“There is no free lunch in life,” I told  Varun*, this morning. He had come to attend the Tax class (Direct Tax).

Varun’s parents, who are both doctors, are my friends. Some months ago, when Varun had decided to change his stream from Engineering to Commerce, I was approached to do two things: 1. To provide a solid foundation to Varun in important Commerce subjects like Accountancy, Costing and Taxation so that he would be able to take off smoothly. 2. To motivate him to be a self-starter and develop a winning attitude.

I have had wonderful experience over last two-three months. Varun has been very receptive and has not disappointed me.

However, as a young boy, Varun is no different from his peers… He loves to chill out with his friends, play competitive football and video games, watch movies and attend late-night parties… Move around with friends, both boys and girls… invite them over for lunch and sleep-overs… And, importantly, bully his kid brother, argue heatedly with his parents, and then sulk in his cave!

Yes, Varun is the typical young boy…  His father believed that if Varun did an internship in a good firm for some period, the work experience could bring about a shift in his son’s outlook towards life. “Nothing can replace the work experience… People become automatically responsible… Learn to respect the authorities; learn to adjust with their colleagues, value time and money, work hard and work long etc.”… Yes, guided by this belief, Varun’s father, using his influence, got the young man join a global giant, as an Intern in their Indian Head-office. Varun had taken a break from my classes for a week. However, on the very first day, after reaching home from his work, he had called me to say ‘Thank-you sir… The concepts which you had taught, and the advice which you had given, have been very useful here.”

I was happy to hear that…

Today is a Saturday… A day off for Varun. He had come to attend the Tax class. Before the class started, he recounted the week’s experience in his office. “I make it a point to reach at least 15 minutes before,” Varun said, “I go by Ola (Share) and come back by the Metro. The colleagues are very supportive and the work atmosphere is fabulous… They say, that I am lucky to get a break here… as the company rarely picks freshers… It generally picks people with 4-5 years of work experience…”

Varun was excited and proud.

Later, while teaching him about Perquisites (in Income-tax subject), I was talking about the meaning of Perquisites… which Perquisites are taxable and which are tax-free. “Free lunch and refreshment provided by the employer, in the office premises during the office hours, is one of the tax-free Perquisites,” I said.

Varun’s face lit up… “Sir, in our office we get a lavish lunch… Chicken is my favourite and it is served every day… Coffee, tea, soup, juices are served throughout and they are all ‘free’…” Varun had more to share…

“Now, freeze for a moment, Varun,” I said, “You say they are ‘free’ because you don’t pay for them and they are tax-free, too. But, are they not ‘privileges’ in life? What have you done to ‘earn’ those privileges… the break you have got in such an enviable organization, the golden exposure to grow with ‘the best’… the privilege of getting sumptuous food and beverages, all free of cost… the fortune of being able to commute by an air-conditioned taxi to your office during the peak hours… and, above all, to come home to relax with a loving and caring family… Are these not life’s privileges… and have they all not come to you  as ‘gifts’… all free of cost?”

Varun knew what I was trying to convey. “Yes sir, I am really fortunate. On the very first day of my internship, after dad came home, I expressed my gratitude to him… It was his hard-earned goodwill that has brought me these privileges… He has earned it for me. I know, he has paid a ‘price’ for it… and, there is no ‘free lunch’ in life!”

Somebody always pays for your free lunch, sir… Yes, somebody , somewhere, always does!

Work experience is, always, the best teacher in life. Students who ‘earn and learn’, invariably, do well in life… They learn life-lessons better and faster than those who only learn.

I am really happy for Varun… and, hope to see him blossom into a fine individual in life.

* Name changed


Pic.:Kamal Kishore Rikhari


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