Kavita Kishore was a house wife on dole for decades. A woman who’d never had a salary but an allowance; no bonuses but birthday envelopes.Every month for the last year her husband, who ran a `cut-piece’ cloth shop in Dadar, has been giving her Rs 20,000 in cash to keep the house on its feet. When they married 30 years ago, he ran it himself but after a year of studying his wife’s domestic prudence, he handed over to her a sum of Rs 500 in tenners and twenties from his till, telling her laughingly .. to “keep the change“. Three decades later, the `change’ rings in at around Rs 2,50,000.
Hard-won from years of hard bargaining at the bazaars, stretching the dough, buying second-hand school books. “I’d just save…for hard times, emergencies, a holiday ,“ she says. Last week, she had to ferret out small stashes from across the house (the hems of old saris, cleaned out talcum powder boxes…) and retrieve what she had salted away at her sister’s nearby .Her astonished husband said he would deposit the money in their joint bank account, which was really only nominally shared. “He was surprised to see I’d saved this much,“ says Kishore, “While he claims he’ll withdraw the money whenever I need it, he’ll decide if I really need it. I’ll have to go back to scratch, saving for money that’s mine to keep and use as I want.“
Women in India have graver reasons for despairing of the demonetization drive their cash reserves were their runaway funds; their children’s higher-education funds; their running the-house funds; their divorce fees funds; money-for-their-parents funds… Funds they kept out of sight of their husbands for fear of forfeiting it altogether because money is agency , handy in a culture that grants them so little of it. The ones with agency -relatively speaking -are confronted with not so much a cash crisis as a conundrum. How to upcycle it without the Alpha Male knowing, sermonizing, appropriating?
“We have a joint bank account and my husband is privy to my expenses. You know what that means…“ says Pamela Gomes, a 40-year-old private tutor in Ben galuru bringing in Rs 40,000 a month.What that means is every extravagance by a debit or credit card is tracked and attacked. Her husband, for example, didn’t see the wisdom in sinking Rs 4,000 in a jacket. “Who needs the lectures when you’re a grown woman earning your living and contributing your share to the house?“ she says testily . So she started secreting a portion of her earnings at home, spending it at will. But last week she had to come clean about her liquid assets of Rs 32,000. “Even if I had taken it to the bank myself, my husband would have noticed the transaction.“ She was surprised that he wasn’t upset she’d kept the money hidden, perhaps happy about the windfall. Stowing away cash is not an intrinsically Indian stratagem, women around the world do it. In fact the Japanese even gave it a name: hesokuri or `money hidden in the navel’. Last November, The Japan Times cited a survey conducted by a life insurance company, saying the hesokuri or money secretly saved by Japanese wives exceeded the savings of their husbands twofold. The average savings of a woman was Yen 1,268,446 or Rs 7.8 lakh.
In her blog on women and finance, South African financial journalist Sasha Planting asks `What’s wrong with a secret stash?’ “I think a stash is prudent, and whether or not it’s secret is up to you.“
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