True Story of A Pauper Billionaire
“Good morning Sir…My name is Ann Mary. I would like to get an appointment with you…”her voice was little shaky and sounded anxious. She said she was a journalist intern. This was her first project. Her professor was my classmate at school of journalism.
I welcomed her. Her project was to prepare a feature “how to be a billionaire” after interviewing a couple of rich men.
“But I am not a billionaire, not even rich…” I said.
“Sir, my professor told me that you are an editor for a UK-based firm so you must be immensely rich…”
“He is misleading you. I can’t help you…” I said.
“Sir, no other billionaires gave me appointment. I was pinning all my hopes on you Sir…Please help me…”
Her face fell. She became sad. I could feel her fight to stop tears rolling into her eyes. I suddenly recalled my days as a journalist trainee for one year in Janmabhumi, when I didn’t get a single paisa. The living was so tough then.
I smiled and said: “Yes – you can ask any questions. I am a billionaire, but in a different dimension. Shoot”
She kept her notepad and pen ready and asked seriously (trying to get the journalistic look): “Uday sir, when did you decide to make lot of money? How did the ambition of becoming a rich man sprout?”
“During my school days. I have decided to make money by hook or crook. Path was not important, making money was only motto. I decided to do anything to make money…” I said.
That was a statement of fact. I did schooling in a remote village. My parents were school teachers with very meager salary, struggling to make both ends meet. They did not even have any help from their parents too. They too were independent from very young age. As I was born in a Brahmin family there was no future – government was the only major employer then. All jobs will go by caste reservation and political recommendation. Even if I secure highest mark I won’t get admission for higher studies. Students from other castes/religions were getting cash scholarships, even if they were rich. I was angry. Very angry at the system. There is no value for merit and virtue in this world. So I should make money and become rich.
“Who gave you the first advice on how to make money?”
During 10th standard I had only two shirts and two half-pants. No chapels (foot wear). One shirt was very old and the other one was torn and stitched. Half-pants didn’t have buttons, so I have to tie it with thick threads. When I see boys wearing new shirts I would feel jealous. I badly wanted a new shirt. I was very angry at my parents. I was developing inferiority complex. I did not even feel like facing any crowd because I was worried whether they would tease me in public and therefore my involvement in extracurricular activities reduced.
One day my mother gave me a small cloth pouch with lot of coins inside it (5 paisa to 50 paisa coins).
“Buy a new shirt for you…” she said. I counted the coins. Rs 24/-
Next day, her friend Hindi teacher told me that my mother was not having her evening tea (10 paisa) and vada (10 paisa) for more than six months. She was starving and saving that money for me! My mother also used to go to bed without a meal just to keep our stomachs full.
“Sir, you are crying?” Ann asked.
“No…Some trouble with my eyes…Heavy computer usage taken toll of my eyes, you know…”
“So what did your mother say about making money?”
“She said – you are born in a great parambara – 3000 years old gotra. Don’t get involved in any bad karma for money. Even if you die out of starving, never ever hurt others. You will die a noble death…” My mother is no more now. She became a noble soul.
“This advice is not related to money.”
“I was writing stories and poetry during school days itself. After her advice, I decided not to touch any money other than coming from my karma – writing. I am still stuck to this decision.”
“So you started making money from writing…”
“Yes and no. I go by intuition. I never depend upon intelligence when it comes to major decisions in life. I know I have limited intelligence. Intelligence is product of my brain (which is just another organ) and conditioned mind. But intuition is unlimited. I left many jobs just by intuition. Life was all about struggles and more struggles.”
“So how did you make money Uday sir? Did you marry a rich girl?”
Marriage? It took me less than half-a-minute (30 seconds) to take a decision – in fact two decisions (1) should I marry or not and (2) should I marry this girl.
“Yes, I was eldest in the family – crossing 29 years old; I became a road block to my younger ones. So my father insisted me to get marry. Then this proposal came. ‘Please go and see her,’ he said.
Till then there was no idea of marriage – hence no expectations or plans for a family life. I just looked at the girl and went by intuition.
“SIr – nothing to do with the subject…” she interfered in between, “but my professor told me about your love affair…what happened to that…”
“As you said nothing to do with the subject. But, for your info, I never had a love affair – I have experienced a love life…It was a miracle. It’s not relevant to this subject…So, I don’t want to talk about it right now…”
“Ok sir, now, this girl, did she agree to marry you?”
Later, when her parents came to know more about me and that I am a rolling stone, they were hesitant. Its natural for any parents to look for a groom with regular income. But she fought for me.
“Why?” Ann asked stunningly.
“Even I asked her – why? She said: Few boys came to see me. Everybody was asking for money and dowry. My father is a poor railway employee. You didn’t ask for money and you are the first person who said you liked me, without any hesitation. You also told me that you have no job and have only Rs500/ as bank balance…You were honest…tell me, whom else should I trust and marry?”
“Did you like her at first sight? Was she so beautiful?”
“I didn’t even see her properly – hardly a glance. I didn’t know if she was beautiful or not at that point of time. I just went by intuition…. And do you really think external beauty is ever lasting? ”
“So you married her without a job and bank balance…Was she earning?”
“She got UPSC selection and a central government job – but she didn’t want to go. Instead, she began helping me in my research and writing. We sold her chain and bought a typewriter and she was typing my articles and stories… We used to sleep for only 4 hours a day…”
“How cute! So money started flowing in?”
“On the contrary,we were struggling. But was contended with what we get…She didn’t have much ambitions in life. She never heard of journalism before meeting me…Incidentally, she is working as a news researcher in a Netherlands-based firm now…” I said.
“Uday sir, our subject, money matters…”
Yes. Jobs and quits continued as per my intuition. My last job in India was in Bangalore, when I left the position of editor from Dalal Street Journal – the pay was good, but I went by intuition and resigned. Again back to square one. This time Rs 40, 000/- in bank. Two daughters – 5 year old and one year old – and carrying wife.
By intuition again, I bought a DX2 computer and applied for an internet connection. Then there was no money left. I didn’t get any assignments for the first five months. We sold our ornaments and old type writer to buy daily bread. My father had advised me never to borrow any money from anybody. Our parents would have helped us, but we wanted to make a living on our own. Every day and night I would check email. Nothing. My eldest kid would sit near me announcing to mother in the kitchen “Amma, kasale naa (nothing, nothing)….” Then would tell me “Etha assa Appa (Something will come now Appa, check)”. I sold my bike.
At last I got my first assignment. From a US-based publication – Upside. A story on developing IT market in India. I filed the story. The editor said, “We might take it for cover story – so can’t say how many words we would use. Please file a blank invoice.”
We didn’t have any provision left in the house. I didn’t know where to go or how to make money. There was nothing to sell. I got editor’s email: “Total number of words used 1650. We have transferred fund to your bank account by SWIFT”
I was ashamed to go to bank as there was no minimum balance (Rs 250/-) in my SB account. With shivering hands I gave my passbook to the counter for adding the entries. When I got it back, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I could not actually see the imprinted words. It was like crystals in front of my eyes. I sat down in the chair – I was afraid to open it again. I looked around to confirm that I was not dreaming. They paid me $1 per word, totaling $1650/- The highest ever remuneration I have ever got till then for a single article. I felt like richest man in the world.
Next day, I got a call from IDG group – they were launching a news service specializing IT. Would you be interested in joining as Indian correspondent? Same day, I got another call from RCR media – checking my availability to join as Indian contributor. Both are US based. The very next day I got yet another email from CMP Techweb in UK asking me if I can contribute articles to them.
“So the flood gate of money opened up…”
“Yes – somewhat…but I wouldn’t take up all assignments. I wanted some financial security as I was fed up with struggles…After couple of years I got my first offer for job in the USA.”
“So you went to USA to make money?”
My intuition said, no. But I was not sure. I asked my eldest daughter who was eight then.
She said:”All of us will go?”
“No, the first year’s salary won’t be sufficient for all of us to live there. Only I will go”
“Then don’t go.”
“You know, I don’t have a permanent job here. I may become jobless…”
“Don’t worry Appa, I will also help you…You said you didn’t depend upon your parents after B Sc, right? You were earning and learning. I will stop depending you from 10th itself. Wait and see…”
And she did it. She started working from home from 10th standard. Now she is doing her B Tech (No fees, thanks to merit) and in the evenings working online for a UK-firm – earning ten times that I was earning at her age. She never was dependent on us – never ever asked any doubts; all self-study, no tuition, yet became topper in the school. And she overtook us for one more thing – she would sleep only for 3 hours, remaining time working and studying. “I want to work harder than you Appa,” she would say.
“So you didn’t go to USA…”
“I went. I still have open VISA. I explained my situation to the managing director. She was very good person – she appointed me as Asian Bureau Chief and allowed me to work from India. But I would need to travel a lot then. I have never stayed away from my family for more than ten days.”
“So you made more money from writing and journalism…when did you cross the first billion…”
“Oh – that…my youngest kid gave it to me”
“How come? Did she inherit any family fortune?”
“No – in fact, I have got it from my youngest daughter Adhrika. We had brought a glass tumbler as a gift to a relative’s marriage and kept in a hard-paper-box in the table. My 3-year old daughter Adhrika tried to reach that box and it fell down. The glass tumbler was broken. I scolded her a lot. Angrily my wife beat hear left and right.
She cried and went under table. Later she picked up the empty card box from the waste basket.
Next day morning Adhrika brought me the box fully pained with cryons and said, “This is for you appa.” I felt embarassed by my previous night’s overreaction. But, again I became very angry when I found the box was empty. “Don’t you know that you cannot give an empty box as present to anybody?” (I was so unconscious with anger that I didn’t think little Adhrika cannot buy anything for me on her own)
She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said: ” Oh, Appa, it was not empty. I have said “Om Namo Narayanaya” (Sacred chant) keeping my face inside so that Narayana will bless you Appa”
Ann was speechless.
“Ann, what is there in this universe as precious as pure love? How much billion does it worth?”
She was just sitting there, expressionless.
“The Rs 24 given by my mother worth 24 million billion for me….Ann, my job is writing not making money. That’s my karma. Sometimes I write blogs not for money. Why should I make more money than what I really need?”
“So, this is not the story of one billion rupees? You said you are billionaire in a different dimension…”
“Yes – I am very rich. My parents, wife, kids, relatives, friends and my love showered me with huge pile of treasure. I am sharing it with another billion – more than one billion. There are 1.2 billion Indians… I have the capacity to love all of them. May be more than that. This capacity makes me multi-billionaire…”
After a moment of thinking, she asked: “So what’s your advice to me?”
“To your readers?”
“No Uday sir – to me! I have just decided to shelve the project. Intuition…you know “she laughed, “You made me very rich Sir. I have begun to see how much millions I got in my life…”
“I am not good in advising others Ann as I am not a role-model. Every body is unique expression. Let me tell you my observation – the society and media will prompt you to live superficial. That will lead to misery. Live the life in full depth. Experience every moment of life with utmost intensity. I know the world always appear unfair. But we have to live a fair life…for us and for all others too… Let’s share and care for people around us. After all, we have a short time to live…”
“And about money? I also want to be a billionaire, may be richer than you.”
“Never spend money for luxury – buy essential things only. Whenever you buy unessential things, remember you have millions of brothers and sisters who are crying for one square meal. When you share what you have earned with them, you would easily become a billionaire…I know Ann, you will.”
Ann got up. She tried to touch my feet. I said, no. Just Namaste will do.
Ann (not real name) is now working in a television firm as news editor. (See also: http://udaypai.in/?page_id=453)
March 05, 2013
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