The decades we grew up in were the transition decades. The generation before us and the one after us lived in two different worlds. We had the (mis)fortune of living in neither. 1008 was voicing the angst of his generation, of our generation, in his questioning of the values being passed on to us. He had seen the uselessness of these values in the real world and was sharp enough to realize that he was being offered a berth in the Titanic. So, he rebelled. He thought, therefore he spoke what he thought. After his praise of those who hadn’t gone the (normal) middle class way, he came to those who had. Uncomfortably for me, he talked about people who lived around his house, in his muhalla, that’s mine too.
“Look at all the decent, normal middle class people. All honourable men. They lived honest lives and walked on the straight path all their lives”, he said. Affirmative from my side. “At the end of it all what do they have? The same old middle class status in which they were born, bequeathed to their children”, his voice was not reflecting the anger of his eyes because there were many people around and we were talking about things we could not share with everyone. “Now look at the people like Sanaru“. “What is there to be looked at?”, say I. “They have money and some serious muscle power at their disposal. They were all born in lower middle class families, but have risen in their life due to their readiness to do anything for money and through their evolution into homo opulentus (the italicized term is my translation of his Banarsi term)”.
I was not sure where it was all leading to and he read it on my face so he added: “I’m just trying to tell you that all your academic qualifications and your values are burdens that constantly keep sinking you into the quagmire of life with double speed. Freedom is in being worldly wise. Freedom is in shedding of all conventionally and socially acceptable traits and acquiring some other qualities that may give you what I want in life”. “And what is that? What do you want in yours?” To this question of mine he bent his mind and came with his reply: “I want money ’cause I never had it in my life. I was born poor, but I don’t want to keep it that way, and I definitely don’t want to die poor.”
It jumped out from one of the thinking parts of my brain: “Who wants to die poor?”, while the other part was doing some introspection. I needed some more time to think, some time to calm my own confusion down, but 1008 was about to drive the nail through the board. Naturally, he was impatient because he could not see how I could be so dumb as to not see what was mountain-clear to his eyes. “Many”, he said, “there are many who want and plan to die poor. Actually they like poverty so much that they plan to bequeath it to their generations to come. They train their children in the practice of poverty through their upbringing confirmed in the stupidity of strict conformity to values”.
It was becoming too much for me. This person was attacking whatever was dear to me, he was trying to destroy the foundations of my existence. How could I let it happen, that too, without a good fight? No, I do not curse in front of my elders and those younger to me: social programming, you see! So, there was no rejoinder starting with b. I came back with: “If man wants happiness in life, how could he plan for poverty that leads to sorrow ultimately? If man loves his children and wants them to fare well in life, how can he plan to ruin it by infecting it with poverty? You must learn to think before you speak”.
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