At the hyper market yesterday I saw a tin of food product, which had a new label and color scheme on it. I examined it with interest and kept it back after a wistful look. My wife saw this and remarked “It’s over now, move on”. She was referring to my role in a transaction related to that product with one of my previous employers.
Most employed individuals spend majority of their waking hours in pursuit of their livelihood. So it is natural that achievements in that sphere would be more visible or having a better recall. But is this pursuit of livelihood an end in itself? Is it not a means or a method to reach a larger goal we should have for our life?
One interesting view I remember reading is that the whole purpose of earning a living is to maximize the quality of our life outside the work area and our leisure time. The question arises whether we even attempt to achieve these goals and if so are we determined to pursue it consistently.
To amplify it further, have we wondered what would give us maximum joy if we were not compelled to earn our living? Suppose we won Rs. 5 crores in KBC (post tax slightly over Rs. 4 crores, one can buy a two BHK flat in a far off suburb in Mumbai and be left with a sum enough to lead a lower middle class existence) what would each of like to do with our lives? To put it differently, what would we really like to do, if we had choices to exercise with our future?
Why do these questions arise? One reality of the “Shining India” is the long hours of work most of us put in, irrespective of which part of the country we are in. This coupled with long commute leave us little time to introspect long enough on anything significant (other than what groceries or vegetables to pick up, what the kids have demanded for their school project, what medicines to buy for mother/father etc.). In such circumstances, the desire to renew violin classes or go for swimming early in the morning slowly recedes from our thoughts.
I spoke to a friend and former colleague today. He has an interesting story to tell. Few years back, he had informed me that his son dropped from a law degree course mid way and went to Los Angeles for studying music. His son has now settled in Himachal Pradesh and set up a recording studio. My friend’s visits to HP have made him aware of the beauty and charm of that State and he too would not mind leaving Mumbai for good post retirement. Now, this I felt is an exceptional case of knowing clearly what an individual wants out of life and taking courageous steps for it.
Gradual urbanization of India has created uniformity of aspirations. TV serials and internet has shrunk the world to, what we believe an understandable size. The converse of it is varying levels of erosion individual identity – in terms of language, culture, traditions. Conformity is the norm at least in official dressing- except in Government where we find cabinet ministers wearing ethnic dresses- P C Chidambaram has presented innumerable budgets wearing starched Dhoti and shirts. Today ethnic dress is reserved for Traditional Day wherein awards are handed out for the best dressed person.
A fall out of this urbanization, economic growth and related aspiration is blurring of what a normal family life means. “Have you played a non competitive team game like kabaddi?” I heard this question being asked during a group discussion with today’s youth. The answer was ‘no’; in cities there is no space for playing such games. Forget about games, most children in their early teens spend their time shuttling between classes (IIT entrance), extracurricular activities (musical instruments are now popular) after school hours, which any way starts way too early. What would such children know or learn about the day to day family life? Perhaps little. It is not uncommon to find 12 or 14 year old children unable to support their day to day chores without parental help. The question of participating in family’s day to day life in any way or understanding it becomes increasingly difficult as they enter the competitive educational arena.
The result seems to be that we may be developing good fodder for corporate/business life without developing the so called ‘soft skills’ needed to lead a life outside the work area. Perhaps this may be an extreme view or true for isolated situations. But still looking at the world around us, it seems that it is preferable to work in a structured office environment where all facilities are available for call rather than create a beautiful living environment in our living space. For a house to become a home, every family member would need to put in sustained efforts. But today’s life makes it a difficult task.
I often ask myself why this is relevant. Why not accept that change is the only eternal truth? The question I ask to myself is how much time we spent on ourselves in the real sense of the term (not in terms of self indulgence). Do we enjoy the early morning sun, do we relish reading the morning paper without scurrying thru it, do we gulp our breakfast or enjoy each morsel of it, do we start worrying about our day’s task in the office or go with a care free grin on our face when we see our colleagues, after reaching home are we able to sit with our family and speak about nothing important- just sharing what happened during the day, would a parent love to make a new dish or a snack for the children or buy it from the nearby shop, do we have the spirit to run with our young children (or grandchild in my case) after reaching home or tell them a story before going to sleep and so on.
My experience is that it is the middle class population like us which falls in between the two worlds. The very rich are smart enough to know that enjoying the facilities of wealth is a transient pleasure and savor it whenever possible, the other end of the spectrum know the reality of life and enjoy each moment of pleasure which God and circumstances give them. The Middle Class lives in aspiration of a future which will bring all these pleasures. But does that future come?
All of us have to introspect for an answer.