My father asked for the strangest thing the other day.
He came up to me, handed me a sheet of paper and asked me to jot down a list of things I wanted. Being the moralistic, principled, God-fearing child that I am (I am kidding), I had a list of things ready:
“I want a happy and fulfilling life.”
“I want a successful career.”
“I want to be healthy.”
You know the kind of stuff they put in those sappy WhatsApp forwards and teach you about in those mandatory Moral Lesson Classes in second grade.
But, Plot Twist: he said the demands should be more, er, monetary in nature. My eyes lit up! Ways to spend huge sums of money? I am in!
But this excitement disappeared the minute I actually started coming up with a list..
The ghosts of my middle class household began to resurface. They were fogging my perspective and whispering sweet nothings of horror in my ear, teleporting me back to the good old days:
I was born at a time when my dad was still working in shifts that were categorised by letters, colour-coded for better understanding and stuck at back of the bedroom door for everybody to see, while my mother was struggling with the confines of patriarchy and beginning to discover the loss of freedom that often comes with an arranged marriage. What I am trying to say is that I wasn’t born in a very well-to-do family and I have memories of 1 BHKs and really happy quality family time that lasted years–until my dad got promoted and my mother got a job. We then progressed and could afford to live in a relatively fancy 3BHK.
Of course, along the way, I was becoming a person too. I found myself fitting the mould of my parents’ expectation without them having to ask me. I became a straight A kid who wasn’t too loud or too troublesome and was as responsible as could be, in some ways. I was also the older sibling.
For some reason my parents decided to share ‘grown up’ family information with me. Stuff like hey kiddo we’re, kind of, having some money problems. So, if I was told that the family was experiencing a cash crunch, it started to reflect in my thoughts and behaviour because obviously I was supposed to understand, right? Totally normal.
I guess my sincerity and the desire to always do the right thing did me more harm than good, in this case. At some point, my somewhat miserly mindset nested itself in a little corner of my being and once its time was over, it just forgot to move out.
Middle class is a mentality, a lifestyle. One that is not based solely on the disposable income of the house. Other factors like who you are as a person, the predominant nature of discourse in the house, personal experiences and circumstances play a heavy role in determination of what’s probably going to be you for the rest of your life. It’s omnipresent and leaves an invisible scar on your skin–one that only you can feel.
I know because I still feel that scar, like a lump in my throat when I’m about to swipe the debit card for a figure that’s exceeds my usual.
I wouldn’t want to blame it. It’s made me grow in ways I see many of my friends have not. It’s made me adult better than many. But on the flip side, it is also a constant bell of caution ringing too close to my ears. It is harmonic, and has pretty much come to constitute the background score of my life.
So you can understand how difficult it must be to come up with a list of dreams, measurable primarily in monetary terms, in this economy of distress, when I still think twice about purchasing a Tall Caramel Java Chip.
But it’s not all sad and mopey. There’s the good stuff too.
Once we entered the almost upper middle class phase of our lives. I, a child of circumstances, who had learnt to dream in confinement, was given more than what I ever desired. To this day, that hasn’t changed. I don’t ask for much and in return am granted appropriately. Both parties are ecstatic. Bravo!
So what I’m trying to say here is that if my Bar of Wants is already drowning in complacency, how am I supposed to come up with this ultimate list of wants?
(P.S. Dear birthgivers, if you’re reading this, please know that I have exaggerated and satirised quite a bit here!!!)