Mom, I have a treasure,’ my daughter whispered, holding a small wooden box in her outstretched hand. Now anyone who has dealt with kids knows that when a four-year-old whispers excitedly, you cannot answer back. You’ve got to whisper back, with double the enthusiasm. So I duly went wide-eyed and said, “Really? Show me.” She opened the box.
It was full of glittering Knick-knack bits of wrapping paper, ornaments from the last year’s Christmas tree, even left over golden coloured crayons. “Wow, this is so cool. Let me also add to your treasure,” I said and took out a ten rupee note from my purse. “That’s not treasure,” she said, thrusting it back in my hand with firm authority, ‘It doesn’t shine’. Both of us — the mother of the girl and the father of the nation on the note, felt quite let down at this admonition. Rolling my eyes, I thought when she grows up, I’ll tell her how what’s precious is not just something that glitters.
Just then, I saw Bubbly aunty’s face suddenly pop up through my window, much like in horror movies. “What the heck?” I asked her but she was gesturing wildly to some commotion outside. I went out to witness an amusing argument, taking place rather publicly, between a neighbour and his teenaged son. “I’m not taking this khatara to college, I’ll be so embarassed,” the boy said, pointing to their maruti zen. “But it’s in perfect condition,” replied his father. “What condition? Looks haggard, no matter how hard you wash it. Dad, lets get a shining Honda city. I’ll invest in shares and pay the installment,”— the son… and the argument, went on.
I realised that I may have to wait a long time before I can expect my daughter to understand my ‘not-gold-just-because-it-shines’ philosophy.
No matter how grounded or intelligent we may like to think we are, there’s a hidden complex in all of us that gets influenced by external trappings. ‘Where do you live?’ is the most favourite question Delhiites like to ask each other. Certainly not because they intend to look you up
someday. Because it gives them an immediate insight into where to place you in their mind’s ‘posh-ness’ hierarchy. A friend who owns a palatial bunglow in Kamla Nagar can be heard ruing every now and then about how it would have been better for her social standing even if she lived in a two bedroom apartment in GK.
Where we live, what we drive, which phone we carry, what brands we wear — clearly take precedence over who we are, in terms of more innate virtues. And then once we’ve established in our minds that these things matter so much to us, we are under a constant stress of maintaining those standards.
Bubbly aunty bought a costly ‘designer’ handbag from Gaffar market the other day, on the eve of her kitty party. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Gucci hasn’t yet started spelling their brand as ‘Gusci’, but someone else did. She’s now under depression. The same bag, without any logo on it would have performed its function equally well.
I’m leaving this debate — about whether ‘trappings maketh a person’ — open for your comments. I just know one thing, the calmest girl in the class at my ‘posh’ college was not the daughter of the IPS officer residing at Aurangzeb road, it was the daughter of an insurance agent, who was supremely confident about his one bedroom Karol Bagh house.
Sonal Kalra is scouting for a venue for her book’s launch. A venue other than a five-star hotel is totally out of question. Status bhi koi cheez hai. Mail your calmness tricks to her at firstname.lastname@example.org