I saved up to buy my first Barbie. And I gave the money I got on festivals to Dad to deposit in the bank and he promised to put in the same amount from his side. So if I gave him two hundred rupees, he’d put in two hundred from his side. I felt rich when I had a thousand rupees in my bank account. For school fetes, we got ten rupees to splurge on ourselves. And sometimes, even twenty!
It wasn’t a difficult life at all. And people around us weren’t living too differently. There was just enough of everything – food, clothes, books. It was a comfortable life, but there were no luxuries for us. As children, we rarely missed what we didn’t have. It was occasionaly, when we visited friends and cousins who were visibly better off than us or received presents that we could not think of buying for our friends, that we thought of what was beyond our reach. But for the most part, we were thankful for what we had. And more thankful for what we achieved in the years to come as a family. Most importantly, we were happy and valued the little things in life.
So when I look at my nieces and nephews and a whole bunch of teenagers whom I deal with on a daily basis as part of my work, I’m surprised at how much they find to crib about in life. My 8-year-old nephew asks for an iPod on his birthday, gets it and still isn’t happy. My 14-year-old niece has a cell phone but because it isn’t a PDA, she doesn’t thinks it’s cool enough. And in a casual conversation, she asks me why the son of a really affluent family in town drives around in a car worth only Rs. 25 lakhs when they can afford a Merc?! And why does he have only one car? Pray, somebody answer her.
How much is going to be enough for these kids, I wonder. They don’t know what it feels like to want something and not have it, to struggle and achieve it. They don’t know the pleasure that a gift, however small, should give you. They don’t know what goes into earning a living. Who is going to tell them there still exists a world where people struggle everyday to survive? Who is going to teach them to be thankful for what they have?
I look at them and feel there’s more than a generation gap here. It’s the awning gap between the ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have Nots’, the great divide that keeps the children of well-to-do Indian middle class families from looking at the world where a comfortable life is covetous. These are the children of a society that was working so hard to get all that these children could want, it forgot to tell them about being grateful for it. As parents, we might betrying to give our children what we never had, but in turn we’ve taken away from them the simple pleasures of life.