(This is a poor translation of 'Nasihaton ka daftar', a story by Munshi Premchand. The objective is merely to prompt readers to read the original in Hindi, or better translations. This is a humorous story about Akshay Kumar, a well-known lawyer who is rather stingy. Akshay Kumar leads a frugal life. His wife, however, is just the opposite. Akshay Kumar always tries to dissuade his wife from spending money - he does this taking recourse to diplomacy; he advises and delivers long sermons - in short, he tries to use his persuasive skills. He does learn a lesson in the end.)
Babu Akshay Kumar was a lawyer in Patna, and was regarded as one of the leading lawyers - in fact, he had almost reached the stage where he was entitled to be awarded the title of "Rai Bahadur", a title of honour in recognition of his service. As it usually happens in the case of successful people, the Babu Sahib too had grown up in poverty. Parents, while scolding their disobedient and naughty children, often cited the example of Babu Akshay Kumar. "Look at Akshay Babu," they told their naughty children, "he learned his lessons under lamp-posts; there would be no oil for the lamps in his home so he burnt straw and studied in that light. This is how knowledge is acquired!" There were some imaginative people who swore that Akshay Babu had studied even under the light thrown by fireflies! Of course, the listener had to use his own prudence to decide whether fireflies or burning straw could provide stable light. But the bottom line of these narratives was to indicate that Akshay Kumar's childhood was not one which could be envied. The bottom line was that he had brought along with him a deluge of hopes for a good fortune. And talking about deluge, for years together there had only been famine in his life. The hope that all his troubles would be over after donning the black gown proved wrong. The black gown could not brighten up his black fate. He had to wait for several years before better days arrived. When better days did finally arrive and when he began receiving invitations to attend garden parties, and when he started occupying the seat of the chairperson at important meetings, his youth had deserted him. His hair craved for the dye; especially so because he had to entertain beautiful and cheerful Hemvati whose arrival in his life had fulfilled Babu Akshay Kumar's final aspiration.
Just as charity cloaks the vices of a human being, miserliness veils his good qualities; the miser has many enemies but no friends. Everyone hates the miser. The poor man causes no harm to anyone; he is ordinarily a peaceful, calm and self-respecting person who wishes to live in harmony with others. But the trait of miserliness is painted in black and no other colour, however dark its shade may be, can show over it. Babu Akshay Kumar was infamous as a miser; but, as is usual, he had earned this title owing to jealousy. You may take this for granted that a person who is described as a miser is actually very fortunate and there many who are envious of him. What harm did Babu Akshay Kumar cause to others if he chose to be tight-fisted? What harm did he cause to others if he lived in a house that was not grand, or if he did not employ a team of lazy servants or if he did not go to court in a two-horse carriage? He followed one simple principle in life: keep an eye on the penny and the rupee will take care of itself. He had every right to adhere to this principle with tenacity. It is for these pennies that he had sacrificed the spring of his youth and desires of his heart. It is in the accumulation of these pennies that his health and eyesight had suffered. If he guarded these pennies he did the right thing; in fact, he should have worshipped them.
But the beautiful and cheerful Hemvati was just the opposite. Like her other sisters she craved for luxuries of life. Babu Akshay Kumar was not so dispassionate as to ignore her frivolities that longed for appreciation (no; he sometimes did make an effort to smile indulgently when he observed her decking up with cosmetics). But sometimes when Hemvati disregarded his well-intentioned advices and crossed the limits, Babu Sahib, on those days, had to expend a portion of his advocacy skills for her benefit.