For the last couple of months I've been rather worried about Aaron's fascination with money. He keeps asking whether something is expensive or affordable, about how much each thing costs, and when he will be able to make millions of dollars. At the age of six, it is a pretty disturbing development in a kid who was born in a household of erstwhile, disillusioned commies. The mention of dollars (not rupees, he wants dollars, mind you) didn't help things much and I could realize my brow and that of my folks going into this thinking knot. Everybody was worried but I could sense that the blame was being directed at me. Somehow. Bengalis would know how difficult it has been for one Mr Nondo Ghosh, who has been blamed squarely for every little mishap in West Bengal. The saying goes: "Joto dosh, Nondo Ghosh."
And despite my name not being Nondo, the Ghosh kind of attracts at least half of Nondo's share of blames. The fact that Nondo is nowhere to be located these days makes it even more difficult for the Ghoshes of the world.
So, people at home suspected me for having inculcated these absolutely capitalistic trends in a kid who was supposed to grow up and study philosophy or history and possibly teach in China if not sacrifice his entire life for the upliftment of the downtrodden. "All this is because of you" lamented some aunt. "You taught him about money."
I couldn't deny it altogether either. I have had to dissuade him from making me buy big toys by explaining how these are expensive and thus unaffordable. "Your dad can't buy a Scorpio, okay? You have to make do with a cheaper jeep? Is that okay?" And he has listened. He has also gone ahead and claimed to his friends that the cheaper jeep was superior than a Scorpio. After realizing that his dad has a limited buying potential, he has even stopped asking me to buy all the toys from one particular shop at The Forum. Yes, so I have taught him about money in a different manner, and was really happy at how this knowledge was received by him.
"Yes I have taught him about money, but about how one should value money. Not to splurge. Haven't you seen the numerous articles in the newspapers about the need to teach children about savings from an early age?" I tried to defend myself. But frustrated communists are difficult to convince. And all communists are frustrated anyway.
But I was worried too. I didn't want my son to keep talking about money all the time. After a point he procured a piggy bank from somewhere and went around asking money from everybody. My dad, usually a little careful in the matters of money, somehow showed him a lot of generosity and started giving him a five-rupee coin every day for his piggy bank. He would roam all around the house with that tin can and tell us how much he has. Soon he lost count. The tin started getting heavier. We all contributed. And our worries touched the cieling. What if he starts demanding money for the services he renders, we all started thinking. He cleans my motorcycle as a pleasurable activity at times, but the moment he realizes it can fetch him money, he might revolt, right? What if he demands money every time we ask him to get water from the kitchen? Or even worse, every time he craps because we ask him to?
This worry kept the entire household awake till the wee hours every night. Sleep-deprived denizens of the Ghosh household could be seen walking around at three in the morning, making a paan for themselves, or going for a late night walk. A house that is filled with various scales and timbres of snoring at night started becoming unusually calm save the slight rasp of blankets brushing against agonized bedspreads.
A few days back he learned to ride his bicycle. It happened by accident, almost. Let me explain. During our recent trip to Calcutta we met the kids of our classmates for the first time. A six-year old girl we met was found to be almost ten inches taller than Aaron. Again all eyes fell on me. "You don't make him ride a bicycle. That's why he hasn't grown at all." An urban myth, I tried to convince them. Look at this picture of the girl's mom with me in school. She was taller by almost a foot when we were children. But communists don't listen to scientific reasoning either, unless written in their Quran, Das Kapital. Some of them promptly referred to a dog-eared copy and some other leather-bound books and informed after a while that Marx and Engels never mentioned that girls grow faster than boys. Hence, it is a myth. And obviously my fault that Aaron hasn't grown beyond 3.5 ft at the age of 6. Ray Manzarek was the shortest in his class for a long time. So was Satyajit Ray. They both turned out to be rather tall later in life, I reasoned.
But...by now my shoulders got used to being perpetually drooped.
So last week I cleaned the cycle, filled air in the deflated tyres, and made it ready for him. I also removed the support wheel. And he learned to ride in a few seconds. This sudden discovery of the joys of riding made him so delirious, that he couldn't think of anything but riding. I noticed, however, that I never got any appreciation for passing on my riding genes to him. He was hailed as a champ by everybody, and in the general excitement that followed, the fear of his "capitalist" dreams got buried.
"I will buy a bike too, to ride with you to the tennis club."
"When, daddy? When will you buy yours?"
"Next month, beta. This month I don't have any money."
"I will give you all my money, daddy. I have a million dollars in my piggy bank. You can take it. But please buy your bike today."