Through their eyes

There is a truck parked in front of the lobby and furniture is being piled into it. The day goes by and another round of loading happens.

Later I am on my way to work and the driver asks me curiously… “Didi, do rich couples fight too?”

It sounds so strange that I ask him to repeat his question just to check that I heard correct. He repeats. I laugh and point out that couples are couples and each one has their share of disagreements.

He nods and then asks me very seriously – “But what do rich people fight about? (This bit reminded me of the Sholay, Angrez log suicide kyun karte hain?) We poor people fight because we’re short of money and food. It’s not easy to get along when you don’t know where your rent for the next month will come from. See this truck moving out? The sir moved his half in the morning and the madam is moving her half of their possessions now. How can they just split up and go? Itna hone ke bawjood jhagadte hain, what would they do if they had less?”

It wasn’t the most insightful or deep conversation I’ve had but it played on my mind for a long time after that. It is funny how we find something else to fight over when our basic needs have been met – ego, careers, hurt feelings, family, pride.

It also reminded me of my maid drinking cups of plain ghee that I would painstakingly make for the Brat and Bean. She said she needed to put on weight to find a good groom because being thin was a sign of poverty. And she’d look at me in horror when I turned down a teaspoon on my food. To the poor, looking fat is a sign of prosperity, but in the upper echelons of society, the richer you are, the thinner you need to be. Case in point, Nita Ambani and her current lollipop look!

Such a stark contrast in perspective….

Edited to add: I had to add this last one. Last night for Earth Hour we switched off all our lights at  8.30 pm and took the kids down to play in the complex with the other families gathered there. The maid opted to stay home and we told her to light a candle and stay up there since she didn’t want to come with us. We came home to find that she’d lit a candle and set it on my polished beautiful wooden centre table. The candle melted down and finally scorched the wood. And then dripped down into the weave of my handwoven jute rug to settle there forever. She then tried to make amends by scraping the table with a knife so that now it is not merely scorched but also covered in deep gouges.

I came home, took one look at my table and sat down to sob on the floor. She didn’t know what I was sobbing about. Why would one deliberately switch off lights when they are so easily available to us? What is the big deal with a wooden table anyway? They burn if for fuel in their village. Why do I spend time and money on polishing a pure wood table when I can buy a plastic or plywood one and wipe it down? I had no answers. I just got into bed and sobbed myself to sleep.

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33 thoughts on “Through their eyes

  1. Indeed, what a perspective. It’s quite humbling too.

    BTW, I’ve been reading your blog for almost 2 years now but never commented.

    Your writing is excellent. It’s uplifting and fun…
    Shafeenaaz

  2. My driver lives close to our place in a rented room, while his his wife and two small kids live in their ancestral village near Meerut, with his parents.
    After their first baby was born, he brought his wife and daughter here to live with him. Now, his wife is, what is politely called “haalthy”, and living here – without access to fresh milk from their own buffaloes at home, and having to cook and clean herself, plus run around behind the baby – she lost some weight.
    I thought she looked healthier, but he sent her back to the village. In his words – “Didi, woh bauhat sikud gayi thi. Papa se bhi mujhe bauhat daant padhi – ek dum kamzor si lagne lagi thi. Humaare ghar ki bahu-betiyaan aisi nahin dikhti’n.”

    Now, I wonder what the man must think of me! 😀

  3. The concept of parallel universes must be true..evidently you and your maid like in parallel worlds..

    Why should some lost polish and a hole in the rug matter so much ? But it does..

    Sometimes it’s humbling to think about the world around us , and like Arundhati Roy said- never , never forget the vulgar disparity..

    • yes, it is humbling to think of the disparity. and i think even they understand that different things matter to different people. the maid who saw me sit with a piece of sandpaper and clean and polish this table i found at a discount store, knows it is important to me – she just doesnt understand why. i guess we all need to realise that while we may not understand why something is important to another, we need to respect it nonetheless.

  4. Perspective, sure.

    It is not usually about fights or disagreements, it’s probably more about outcomes we look at post that and choices we make to lead us there.

    Increasingly, we turn to severance/ divorce and so on because we call it a choice that educated individuals are taught to exercise. Most poor people see no choices in life. They are machined to work, marry, procreate, persevere and survive odds. For example, not just divorce they also have problem understanding how and why people choose not to have kids.

    Another lensview – We fight and disagree with our parents, siblings, children but do we divorce them? No. But for some reason, we find it easier to walk away from an acquired relationship, just because we have a choice. Human nature – the more we see new things, the more we itch to try and adopt.

    • actually it depends on how severe the situation. i know so many families where siblings or parents have been cut off that i realise we are increasingly becoming intolerant of everyone and everything.

      • this is bang on…the intolerance thing. Sometimes its like, people think/assume they are so perfect, they fail to see what’s actually wrong.

  5. I couldn’t agree more on us finding new reasons to fight and also the stark contrast in lives of people belonging to different social strata, which of course is defined only by the annual income and lifestyle.
    Could it be that we never feel gratified for what life has given us? My mother fought with my dad for reasons like school fees, my dad being too attached to his sisters(old lame story, that one)…yaada yaada…but I seem to be fighting with my husband for reasons that my mother would have not retaliated to.
    On a slightly related note, what do you think about giving our maids the clothes (and other stuff) that we once used and feel embarrassed to use now? While I am helping them economically, I find myself asking the question, “Do they have to wear what you dont like?”,”are you in that sense superior to them?”

    • I have a different perspective on hand me downs – i don’t see them as superior or inferior, just as less wastage. Among our friends we pass around our childrens clothes and old toys, strollers, cribs, everything. Also, depending on see-sawing of weight, too many gifts, we pass around a handbag that is not in style, maternity pants, a smart top we’ve outgrown. i really have no issues with old stuff if its well kept or to use the amazon phrase – gently used. and i only pass on stuff that is not shabby and that i would wear without shame. the rest is just used for dusting . also, i also give my maids an option – if they like it, they take it, else i toss it and it goes to an ngo that makes sanitary napkins for women.

      • I agree on that MM, I usually do pass on old stuff which is not torn or shabby to the maid, garbage lady or watchman’s wife…I do make sure to tell them that its old and they can use it if they want…or else they can just sell it and get vessels in return 🙂
        and LOL on Ummon’s comment..I am sure the richest person around here then 🙂

  6. lets just say Im glad the burning stopped at the rug. WHAT a NIGHTMARE! Dont leave no burning candles around woman. Take the maid with you and go. Leave an emergency light/flashlight around.
    You must have loved that table…but like someone said, time to get a new one 🙂 will wait for pics!
    Prosperity is my middle name.

  7. It actually is a deep thought . and so basic a Q. Hmm..u know Maslow’s theory of hierarchy? It kinda explains why rich couples fight n mabbe even what they fight over. The theory states that there is a certain order in which needs have to be fulfilled. The order is:
    Physiological needs(food, clothing)
    Security needs (shelter)
    Social needs (a sense of family, friendship)
    Self Esteem
    Self Actualization

  8. A bit sad to hear about the table & the rug & your sobbing for it. Hope the table was not from the stuff that your parents sent.

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