“Do you have the time to read such big a book?” asked my mother as I opened the parcel that had arrived from Flipkart today. It’s a book the size of an Oxford dictionary titled “India after Gandhi” – one of the few non-fiction books I’ve bought. This was a book I couldn’t resist not buying as it dealt with the contemporary history of post-independence era of India. The book written by now acclaimed historian Ramachandra Guha is probably the only of its kind to be written in the country.
“When I retire from job.” I replied.
My mother’s question is something typical of the middle-class Indian family. A whole generation of our class worked hard through the crucial years in which they should’ve tasted the joys of this world. Not that they had a say or even a choice. In a country riddled with poverty and corruption, the ideal middle-class way of life is to get educated, find a job, get married, have kids, retire from job, marry your kids off and then crib about the new generations’ lack of respect towards their hard earned money.
I live with my parents in a house built by my father. I chose not to move out for a number of reasons. I earn well enough for a middle-class bachelor and I don’t have to spend a lot on the family given that my father gets a pension that’s close to half of what I earn. Yet, it pricks their eyes when I order one thing or the other from Flipkart or Amazon because all they see is that I spend and not save.
I do save. More than most of my peers, but I don’t save every drop of it hoping to buy a flat worth a crore or a Rolls Royce. One thing my middle-class upbringing has taught me is to value life more than money.
Now you may think that I’m contradicting. That’s the irony of middle-class. They know to save and they know to enjoy life. They know to find large-sized happiness in smaller things of life. A box of crackers, a box of top-quality sweets, the best of the small cars, a stylish scooter that gives the best mileage, a 40-inch LED TV that we hope will last two decades and so on. We want the best value for our hard-earned money. Mediocre won’t do. We need the best, but within our budget.
Luckily, my parents are also avid travellers. They are interested in visiting places that are not mere pilgrimages. They value nature, architecture, history and such things. All these have contributed to our upbringing. In a way, I can say that they’ve sacrificed most of their dreams so that we can prosper – dreams they’re themselves not aware of.
It’s hard for them to understand how I spend close to 10% of my salary every month on building a DVD/BluRay movie library. And I keep buying these books. I now have close to 165 movies and 50 books. And they’ve probably seen me watching movies on just a handful of days and reading books twice or thrice. That’s how the question of having time to watch the movies I buy or read the books I add to my micro-mini library crops up.
It’s hard earned money. So better spend it when you can afford to. The savings are meant for your older self, to pay your medical bills, not to splurge on leisure. Live your life to the fullest when you can afford to. Travel the world when you can. Buy things when you can. If you save everything for some future day, hoping that you’ll be able to fulfil all your dreams on that day, you’re wrong. The energy you’d have spent in saving for that future would have drawn all possible strength from your body and mind. All the money you saved would eventually be spent on your medical bills.