I used to take my family along with me whenever I go for seminar in nearby Asian countries, if I get lowest fare air tickets affordable within the limitation of my income. While we have been doing window shopping in the ground floor malls in the Singapore hotel, my daughter Aiswarya, found a nice top displayed there.
She took the top in her hand adoring it, and then went to the trial room. She was looking good on it, her younger one said. But, then she removed and put it back. Observing her gestures, I understood that she liked it very much. But she is afraid to ask me, as she knows my answer would be a big “No”. It is not that my kids are not desirous of fancy things – but never ever asked us to buy anything till this date. Many of our friends and relatives warned us not to be “so cruel” towards kids.
“How was it?” I asked her.
“A fantastic WOW, appa…super top!!!”
“What’s the price?”
“So expensive! …We can’t afford it – My father was a poor school teacher…”
“But our appa is working in a US-based company…” she snapped back:”It is ok that you don’t buy it, but please don’t start preaching now…” and winked at me.
“Yeah-yeah…Now he will say: ‘sky won’t fall down if you don’t wear luxury brands,’ …” my elder one teased me.
I laughed. Then told them: “Ok, ok, Can I tell you a story?”
During 10th standard I had only two shirts and two half-pants. No chappals (foot wear). One shirt was very old and the other one was torn and stitched. Half-pants didn’t have buttons, so I had to tie it with thick threads. When I see boys wearing new shirts I would feel jealous. I was very angry at my parents. I was developing inferiority complex. Hence my involvement in extracurricular activities reduced.
One day my mother (she was a school teacher) gave me a small cloth pouch with lot of coins inside it (5 paisa to 50 paisa coins).
“Buy a new shirt for you…” she said. I counted the coins. Rs 24/-
Next day, her friend Hindi teacher told me that my mother was not having her evening tea (10 paisa) and vada (10 paisa) for more than six months. She was starving and saving that money for me! My mother also used to go to bed without a meal just to keep our stomachs full.
Kids didn’t say anything. “See, whenever I buy dress, I remember my past. I think about lot of people who do not have any dress to wear. You know I don’t have any expensive dress, other than a couple of official dress that is must for international professional seminars…We shouldn’t waste our money on luxury brands”
Still she kept mum as if she wanted the top. I was getting angry at her attitude. Why don’t today’s kids understand about hardships, struggles and miseries in life…?
My wife called me aside and told me:”At least once in life time, for god’s sake, please get her something she desperately desired for. She is just a child, and she can’t understand your high funda philosophy…”
I gave her S$100 : “Ok buy it. .” I was not happy with her. I left them abruptly and went upstairs for my afternoon session of the seminar. I forgot the incident. We came back to India.
Few days after, Ais told me: “Appa, let’s go to Madhavam this Sunday” (Madhavam Balikasadanam is a charitable society for deprived girls run by Madhava Seva Samithi, situated approx 25 km from my residence). We have gone there few times. There are approx 40 girls and we can sponsor a day’s food for them by paying around Rs 3000/-. We can also have lunch and snacks with them. Those girls cook food for themselves and guests.
“Ok, done” I said.
“I would sponsor this time…” she said.
“You! How come? Who gave you money? Grand father?”
“No…You have given me S$100/- in Singapore… I have saved that money…” she gave me a winner’s smile. (Then, wife told me that they got it converted to Indian rupees in the hotel currency converter cabin)
We spent the whole day in Madhavam. While I was driving back in the evening, I asked her: “Ais, how do you feel now…”
“Appa, I have never felt so happy in my life till this day…I felt as if I have got more than 40 sisters…” I could see from the rear-view mirror that her eyes were filled with tears. “I wouldn’t have got so much of happiness if I had brought that top in Singapore…you are right appa. The joy of sharing and caring need to be experienced…”
Yes- she was really experiencing the divine joy of sharing and the random act of kindness for the first time in her life. Selfishness can bring comfort, pleasure and luxury. But happiness comes ONLY by sharing. This could be just a once-in-blue-moon act in her life. I don’t know about the future.It is very difficult to sail opposite to the wind – she might fall into the superficial life (created by marketing-media) style. Today’s society is deeply conditioned by self-centered logics. (With excerpts from Pauper Billionaire: http://www.udaypai.in/?p=277)
© Uday Lal Pai. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org