October 29, 2007

On Perspective, and Poverty

This is another small post following my previous on Perspective.

Though I am not a movie buff, upon recommendation, last night I watched Tara Rum Pum. It's not fantastic but it has its lessons to teach. It shows how a family's love and bonding is tested to the limits. The movie is a drama of life, hardships, struggle, test of human spirit and naturally, as with most Bollywood movies, the final triumph. It conveyed the message that the power of love and togetherness can sometimes be so strong that it can make you go through the thick and thin of life with a smile on your face.

In the movie, Saif Ali Khan's term of endearment for Rani Mukherjee is 'shona.' Irrelevant to my post here, nevertheless I mentioned it. Why? Probably I remembered someone briefly who used to call me that. Anyway, to quickly get back to my present thoughts, there's this so called happy and once well-to-do family who, at one stage in their life, have no choice but to give up on their lavish living and move out to an impoverished neighborhood. That the mother starts to create a masquerade that they have to live in poor conditions as a part of a reality show is another point altogether. What I want to emphasize on here is that this family's bags are packed and they are about to move, and the little boy yells in a sweet and animated voice, "Hey, we are poor now!"

The boy who exclaimed "Hey, we are poor now!" did so in such a way as if being poor is something to rejoice about! That short declaration by the little boy captured my attention. It seemed he was extremely excited about the new kind of life that was to follow.

Autumn in Cleveland

At that moment, I recalled reading a story of another little boy whose 'wealthy' father took him on a trip to the country side, with the express purpose of showing him how 'poor' people live there. They spend a few nights on the farm of what would be otherwise considered a poor family. On their return trip, the father, expecting his little boy to have understood how poor other people were, asks him if he realized how poor people live there. He asks the son what he learned from the trip, and the son excitedly replies:

"I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them. Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are."

The so-called 'wealthy' father might not have expected that answer and he must have certainly felt, much to his chagrin, very 'poor' that day!

Let's be honest and ask ourselves, did we expect to think differently like the little boy did? It's all a matter of perspective. Having the right perspective is a wonderful thing.

The little boy's words made me remember my childhood. It made me once again introspect on what poverty is all about. It's not necessarily about not having money or less money. Money does help but it's a well known fact that it has not compulsorily made the wealthy happy.

There's this overused expression that is so true: That money can buy a bed but not sleep; that it can buy a house but not a home; that it can buy books but not intelligence; that it can buy companions but not friends; that it can buy amusement but not happiness; that it can buy food but not appetite; that it can buy finery but not beauty; that it can buy flattery but not respect; and that it can buy medicine but not health.

Yes, there are many things that money can buy but I'm sure you agree with me that we also seek things that money can't buy. I do not think a person will always be respected for his value in terms of his wealth alone. Probably to some extent that person may temporarily get a false sense of respect that might help fan his ego, and especially so when surrounded by flatterers.

A point to ponder on is who would really want to care for someone who has money but lacks honesty, honour, joy, dedication, passion, humour, culture and so many other virtues that are so essential in a good human being?

This posting touches on a subject that is relevant not for India alone. However, at this point of time, I want to wind up with my sentiments that I had expressed in a previous posting titled Incredible India Indeed that I had written immediately upon my return from a wonderful trip in August this year:

"I love my India for what it is, for its splendour and misery, its chilling socio-political success stories and failures, for its poverty and its amazing heart-warming munificence.

Some of the happiest people I've met in my life are Indians, who actually live by the day. Sometimes I feel shaken up by the overwhelming poverty seen around. Yet the needy people’s blank refusal to see a bleak future or a life not worth living is a lesson to be learned by the pessimists of this world. Poverty is not necessarily a question of lacking money and I find many of them rich in almost all other aspects. They refuse to be bogged down by the harshness of the realities of their lives and continue smiling. It is so heartening to see the strength of the human spirit that greets me everywhere in India. India is a place that moves me to wonder about many things, a place where the extremes of the human conditions are exposed – unadulterated and raw. That may fill some people with disgust but I am filled with awe."

I wish you a cheerful day and happy halloween!

12 comments:

~ Ms. Cute Pants ~ said...

AHH Fall! My favourite time of year. I MISS Fall now that I'm in Bda. I miss the blaze of colours & it's such a romantic time of year, cold! but romantic nevertheless.

A. looks cute. She's growing fast! When were you in Cleveland?

imac said...

Great photos, compliment great story.

backpakker said...

lovely perspective..money cant buy freedom ..your posts go beyond the surface and are thought provoking

Thinking aloud said...

that's what i tell my son when he hankers after something he sees in a friend's house...that there are two sides to every coin...

claytonia vices said...

So true! Reminded me of something similar I read once, 'There is no success or failure. There are only results. It is we who brand them as either success or failure...'

Understanding the science of happiness is very rewarding, isn't it? :)

AJEYA RAO said...

YIf you liked the movie then you should watch the original - the name of the original from which this hindi movie is inspired is as poistive as you post title, its called - Life is Beautiful. Do watch this film, its an amazing film and till date remains one of the best movies i have ever watched. Full of smiles and fun but with an amazing thought provoking message.

Pijush said...

Waowww.. What a post!! Amazing. Excellent work Celine.
I also think on the same point and found some basic facts. Another prespective is nothing is better than the originality and basics. More the options, bigger the expectations and higher the conflicts.
I have been tagged you in my blog, check it and search you :-)

Ananda Niyogi said...

A very probing post - felt moved by it..

I remember reading somewhere that we as individuals have no understanding or appreciation of the nothingness from where we emerge and the infinity into which we will be ultimately vanish. In a lifetime we undergo so much emotions and yet, it is perhaps all so insignificant in the bigger picture....

I read the book 'The Kite Runner' recently. There the story begins in pre-turmoil Afghanistan where a rich boy & a poor boy grow up like brothers side by side, and then get torn apart forever by tragic events. Your post reminded me of the feelings conveyed in that book..

Wish you happy halloween!

imac said...

Hi, The mountain range were the Austrian Alpes. when we were there in sept.

Shantanu said...

Such a wonderful post! Chanced upon your blog and read this post. Certainly the most thought-provoking review of Ta Ra Rum Pum I have read thus far. :-)

The autumn pics are great, but of course the last one is most adorable one!

Saurabh Saxena said...

Nice perspective of the poverty, money is not the only measurement for the poverty, many other things also needs to be considered. But will this theory stand on realistic grounds? what do you say.

indicaspecies said...

Shantanu,
Thank you very much.


Saurabh,
Thank you for your thought provoking comment. I truly do understand your point of view and the debate can go on.

My view that it is not just money but other virtues are also essential in life does hold true to some extent. Instead of endlessly debating on poverty, tyranny, diseases, war...etc, let us instead do our little bit to end the evils and the struggles that this world is maligned with.

Do you think that begging daily happiness from others is less degrading than those who beg their daily bread?

To answer one aspect of the issue, I’ll quote Mother Teresa:
"Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."