One of the advantages of being a freelance struggling filmmaker, is that one does not have to drool over the IPhone 6 or 6Plus. Why waste time over something one is not going to have?
The other day, my brother, Rolu and I were discussing our wealth. Money or the lack of it, or the abundance of it, is a favorite topic between us. I said we were middle-class people. He raised an eyebrow, and asked, “You, with all that you have, are middle-class?” I said, “Yes, isn’t it? I may have this house, and that property, and the car, but what about a regular income? Don’t you think that you need to earn x amount of money a year, to qualify as upper middle-class?”
What of the people who have a house, and a car, but have to budget their movie outings? Or those who can go to the movies every month, but cannot take a vacation every year? Or those whose children go to school, but they have no drinking water? Or those who work in a mall, and have better incomes than their parents did, but cannot spend as much as the people who visit the malls? My maid’s son works in an advertising agency, as a commercial artist. Her daughter did not get an education, because the mother could only afford to send one child, so the daughter works as a maid. They have more money than they used to, but are they lower class still, or have moved to being middle class?
Rolu and I then decided that we needed more categories in this increasingly complicated world, like lower-mid-middle class, mid-upper-middle-class, lower rich, upper rich, mid-lower-upper-rich, low-lower class, mid-lower class, and so on. Apart from these, you just have the unbearably poor, and the super-duper rich.
When we were children, we were not confused about being middle-class. But when I look back now, I think we would be categorized as lower middle-class by today’s standards.
So being lower-upper-middle-class in the now, by my own calculation, it took me 2-3 years of agonizing before I bought an IPhone – I have a 5C – and it took me another year to convince Teja to buy a 5C too. The time we spent deliberating over the purchase makes me believe that I have paid my dues for the phone. Teja calls it ‘mansik garibi‘, a poverty, or rather a middle-class-ness of the mind, that has nothing to do with the actual money you may have.
Having been brought up on the Hindi films of the 60s and the 70s, where the poor were always heroic and right, and the rich, evil, I am more comfortable with having less than more.
It’s also much less work to have less. Fewer things to dust, charge, repair, take care of, keep away, forget.
We once bought a collection of comics from someone who had a house full of books. According to him, there were now one way lanes in his house, to move from one point to another, and the only places to sit on were his mother’s and his bed, or piles of books. He was keen on selling off all the books he had, so that he could then begin buying only what he wanted to read again.
Who are we to say, what is enough for whom? Though I rage every single time I pass Antilla, Mukesh Ambani’s horror of a house, who am I to say, how much living space someone needs, me with my own personal bathroom, single-use, in a country where more than half the country still use the fields or the roads or railway tracks?
I remember as a girl buying a softie cone at Mona Lisa on MG Road in Poona, it was a treat then, not often affordable. But I felt miserable eating it, because a woman stood outside the restaurant begging for food.
I am extremely sensitive to the plight of poor people. Though it has not led me to do anything much to help in any meaningful way, or to reject my own creature comforts, I do sleep better however, knowing that I care.
Yesterday, Dhanno and I were watching an episode of Friends, Season 9, the one where Rachel gets a massage from Phoebe.
Phoebe first discourages Rachel from using a gift coupon from a spa, because according to her, it is corporates like this, that are driving people like her out of business, that corporates are sucking us out of life, and everything worth living for. Rachel says, she doesn’t care about these things, but promises not to go, only because of friendship.
Rachel being Rachel goes to the spa anyway, to discover that Phoebe works there, because she needs the money, and the other perks and benefits. But Phoebe admits that she feels that she is betraying herself.
Rachel tells Phoebe to quit, because “You have principles, you don’t know how much I admire that. I don’t have any.”
Of course, Phoebe does not quit, because she does want the job. In fact, she apologizes to the ‘omnipotent’ corporation, who she believes listens in to every conversation within the spa, through hidden cameras and mikes, for denouncing them earlier. She ends up telling the corporation, “I love you.”
So as I always end the discussion with Rolu, you have principles, you don’t, maybe all that matters is that you are a little kind, and you do as much as you can. Do as in do, apart from crying into your pillow.
And believe me, whether you are l-u-m-c or m-u-c or l-r or r-l or whatever, and whether you like the IPhone 6 or 6Plus, have it, or covet it, if you are reading this, like me, you have enough.