Soon after I started earning, my father began lecturing me about opening a Personal Provident Fund (PPF) account. I took this very personally. I felt this was a deliberate misunderstanding of the struggling artist's life. How could he imagine I had enough money to save!
My father found this declaration ludicrous. He took it personally. He thought it was a deliberate attempt to reject that respectable, sensible, middle-class planning for the future way of life he represented.
We were both half right, both half in denial of each other's worlds. His seemed irrelevant to me, mine seemed improbable to him, because the world changes a lot. We fought about this PPF business a lot until finally one day he burst out that since I had no appreciation of who my true well wishers were, he would never ever again bring up the matter. And I, always a rotten egg, said, oh thank God.
That's not how it works with love and family. After some years of avoiding the topic, on one visit home, my dad, brought it up again, in that particular way of parents - as if iske pehle we have never had this discussion. And, may be just to shock him, I said, "ok, let's go tomorrow and open it." After all, the world changes a lot.
So, that's what we did that day. Early next day, when I went upstairs to say good morning, my father hugged me and said the sweetest thing, which still makes me laugh, "I'm so happy, my beta has a PPF account." I doubt he imagined a new, responsible, savings type me had been born. But, by my acknowledging his anxieties, we bridged some gap between our two worlds, his present, otherwise dismissed as the past, became my present.
Predictably, over the years, thanks to my late lateef tendencies (you know this well, kind readers) the financial year ending entails various PPF dramas, mostly requiring my mother to engage in hectic activity on my behalf, as I live in Bombay.
This year, actually in Delhi at year-ending, I played out the drama myself. Inside the quiet, dark, wooden post office, with its neat sarkari lawn, worlds changed in parallel, past and future nestling inside each other. A man in front of me counted out his pension — a slim Rs 1,800. Peering over his shoulder, "Uncle, never give that old Rs 100 note to anyone ever" a younger man advised. The clerk at my window wrote various things down by hand. Time slowed to a trickle, like careful savings, and felt
suddenly luxurious. People chatted in murmurs.
Two men discussed how much the area had changed. "Now it's full of hi-fi people, doesn't feel like our neighbhourhood. But, we still like to come here to buy our dal-aata. My PPF is also here, so it's an excuse to visit somehow." A claim on the past, under the pretext of saving for the future.
My fancy finance-thingy-job nephew rolls his eyes when I say PPF. People often advise me to move the account to Bombay. It would be so much more sensible. May be. But it would sever my link to the moment when I stood at the counter with my happy father.
I suppose I too am saving my past while pretending to save for the future.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com
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