I Can’t Afford it!

By Jayaram Rajaram

As I am slowly getting over the fact that I won’t be able to watch Sachin Tendulkar take guard in an ODI anymore, I’m having a very strong bout of nostalgia and occasionally feel a sense of emptiness. I was one of those who never watched cricket- I watched Tendulkar. Anyway, this post is not about Sachin, but I started off with a few lines about him because his on and off-field behaviour and intact middle-class value system is something that I would love my child to grow up with. It’s not about being famous, but about the person your child grows up to be…….

Tracing back to 1989, I was 9 years old and hooked to tennis. I had been playing at Sadashivanagar Club in Bangalore since I was 7. My father had bought me white canvas shoes and a wooden tennis racket. This was the time when Bata had launched some ultra-cool Power shoes. They were called Power Ultimo and many of my tennis pals had bought them. When I saw those shoes I started feeling a little embarrassed with my uncool Bata canvas counterparts. One day I decided that these canvas shoes were just plain uncomfortable. Today I can tell you that more than being uncomfortable I just wanted to have what my friends had.  So, off I went to appa (I call my dad appa) and said I wanted a pair of Power Ultimo shoes! He looked at me and very convincingly and matter-of-factly said “I can’t afford it”.

At that age I had no idea what my father could afford or not, and my dad knew it didn’t matter. I went on to say how my friends had bought these shoes and how comfortable they were etc. etc. He heard me out and said “They can afford them. We will see later.” End of topic. Though I felt really upset that day, I did get my Power Ultimo shoes without asking again, before I played my first tournament. He never told me he was buying them for me and it was not an incentive (Parenting Tip: Never tie objects to achievements with children- delayed gratification + unconditional love works better).

Today when I walk in for important business meetings (Even abroad) wearing my Bata chappals, I thank my appa. It’s really not what I wear, but who I am- what a simple yet important and effective parenting action that was (I never feel embarrassed about what I wear anymore! I just dress like me, in a neat and presentable manner!). While I quote just one instance here, my parents never hesitated to tell my brother and me a white lie about ‘Not being able to afford something’. I’m not for a moment asking parents to keep lying to children. The message here is to keep it simple when you communicate to your child. If you don’t want to say ‘I can’t afford it’, say ‘can we save money for this and buy it later?’ Basically the important thing is not to encourage instant gratification as it will do more harm than good for your child.

Today with consumerism peaking I shudder to imagine how I am going to bring my son up, but without doubt I will be telling him that I can’t afford many of the super expensive things that  he is going to ask for along the way!

…….back to Sachin….his retirement from ODI just woke me up about how many years it has been since my father said ‘I can’t afford it’!

About the Author

Jayaram Rajaram is the Managing Partner of Bril and the Managing Director & Chief Dreamer of ELSA. Jayaram writes from his heart and from experience. He writes about varied topics ranging from parenting to leadership and entrepreneurship.

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