The Right Step
The Right Step7 mins 243 7 mins 243
“How do I tell him that this is important to me ? How can I convince him?” Lavanya thought miserably as she sat on their favourite bench on the beach waiting for Rudr to join her. They had been dating for more than two years and their parents expected them to fix their wedding date any time now. Rudr was one of the good guys, not only handsome, but intelligent and kind. But Lavanya could not abide by his habit of spending all the money he earned.
He belonged to an upper middle class family and so did she. They both worked in reputed companies and earned a good salary. But whereas Lavanya was judicious with the money that she earned, Rudr loved to spend. Whether it was the latest electronic gadget or an expensive pair of shoes, a high end camera or a 5-star hotel dinner with her, money never mattered to him. Investing for a safe future was the very last thought on his mind.
Lavanya was roused from her dark thoughts as Rudr came and placed a quick kiss on her cheek. “Hi Lav, What’s got you looking so pensive today ?” he asked.
“Rudr, I am sorry, but I have to reiterate what I keep telling you. You need to plan for our future before we get married. I love you a lot and I would not want financial burdens to put a strain on our relationship and one day lead us to hate each other. Please understand”, she implored.
“Oh, C’mon Lav,” he scoffed, “As if that’s gonna happen. You know I will take care of you.”
“Dekh Rudr, #Seedhi Baat, The thought of saving and reality are two different things. We still live with our parents, and soon we will have to set up our own home. We are both independent enough not to ask our parents for money. We need to maintain two cars as we both drive to work and also manage the household expenses. Yes, this may still be possible. But what about when the kids come ? You know we both want them. Will I have a choice to quit work if I want to ? Private school fees in our city are prohibitively high and we would want the best education for them. As they grow up, we would have to be ready to fulfil their higher education dreams. We also have to look at other issues like ill health and inflation. You need to take insurance now, so that you don’t have to pay a high premium as you grow older. And what about our retirement ? We don't have social security to cover us and I am sure we don’t want to be a burden on our kids. We have to save from right now,” said Lavanya, finally stopping to take a breath.
Rudr was getting angry now. It seemed to him that Lavanya did not trust him enough to take care of her. And anyways, what was the hurry to start saving ? He wanted to enjoy his life when he could. He earned well, he wanted to live well. But no matter how much he loved Lavanya, her continuous harping on his finances grated on his nerves. He decided to give her a taste of her own medicine.
“So, I guess we don’t need to plan our wedding now, do we ?” he said harshly. “I am not going to start saving from today, so you can just get off my back and give me some peace. Now let me walk you back to your car, I want to go home.”
Lavanya was taken aback by his harsh tone but she nodded sadly. It was for the best. She did not want them to be at each other’s throats five or ten years down the line and then be left with emotional scars that neither would recover from. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks as they walked back to the car. He was ensuring her safety even as he was rejecting everything she said.
A week passed and Rudr had managed to calm down a bit. He missed Lavanya a lot and wished that the harsh words had not been spoken . But he could not see a way out of this. He could pretend and agree with everything she asked, but he was not that person. He would always do what he promised, but right now saving money was not high on his list of priorities. The doorbell rang and he went to answer it. He let in his 8 month pregnant sister, Rupa and her 4 year old daughter, Ruchi who jumped all over him. After playing with her for a bit and giving her the brand new doll he had bought for her, he sat to catch up with his sister. She was looking tired and continuously massaged her back even as she sat leaning against a pillow and had her legs up on a stool.
“ I am tired of sitting continuously for meetings day in and day out,” Rupa said. “The maid had to stop coming in again as someone in her neighborhood has contracted the virus. So, between office work, household work ,taking care of Ruchi and this honey bun I am completely wiped out. Tarun helps when he can but he has his work commitments too.”
Rudr was surprised. “C’mon Didi, you and Jiju have been working for so many years. Don’t tell me you can’t quit and relax a bit now,” he said.
“Rudr, you need to be at my position to understand,” said Rupa. “We used most of our savings to go on the Europe trip a couple of years back. Most of Tarun’s salary goes in paying off our home and car loan EMI’s. Ruchi’s kindergarten fees are higher than what we even paid for our graduation courses. Luckily for us the maternity expenses are covered by Tarun’s office insurance. If not, that would be an additional expense coming our way. So yes, there is no way I can quit right now unless we make drastic changes to our lifestyle.”
Rudr was shocked speechless. Rupa’s words coming on the back of Lavanya’s ultimatum were too much for him to process. He was aware of all the needs that a married couple had, but he had never thought two well employed people would feel the need to struggle.
“Don’t you have savings or investments ,Didi? “ he asked.
“As I said, we spent most of them. Also the costs of all things seem to have risen after the pandemic and so the household expenses are scary. Investments, I guess we do have some, it is something that the CA does while filing Income Tax, but those are investments right ? Not something we can use right now, “ Rupa said.
Rudr shook his head thoughtfully. It looked like he had some serious thinking to do.
A month had passed since Lavanya had last seen Rudr. Her hand went to the phone numerous times a day, to text or call him, but she stopped herself. She once again found herself sitting on their favourite bench on the beach as the sun slid down on the horizon.
Suddenly, Rudr appeared next to her. She was so surprised that she could not respond as he placed the customary kiss on her cheek and sat down next to her. Then he did something totally unexpected as he slid down on one knee in front of her, and held her hand. As she listened with rapt attention, he quickly told her what he had been doing from the past one month. First he recounted the talk with his sister, which had led to him talking to his parents about their financial choices. He had been amazed by their insights and helpful tips and also with their concern regarding his spending ways which they had never voiced. Then he had gone on to take up Financial Planning classes for beginners and started slowly investing for the long term.
“The best part is that ,“ he continued “even with these investments I have a little money to spare. So I can still buy the things I want, but it may take me four months instead of one . So now, I want to again ask you to be my wife and instead of a diamond ring to declare my intentions, I want to give you this.”
He handed Lavanya a portfolio of his investments. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she turned the pages to see health and life insurance policies, investments in mutual funds and systematic investment plans.
She threw herself into his arms and thanked him for doing this for her.
“No Lav, I did this for us,“ Rudr said with a broad smile. “Tumhari #Seedhi Baat ne tho mujhe seedha kar diya. “ (Your straight talk made me change my ways.)
They both laughed together and sat to watch as the sun went down and a new beginning dawned on their relationship.