Gandhi went from city to city, village to village collecting funds for the Charkha Sangh. The Charkha Sangh was formed in 1925 and 50,000 charkhas began working to make cotton thread that could then be woven into homespun garments.

During one of Gandhiji’s tours, he addressed a meeting in the Indian state of Orissa. After his speech a poor old woman got up. She was bent with age, her hair was grey and her clothes were in tatters. The volunteers tried to stop her, but she fought her way to the place where Gandhi was sitting.

“I must see him,” she insisted and going up to Gandhi touched his feet. Then from the folds of her sari she brought out a copper coin and placed it at his feet

Gandhi picked up the copper coin and put it away carefully.

The Charkha Sangh funds were under the charge of Jamnalal Bajaj the industrialist. He asked Gandhi for the coin but Gandhi refused.

“I keep cheque worth thousands of rupees for the Charkha Sangh,” Jamnalal Bajaj said laughingly, “yet you won’t trust me with a copper coin.”

“This copper coin is worth much more than those thousands,” Gandhi said. “If a man has several lakhs and he gives away a thousand or two, it doesn’t mean much. But this coin was perhaps all that the poor woman possessed. She gave me all she had. That was very generous of her. What a great sacrifice she made. That is why I value this copper coin more than a crore of rupees.”

Frugality is something that my generation grew up with. There was plenty, but a sense of what is right drove us to think about waste and extravagance. We took buses and trains whenever possible. We shared clothes through generations. Whatever was excess was shared and distributed amongst family and friends and especially with househelp.

Some years ago I had interviewed the head honcho of Hermal Miller who was visiting India. When I heard about the prices of the chairs, I was stunned as it went on to tens of thousands! I asked him who would buy these chairs other than corporate as I thought that it was far beyond an individual’s spending power. He asked me, “Will you not buy one for yourself as they ergonomically designed and excellent for people with physical problems?”

My answer was, “It is not as if I cannot spend that money. It is just that my inherent sense of frugality will not allow me to do so when I can get another unbranded chair—nearly the same—for a fraction of the branded cost.”

When I see youngsters buying top of the range cell phones, I pads, electronic stuff that have only a limited life and cost an arm and a limb, I wonder at their liberal spending power.

Maybe they have had it easy with more funds available from well-to-do parents that they do not think twice about buying stuff with little concern for price. Maybe I am an old fogey who is stuck in a time warp about “In my days we……………”

However, I still do think twice and many times before I spend money. I do not claim to be frugal for I do love my luxuries, my comfortable footwear or spectacles. But I do tend to compare prices in a couple of places before I take the plunge.

Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Anu, Ashok, Conrad, DeliriousGaelikaa,  GrannymarMagpie11Paul, Maria the Silver Fox, Rummuser , Will Knott, Shackman and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get  different flavours of the same topic.

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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11 Responses to Frugality

  1. Maxi says:

    Good post Padimini, especially the part about the copper coin.
    blessings ~ maxi


  2. Grannymar says:

    Growing up, we had to save for any non essentials and I think we appreciated them all the more when we got them. Old habits die hard.


  3. rummuser says:

    In my post you will find that I have mentioned three cousins and their comparison of their lot to that of ours. The point is that though we thought that we were frugal or rather that our parents made us live frugally, others less fortunate, still thought that we lived lavishly compared to them. This is the point of such adjectives being used casually in that it is inevitably relative and the context has to be firmly set before the word itself is used.


    • padmum says:

      True, but there is an underlying standard of reference. The converse also applies. People may think that we can spend but we don’t because we are misers!!


  4. conhake says:

    An excellent post, especially the part of the copper coin, for it illustrates the true value (or lack thereof) of our possessions. We are in full agreement!


  5. Delirious says:

    I think my frugality is much like yours. As I age, I am more comfortable with spending, but I’m still frugal. I just can’t pay big bucks for the newest fashions when I can buy something a little less fashionable for much less. 🙂


    • padmum says:

      My friend was telling me the other day that she puts away a few coins, notes whenever she thinks she has saved money–say by taking a bus instead of taxi–or just because she thinks she deserves it. She manages to salt away quite a sum.


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