$90 and Daffodils

If you ever managed the time to open my personal diary, you’d see the same line in almost every page: ‘I want to be a Millionaire!’

Well, I don’t quite remember how I got the urge to be a millionaire. But I certainly do remember the traumas I had to undergo to receive my first cheque!

2009: I was eleven then. I told my dad about my new mission. And to my surprise, he didn’t laugh a bit and took it seriously as well.

After thinking a lot, he said I could tutor kids younger than me.

So, the time came for hunting kids! With a house full of kids, it was no biggy for me. However, they were either toddlers, my age, or a bit older.

I started encountering reality. Getting a pupil was not as easy as I thought it would be. Then suddenly my grandpa turned out to be my saviour. One day while returning from the mosque, he brought a boy two years younger than me from the locality. A perfect match, you can say!

The best features of him were: he was humble, he would call me  ‘sir’ twice in every second and would hold an endless enthusiasm to learn more. He had everything a teacher would ask for in a student. So, my days went well and I taught him almost every day in the month as my winter vacation was going on. Then the last day of the month came. And before he came to my home, I was calculating how much he’d bring for me that day.

Though I wasn’t mature enough that time, I did anticipate how hard it would be for him to pay me. Time to time, he used say how winter oppressed them, how his father used to offer himself as a night labourer to earn the next day’s lunch… et cetera…

He came late that day, which he had never done before. He was looking gloomy as if he had failed a mission. Before I could ask what had happened, he took out two bananas from his bag and paid the tuition fee. I felt so sorry for him – I didn’t know what to do. To make him feel a bit better, I accepted one banana happily and exclaimed, ‘Thanks. I love bananas’. That day, we didn’t study and I gave him one of my sweaters as a present.

We went outside to enjoy the bananas!

That year I forgot about my ‘journey to be a millionaire’ mission.

Then 2010 arrived. I was promoted to 6th Grade. A new subject was added called ‘Agriculture’. In Agriculture, we were taught theoretically how to cultivate fish, crops and cattle. While my friends found the subject a burden to the serious ones like Maths, Science etc, I started loving it. I started devouring every word inscribed in it.

My uncle used to live in our village then. During my summer vacation, I went there for spending the whole vacation with my Eid Salamis and Agriculture book. The whole road to my village, I closed my eyes thinking about how my new farm would look like! Yes, I was thinking to put my theoretical knowledge into action. But what happened afterwards is something I want to forget!

There, I bought 1 goat, planted a row of pumpkin trees and hired a little boy living near my uncle’s house to look after them when I would not be there.

I invested all my Eidi and summer vacation in that new business. And returned to Dhaka city with a hope that my new business would make enough money to start a new startup. Then after a week my uncle sent me a big email.

In short it said-

‘Your farm was growing well. The goat was happy and vigorous pumpkin plants sprouted from the seeds you planted. One fine morning, when I went to water your plants, I found that the goat broke the fence and ate your pumpkin plants! I didn’t notify you this because I thought I would sow the seeds again for you with the help of the little manager you assigned. But alas, from the afternoon of that very day, your goat and its manager are nowhere to be found in the village. Even, his parents can’t say where they are. But don’t worry, we can fix …..’

Believe me. I lost my appetite. I caught up insomnia. I thought the goat and its manager took away my dream with them! But the next week I was proved wrong!

I didn’t know much about copyright and plagiarism issues that time. I learnt how to burn CDs using Nero. I planned to take lists of my friend’s favorite songs, download them and burn them on a blank CD.

Here comes my first order. Someone wanted to buy the DVD of Narnia. So, I first rented the DVD from a local store with 20 Taka because downloading a full movie would take a lot of time with the super-slow Internet I possessed that time. Then I bought a blank DVD with 30 Taka. Burnt the blank DVD by copying the movie from the rented one. And my product was ready!

My friend was overwhelmed to get the movie as well! He happily paid me Taka 70, in the end leaving a 20 Taka profit for me! Oh, I thought time had come for me to think about business expansion! Out of happiness, I bought a cake for us (me and my customer) to celebrate the happy starting of my business.

That night our landline rang. I picked up and my customer said in an unhappy tone, ‘The file isn’t opening’. It was a bolt from the blue. I suggested every possible alternative, like playing the DVD in other players. But nothing seemed to work.

Then to save my reputation, I bought a new DVD from the local store with 100 Taka – leaving an 80 Taka loss in the first order!

Well, time to round up. 4 hours and 50 Taka investment resulted into an 80 Taka loss! And I realized the hard truth. I had dreamt too big.

Few months passed. And my uncle (I call him khalu) taught me a very important lesson in life. He said ‘Don’t work for money. Learn. Excel. Money will follow’. Well, I heard such things a million times before. But this had a force. And I started thinking what I should have done. The next day I asked him, ‘Why don’t you teach me something?’

Then my khalu said, ‘If you really want to learn, you can learn it by yourself. Refer to w3schools.com, if you’re interested in learning how to design websites.’

I mumbled thanks and started looking into it at that very moment. Not because I wanted to earn money, but because I wanted to have an email address that would end with my desired name like something@shafin.com. I found @yahoo.com or @gmail.com too mainstream!

I learned the basics of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) within one week. I practiced developing elements of a website for another few weeks till I thought I was ready to publish my website, monetize it and make some real money!

I remember that my first website was called Article-Basket.com* where I copied articles from Wikipedia. I was too dumb to think why a person would have to visit Article-Basket when Wikipedia itself was live 24/7! You won’t believe how many days and nights I passed copy/paste-ing those articles and removing extra hyperlinks to make them fit with my code!

I published my website with around 100 articles! Then I applied for Google Adsesnse (a program that used to run Google’s ads on the publisher’s websites). Google took 48 days to get back to me! I clicked the email with an ocean of hope. And the email was something like this-

‘Thank you for your interest in Google Adsense. Unfortunately, after reviewing your application, we’re unable to accept you into Google AdSense at this time. Your website must contain substantial, original content to get approved…..

This time, I started being desperate. I built another website within a week. This time, I wrote the articles myself from the knowledge I acquired on topics like ‘how to get rich, sites that pay to click ads, paid surveys’ etc. I know I was too sleazy (I still am, a bit), but at that time I was crazy to earn even a dollar and I didn’t have expertise in any other field to write articles about except the get-rich-quick schemes I used to devour all day long!

I re-applied for Google Adsense’s approval. But as you can guess, I got turned down once again. They said, ‘they don’t accept articles on get-rich-quick schemes!’

Okay. Fine, I thought. I had to stop this rubbish. And develop myself in maths or something that doesn’t involve money. But I definitely could not just get my long-cherished hope out of my head.

So, I started chatting with a guy I met on Facebook. He was long into this web-design business. In short I shared with him what I had undergone. And he said, ‘Okay. Leave web-designing for a while. Help me write articles for the websites I build and the topics I provide!’

That was not a bad offer. But he was too good in his business and I didn’t know how far I could help him. But I did write a few articles with all my dedication and research about Digital Cameras for him. I knew he’d suggest a million clarifications and changes, but still I had seen the worst. So, what could go worse?

He was in the USA that time. And was definitely busy. So, I didn’t wait for his reply. But to my surprise, within 15 minutes, my computer beeped and his email was there!

‘I am  in Assateague Island National Seashore right now, which is in Maryland. There are more than 300 ponies who wander the sea beaches! You would love to see them here. And I have checked your works. They are incredible – and I’d like to pay you $10 per article once I’m home’

Well, I rubbed my eyes and squinted to check the email once again. I wanted to know if his account was hacked or something. But no, everything was fine.

That night I was really happy. So, I opened my inbox to express my gratitude to the guy. But, before I clicked ‘Compose Email’, a new email caught my attention.

‘Congratulations, we have reviewed your blog HelpSleep.org* and you’ve been accepted to our publisher’s network….’

While doing all these, I nearly forgot that I made another website about how to sleep better naturally without pills. I wrote 15 articles (around 1500 words each) about how I deprived myself of sleep (thinking all night about money) resulting insomnia. And about the natural measures I took to overcome this sleep disease. Lucky me, Google seemed to have no complaint against it!

That night I slept in peace. I had to wait three years just to earn $90. But those $90 are, in my eyes, what daffodils were in William Wordsworth’s.

*Article-Basket.com and HelpSleep.org don’t exist anymore.



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