I chuckle every time I recall this episode.
At my first job; I met with few other freshers and we hit it off instantly. Young blood, like-minded people; who all seemed to have struggled in life in one way or the other. Each one coming from a lower middle class family who struggled to even get Rs 10 as a pocket money; for most of us the first engineer from the family; but intelligent, bright and raring to go and achieve something in life.
This is not some decade old story but something that happened 6 years ago. The gang comprised of 5 folks; including me - the only girl. Each of us were from different college but we all got placed even before we completed our engineering graduation. I would not call it a dream come true for us; because we could not even afford to dream such a start for our career in one of the largest technological companies of the world - it was more than pride to be associated with that company. It was all merit and our hard work that paid off.
The compensation offered by the company for freshers was competitive and among the highest in the industry; which means the interview process was grueling as well. Anyway, for each of us who only a couple of days ago struggled for Rs 10; the thought of drawing 3.6 lakhs per annum with other benefits did not sink in. We did our math.
3,60,000/12 = 30,000 Rs per month. If we get to lose 3000-4000 in tax and other stuff, we still take home 26,000/- Wow!! wow!! The first month went in induction, introduction, getting to know and settling in along with counting days for end of month. We looked forward with anticipation and when the day came; we all went in collectively to collect our pay check as our salary account was not in place yet.
The cheque read "Eighteen thousand" only. What? We could not believe what we saw. Seeing a 5 figure against our name and holding the cheque was the most memorable moment for us; but at the same time the anti-climax. It did not match our expectations. One said "Hey there should be some mistake in this". Another one just sulked while one said "Maybe the first month, they deducted more for some reason, coming months should be fine".
We discussed over lunch. "Maybe we should just check with HR-Finance; they would correct the mistake." None of us still seem to believe that the salary amount was right. The thing was when we were called to accept the offer letter; the guys just seemed to ogle at the HR and admire her eloquence and beauty than concentrating on the salary break-up she was explaining. With me; I just dont understand numbers. I was more interested in the job - I would work for free even - why not; if its an world renowned organization as this? The ID that I wear to work everyday with my company name was sufficient.
We did go; as vikings dressed for a war; marching one behind the other will polite but grim faces. The HR was busy; but was kind enough to listen to us. He explained us once again the concept of cost to the company, flexible benefits, special allowances, tax, deductions, PF and others and how we need to apply explicitly for some components like HRA, conveyance to get that as part of salary. This was the first month and next month onwards; once we logged in our FBP plan, our numbers would improve(It did improve after a month once we adjusted our FBP component) We just nodded our head and left his office with a "Thank you for your time".
We walked out silent and one blurted out "My uncle offered me a job in Mumbai. He said he will pay be 30,000. I told I want to be in an MNC as a Software Engineer. I need this!!".
All of us looked at each other and burst out laughing. You see, it was not the amount of money; we were definitely earning best among our peers; no complaints as the technology we were working on was cool and the work environment was the best. But our expectations; what this salary meant to each one of us. How we budgeted our household and personal expenses around the expected money. We could indulge in a cellphone now or pay off a loan or here onwards our parents can relax a bit and all that.
We grew fonder and had memorable time for a couple of years till each one drifted away - a couple of them went on to do Masters in US; others moved to a new job. We regularly keep in touch; each one happy for the other for the growth and prosperity. We rarely meet but whenever we do; this incident always comes up and we have a hearty laugh over it. So innocent we were then :)
I still have a photo copy of that cheque with me:-)