by Dr. Harish Dhillon (Late Principal, YPS, Mohali)
ALL my life I've envied people who have made wise investments. There are people I know who bought real estate — plots of land, houses or flats, and commercial property at what would, in today's scenario, be considered dirt cheap prices, only to have it spiralling a thousand thousand fold. There are others who invested in shares and made, what they gleefully term, an absolute killing. Still others invested in gold and have come into their own now.
I didn't make any such wise investment. For the major part of my professional life my income remained in the three and four figure bracket, which, with a wife and three children, made for a comfortable living but did not leave any savings for such investments. When I did, finally, have money to spare, the prices of real estate had boomed beyond my reach. I had the middle-class distrust of the stock market and gold was still something you bought only for weddings. I was content to invest my savings in the PPF and the EPF and fixed deposits.
But when, after my retirement, I saw my friends and relatives cashing in on their investment and living it up, I couldn't help but feel an occasional twinge of envy.
The only consistent and constant investment that I made, over the years, was the time I spent with the children under my care. It had been a good investment because most of them had turned out to be decent human beings.
But I have come to realise that this had been an extremely wise investment in another way too. I had bought a credit card and, not understanding the mechanics of it, had soon tied myself up into knots over it, which I found impossible to untie. I was given a number in Delhi. The moment I introduced myself the voice at the other end lapsed into exclamation marks:
“Oh UD! How are you, sir? Do you remember, you read out my essay to the class and made me feel wonderful.” I told her about my problem and five minutes later she called to say that it had all been sorted out.
I was on a flight to Bangalore. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the captain.
“Do you remember me, sir? I can never forget the way you carried my haversack when I hurt myself on that trek.” I was upgraded to business class and treated in a way the Ambani brothers would have envied.
I was hospitalised recently. The CAE of the hospital was a former pupil, and once the staff knew this I was cocooned in a nest of great care and compassion. When I was finally discharged, I turned to thank him.
“Through all our years in school there was so much that you did for us. I can never repay you.”
I realised that my investment had been an extremely wise one. I had no reason to envy the investments that others had made.