Stinking of Stinginess…

The one human quality I absolutely and passionately detest is STINGINESS. It might seem harmless when it’s restricted to a general unwillingness to part with one’s money. But I am not speaking of its dictionary definition. I am more interested in the inability to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary stinginess.

For instance, all of us have seen our mothers spend sleepless nights over domestic help, fighting with them and eventually cajoling them to work for a subsistence salary (you see, our moms are running on a ‘strictly fixed’ budget). But take your mom to a jewellery store and observe her transformation. She’ll want to buy the whole showroom and if anyone in the family resists her attempts to do so, she’ll throw tantrums like a 5-year old, denied of a shiny, new toy. You see stinginess fly out the window as she hoards gold, even if prices are hitting the roof.

I have a friend who goes gaga over clothes, bags, shoes, gadgets…well, you get the drift. She’ll splurge on new season Aldo, change her phone every 6 months, and cough up money on lavish dinners and the city’s best night spots. But take an auto/ cab ride with her (surprisingly, she still hasn’t bought a car of her own), and it will be only YOU, who’ll be coughing up the fare (you see, she never has change or she keeps forgetting to withdraw cash). Basically, all your attempts to settle the house rent, electricity bill, and auto expenses with her are repeatedly thwarted in similar fashion!

Recently, I volunteered with an NGO which conducts evening classes for slum children in a private school. The private school’s Principal, I was told, was a soft-spoken person with a heart of gold. Well, I am not sure about the ‘heart of gold’ part, but he certainly drove a BMW. What left me flabbergasted though was this: everyday, before school started, he would get some slum kids together and make them sweep the classrooms, the playground et al. Surely, Mr. BMW could afford an extra cleaner. But, alas! He wouldn’t dare ask the morning batch-children to scrape the school clean (you see, these kids come from white collar families). So it’s up to the children from economically weaker backgrounds to do the dirty work. Children of a Lesser God, anyone?

I wonder if the picture that emerges from these instances, is specific to us, Indians. We tend to cry hoarse over rising onion prices, but do not bat an eyelid while buying our favourite cola brand– double-digit inflation or not! It’s as if we are genetically incapable of differentiating between necessities and luxuries. Add to that, an apathetic attitude towards our less privileged fellow beings, and you get a country reeking of the stench of stinginess.

Currently, Warren Buffet and the Gates are on an India tour, ostensibly to encourage our billionaires to spend their wealth on social causes. But the fact remains that unless we change how we VALUE mere materialistic needs on the one hand, and People on the other, no amount of external inspiration or encouragement will help us climb the philanthropic ladder… and rise above the stinginess!

Tanvi Ahuja

*This piece has been selected as a Winning Entry for the ‘Viewspaper Express Yourself Writing Competition’*