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Tracking the monetary territory

Even as Mercs and BMWs dot the Mumbai streets, Suman Gupta ponders as to whether money can buy happiness.

india Updated: May 08, 2007 18:53 IST

It’s quite a ridiculous notion actually. And oddly enough, it was advanced by none other than the god of psycho matters, Sigmund Freud. Money cannot buy happiness, he groused. Because happiness is the “adult fulfillment of childhood dreams.” So far, so sensible. Then he said, “children do not dream of money.” Conclusion: Money doesn’t buy happiness.

Whoa! Freud was talking before terms like “limousine liberal”, “radical chic”, “nouveau riche” and “multi-billion takeovers” (with due thanks to Laxmi Mittal) were invented. And from where I stand in a snug two-BHK, the evidence is that like blondes, the rich do have more fun.

And some of the pure happiness, if one may call it that, that money can buy for the rich, neo or inherited, is as follows:

YOU DON’T HAVE TO PAY FOR A THING, LUV. Someone else is always happy to do the paying for them. The super rich never, but never carry money with them, paper or plastic. I cannot imagine Ratan Tata having to pay Rs 25,000 for a wasabi and a pudding at his Taj Palace and Towers and I don’t hazard that he does. I have seen a non-Tata baron tucking in there too..but didn’t see the tab materialise..Baron de Mumbai just left a tip..a big smile.

Naresh Goyal can’t be paying for his air travel on Jet..and that is perhaps the airline always sees him travelling in economy. Vijay Mallya of Kingfisher shows up on video screens to say hello..and doesn’t have to pay at all to be added to his cool profile.

NO SHRINKS REQUIRED The truly rich will never be found in the waiting rooms of psycho-analysts or psychiatrists. Under dire stress, they may just invite the city’s headshrinker for chablis and extract free advice on how to handle the wife, son, sister, mum, aunt or whoever’s driving then insane. There was a time when Dilip Kumar, the nation’s richest actor of the 1950s (he owned a house in Pali Hill which was enough for an actor those days) was sufficiently troubled by his tragic roles to call for a shrink.

Today, Amitabh Bachchan does severely tragic roles (in Nishabd he wants to jump off a cliff) but doesn’t need consultations. He has Amar Singh for advisory consultancy.

LONELINESS? WAZZAT? The truly rich are never lonely..even when they are critiqued by the rest of the world..have a migraine and want to be alone..or just have a bad World Cup day. Sachin Tendulkar, you know why. Still, he remains the glam face of Indian cricket. A fan kiss for Dhoni isn’t going to send ST’s groupies into a defection overdrive.

Once India’s highest paid villain-turned hero, Shatrughan Sinha is surrounded by his Bihar state folk wherever he goes, even if he’s not acting anymore..and doesn’t ever have to brood sitting at home eating wedding mithai.

THE TRULY RICH DO NOT HAVE TO CHEW. Like Gloria Guinness, wealthy heiress, once announced, all one needs to eat is pate de foie gras, caviar, souffle and chocolate mousse..and yet enjoy the art of backbiting. Every society diva worth her solitaires is currently bitching and biting into Queenie Dhody..did she break up a home or not?..all soo spicy..and crunchy.

Edibles have to be soft or else cavities and root canals are an issue and no, dentists don’t make home visits. Moneywallis sit reading old magazine at dentist’s clinic, without complaining. And this includes the most gracious of them all — Lata Mangeshkar.

MAYBE JUST A GLASS OF WINE. Society ladies twirl long stems of red Bordeaux for an entire evening..wonder what they stock in those Alibag bungalow bars which need replenishments weekly? By contrast, the men are quite frank that they can down barrels of single malts. Or Scotch. Rishi Kapoor, men swear, is the best drinking buddy in the world. I go by their word..because I’m not into Scotch.

NO LOOKING BACK. The truly rich never look behind them. They open a door, walk in and just make themselves at home, which is a talent. They don’t look back when they’re running through Marine Drive..their personnel ensures that the road ahead is not potholed. Sterling example: Anil Ambani, the facility explaining his Peter Pan looks and current flair for looking way ahead by acquiring stakes in the entertainment biz.

THEY ARE IN THE PUBLIC EYE AND THEY AREN’T. The truly classy are seen with their family at a Barista outlet on a Sunday evening but will somehow elude the paparazzi. They are neatly-attired, never in see-see-me type of threads.. Topnotch examples: Kumarmanglam Birla.. and Mukesh Ambani. Runner-up: Gautam Singhania, party host yes but socially correct.

THEY OWN THEIR OWN ART GALLERIES OR HAVE CLASSICS ON THE WALLS. The truly rich art collectors find space for their passion for art..or they are simply those who started early in promoting art. Amit Judge whose Bodhi art gallery may not be consistent in the quality of its exhibits but shows metal dinosaurs and refracted mirrors for the avant-garde.

The ones who started early? Many of them, but clearly Tina Ambani and Parmeshwar Godrej had the first eye..for the masters as well as upcoming painters and sculptors.

Aaah, but there’s a catch to all this happiness.

As my favourite social diarist Taki pointed out: the truly rich have to live with the other truly rich and their families. And that, alas, is the true unhappiness that money can buy.