Riches to Rags- the shortest trip ever
MONEY! CASH! BUCKS! MOOLAH! PAISA!
I don’t crave for billions or a 60 storey residence or even a luxury jet on my birthday. I’m talking about having a fortune enough to lead a life of comfort by my family and myself, and enough savings to overcome any unexpected crisis. In today’s world money is the most important requirement for survival. “Roti, Kapda aur Makaan“- is too outdated. If you don’t have enough savings to see you and your family through bad times, it’s going to be a very difficult life ahead.
I do crave for and are accustomed to a few luxuries- a car at my disposal, frequent travels, indulging in my love for buying books etc. That’s it. Nothing fancy. No addiction to extravagant expenses of jewelery and designer apparel shopping. I come from a regular middle class family, and have led a comfortable enough life without having to experience the want of something essential. It’s all about how much you crave for, and fortunately my needs are few. But even though I’ve never faced a financial crisis, growing up in India made me a spectator to poverty right from my childhood. You can’t help but see it on the streets, in villages, and it is even rampant in urban India.
I’ve grown up hearing, “Money can’t buy you happiness“. But it sure can buy a sense of security and comfort to a family. Education, pursuing your dreams, looking after your loved ones; money is not the only criteria in achieving them, but it is the only basis. Recently I’ve been a close witness to how even family and friends tend to distance themselves from the one on whom bad times have befallen. No matter how close a person is to his family, once he becomes financially dependent on them, resentments tend to develop in a scale varying from “you better be thankful that I’m providing for you and be happy about whatever you receive without voicing any opinion” mindset to downright alienation.
A distant uncle, my chaachi’s brother, who was suffering from cancer expired yesterday. He was a distant relative, but had been an important part of my life while growing up. He lost his job about a decade back, lost all his savings and house to deceitful and conniving siblings, and since then he and his family had been surviving on odd jobs and occasional financial help from relatives. But gradually, even the relatives used to dread his visit because he’d obviously ask for money. My father used to give him money whenever he visited. I used to resent the fact at times about my father offering help to every person in need of money. I felt people took Pa’s generosity for granted. He draws a fixed salary every month and is the sole earning member of the family. So, the fact that he spends nearly half of it in helping others and supporting two additional families in our Jorhat home every month, irritates me no end. Because I am scared of lack of savings for my sister’s and my education, and having a tough time in case some calamity befell on our family. But my father comes from a very, very poor family and he and his siblings had struggled very hard in life to reach the positions they are in now. Therefore, Pa can’t tolerate to see anyone struggling for the basic amenities in life. Moreover, he is a firm believer of the fact that if you help others, God would see to it that you won’t be in need of anything ever. Sure enough, despite Pa’s habit of financially helping others by giving away more than half of his income, our family had never been in a severe cash crunch. Somehow, we always manage to sail through any crisis. So, I can’t even argue that my father’s belief is irrational!
My uncle, who expired yesterday, were avoided by relatives because of his compulsive borrowing and to be honest, even I resented his visits at time. He was a good man, had always helped people around him, adopted a girl child, and was liked by all…when he wasn’t financially dependent on others. But within two years of unemployment, his very existence became a burden for his brothers and he was out in the streets with his family. He did odd jobs to support his family. But recently when he fell ill, I realized the importance of money and its value not only to sustain life but also it’s power to dilute and distance even blood relations. He was diagnosed with cancer and was looked after by his wife and two daughters who stayed in the hospital, as they had no other place to live. My father footed only the medical bills, as it was all he could afford to spare at that time. But for daily expenses, his wife had to take up the job of a sweeper in the hospital! This is a woman who comes from a well-to-do family but had been alienated over the years. I shuddered to think how times change. This is what happens in real life. And until now, I used to think such things happens only in Bollywood formula movies. His own sister, my chaachi, offered to pay only a measly 1000 rupees because that was the only amount her husband could spare! His other siblings refused to even visit him in the hospital, in fear of having to financially help him out. Our family, even though distant relatives, were the only contacts of them at this hour because Pa considered him as his younger brother.
When it was diagnosed that he had terminally ill, the hospital told the family about the futility of any further treatment. So, they shifted to a lodge awaiting his final days. His wife called my mother at 3am yesterday and told that my uncle was on his deathbed. My mother rushed to the place where they were staying, but by the time she reached there he had already expired. She called us from there to inform us about it. None of his relatives visited him, except for his wife’s brothers. The cremation was done by his youngest daughter, hardly twelve years old. His siblings inquired about his death only after the cremation was over, because they didn’t want to bear the expenses of it!
By the time he was diagnosed with cancer, he was past the stage of getting cured. Money wouldn’t have helped to save him. But it would’ve ensured he died a peaceful death, satisfied of his family being financially secure after his death. But he died a difficult death and has left his family in a very bad financial situation with no job and no home. My father would help them in any way he can, but having a fixed income puts restrictions in his ability to help their family only to a certain extent. Pa and I had a long talk yesterday, about the importance of money. He emphasized on the importance of savings, helping others in need, and also warned me about how lack of cash can reveal the true identities of people around me, an ugly side I may not be prepared for. He told me the most important thing in life is financial independence and the capacity to take care for self and loved ones. Money can buy happiness after all, just like the lack of it can make life a living hell. Sad, but true.
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