This week’s India Today is very glitzy and glamourous.. It says “India Deluxe” on the cover and gives the Diwali wish list of the posh & loaded in the country… Maybachs, diamonds, Cartier watches, Mont Blanc pens, designer clothes, sporty cars, leather accessories that cost a small country’s GDP… The nonchalance with which 7 or 8 figure amounts were tossed about was to put a mild tone to it, appalling.
Here, in the 21st century, what identity does India have? “Third World Country”. The Ambani brothers are fighting.. uhuh, the Bombay Stock Exchange could crash! Gold prices have reached astronomical highs. People are selling off their hoards like there is no tomorrow. Doesn’t seem like there is a whole lot of poverty around, does it? Yet, it’s a joke, the way that the world views India. Questions range from:
“Are you married?” (to a 17 year old girl or boy)
“Do you have electricity?”
“Do you take baths in rivers?/ Do you have running water?”
“Where do you live?”
“Why is your English so good?”
I am not entirely sure what answers they expect, but these are the retorts I usually try and bite off..
“Yeah, I got married when I was 12 years old. My husband is 70. We have 7 kids… ”
“No, I am running my computer by treadmill power”
“The river is our goddess. She provides all”
“My family of 15 lives in a 2 room hut by the riverside and we produce electricity using treadmills”
“I am using a translator chip embedded inside my head”….
My eyes are astounded by the sight of fond parents buying their daughter a Rs 5 crore car for her birthday and a mind yet to come to grips with this wide gulf between what it sees and what it perceives.. Because, neither is India slums, dirt and grime, nor is it flashing neon lights, shiny sports cars and a clubbing lifestyle. Why paint a picture of the country she cannot possibly live upto, or to the other extreme, completely debase the country in the eyes of the world, that she may not stand up and say “we are doing our best with what we have”?
I’ve been beating around the bush. But this is what that article really made me think… What does money mean to me? Is the jet-set lifestyle something I’d crave? I would be talking out of my not-so-expensive hat if I said I did not think money was important. But is it a means to the end, or the end itself? Very little thought needed, I’d say the former.
Can a Mont Blanc pen make my handwriting prettier or a diamond encrusted Cartier watch keep time better? I doubt it. But the ascetic life is not for me. I would still like a good pen and a cool watch. What I would like the best, though, is the thrill of the chase. Not money for its sake or stockpiling possessions, but for seeing the world in its myriad beauty and grandeur. A fortune, for me, would not be the thousand rupee bills I carelessly spend, but seeing the pyramids of Giza, the Swiss Alps, the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, a Safari and so on… But most of all, I’d like to be the best of what I set out to be. Drive and motivation and important. Money pales in comparision.
Back to the article. A slightly humourous chord was struck in my mind when I realised this: The Diwali gift list was showcasing luxury items of the ilk that only the super-DUPER rich (like the currently-feuding Ambanis) could afford, but I am not willing to bet any amount of money that they’d read the India Today, when there are MUCH more expensive magazines around. So what I’d like to say is… Don’t grab more than you can hold! And it’s always applicable!