An Appeal To My Progeny Living Overseas (For A Four-Million-Dollar Watch)
Recent events involving prominent people living here while their adult children are domiciled overseas have brought home to me the need to make an appeal to my children who are living and working in First World circumstances. I hope by responding positively they will help me prove my commitment to 21st Century Sri Lankan culture and help me conceal the fairly significant wealth that I have accumulated by slightly unorthodox means that I have succeeded, so far, in concealing from the tax collectors.
I am extending this appeal also to a grand-daughter, currently in university, because she should be able to ‘chip in’ despite the fact that she is working pretty much full-time in order to finance her post-secondary education.
In spite of the fact that revealing their identities will NOT, in the country in which they live, put them at risk of white vans picking them up as a result of their being identified as my progeny, I shall respect their need for anonymity through the manner of my addressing them in this appeal.
Anyway, here goes.
Dear daughter, son and grand-daughter,
I have never appealed to any of you for financial support at any time of my life even though, sometimes, my financial circumstances might have made that a very tempting option.
However, recent events in this country led by the Royal Family of Sri Lanka and those attached to it have made it imperative that I display my adherence to the 21st Century culture of the land of my birth. This appeal is a direct result of the need to display loyalty to that Chinthanaya.
You might remember that, several years ago, you gifted me a very nice gold-coloured Citizen wristwatch with a metal band to keep it secure on my wrist. The years have passed, the crystal is a bit scratched up and the time is a bit tough to read when the light is not ideal. Mind you, it still keeps good time even though the little markers for each hour keep coming off and have to be glued back by a street-side watch-repairer from time to time. That, too, is no problem because it only takes a minute and the guy does not charge a great deal. I still treasure it and the affection that came with it, but a Tag Heuer, Cartier, Rolex or Omega it is not. In fact, to be brutally frank, I don’t think even Roger Federer’s poorest relation would want to be seen wearing my Citizen! The problem, though, is that, while I would really like to have a prestigious timepiece, I cannot afford any such diamond-encrusted bauble at this time. Certainly not on the income that I declare for income tax purposes here nor on my miserable foreign pension, even though the currency in which the latter is paid has appreciated, relative to the Sri Lankan rupee, by about 30% over the last few months.
I understand that the current, acceptable standard in matters of prestigious wristwatches requires the expenditure of something in the region of four million rupees which is not an unaffordable sum in dollars particularly if either (or both) of you choose to re-mortgage your homes. I make this suggestion because one of the elite in this country is the proud owner of such a watch which his children allegedly gifted to him as a token of filial affection.
To fill you in on why I am aware of the person and the watch: it is because his house was burglarized and the thieves made off with the watch and a not-inconsiderable sum of money, much of it in foreign currency. In a moment of weakness, the victim divulged all of this information to the local constabulary while filing his theft complaint. Anyway, that is all water under the bridge (or foreign currency in the mattress, if you will) and the only reason these facts appear in my appeal is that I feel I should provide you with some perspective on my request. I have also learnt via our local media that since the original report, the only fact that has stayed consistent is the value of the watch. The quantum of cash and its composition insofar as several foreign currencies are concerned keeps changing constantly and those changes are reported by a police spokesman who either has difficulty with the truth or is being given instructions by someone who can’t make up his mind. In any event, the reports of the watch, its value, its theft and, now, its return seem not to vary from day to day as do similar reports on the cash element of the theft. Incidentally, I am sure the discrepancies referred to have nothing to do with matters of criminal contravention of exchange control regulations but are due either to the police spokesperson being very absent-minded or the fact that the air-conditioning has broken down in his broadcast booth, leading to heat exhaustion and the resultant mental confusion. In any event, it has been suggested that the old Sinhala exhortation harking back to the ‘Sixties’ should be applied to this situation. It goes, ‘Neva gilunath, ban choon’ or “Let’s keep celebrating even as the ship goes down.”
But, to get back to my original question, “Isn’t an aging father’s vanity of any concern to all of you?”
But, before you answer that question I should warn you that my first request does not reflect the sum total of my needs.
Since wearing a four million rupee watch brings with it the necessity of displaying similar affluence in other parts of my life, I believe it is necessary to display all the outward signs of a more affluent lifestyle. After all, it is hardly appropriate that one should wear a four-million-rupee watch while clothed in threads that have been rejected for export! Hugo Boss would seem more appropriate garb in those circumstances, don’t you think? In pursuance of such congruity of horological accoutrement and a gentleman’s garb, I’m sure that you will appreciate the need for further financial provision to make such a state of affairs a reality. I could make do with a few thousand dollars a month towards that end. Here again, it might be necessary for you to consider a higher re-mortgage of your homes or, if it is really necessary, selling off your homes and moving into more modest rented accommodation. If you are having second thoughts on this score, all I can ask, again, is, “Isn’t your father’s vanity worth anything to you?” And I would remind you that there is no suggestion that the progeny of the gentleman whose example I am quoting are anything but middle-class working stiffs. In a nutshell, they probably disposed of significant assets in that display of affection for their father.
I could, of course, seek to avoid this sacrifice on your part by revealing to our local tax folks the fact that I have accumulated adequate means to provide for both the four-million-dollar watch and the other symbols of prosperity that need to go with it by less than orthodox means. However, given the manner in which those funds were generated, it might lead to some problems because, in a country such as this where might is right, I lack the political muscle and ‘connections’ to ensure complete immunity from the provisions of criminal law. And please don’t suggest that since my grandfather, your great-grandfather (and my grand daughter’s great-great-grandfather) was considered Ceylon’s first ‘Rupee Millionaire’ I should claim to have found this large box of gold coins buried in the back garden. There is a limit to what even Sri Lankan law enforcers will accept, particularly from someone with a last name like ours! Also, since this is a country where nothing is confidential, it could result in some damned newspaper reporter from The Sunday Leader digging deep enough to establish exactly how my ‘unorthodox’ money was ‘earned.’ Would you want your father exposed as an ‘unorthodox’ wheeler dealer even in a country where that is the rule rather than the exception? If you would countenance such a fate for the man whose seed was responsible for your existence, all I can say is, “You should be ashamed of yourselves!”
In any event, I believe I have now explored this topic to the extent necessary and look forward to you re-mortgaging/selling your homes and placing the proceeds in my bank account there, the details of which constitute a separate communication. After all, I am sure that that is what the progeny of the gentleman with the four-million-dollar watch did.
In the event that you have to dispose of your furniture, personal effects and appliances because the apartment(s) you are moving into is (are) too small to accommodate all of it, please consider the option of gifting such items to your local Salvation Army because it is likely that you will soon need their help to keep body and soul together, as I am sure the progeny of the four-million-rupee watch owner had.