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     Volume 6 Issue 31 | August 10, 2007 |

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Views from the Bottom

Measures of Miserly Minds

Shahnoor Wahid

The miser, starving his brother's body, starves also his own soul, and at death shall creep out of his great estate of injustice, poor and naked and miserable”
-- Theodore Parker

My late friend Golam Forkan Pramanik enjoyed a special kind of status among his friends and foes in his lifetime. He was known to be a miser of the unique variety. He was mad when his wife conceived for the second time. Another child meant parting with more money. His father-in-law came from the village to pay the clinic expenses.

Money is the only thing he loved in this whole world and he would do anything to earn and keep it. When it came to paying for something he bought he would rather barter his blood than pay with money. He felt a jolt in his heart every time he parted with his money, whatever amount that was.

When he was an adolescent his friends used to toss a metal coin into the canal in their village and Forkan used to dive like mad to recover it. The finder keeps it was the deal. Noone could beat him in the only sport that he enjoyed.

He strongly believed only mad people spent their hard-earned money on trivialities like cars, flats, television, gardens, jewellery and so on. He never approved of wasting money on expensive food like meat, big fish, expensive vegetables, cakes, sweets etc. In the kitchen market he would look for the smallest fish and ask his wife to make as many pieces as possible so that they could cook it for two/three days. He would cut a banana into four pieces and share with his family saying that too much banana forms gas in the stomach. He hung the news clipping on mango ripened with chemicals on the dining room door and showed it to his son and daughter every time they wanted to have mango.

On many occasions immediately before the Eid festivals he would hide in some place and send a telegram to his wife saying that he was on official duty in some far off district. The message clearly was 'no money to buy new dresses.' On the Eid day he would go to the mosque wearing pajama and kurta many sizes short with patches all over.

The day Forkan Paramanik had to attend an official dinner party he would warn his wife not to cook any food that evening. He used to take some polythene bags in his pocket and sneak in some meatballs and fish fillet for his family. Those were the days when they ate meat and fish. Once in a while, his father-in-law would bring some fish from his village pond. Forkan would instruct his wife to make tiny pieces to last as many days as possible.

Forkan Paramanik received a handsome salary as a senior executive in a commercial enterprise but he ate only two meals a day, one in the morning and one in the evening, and his family had to follow his footsteps. If his wife secretly saved some loose coins and bought peanuts for the children, Forkan would somehow smell it in the air and immediately rush to his wife with a crestfallen look. Two taka for some worthless seeds! Why? Didn't they eat enough rice at ten in the morning? Then how could they eat so many peanuts in the afternoon? Don't let them become gluttons, for God's sake! Money does not fall from the sky like rainwater. And we have to construct that house in the village. Where would you live if anything happened to me? My heart condition is not so good.

So, one day my late friend Forkan Pramamanik felt real pain in his over-tensed heart. He could feel it was bad. He called his brother and gave him some money to dig a grave for him on a small piece of land in his village. After he died he was taken there. His wife and daughter were crying inside a neighbour's house as others took him to lay him in the grave. Suddenly his son came running with tears running down his cheeks. He said they could not squeeze his father in the grave, as it was too small, half the size of what is normally dug. But, why? Asked his bewildered wife. Because he paid half the money to the grave-diggers, and extremely annoyed they dug a grave that was his money's worth.

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