Thoughts about financial hardship

August 13, 2015

Discussions about hardship and privilege (of the financial kind) remind me of the story about poverty, written by one little girl from a well-to-do family. “Everyone in the family was poor. The father was poor. The mother was poor. The children were poor. The butler was poor. The maid was poor. The gardener was poor.” It took me quite a while to realize, coming from India, that a family could be dirt poor in the US while owning a car, a TV set, and a phone. These material possessions spell prosperity in India.

A friend was appalled to hear that well-to-do people in big cities in India are used to several hours of unscheduled power cuts per day–in the villages, there might not be power for several days; that I cannot follow any bus timings, because there just aren’t any, and one must maximize on opportunities, because there are hardly any.

KM was interviewing candidates, and things were running very late. After he finished with one candidate, the young man asked, “Can I go home now? My father died this morning.” Shocked, KM asked, “But then, why did you come for the interview?” “Sir…I need the job, especially now that my father is no more,” said the young man quietly. There are people in my country who would call that young man privileged because he is living with his family in the big city and not in a poverty-ridden village. Financial privilege (well, other kinds too) is relative to the baseline we take.