My mind went back to a period almost five decades ago when my father would gently wake me up at 5 in the morning and send me on an errand that contributed towards my developing confidence, responsibility, independence, dignity, and appreciation of the value of money.
Unlike today when you have a choice of various types of milk that is available in supermarkets as well as the next door grocer, the commodity was sold through distribution centres set up in each locality, and customers had to pay and collect their milk each morning.
My parents were early risers, and for many years, my father used to set out each morning to collect the milk.
Till, one day, he said that it would be a good idea for me to do this.
It was a short walk to the distribution centre, and I enjoyed this little errand. Irrespective of the climate, – summer, monsoon, or winter – I would make this little trip, pay, collect the milk (it used to come in glass bottles those days), and walk back, all the time aware that my father would be watching for my arrival – this was comforting, since sunrise was quite some time away.
Money was tight, but my parents paid me ten rupees each month as pocket money for running this errand – a princely sum those days. But, it was not the money. It was a process of development, and my parents made me more responsible at that tender age, and taught me lessons that no formal education system ever can.
I was fond of instrumental music and, each month, I used to walk to a music store about four kilometers away to gaze at the colorful jackets of the gramophone records on display. The owner of the store soon began to recognize me since I made this visit at least thrice a month. Amused by this child who walked in regularly just to look at the music selection, he used play a few of the numbers for me, while I listened with rapt attention.
Till a momentous (for me) day dawned. I used to assiduously accumulate my pocket money, not spending even one paisa. The reason? I had decided to save enough so as to be able to buy one particular album.
And, on that big day, I walked with a spring in my step to the music store, handed over the money to the surprised store owner, and purchased that one gramophone record that I had set my eyes on many months ago.
It was labeled “The Ventures – Greatest Hits”.
I went back home, and wrote my name on the album jacket, followed by some words that I will never forget – “My very own”.
There was enormous joy about having fulfilled this desire. There was happiness about being able to listen to my favourite music group. There was a sense of pride about having achieved something big.
For a ten year-old, it was huge.