This post came to mind when a friend (and a regular follower of the blog) called today morning and expressed interest in knowing which of my short stories represented a story of my own life. I was surprised to know that people are interested in knowing about me too. It may have to do with the fact that writings create curiosity in the minds of readers. As I write, I reveal a little more about myself with every post, allowing the readers a chance to read my mind and judge my thought processes, a luxury I had given to very few people before I started blogging. Though I have been thinking about writing about myself, my experiences and my experiments (ha-ha!) for quite some time now, I choose to keep them for later. It will require a hell lot of time planning what to write, what not to write and how to present the information, in the fear of being judged. That is something my work schedule does not permit right now. So here I am, with a little more truth about myself. Enjoy reading!
I have had the privilege of being born and raised in a very well-to-do Marwari household in the city of Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh. I’m sorry, not well-to-do, but RICH (I don’t know the difference, but ‘they’ prefer it that way!). I have been born Miss Richie Rich. I have had the pleasure of experiencing true bliss in the items of luxury that I have been surrounded with. With a huge white bungalow to call home, a fleet of at least a dozen luxury cars dying to be used in the wide porch of the bungalow, a lush garden lined with flowers of every colour imaginable, an elevator in the house – I’ve seen it all. The impact could be noticed way early in life. In fact, I have noticed a lot of girls in my school pass envious glances at me. Unfortunately, the stigma of being RICH has had the effect of separating me from most people in school, even when I never carried those airs in my behaviour. People would see me getting out of a large, chauffeur-driven car and presume something, which I do not know till date. I’m sure they’ve always believed, and wrongly so, that I have been lucky, blessed and ‘endowed’, if you wish to call it that. But trust me, being Miss Richie Rich has not been the most pleasant of experiences.
I agree that my physical self has had a great time in those surroundings – late night TV shows on a television set of your choice (every bedroom has one, with a Tata Sky connection!), waking up to find your family eating lunch, lazing in pyjamas all day, ordering outside food some ninety times a month, uttering commands to all the labour force around, sipping coffee once every hour, for want of anything better to do and the like. While the body may have had a ball back then, the mind has always been in a fix.
There are no free lunches though. In return for the luxury I availed, I had to pay a small price – to keep shut! I was not expected to ask questions, or seek logical explanations or act curious or suggest a better solution – it wasn’t allowed. Whenever I have spoken against wasteful use of scarce resources (pardon the jargon. It simply means money!), I have been asked to shut up. Whenever I suggested that we eat for lunch, whatever remains out of dinner last night, I have been given ‘the looks’. Whenever I insist on not wanting to go out to shop, just because I have nothing else to do, I have been greeted with contemptuous faces. I have always felt, as well as been made to feel like a misfit in the entire set-up of things.
It’s not that I do not like to shop, I do, in fact I love it. I can spend two hours out of twenty-four doing it, every day. But my rather detailed sense of finance and even worse, accounting tends to overpower my philandering genes. I cannot buy anything without undertaking a cost-benefit analysis (a term used to describe the relative comparison of advantages and costs associated with a decision. If the perceived benefits exceed costs, you go for it, else you don’t.) How am I wrong to revolt purchases of items of luxury when people make claims of a downfall in business? How am I wrong to preach the ownership of eleven sunglasses, instead of twelve, at a time when you must conserve cash for a future rainy day? Or suggest that one must buy a roof above one’s head before investing in a dazzling diamond ring, which might be gathering dust in the locker for a good part of its life? But I must shut up!
It’s just that I respect money and can’t waste it. Even worse, I can’t even stand the sight of it being wasted, whoever it may belong to. However, I am not into the habit of expressing opinions unless specifically asked. I remember the time when a family member asked ,“You think I should buy the watch with this stone and that metal. It’s a beauty, isn’t it?” I replied, with a professor-ish tone, “No, you shouldn’t. Your business suffered a currency loss, isn’t it?” He would then snap back saying, “It’s no point asking you. Crack-pot.” Now the question is, why was I even asked if I’m a crack-pot? But I cannot ask. I simply walk away, after the usual dose of insult.
It is only lately that I have begun to find solace in my middle-class life – lower-middle, middle-middle or upper-middle class, I am not sure. I work and my husband works too – in two different fields, with different sets of requirements and expectations. We earn, save and spend. My heart swells with pride to see my two-year old growing up in the same set-up I have always wanted to grow up in. He respects the bread-earners in his family, recognises money as a useful and a scarce resource and understands that everyone can afford everything, it’s just that priorities differ.
Why don’t people just get the point? Everyone in this world is poor, poor relative to his wants and needs. I’m sure even billionaires think they don’t have enough, because their aspirations in life are very costly too. If no one is rich and everyone is poor, why all the drama?
If being rich is about being reckless and irrational, I don’t want to be rich. If being rich is about not respecting what you have, I don’t want to be rich. If being rich is about being treating the not-so-rich as swines, I don’t want to be rich. I was born middle-class and continue to live that way. I think I have enough good deeds in my kitty to deserve a middle-class life.
Image taken from Google images.