Why was SFF created?
Excluding the top 4% who earn more than Rs 20 Lacs per year, the rest of India, can be broadly classified in to the aspiring middle class (Rs 2 Lacs to Rs 20 Lacs per year, 70%) and the struggling poor (less than Rs 2 lacs per year, 26%).
The month to month jugglery of the 70% middle class is quite complex. You can't understand it unless you have lived through it. Even salaried people who have a steady assured income, get tossed around like a rudderless raft on a mountain river, because they lack the financial discipline and intelligence required to take control of their lives.
Founder of SFF, Ramkumar R S, had his own personal experience of growing up in a lower middle class family. His story starts in 1950, when his grand mother became a widow with 5 kids...
My grandmother had a love marriage. So her family as well as her husband's family disowned them. And they lived alone in Kumbakonam. My grandfather was a percussion artist, who travelled frequently to play in concerts. He used to chew tobacco and so he developed oral cancer. He died in 1950, leaving my grandmother and her 5 kids to fend for themselves. My father was just 7 years old.
My grandmother survived the first few years, by selling her jewels. Later she worked in other people's houses as a cook and maid. She stood on her own legs and survived. She did not send her children to work like other people did. She sent them to a government school in Kumbakonam.
My Father passed high school, did odd jobs for five years in Kumbakonam before coming to Madras (now Chennai) in search of work. After a further struggle of another 5 years, he got a salaried clerical job in the then Pallavan Transport Corporation (Now MTC), where he remained till retirement. My mother was a housewife.
We were 3 kids. I was the first child of an aspiring middle class salaried person. So my father stretched himself to enrol me in an English Medium School for the first 5 years. After primary school, I joined a high school run by the Murugappa Group Trust. My younger brother and sister were not that lucky. They both went to a government school. Because my parents could not afford the fees.
My father was a teetotaller, had no bad habits and dedicated his life for the family. Yet rising prices and eroding value of money was squeezing him year after year. He worked for a corporation where salaries were negotiated with the union every few years. Lack of college education and other marketable skills meant, he was stuck in a job, where there was no growth. So our financial position deteriorated over time.
We could not afford a TV and hence I use to beg neighbours to let me watch cricket. Food was there (thanks to subsidised rice issued by government). But we could afford vegetables only once a day and had curd rice and onion for the night.
Borrowing from the local money lender in our street even for day to day expenses was quite common. The interest was very high. The debt accumulated. We had loans from PF, from a few credit societies and a bank. I remember my mother pawning her nose stud to the money lender in our street, to pay my school fees.
After high school, I had the option to study Higher Secondary in the same school and then go for 4 years of college. Instead I went for a 3 year Diploma in Electronics straight out of high school. And I went to work at the age of 19.
Today after 35 years, I can claim to have arrived at the echelons of an upper middle class family. And even after all that time, I have just reached a place where I have an own house, a car, some jewels, two well educated and settled children and nothing more. My brother and sister on the other hand are still climbing. They still don't own a house or a car, which they hope their children will buy one day.
I deeply understand the financial struggles and problems of a middle class family and that is what motivates me and inspires me.
Ramkumar R S
To read more of Ramkumar as a writer, please visit this link