I come from a lower middle class family from an extremely small town in the state of West Bengal. My family is Bengali, and by taking the risk of sounding stereotypical, I would say that most Bengalis are stringent individuals. Stringent in almost everything, with the exception of afternoon naps and Sunday lunch of course! To see a Bengali wealthy middle aged man riding a bicycle and wearing crumpled clothes is a common sight in most parts of West Bengal.
Now coming back to my non wealthy, pay check to pay check living family. We never had enough of anything while growing up. My father was the only salaried person in a family of four. The salary was just enough to pay the rent for our 400sqft room, our school fees, and the once a year trip to Sundarbans to see my grandparents in the third class compartment of the Indian railways. All other expenses were pretty much carried forward to the next month’s credit and eventually in a never ending spiral of small debts that my mother and father struggled with, till me and my sister finished college.
I was in such a rush to grow up and get a job that it felt like an eternity to finally turn 18 and be able to get a real paying job! I started off as a receptionist in a car dealership in my town, and they paid me Rupees 3500 a month, in lieu of 9 hours of sitting at the reception desk. I had a telephone, a table fan, and a notebook of potential customers who could afford an 8lakhs rupees car. The glass walls of the showroom made it quite hot inside and the fan provided some relief from that, in exchange of some humidity. I would spend 300 rupees monthly in the shared auto to commute between home and the dealership. Lunch was free though. My goal was to save 3000 rupees every month, which would give 36000 rupees at the end of one year, which was a hell lot of money for an 18 year old at that time! I lasted less than six months there. But I continued working nevertheless, with other small companies, and giving tuitions to school kids, after work to make some more extra income. All my school mates were either in engineering or medical schools, and it did suck at times thinking of the alternative life I could have had if only we had some more money.
I have been working since I was 18, never taking a break from earning a livelihood, and perhaps that is why I always end up debating a hundred times in my head to decide the worth of even a spend as little as Rs10. While flying, I have had colleagues who would spend Rs 5000 just for the entry to a nightclub in Delhi, and I would ask myself that how could I spend an amount worth my father’s one month salary, for just a few hours of pleasure! The answer was always a loud and clear NO.
I am in my early 30s now, and have been blessed with better times. I make a decent living and am able to support my parents in ways that I could not have imagined even ten years ago! And guess what, I still have the same debate in my head every single time I go out, I decide to spend, I decide to treat myself. And this is just the financial debate! I have debates in my head even when it comes to spending leisure time doing absolutely nothing! Like why am I sitting without doing anything! Like every hour of the day has to be filled with some work, some activity, productive or otherwise! Don’t even get me started on the idea of splurging in luxury shopping or foreign holidays in once in a blue moon! I don’t have to tell you that I have never done the former, and the few times I did do the latter, I have been extremely detailed in my expense planning and kept my guard on for any kind of impulse expense. Nope, not under my watch!
If you have had an upbringing such as mine, you would probably relate to my monologue here. As I sit in this humungous food court in a giant mall in one of the many suburbs of Dubai, sipping my karak chai, doing absolutely nothing other than leisurely engaging with my thoughts, I couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty of being unproductive, which funnily in turn made me open my notes in my cellphone and start writing this monologue!
On another note, I would like to know if it was your guilt ridden pleasure that led you to engage in reading this blog, or you are the evolved being that understands that pleasure is imperative to living, if not to surviving? I am curious!