Love in the time of EMIs

We live in the best of financial times, and the worst of financial times.

With two earning members, nuclear families, burgeoning consumerism, availability of better products and services, wider career options and fat salaries - the drive is shifting from 'save more' to 'earn more'. Rather than 'retain', we are increasingly looking to 'update'.

Our unlimited ambitions are being funded by innovative financial institutions and instruments. If all these are signs of a progressive economy, they are also looming threats for those far removed from realities. Financial facilities were conceived to make aspirations affordable, not to entrap us into a lifetime of depression.

Unmanageable debts can take a heavy toll on our relationships. So, if you are on a borrowing spree to make your loved one happy, BEWARE. You may find yourself in a situation like Sameer and Diya.

The strange case of Sameer and Diya

After courting for three years, and being married for five years, Sameer and Diya were staying separately, often fought publicly and were contemplating divorce. The irony is that both were passionately in love with each other. Strange?

Well, complicated.

The couple bought everything on their checklist through a super scheme that allows affording things without full payment. It's called EMIs (Equated Monthly Installment) scheme. Their home resembles a showroom. No, they were not selfish to buy things for their own selves. On the contrary, they bought products for one another: car, smartphones, LEDs and so on.

Sameer had a contractual job that occasionally rendered him unemployed and Diya suddenly on whim, decided to quit her steady job to pursue her 'dream career': Acting.

This, after they had already bought a flat on a loan: matters reached their nadir when Sameer secretly sold off his wedding ring to pay towards one EMI. He was too embarrassed to do anything else as his in-laws and parents had paid off some installments. Small tiffs led to bigger conflicts and eventually matters spilled out of control till Diya moved out.

It would be easy to dismiss them as fools, but poor planning and unforeseen circumstances played the villain in their lives. The good news is Sameer has landed a permanent job in December, and is out there to woo Diya back.

Using EMIs to advantage

Love brings out the best in smart people. College sweethearts Gayatri and Nikhil married despite gentle resistance from their family. To ensure financial stability, Gayatri juggled her final semester with a full-time job while Nikhil single-mindedly focused on studies.

They married immediately after post-graduation and Nikhil started his own business. The couple pumped money into the venture through bank loans, but Gayatri's steady job ensured the EMIs were being paid on time. Their argument was simple. The monthly percentage returns on their business were greater than the interest rate on EMIs. Their success mantra: "Borrow to build. Reap to repay."

The business operations stabilized in about two years. Following the birth of their daughter, Gayatri quit her job and joined her husband full-time. Both run a successful marketing firm in Pune, with branches in Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

Love brought them together; love is still the driving force of Nikhil and Gayatri's business.

Once upon a time

Once upon a time, 'to love in marriage and till death' was a simple concept.

By simple, I don't mean things were easy - yet they were quite straightforward. Couples got married at a younger age, usually only one member earned the income and the other spouse managed the household with astute financial prudence. In a patriarchal society like India, it typically meant the husband's 'competence' was determined by his ability to generate cash flows, and the wife's 'skill' lay in stemming the outflows. It was an intimate bond - one dependent on another - one ineffective without the other.

I rarely saw my grandparents exchange lengthy conversations. Both were busy - nani in the kitchen and nana outside. As kids, we grew up among plenty of books, sweetmeats and festivals. Looking back, it must have been a challenge for them to put up the show for us. Nana was a salaried employee who retired early, and nani brought in the extra bucks through jugaad. Nana was a magician at fixing things, while his wife could make tons of pickles and papads at will. Cash-in-hand was might; dreaming through EMIs was like chasing a mirage. Indulgence was a sin, frugality was a virtue.

But thrift did not mean romance was compromised upon. The couple made six children, one every two years.

Six kids? Really, a lot has changed over the past few decades. 

How do you handle your loans and installments?  Should love blind you to the extent of being illogical? Is it then, true love? Share your views by posting a comment below.

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