i am not quite kanhaiyalal but ..

So while Dhanno and I are having a what seems to us desi types bred on Dominoes and Pizza Hut, an authentic Pizza Prosciutto e Funghi at Cafe Concerto by the Lakeside in Pokhara and Teja has been saddled with a spinach ravioli with ricotta cheese which he is trying hard to like for our sakes, he sighs happily and says, “We should do this every year.”

“How much money do we need to go abroad every year?”, he asks me, since I’m the treasurer and accountant of all our monies.

I say, “If we save around 300,000 rupees a year, we can do it.”

Teja says: “Yes, I suppose we can. How many days in Europe can we do in that much money?”

“10-15 days”, I say. “Maybe more in some places where we can stay with friends.”

He says, “But I don’t want you worrying about money all the time. I can keep the accounts.”

Dhanno goggle-eyed whispers, “Mama, no, don’t let him do that. He’ll never keep a hisaab, and that will make me more tense.”

Teja laughs, “What is with this hisaab? Look, we just take the money, and have fun till we spend it. We may have to budget our meals a little, of course, eat at fancy places like this, a little less.”

Dhanno retorts, “I think if you budget your beer and cigarettes, we can eat where we like.”

Teja laughs, “No, I’m not going to do that. What we’ll do is just have a bigger budget. Or go for a holiday in India.”

OK, so I keep accounts like a munshi. I even have excel sheets of holiday expenses. Teja thinks I am mad. I say, well, I can look them up and tell anyone how much things are going to cost when they want to go somewhere. What he doesn’t realize is that the numbers comfort me. FirstΒ  of all I cannot remember trivial details. So if I have written down when we have paid the service bill for the water filter, I can just look it up and not go glass-eyed when faced with the question of whether I am meant to pay the water filter repairman or not. And I can file our tax returns fairly easily as everything is written down and organized into categories. I have worked out a system over the years, and I keep tweaking it to make the year ending easier and easier for me. It also helps me in my work, I can budget for films in a day.

I look at old account books and they are like delving back into old diaries. Oh, we saw that film that time, we had dinner there, we stayed there, we bought that bag, those shoes, that book. In our paper conserving family, I still have an accounts register book, the typical red covered pothi, that belonged to my father from a business he ran before I was born. When I look at it and see his handwriting, quite similar to mine, I can see him as a young man, with his ambitions and dreams, trying to set up on his own.

As we grow older, the numbers in old accounts books seem smaller and smaller. The one thing I find absurd however is saying, “When we were young, we used to get chocolates for 1 rupee and now even a beggar won’t accept a rupee.” It’s like saying, I used to be so thin when I was young, or had such thick hair. The thing is, today I am not thin, and nor do I have thick hair, and I’m doubtful about giving a rupee even to a beggar. But even so, it’s nice to look at old photos sometimes and seeing how thin you really were, and how thick your hair really was.

But the important thing is that I like numbers. Just like words that run through my head almost all the time I am awake, numbers do too, to some extent. I’m anal about numbers in other ways. For instance, when I’m watching TV, the volume always has to be at 50. That’s too loud for DVDs, so for film viewing, it has to be either 25, 30 or 35. I need to brace up to get myself to put the volume to say – 28. Though I’m slowly learning to accept 27 or 33 as acceptable levels, because they are multiples of 3.

And even though I had difficulty walking on the Annapurna Base Camp trek, I liked noting down the heights of where we had reached, and how many hours it had taken us to get from one place to another. It’s the first thing I did when we sat down.

Every guest house had a trekking information board up, with a map and distances in hours. And though the numbers did not always match, and certainly never with our own timings, the maps were a pleasure to look at. So here are some for you, shot by Teja.

map 1 map 10 map 9 map 8 map 7 map 5 map 4 map 3 map 2


  1. oh dear, shall make sure george never reads this post. its the kind of thing he hopes i will do. and i dont.

    yet, i make budgets in a day.

    and, organise holidays sometimes. other times he organises.

    we muddle along. and go EVERYWHERE.

    when i had been invited for screenings all over europe i asked him to babysit while i went ‘for work’. he said he’d rather babysit in europe. so both of them came along. and we did not have too much money. but we managed. you need less than 3,00,000. but then you are allowed one or two restaurants (forget fancy) and a lot of fun bumming around.

    and you can call me, will tell you how, even though i have NO excel sheet.

    but yes, i can be like dhanno, without the excel sheets ( and we never have any) i feel like things will unravel into chaos. and then i get distracted by something fun.

    • Sur, you are a genius at having fun. No, seriously. I feel like such a nerd now. But the thing is I do have fun making my excel sheets, and I don’t really get worried about money, as long as we have some. By the way, I thought we could do Europe in less than 300,000 but was checking the other day for tickets to France and that was about 40000 for a person. Plus visas and everything, so thought maybe not.

      • but why are you feeling like a nerd- i want to be like you, and everyone around me wants me to be more like you.

        the trick about europe, goa, or any tourist destination is to go off season. in season, you maybe in the louvre, or baga, you end up feeling like you are in the churchgate fast.

        • Ha, ha. Who are all these people who want to be like me? OK, I feel better now, and shall go and watch ‘Julie’.

          I know, it’s terrible to go somewhere during the tourist season. That’s why Nepal was nice this time, because we reached at the fag end of the season, and it was not that crowded, since the rains had already come in. But all these years, we’ve been stuck with school time tables, and an over-conscientious daughter who hated missing school.

          I hope it will be different now. Anyway, we can always leave her home now.πŸ™‚

  2. I am so impressed, Miss. May I hire you as an accountant? I have not yet (ever ) filed my taxes, neither has my hubby, and so we cant buy anything that can be paid through installments,

    • Grasshopper, no, puhleez, I just want to go and hide somewhere now. Feel like I am a blot on the film maker community. Wow, how have you managed without filing your returns? Though it’s good to keep away from buying in installments. I avoid that too.

  3. Wow.. I never thought you would be so perked up about numbers. Now that I have done a basic course in Human behavior, I can say that I suffer from ‘like-me’ syndrome. Since I don’t have a head for numbers, I presumed that your wouldn’t have either. However, I also try to do the budgeting for the house.. rather forced to do it since the husband has no interest in money, saving it that is. He is good at spending it thoughπŸ˜› So taking stock of our finances is automatically my duty, not that I am any good at it. But good to know that you do it for the household, probably Dhanno can pick it soon from you.

    • Violet, Dhanno does have a thing for numbers too. She likes Maths, and is better at it than me.πŸ™‚ Teja is much like your husband, though he thinks he doesn’t like spending money, but he does.

  4. Numbers make my brain freeze just like ice cream. I realize that I’m probably going to be homeless when I’m older but it doesn’t help me organize, it only makes me lie awake at 3 am and fret. And inspect every nook and cranny of the neighborhood for good sheltering places. I figure if I have a cute dog when I’m panhandling people will be more generous. Too much information?πŸ™‚

    And also, you might be a little bit OCDπŸ˜€ And I love those maps.

    • Memsaab, what we need to do is get Banno to be our accountant at our Bollywood fan retirement haveli! She will keep us afloat but the rest of us will pitch in with other things that she does not like to do. Bingo!

    • Memsaab, the thing is that being organized doesn’t make us save at all. It just makes me feel as if I am in control. An illusion!

      I can see you at a corner panhandling. Only with your gorgeous looks, you may get more attention than you are looking for.πŸ™‚

      Since I am not OCD about anything else, like cooking, cleaning, or mothering, I guess it had to come out somewhere.

      • Beth, this Bollywood fan retirement haveli sounds wonderful. I don’t mind doing the accounts as long as I can stay there, and of course, we can watch films all day.

  5. I spent decades of my life keeping meticulous, detailed accounts, just so that I knew where the money was going. It didn’t help me save, but at least I knew what went where! The husband thought it all rather pointless, but it was essential for my peace of mind. I consciously decided to stop a few years ago as we seemed to be a bit more prosperous then, and it was getting rather exhausting.
    Old diaries from the eighties are fascinating- I’d manage our household expenses in 2000-2500 rupees a month, which seems unimaginable now!
    I know that I do have the soul of a khajaanchi!

    • Ditto, Dipali. It doesn’t help a wee bit in saving, of course. The 80s and even the early 90s seem so remote now. I know, if I earned 10,000 a month, I used to think I was on top of the world.

  6. P.S: When we travel abroad, though, the husband does all the accounting, since he automatically manages to convert exchange rates. Most relaxing and slightly unnerving too!

    • Conversions are a nightmare. I gave away Indian rupees instead of Nepali rupees several times, before Dhanno took over.πŸ™‚

  7. I don’t think I know anyone who has a thing for words AND numbers…it’s usually one or the other.πŸ™‚ Lovely post, I hope your munshi-like skills get your family all those dream vacations.

  8. What with my travel notes (since I also write for IgoUgo) and the accounts I maintain when we’re travelling – though I’ve stopped doing that very precisely in India, unless we’re going on a long-haul, 2-week holiday), I end up having a lot to write when I’m on holiday. Enjoy it, though, and am often shocked at how much things cost when compared to India. Rs 105 for 100 gms of caramel-coated peanuts in London? Daylight robbery!

    • Dustedoff, I didn’t know you wrote for IgoUgo. I’m going to go check the site. I find Indian holidays can be quite expensive too. That’s why Nepal was so..oooo good! We actually got more for our money.πŸ™‚

      • Yes, Indian holidays are getting more and more expensive! I lust check out that Nepal option too!
        My travel guide name on IgoUgo is phileasfogg, by the way.

          • P.S. Just discovered a typo in that last comment I left. I wrote “I lust check out that Nepal option”. Hmm. Freudian slip, I’d say. Just goes to show how tempting it sounded.

  9. My first reaction as I read this is: Marry me!πŸ˜‰ But then I think Teja won’t be too happy with that
    Accounts, baap re! Very , very bad at it! Though would love to do it. I think I am just plain lazy to do it regularly like you. And I throw all the old things away, I threw last year my tax returns files for 2001-2003 and was so happy!
    But I do tend to get nostalgic when I take a closer look.

    So all I can do is, I think, take you up as a role model!
    So I will prepare a murti of you and put it up on the altar and pray (easier than disciplining myself!).
    Nice post!

    BTW, just curious, doesn’t one get good Nepali food in Pokhara?

    • Harvey, believe me, you don’t want to marry me.πŸ™‚

      In India, if you throw away your old returns, you never know when the spectre of doom will loom to hit you on the head. For instance, we just realized we needed telephone bills from the last 10 years, or bank statements to get a domicile certificate for an entrance exam Dhanno needed to give. That, when her birth certificate and mine, all our school leaving and college leaving certificates, my passport and pan card, house, etc. all are from Maharashtra. It’s crazy.

      You get very good Nepali food in Nepal.πŸ™‚ In Pokhara too. We had been living on that during the trek, so a change was called for.

      • “Harvey, believe me, you don’t want to marry me. :)”
        *going away sad and dejected*

        I think the officials ask for the documents so they can get a bribe, if you can’t bring them forward! Here we can throw documents (not your passport!) after seven years.

        Did you make photos also of the Nepali food? I love food fotos!

        • Harveypam, no sorry, don’t have any food fotoos!

          For tax purposes, you can throw away your bills, bank statements, etc after 7 years. So this demand for bills from the last 10 years came as a shocker. This was meant for residential proof.

          Of course, all the red tape is a very effective way of earning money. Right now, I’m so pissed off with it all that I can’t even write about it coherently.

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