Sunday, March 1, 2009

Have it, Show it....

I ran down the stairs like every morning to find that the gate outside my home wouldn’t open fully and I would have to some how squeeze myself out through the partially blocked gate and get out. A Toyota Qualis stood parked outside the gate.

In the evening when I returned home, it was still parked there. When the next day, and then the day following, the Qualis stayed parked there, it was clear that the vehicle wasn’t one that belonged to some one who had come visiting. It had been purchased by one or the other of my many neighbors. Not having any parking space, he bought his out sized vehicle and not having any parking space, decided that it was quite all right to dump it on the road; not in front of his house necessarily, but wherever he found the space; which happened to be in front of my house. A gaudily painted sign at the back of the car said that it was a “gift of god”.

On the eve of independence India’s newly elected Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made an impassioned and oft-quoted speech saying India had made a tryst with destiny. It was an austere, simple time when idealism was at its height and the distribution of wealth was a priority. Even decades later, in my own childhood, it was implicitly taught and understood, that today, it would seem that India has taken a slightly different route towards its destiny.

Flaunting your wealth? Is it a good or noble thing? In general, it has always been considered bad form to flaunt your money if you’ve got it. And it’s considered really bad form to flaunt your money these days when so many are losing their jobs or living with massive salary cuts. whereas traditionally “old money” has always been discreet and not ostentatious, the merchant princes of Mumbai and Kolkata for instance, it is the nouveau riche, who have made the money but never had the education to use it well, who are the real problem – the ones who will buy a Qualis and then not having the space to park it or the wherewithal to figure out a solution, dump it on the public space.

“The have it shows it “attitude is even more insensitive these days when scores of jobs have already been lost. For a while at least turning their backs towards globalization, countries turn back towards a protectionist economy and look after their own. As a result of policy changes under way currently, Over 50,000 IT professionals in the country may lose their jobs over the next six months as the situation in the sector is expected to worsen due to the impact of global economic meltdown on the export-driven industry, a forecast by a union of IT Enabled Services warned.


Addressing corporate honchos, the Prime Minister had remarked once that “Rising income and wealth inequalities, if not matched by a corresponding rise of incomes across the nation, can lead to social unrest. The electronic media carries the lifestyles of the rich and famous into every village and slum. Media often highlights the vulgar display of their wealth. An area of great concern is the level of ostentatious expenditure on weddings and other family events. Such vulgarity insults the poverty of the less privileged, it is socially wasteful and it plants seeds of resentment in the minds of the have-nots”. If I recall correctly, that address of Manmohan Singh was greeted by a stony silence by the functionaries of CII. Perhaps they weren’t yet too ready to abandon their conspicuous consumption patterns. Flaunting it if you have it is here to stay, be it private jets, ostentatious weddings or the Qualis at my door

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