During a general conversation about the spending habits of the current generation, my parents mentioned that they used to survive on a meager 2 or 3 rupees towards the end of the month in their younger days. Meaning the days when I was a toddler. I still haven’t gotten over the shock of what that means. That implies having no money and yet going to work and going about daily responsibilities of running a household having young kids and aging parents. On asking how they managed the situation, mom casually said she would walk part of the way to work to save on bus fare and not have her afternoon tea. They were not poor by definition, because I remember having anything and everything I needed and wanted, as a kid. They just had too many responsibilities which they refused to shirk. At one point we were 6 people, of which only 2 were earning, living in a one bedroom apartment . And I remember those as happy times. There never was anything lacking in my childhood.
But this backstage situation was not something I was aware of. And if you are in your 20s and 30s and ask your folks, it is highly likely that you will hear similar stories, at least from Indian parents. Because in those days, apparently the Indian middle class was all in the same boat.
The topic came up when we were discussing the furniture budget for our new house and we were disagreeing because I valued comfort over economy. Needless to say now my head is hung in shame. But at the same time, a part of me really wants them to have that comfort for going through what they did to give me the life I am currently living.
Money is a very tricky subject. A necessity and a want.. a saviour and a killer all at the same time. Everyone has a different relationship with it. And it is the least discussed of subjects in many households and relationships. Which I fervently wish is changed. I know I have gone through turmoil of my own when living alone for the first time in a foreign country, paying exorbitant grad school tuition with student loans and earning minimum wage. But even in those times, I had the back up of my family. I knew I could go back home if things got unmanageable. But my parents did not have that luxury. They were on their own.
It’s a lot to think because there are times when I spend more on a meal than what they must be earning in an entire month when they were my age. And I absolutely hate myself for the way that statement sounds. Yes, circumstances are different, the economics are different..and at the end of the day this was the exact reason why they worked hard. To give their kids the kind of life they were not able to have. The freedom to use money the way we choose to. The freedom to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. It’s a gift we don’t even realize we have. And at least for me, I think it’s high time I understand and respect this privilege.
PS: Please forgive me if this post is a bit rambly and incoherent. But too many times it happens that I learn a lesson and then forget about it once life takes over. I wanted this to stay with me as a reminder. So I had to write this post.