Of bookkeeping and talcum powder and good intentions!

“Let’s cut back on household expenses a little,” both of us decide seriously and take a solemn vow to keep accounts properly this month at least!

We have tried earlier, fired by the reformatory zeal every time a couple we meet tells us about how they document their expenses, writing down every pie they spend, including the fifty pips donated to a beggar outside the temple! Wow, we go, we must do this and off  we traipse on a shopping expedition to buy a neatly lined little notebook, black pens for writing expenses, a red pen for totals at the bottom of every page, a green pen to make the job of double entry book-keeping (yes, that’s how ambitious we used to get!!) look prettier, a ruler and a pencil (after serious discussions on whether a blue pencil or a black pencil would be easier to maintain accounts with!)

So much effort is bound to meet with success, right? And we know exactly where we are wrt to money coming in and money going out?!! The book, ruler, pencils don’t seem to make much difference at the end of the month – yes, I know I paid ten bucks to the flower seller but what on earth happened to the thousand bucks that was right there???! This was the 1980s and a thousand bucks was a goodly proportion of my monthly salary so to have it unaccountably missing was well… sigh… tension-making… to say the very least! We break our heads over it for two days, the tension broken only by an occasional TV programme till realisation dawns… we didn’t possess a TV last month right? Didn’t we buy it this month and isn’t that where the thousand bucks went?

Eureka!! And we forgot to enter the darn thing in our beautiful account book… where is the thing by the way??! Hunt ensues, book is found… book is opened and we go into raptures as we flip the pages over – our little one-year old Picasso-in-the-making has drawn the cutest pictures – look at that… and that… and that! It would be sacrilege to deface the book with any more accounting entries. The drawings are carefully framed and we decide to buy another book and this time, we promise to keep accounts beautifully…! And in the meantime, we go out for a celebratory dinner…

The years roll on, we manage to scrape by without doing any accounts… till we decide to build a house… buy a flat, rather… this is pricey-real-estate Madras! And then the whole bogey of keeping accounts surfaces!

We are very sincere and twenty straight days of keeping accounts takes its toll on a couple to whom the whole idea is anathema! We do totals, we scratch and re-write, we total up again and scratch our heads in puzzlement… but we do it!   (Note to self : To two normally intelligent human beings both in the corporate world, why is household account keeping so fraught with difficulty?? Pls find out!) And then we sit down to do a BUDGETARY REVIEW. (Please note capitalised seriousness!)

Sample of our budgetary review:

Me: Omg, did you see the amount we’ve spent on powder (talcum) this month? What do you do with the darn thing? Eat it?! (It  is only hubby who uses talcum powder by the way, slathering it on with the gay abandon of a bricklayer slathering on cement!) Ever dealt with powdery footsteps on the bathroom floor??!

He counters with Madras being so hot etc. etc. and we leave it at that till the doctor tells him that his asthma is getting worse. The powder question is revived. I tell him that not only will we save money usefully to pay off EMIs, but he will gain health! Not to mention saving the environment!

He is convinced – almost. And promises to take steps to reduce talcum consumption. Off he goes to the local grocery and comes back with four tins of powder (they had a deal that was too good to pass up!) and a baby pink powder puff – for himself – to make the task of powdering more efficient, he says!

I swear even the baby chuckled!

Thirty years on and we have sensibly decided that there are two kinds of people in the world – those who can and those who can’t keep household accounts – and we belong to the latter family! RIP account books, red, blue and green pens and rulers! We now live in blissful ignorance of all accounting matters… life is beautiful – and very fragrant with talcum! Smells almost as good as this…


  • Whole wheat flour/atta – 2 cups
  • Plain flour/maida – 2 cups
  • Yeast – 1 sachet
  • Onion – sliced – 1 cup
  • Mixed dried herbs (marjoram, oregano, thyme, basil, parsley or any combination of these) – 3 tsp
  • Salt – 3/4 tsp
  • Vegetable oil or butter – 2 tbsp
  • Milk powder – 2 tsp
  • Warm water – 1.25 cups (approximately)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Sugar – 2 tsp
  • Milk – 2 tbsp – for brushing.

Heat the oil/butter in a saucepan. Add onions and cook on a low flame, stirring occasionally, till caramelised – about 5-7 minutes. Cool.

Prove the yeast and knead a soft, springy dough adding all the ingredients including onions.

Cover and set in a warm place to rise. When doubled ( about 1 hour), knock back.

Shape into a loaf and place in a  greased loaf tin. Cover and let it rise again till doubled in size – about 15 minutes. Brush with milk.

Place the cup of boiling water in a preheated oven – 200 C.

Place the loaf tin with the dough in the oven.

Bake at 200 C for about 35-40 minutes till golden brown on top and the bottom feels hollow when tapped.

Serve warm with garlic butter and cheese.

Who cares about budgets and accounts? Pooh!