It's over, my period of penury is now over. I had been living the last fortnight with a self-imposed tightened belt. When I say self-imposed by the way, I am not implying a stunt of some sort, but merely referring to the combination of too little financial planning and too much misplaced pride that left me with Rs. 240/- for fifteen days. This requires considerable ingenuity, but if I have been able to do it at all, it was because of those that love me rather than because of any thought on my part. There were many things I could not do, but I was not hungry. I might have eyed the cooking oil anxiously dreading the time it ran out, but the putting of meals on the table was not just possible, but pleasurable.
And this is where my loved ones come in. Not that they gave me emergency packages, but I benefited from the continuous loving concern and giving that I am blessed with. I have not really had to buy too much food in this period. My mum had, over the last year, sent me enough dried fish and masalas to feed an army. My Mian had stockpiled the house with enough flours and yeast to start a bakery. Maybe more important, they had taught me enough of their cooking skills for me to use this food. I had not just the raw materials, but also the culturally diverse techniques to allow me to wonder if I wanted pesarattu or buckwheat noodles for dinner.
I hate to admit that I had bickered as they loaded up the kitchen, "we can buy more anytime! It's clutter!". No, sometimes we can't buy more. It's food.
I have also been thinking. This was a cash flow hiccup, nothing more. These rupees were only meant to top up food stocks. I have all the necessities- a properly set up household, a job that punctually pays me a salary. I even had an adequate and liquid emergency fund in the shape of a $50 note. Not only would any of my friends and family have helped me, but the two who knew the state of affairs were actively insisting that I allow them to do so. If I did not accept, it was because I was never in distress, just uncomfortable. Even this mild level of discomfort occupied my thoughts to a large degree.
And that is why the Arjun Sengupta report made me ashamed of my complaining. 836 million Indians live with 20 Rs a day for ALL their needs- food, shelter, clothing, medicine, life. 20 Rs a day. Always. Not for a fortnight till the next cheque comes in. Always. For far too many people all over the world, the state of affairs I was in is wasteful affluence.
I am ashamed that I have not given thought beyond the occasional 'tut-tut' to this; I have never done anything to alleviate their real distress. I will now keep my eyes open to help someone out in a real way- not the occasional five-rupee charity, but something more reliable.
How can I end my tale of the last fortnight without sharing the way the multi-verse stepped in too? One day, pretty early on, I gloomily held the last coffee bean on my palm and resigned myself to a fortnight without the soul-satisfying and pleasurable mornings that are my one 'habit'. That same evening M stopped by with a request. She was going away soon and her family were all tea drinkers. Would I mind taking a pound of coffee?
An Easter Resurrection
6 days ago