pay my college fees for the diploma. I found an even better college than the one I told you about. The last date for filling out the form is within ten days. Please transfer one lakh into my account. I have to pay for the first instalment.

And after chit chat she hung up the line. Later, she happily told Aparna that her sister was transferring the money.

No questions asked!

Aparna could not understand who was the bigger fool here- Deepika or her sister? She thought maybe the love for her little sister had made Diksha blind to her mistakes, or maybe she simply didn’t care and transferred money just to get her off her back.

Whatever the reason was, she knew that the family was spoiling the girl by not making her accountable for her actions.

Deepika, do you really want to go to this college in Bangalore?

Yes sure, why not?

I was doing some internet search, and I found out that this diploma is available in a college in your hometown as well. So you can do it from there only. You’ll be able to stay at home and there will be no financial burden on your family as well.

Oh, no dear. I can’t do it from Nanded. The diploma that this Nanded college offers is in interior designing while I want to do specialize in interior and exhibition design. Both the names sound similar, but there is a lot of difference between them. Deepika said, smiling.

Aparna immediately checked online, and found out that apart from a few names here and there, the topics being taught in them were essentially the same.

Yeah, but the course matter is almost the same. This diploma from Bangalore will cost you lakhs, and the one from the local college is just for a few hundred rupees.

Deepika sneered at Aparna, like she always did when Aparna asked her to be careful with money.

Why do you always talk about money? It’s not important to me, I don’t like to keep a track of every rupee I spend.

She continued unfiltered, Look at yourself, what a miser you are– always looking at price tags, waiting for discounts, comparing prices. You know I feel suffocated around people like you who can think of nothing else but money!

Yeah true, why care for money when it is your family who is funding you? It is their hard-earned money, Aparna said sarcastically.

Deepika got furious on listening to this. Truth mostly does that to people.

She replied crossly, My father had funded Diksha’s education, and she is funding mine.

And she continued, Siblings do that to each other; it’s not called favour; it’s called family bonding and love. And by the way, you don’t interfere in my personal matters.

She fumingly went out.

***

Deepika missed the entire point Aparna was trying to make.

She just wanted her to understand the fine line between spendthrift, miser and frugal. The Latin word frugalis means, using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully. A miser never spends a penny, no matter what the circumstances are. A spendthrift doesn’t blink twice to spend the money.

While a frugal is a person who is careful about how and where they spend money. They understand the difference between need and want.

Although they argued often, Aparna never thought of moving out because she could never forget the night she fell ill, and Deepika had cared for her like a mother. She took leave from her college and nursed her — bought her medicines, made fresh fruit juices, and cooked light meals for her. Deepika never even asked for the money she spent on her.

Though Aparna paid back her every rupee, she felt forever indebted to her.

She knew Deepika was a good girl at heart.

After a few hours, Deepika came back and found a note on her table.

I am sorry; I shouldn’t have spoken in your personal matter.

She went to Aparna’s room and said, I shouldn’t have called you a miser. I was telling you my plans, and you started talking about this fee and that fee and all the money it’ll cost- it just irritated me- please accept my apology.

I wasn’t offended dear.

“ –But, since you always call me a miser, let me tell you I am not a miser, I am frugal. My parents are hardworking people and never spend a penny on their own comforts and luxuries. They save everything for their children. I feel proud when I save the resources given to me by them–I study hard and do not waste my time, I save money and do not buy things that are unnecessary.

I am content with fewer objects”, Aparna said with a smile and added, but I will never speak in your personal matters again.

And you would be happy to know that I am not a wasteful person, either. This diploma course I am going to do will change my life forever. After passing out from that college, I will renovate and design the internal spaces of malls, restaurants, expensive offices, and homes.

She kept going, “I will work as an art director in Bollywood and will design the overall aesthetics of sets, locations, and even costumes. There will be opportunities as an exhibition designer for museums and libraries. There will be no stopping me.

Aparna felt perhaps Deepika had some deep-rooted insecurities that made her feel not accepted and not worthy- was that the reason she was constantly boasting and weaving elaborate stories to get the admiration she thought she deserved but had never received?

As was her wont, Deepika was making castles in the air. Aparna simply nodded her head, and let the matter rest.

On weekends, Deepika’s friends used to come over. During the day, they all hung around in malls and restaurants, and at night they partied. For a girl with grand plans, the slightest of sincerity or proclivity towards studies was nowhere to be seen.

Aparna would join them in sometimes but as she was preparing for her PhD entrance exam, she could not afford to waste her time like that. On weekends, she used to go to her friend’s house for studies.

The last month passed like that, and the final exams were over. After finishing her master’s degree, Deepika went to Bangalore for her diploma. Aparna had cleared the entrance exam, and had enrolled in a fully funded PhD program at the University.

***

Stepping into the working environment

Six months passed quickly, and for Deepika, it was time to go back to Mumbai.

Aparna went to the airport to receive her. She could not help notice a thick book in Deepika’s hand. She had purchased it from the airport. On reaching their flat, Deepika summarily kept the book aside and never looked back at it again.

Deepika started telling Aparna her plans-

I am planning to start my own Interior Design Firm. In metropolitan cities, rich people are always renovating their homes and offices. People who are purchasing a new house need help to decorate it. So my firm will have multiple opportunities.

A few months later, I will hire people and expand my firm. But for the initial few months, I will work in a Design Firm and will learn the nitty-gritty of the occupation. Simultaneously, I will also sit for the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam.

With my diploma in hand, I can work as a furniture designer, product designer and as a graphic designer. All these are very lucrative career options.

Aparna yawned and nodded indifferently to Deepika’s wool-gathering. She wished her luck. The exam she was talking about was a national level exam, and it took hard work to clear it. The opening of her own firm she was talking about required grit, determination, and focus.

These were not Deepika’s strong suits; escapism was.

***

Deepika worked for a few months in an Interior Design Firm but gave up the job because she did not like the job profile there. After a few half-hearted attempts at finding another job in interior design, Deepika gave up the entire idea. Later she started working at a coaching centre, teaching English language to kids. The same job was possible with her master’s degree in MA English! The entire diploma from Bangalore was a colossal waste of time, money, and effort!

One day, the two friends went to a birthday party. Deepika had met Nikhil there for the first time. The two instantly felt a connection with each other, and exchanged phone numbers. They started chatting, and subsequently started meeting regularly.

Nikhil was an engineer for over seven years in an MNC, but later he left his job to start his own business. He started a company called HomeChef, that made preservative-free, chemical-free, and artificial colour-free frozen food.

It offered the best possible healthy option in that category. Because of his diligence, his business started to grow. His target customers were the office goers and bachelors who were mostly in a hurry in the mornings.

Deepika and Nikhil had been dating each other for over six months now. One day, Nikhil proposed to her for marriage and she happily agreed.

Once Deepika was married, she took it upon her to renovate her new home. With a joint account with Nikhil, she had got a free run with money. She started spending money on expensive furniture, antiquated paintings, exquisite jewellery, costly dresses, and planning foreign trips.

Nikhil’s business was growing fast, and was profitable during that time.

***

The love fervour in the initial months of marriage had made him blind to Deepika’s overindulgence. However, slowly the reality crept in and he got to know that Deepika was a reckless spender. Whenever he tried to explain to her the importance of being frugal, she lovingly mocked him by calling him a miser.

One day she purchased a new painting from the gallery that costed them seventy thousand. On seeing that Nikhil was astounded, “Who buys a painting worth seventy thousand rupees?”

“It looks so beautiful on our drawing-room wall.”

But it doesn’t look good on my credit card statement. Last month, you purchased those two stupid statues. They don’t even look as expensive as they are. You must stop purchasing these unnecessary items!

Don’t you want our house to look good?

All I want is for you to at least consult me before buying anything so expensive.He said curtly.

Deepika raised her eyebrows, but did not say anything at that time. However, she was in a foul mood the entire week, and did not speak properly to him.

Her spending stopped for a while, but started shortly afterwards.

***

One day Nikhil brought a letter address to her that came to his office. She opened it and found her admit card for the French language diploma exams.

Throwing the card on the table, she said, I don’t like the course anymore. All they do is give assignments. I will not give the exams.

You will not give the exams! You have paid the entire fee Nikhil could not hide the surprise in his voice.

It was only rupees eight thousand.

How casually you say that. As if it is nothing. You have no right to squander my money like that”, he said rather bluntly.

Nikhil, it’s really getting difficult to live with you. You are always talking about money.

Nikhil could not think of what to say. What was the way to make this woman realize her imprudence?

How casually she misuses resources.

***

The unforseen change

It was the month of March, and things were going as planned in Nikhil’s business. He was about to launch a new product in the market when suddenly, and unexpectedly the coronavirus pandemic hit. As people started working from home, their eating habits changed.

Now they had plenty of time to cook fresh home-made meals. They stopped going to malls and avoided frozen food. The product demand tanked, and the supply chain was deeply disturbed.

For an unspecified period, the manufacturers stopped their operations. The supply vehicles got stuck en route, waiting to deliver. A lot of money was spent on these day-to-day affairs.

His was not a multimillion-dollar food company with abundant financial resources for marketing, production and distribution. He had no cushion against the unmitigated disaster that covid had brought.

He put up a fiercest response, but the circumstances and the challenges before him were far beyond his control. The cash flow once stopped could not be revived. He was on the verge of bankruptcy now.

The news of Nikhil’s impending bankruptcy had shaken Deepika to the core. There was no more cash to spend on luxuries now. She was mostly in a sombre mood and rarely spoke a word.

She was trying hard to accommodate to the new reality and did not know how things had reached to this level and what to do about it. After a couple of months, there was not enough cash to spend on the essentials as well.

There was a voice inside her that was constantly blaming her for Nikhil’s bankruptcy and their predicament. She did not want to acknowledge it, but the voice was tenacious. She was trying very hard to avoid it.

But one day it became unbearable, and she approached Nikhil. He was busy with his paperwork–band proceedings and legal intricacies-and looked up and saw her approaching. He closed his files and tried to start a conversation.

I am sorry Deepika, I have been so busy of late.

Deepika sat near him and was quiet for a long time. Finally she gathered some courage and said, Nikhil, I feel like I am solely responsible for your bankruptcy. I always thought I was the coolest person in the room because I bought stuff in a carefree manner. How wrong I was. Please forgive me. May be this is God’s way of telling me to respect money.

She cried.

I am happy that you think that way. And as far as our bankruptcy is concerned, that is covid’s doing. Blaming yourself for that is not just absurd, but ridiculous.

He continued, “We no doubt have hit the rock bottom of our financial health, and this will stay on our credit card reports for several years. But I promise you together we will recover from this and will have a fresh start.

Nikhil, I promise myself, more than I promise you, that I will be a changed person now as far as my finances are concerned. Sometimes it takes an enormous shock to get us out of our slumber”, Deepika said.

Deepika I had been meaning to speak to you for a long time about something. I think this is the right time. Please do not get offended by what I say.

Deepika looked at him and waited.

He continued, I would suggest that you finish the French diploma that you had started. Don’t leave things half-finished. You told me you had done it in the past also, so that means it is more than just carelessness. Quitting is becoming your habit, dear. In the long run, it will undermine your self-esteem and self-worth.

She confessed, Nikhil, the real reason was that I felt I could not pass the exam. I thought you will think me a loser.

I have failed so many times in my life that I do not judge others by their failures or successes in academic exams. But you must learn to face your limitations–real or imaginary, and insecurities.

he paused, and then continued, Don’t be afraid of the result or the hard work that you have to put in. Finishing a task that you have started will give you a sense of achievement and happiness.

It has been so long, I don’t know if I’ll still be eligible for that. But I’ll check and if they allow me I will finish it”, she wiped her tears and said with resolve.

Nikhil was happy, but apprehensive. He knew Deepika talks big, but when it comes to actually doing something she was the least enthusiastic.

However, this time he was in for a surprise. Deepika was indeed a changed person. She studied for her French diploma, and started to keep a written record of her daily expenses.

***

It had been one year, and together they were trying to re-establish their business. They created a monthly budget that worked as a guide to their day-to-day spending and started a savings account that could be accessed during emergency.

Nikhil opened a secured credit card, consistently paid the utility bills on time, and made sure he regularly reported those payments to the credit agencies. He already discharged many of his debts during filing of the bankruptcy and now his debt-to-income ratio was relatively low. His credit card score increased.

In the meantime, Deepika finished her diploma. Nikhil had got her certificate framed, and put it on the drawing-room wall. She had been a constant support to him throughout his struggling years. The one thing that she had always derided and looked down on was a part of her routine now — being frugal and keeping a budget of the family’s daily expenses.

She had discovered it the hard way that it was not a bad idea after all.

Image source: Anupong, via Getty Images, free on CanvaPro 

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About the Author

Swati Pandey

I am an avid reader, a writer, and a yoga instructor. I like to write about social issues, especially women's issues. With my writings, I want to contribute my share in making a truly read more...

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