Thrift helps the Si-Asars to honor their community service commitments

…And A Hard Place
By Dwight Hobbes

Rekhet (l) and Anura Si-Asar

Photo by James L. Stroud

Anura and Rekhet Si-Asar bend with the economic winds, but they don’t let it break their commitment to community.

Specifically, as founders and directors of the Imhotep Science Initiatives, they’ve needed to make adjustments in educating youngsters, but they’ve kept the doors to the program open at the Cultural Wellness Center in Minneapolis. Throughout the academic year they offer the Imhotep Science Academy, an annual Imhotep Science Fair and the Imhotep Science College Preparatory Program.

Anura is a captain in the Minneapolis Fire Department, an 11-year veteran and a member of the Minneapolis African American Professional Firefighters Association. He also owns Papyrus Publishing Inc., where Rekhet does cover design, specializing in publications on African/African American experiences in the U.S. and around the globe. Rekhet is psychologist in the Minneapolis Public Schools system.

When it comes to coping, or simply sustaining a household that includes youngsters Uri-Biia, Maasia, and Hemetii (17, eight and five respectively), Anura states, “It’s been our discipline in terms of budgeting, all that stuff, prioritizing. I think it comes from our parents.” It’s also been about a steadfast refusal to back away from their belief in the importance of preparing youth with education and aspirations that are not limited to excelling in sports or entertainment.

“The state or status of the past or current economy,” Rekhet reflects, “has never dictated our decisions. Part of the philosophy that we explain to students and parents, who many times would love to participate, is that the focus should not be based on money.

“We continue to do Imhotep because we have to. We have a commitment to assisting our community in the caring for and raising of our future generation.”

With their two incomes, Anura says, “We’ve been doing fairly well. But there’s a strangle on certain things you can do. Even we have cash flow, we have bills we’re consistently paying off.” Like a mortgage, family cars, things such as that.

“The recession hasn’t given us the opportunity to do more, what we would like to do. Hence, the Imhotep Science Intiatives comes under the heading of that which must be done.”

So far as shopping goes, which of the two is smarter at saving? Anura readily states, “That’s a no-brainer — she is. If I didn’t have to eat, I wouldn’t even go in a [supermarket].”

He adds, “What it comes down to is juggling bills. Pay this bill this month, pay that one next month. While that’s on hold, you get the late fees, [which] you pay when you can. So, you get a little crazy, ugly rotation, paying more than you have to.”

Has the family found themselves changing shopping routines? “I can’t remember the last time we went to [a major supermarket chain],” says Anura. “We go to [a bargain chain] and the dollar stores. We actually try to do more buying in bulk for that grocery piece.”

Without raking and scraping on quality, the Si-Asars have adjusted to stretch a buck. “We’re coping pretty well,” Anura notes, adding that they have plenty of company keeping an eye on the bottom line. “Everybody’s there [at the store] — friends, neighbors — trying to find the best prices.”

Said friends and neighbors, along with relatives, are a great help when it comes to Anura and Rehket meeting clothing needs for the kids. Each year their youngsters, like everyone else’s, seem to grow at least another inch whenever Mom and Dad aren’t looking.

“We get pass-alongs, hand-me-downs,” says Anura. “Just clean ’em up, iron ’em, fold ’em up.” Sisters, wives and their girlfriends “get together and exchange. It’s a network. And it’s effective.” All of which lessons his financial load on the job. The MFD issues uniforms, of course, but the upkeep is on each firefighter.

Rekhet has a strong opinion of how President Obama is handling the nation’s finances. “I understand [his] handling of the recession from the point of view that in the midst of a crisis you also need to create a plan of action. The economy does not exist in a vacuum, and I feel like the loud, disapproving rants and raves about his attention to other aspects of the government is a ploy to distract.

“I may not agree 100 percent with every decision he has made thus far, but I have agreed that in order for him to tackle the budget he has to perform a very finely crafted balancing act where he has to look at the amount of money that goes into every aspect of the government.”

Ultimately, Anura and Rekhet Si-Asar aren’t about to let the economic crisis curtail their commitment to education in the community. They cut corners without having to shortchange. Anura sums it all up in two words: “We’re thrifty.”

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to