Thursday, June 5, 2014

Positively Rich?

Clad in a colorful wrapper, that luscious bit of chewy bubblegum beckoned me with a siren call. Alas, it was not charm that would draw it to me but only filthy lucre - a princely sum of 25 paise, which I did not have. What it would be to be rich and be able to buy bubblegum whenever you felt like chewing on one?

That about summed up my idea of being rich while at school. To be able to fulfill your wants and needs, as and when they arose; to put your hand in your pocket and not find that the coins in your wallet ran short of the price of what you needed to get. As an adult, I supposed I would still feel the same. My needs may transcend bubblegum but the feeling of being rich would be all about having enough to fulfill my needs and not having to do without things that I wanted.

Of course, it was a totally stupid idea. That stemmed from the fact that I thought that the 'positive' or base form of any adjective was all there was to it. Life, of course, taught me that it was the 'comparative' form that ruled the world. When someone says, "He is rich" about someone else, what he invariably means is that the other person is 'richer than' his own self.

The problem, though, is that we, as a species, specialize at comparing ourselves in a manner that makes us unhappy. We insist on feeling 'poor' by comparing ourselves with those 'richer' than us, except when we wish to make the other person feel unhappy by making him feel 'poorer'. So, we always have a crick in the neck, looking up at people who seem better off than us. So much so, people have to remind us of things like "I felt unhappy about having no shoes, till I saw someone with no feet". Though, I must say, that this urge to compare also seems to drive you to feel happy at other people's misfortunes - and make your contempt for them clear to them - merely to salve your own ego.

And, yes, there is also the climb towards the superlative. 'Richest man in town' etc. Though, since the superlative has been sliced and diced so much, even the 'richest' have other gradations of 'richest' to aspire to - like 'richest man in the country' all the way up to 'richest man in the world'. I suppose I am content with being the 'richest person in my house' and, since I am the sole occupant of my house, that's a cakewalk.

Even the 'positive' version of 'rich' is sullied beyond cleansing. So, if I feel rich when I can get whatever I want, I want all the things that will make me feel 'richer than' the next guy. He has a BMW? I need a Rolls Royce before I feel rich. He goes to Thailand for a vacation? I need to go to Zurich. So, now, you cannot even trust your own needs and wants - whether they arise out of what you feel you will enjoy OR whether you have trained yourself to enjoy only those things that make you feel comparatively richer.

Me? I never grew up. I feel rich because, now, I can buy all the 'bubble-gums' I want AND my tastes have nothing to do with the brand of 'bubblegum'. So, since I do not bother about being 'comparatively' or 'superlatively' rich, I suppose I could call myself  'positively' rich.

44 comments:

  1. On Sundays , the 'bhelwala' would come to my locality with his cart and would ring the bell signalling us to come down and partake the spicy Mumbai dish. We children would rush out . My parents used to give me and my brother . a 25ps coin each and we would have a 'sumptuous' fill that evening. My other friends would get only 15 ps and the quantity would be much less. I would feel very 'superior' at that point of time.Today I would prefer to be 'positively' rich even though comparisons do creep them but only for a fraction of a second.

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    1. I know - this comparing is a sort of knee-jerk reaction in humans. The best we can manage is to limit the time and to avoid shaping our lives to suit.

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  2. The green grass on the other side is the cause of unhappiness for most. Even if it is an astro turf.

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    1. Avoiding comparisons is so damn difficult. But, to me, that's the only route to happiness.

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  3. Yes the damn comparisons! The society has been sort of thriving on those. Material possessions are a sign of success. And therein lies the complete craze for money.

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    1. AND all that follows - since money does not indicate its origins :)

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  4. Someone told me do not compare with anyone because the combination of genes are unique rarely they are identical. Since then I am with my 25 paise, I know this sikka is endless like the magic item of PC sorcar, the water of India.

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  5. I can certainly relate to it.....and yeah, being positively rich is what I had always been taught (in some other terms) by my parents.....but alas..that too was a bit of 'comparatively' rich saga!!

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  6. Believe it or not but five year olds today compare where they have been on vacations.. in India? Oh I went abroad! and all that nonsense. I shudder to think what will happen of the future generations. As far as we are concerned I have (esp. since I quit my job) been trying to avoid comparisons to the maximum possible and so far been decently good at it. except of course when it comes to food :P

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    1. Heard them at it myself - have nieces and nephews, don't I? :)

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  7. Loved the idea of being 'positively rich'. And what bubblegum is for you, Suresh, holding a book is for me. Any book. It gives me a high that is probably higher than the highs that Subroto Roy may ever have had. The best part is that I do not necessarily have to open it and read to feel rich. Just hold it in my hands... and just look at my rich smile as I walk out with a book in my hands. :)

    Arvind Passey
    www.passey.info

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    1. Actually, Arvind, books ARE my 'bubblegum' :)

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  8. I am richer (comparatively speaking, of course) having read this yet another masterful piece on why comparisons aren't necessary or could even be harmful for the peace of mind...somehow my mind has started to wander back to my school and university days when they used to teach us all those Comparative Studies courses - comparing GDPs, this index, that index etc! Maybe that should also be rethought....at least it will eliminate some non-sense material out of curriculum, if nothing else :)

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    1. Comparisons are almost invariably harmful for the individual, Beloo! Organizations need comparisons to set goals - individuals would do best to strive to better themselves.

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  9. Society and its comparative norms. Many people do not get the difference between 'want' and 'need'. All they want and need is something that will make them feel above someone else. Its a sad thing actually. I see people around me cribbing all day about not having a big car. They do have a car, but claim that it is not big enough. I wonder which car would be big enough to hold two people. Yeah, two people.

    I feel rich when I am loved and have people around me. I do not want to sound like Mother Teresa here, but I made good enough money and I lead a very content life. I do not compare myself to others as I know one thing for sure. "One man's basics could be someone else's luxury".

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    1. There is, indeed, a huge difference between need and want, Soumya! Even granting the wanting, I find it funny when wants are derived only to compare yourself with the others.

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  10. Wow nice post, love bubble gum. Once I had no shoes and altho it didn't always bother me, that day was particularly hot. The ground was rocky and burned my feet. I said, "I wish I had some shoes," looked down and there they were. Exact size and style I would've bought had I the money. No one believes that story but it's the honest to God truth. I try to remember to thank God for my feet, so I know I'm rich. Even when I feel sorry for myself.

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  11. Believe it or not but when I see people appreciating the mythology related posts I write and thanking me for giving them these stories in an easy to understand format and manner, I feel 'positively' richer than anybody else at that point in time :)

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    1. THAT's the sort of being rich that is worth being, Jairam!

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  12. I came to uk and let me tell you initially I was after this run of life.. to earn pounds, any over time there was I was the first one to grab, a second job at a petrol station and an early morning newspaper guy.. the lure of money I guess..

    Then after about 2 years of EARNING and I must say I earned a LOT of money , my parents came over to meet me and I just did not have time for them , rushing from one job to another and my dad told me one thing ..

    That one should live or earn as much as they can but we can never be able to earn enough and the RICH tag will never be enough.. he also told me that look at those who are not as lucky as me ..

    that day gone and now .. NO OVERTIME and especially NO work on weekends .. I earn enough and am happy ..

    Not sure why I went on a tangent here ...... :) Sorry

    I am rich I have some very good friends, friends who will do anything for me .. in all these years all I have earned is friendship of people.. I am sure when you use to visit me on the blog about a year ago you could see that I had a good relation with so many people whom I have never met ever but we knew each other so well and shared so much..

    I guess I was rich then.. because one can earn the money but trust and love and care of others is very hard to earn...


    Bikram

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    1. Yes Bikram! AND one of the things that this mad rush to earn robs you of is the time to make and maintain those friendships. So, your 'tangent' was actually an elaboration of the same point that I keep making in my posts - KNOW what is important in life to you AND stop comparing yourself with others, which keeps you running after things that you really do not want

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  13. there's a saying that we spend our lives, buying all the things we don't need, with the money we don't have, just in order to impress the people we don't like!

    being positively rich and living that comparison free life is such a breath of fresh air..... once u make that attempt to be out of the rat race, life feels so wonderful.... its like u are a free person once again. free to do what u want to do, at the pace u want to do, and having to answer to no one.....its not a i-don't-care attitude, but rather a i-care-about-my-happiness attitude.

    great post!! very contemplative!

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    1. That's the pith of the post! Thanks Titli!

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  14. As Rahul Gandhi says - "Poverty is just a state of the mind."

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    1. You don't like me any more :( Comparing me with Rahul Gandhi!! :)

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  15. I am reminded of a Malayalam hymn called jnanapana. The first few lines translates to something like ' God makes a king out of a beggar and a pauper out of a king ' . Nothing is permanent ( not even bubblegum :) ) . Richness lies in contentment and being aware of ones positive s. Easier said than done though especially when Ur neighbor is on his way to Zurich :)

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  16. What a strong comparison! I too can relate to the same post and as I read it line by line, a thought came to my mind. Our "rich" thirst is never going to be quenched but will grow with our experience,age and needs. It happens not only with money but also with assets, love and happiness. Hope I said it right :)

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    1. A thirst for what you want to do or learn IS a good one and a spur for progress, Uma! A thirst for 'richer' - in the conventional sense of having more money - is a sterile thirst that causes more stress than joy - insofar as the non-achievement would make you unhappy, but the achievement will not give you the happiness that you thought it would bring since you always will find someone ahead of you OR will find that you have chased money at the cost of not living your life to the full.

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  17. I think I would feel rich if I just stopped whining about the price of that bubblegum. "One whole rupee!" is what I would yell to the shopowner. "It used to be only 25 paise!"
    I am happy to see you on the top of the Forbes list of your household!

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    1. I knew if someone would be happy about that it would be you, Rickie! :)

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  18. Lovely message Suresh. Why is it that I want to smile even if you write serious stuff :) Thats the problem with humorists. 'Positively rich' is definitely positive ! Is there some contest going on which I have missed reading. I just remember reading a post about the definition of richness in another blog a day or two back.

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    1. Good that I make people smile even when I have not written anything particularly funny, Ash! :) Actually, there were so many guests coming and going that I could not think up a topic to write on and chose the topic that Indiblogger had put up in their 'Indispire' initiative. :)

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  19. Being positively rich means just two things to me, not having to beg, and just enough to let me travel and see the world, (and afford Internet :P)

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    1. Ha! Precisely Puru! To have enough money for needs/wants that YOU have defined for yourself is all there is to being 'positively' rich!

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  20. This is a very insightful post, Suresh. And you are absolutely right! So often we forget to be thankful for what we have. And we are not always truly happy for someone else's good fortune. Thanks for bringing this to my attention once more.

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    1. The verities of life are not obscure ONLY obscured by our own selves :)

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  21. Such comparisons ruin people's lives. Very nicely expressed, Sureshji.
    Totally agree with you.

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    1. They do - the tragedy is that people realize it a lot too late

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