No, I am talking about the kind where you have barely enough to survive, month after month, week after week, day after disappointing day. You worry about where the next rupee is coming from. It will come eventually, trickling down a drop at a time, but by then you are panicked out of existence. You live on that meagre amount arriving on the first week of every month, which seems to leave your hand the moment you touch it. Twelve or fifteen days left in the month, and you are broke already. How do you cross that wide a chasm?
You learn to ponder over every rupee before spending. Do I really need to buy this? You argue with the man who buys old newspapers – you ask him for one rupee more than he is offering per kilo. If he agrees, you get about fifteen or twenty rupees more. You calculate in your mind that it will get you some onions or potatoes for two days. And you are happy – exhilarated, even – that you gleaned twenty rupees from the poor man.
You go to a supermarket and you comb the items you want back and forth, back and forth, to find the cheapest of the lot that will last the longest time. Sometimes by the time you are done, you decide that you don’t really ‘need’ it, and that you could go one more month without it. All the while pretending to others that you aren’t trying to save money.
When the shopkeeper gives you the balance of five rupees, you receive it and check, pretending to have forgotten that in your better days you used to generously let him “keep the change.”
You see the poor cripple by the roadside, you decide to part with the five rupees you had just saved, and you sigh.
You don’t dream about pizza. When you’re starving and tasty cheesy pizza bursts into your thoughts, you tell yourself it’s a luxury you don’t really need, and a banana will satisfy your hunger, and that you will save a bit so that six months later, you can afford a regular size pizza. I’ll get there, dontcha worry, you tell your hungry self.
You love your job but lately you are not happy with your pay which has reduced you to this state, and your dissatisfaction affects your performance. Or, you hate your job that doesn’t even pay you what you deserve, but you’re afraid to quit lest you should remain unemployed for a long time.
And imagine this, for a long, uncertain period of time. That is important. If there is an end in sight, it doesn’t become an ordeal. You must hit the rock bottom, so to speak.
Why do I insist everyone must experience it?
Probably because it breaks my heart when I hear someone say that “I buy only expensive ones of the best quality which actually lasts for a long time,” or “I bought something extra, just in case.”And they are not talking about groceries or basic necessities, they are talking about luxuries.
They don’t know. They haven’t been there. They don’t know such a world exists. It’s right next to them. They don’t see it. They don’t know what they are missing. That’s why it’s important.
Once you have touched that rock, and surfaced – as hopefully everyone will – one of two things could happen. Either you would forever become careful about every paisa you spend, or you would start throwing money on unnecessary luxuries to make up for that long, unforgettable spell of poverty.
Everyone must also be allowed to experience a period of lavishness where they get to stop worrying about money, spend it on what they want, when they want, how they want, and so forth. Maybe an all-expenses paid sight-seeing trip to Europe or Africa.
Sadly, life isn’t made that way. Most of us are stuck in one side or the other, and our journey takes us a little this way or that, and comes to rest in a place we are familiar with.
Unless we get to experience the two extremes,is life even worth living?
To my friends and family who are wondering: Don’t.