A Little Money

“All the things I could do

If I had a little money”

                           -Money, Money, Money (ABBA)


If you’re an Ashoka student, one of the most common phrasesrefrains you hear (aside from “social construct” and “privilege”) is “I’m broke”. It becomes a weekly event, sometimes daily, if you’re friends with enough people: a friend or an acquaintance walks up to you while you’re deciding what to do for lunch and says, “Hey, do you have some cash I can borrow?”

We’ve all been there at some point in our life on campus, and if you haven’t, you’ve not been here long enough, or you’re really lucky. Most of us have either been the broke person, or the generous soul lending money to the broke person...or both. We often have limits on how much cash we spend in a month, or just want to be cautious in our spending...but there are times when you just need to satisfy your craving for a good pizza, or you will absolutely not have whatever is in the detox menu. And so, any sense of maintaining your monthly budget goes right out of the window, and you’re left with a hundred rupees in your wallet; it’s not even halfway through the month yet!

Fine, you tell yourself. I’ll survive till the fifteenth. I don’t need anything else anyway.

But then the Winter Haat or an impromptu bake sale is on the tenth, and your batchmate is making these amazing brownies, while there are rumors of some delicious sandwiches being sold nearby, and at the same time, someone has made planners and pretty notebooks for sale. Those hedgehogs on the tiny planner look so cute…

Hey, where did that hundred bucks go?

You breathe and try to stay calm. Okay, I can manage for five days. What’s going to happen in five days, anyway?

A ridiculous imitation in the mess of your region’s speciality food.

You take one look at it and turn around to see your friend sitting nearby. “Hey,” you begin, “do you have fifty bucks on you?”

It’s the twelfth of the month, and you’re already fifty rupees in debt.

Somehow, you pull through, and on the fifteenth, you repay the two hundred rupees worth of debt you’ve gathered up in the last three days, and still have over a thousand rupees in your wallet. (“That’s how the campus economy works” - Diya Bhat, first-year Undergraduate)

I will be careful this time, you vow. I won’t blow up all my money on momos and chole rice.

Your professor wants you to buy a course pack worth three hundred rupees; you almost hear yourself crying because that was the money you were going to spend in Delhi that weekend. On the same day, you need two novels from the stationery store for your minor course, and you have to buy (expensive) pads from the tuck store because you were nearly caught unaware this morning.

You’re down to your last two hundred rupees, and it’s been a week since you withdrew. Promising to live off mess food for every meal except Thursday dinner, you miraculously still have most of your funds intact after ten days, and you’re pretty pleased with yourself.

Right after that thought passes your mind, your roommate walks in and says, “Listen, do you have fifty bucks with you? The mess food is destroying my stomach, but I only have a 2000-rupee note and nobody will give me change.”

Of course, things have changed since e-wallets became popular. It’s become a lot easier to buy food without the problem of exact change that every shop on campus has suffered through in the last year and a half. Still, not everyone is that lucky, and sometimes, Paytm might actually malfunction thanks to a WiFi problem. That’s when you’re pulled down to using cash. No problem, you tell yourself, opening your wallet. I can still buy a small hot chocolate…

There’s nothing but a 2000-rupee note in there.

Edited by Devashree Somani

All the images are curated by Sanjna Misra