The Reason Why

Brussels. November 28, 2019.

I have already made many trips to Grand Palace by now. Offices in Belgium wind up earlier compared to India, and that gives me enough time to soak in the beauty and culture of Brussels. A short walk to Gare du Nord, followed by metro to Bourse station in two stops, and I end up in the beautiful alleys of Grand Palace.

While the area and its observations make the topic for a separate blog that I will write once I have returned to India, something happened yesterday that got my hyper analytical self to focus on something I usually avoid: me!

Here is what happened. I was there to buy chocolates for my colleagues and friends back home (by the time I am writing this, I have already eaten half of those) in Godiva shop. There were many chocolates and of different types. In different shades and colors and I was just seeing them, unable to decide.

My usual way of purchasing things is to first find the ones within my purchasing range, and then either settle for the one I like, or end up changing my liking to the price that I want to pay. It not usually about whether I can afford or not, but mostly about what amount I believe the said product is worth.

So, as I looked around at chocolates, my eyebrows were curving slowly. They were all so grossly costly. 45 euros for one box of chocolates. I could swear I saw the same size at only 8 euros in another store. There were even costlier ones, too. In ranges of 80 euros, even 150. I did not even look at them.

So, what happened is I kind of zeroed in on one nutty chocolate box that costed around 45 euros. And I took it to the counter, standing in the line, conflicted.

All I had to do was to pay the lady and walk out with the box all mine. Wish I was that simple.

I was contemplating whether to pay that much for the chocolates at all. The 8-euro box was stuck in my head, and I thought I could get three of them instead of this one!

It was not an issue if I could afford it. I had enough money to do so. It’s that I found myself very hesitant to spend that money.

Still conflicted in my mind, I arrived at the billing desk. Just as the lady was about to bill, I stopped her, apologized and put the box where I took it from. Embarrassed, I walked out and bought the cheaper same size box from the other shop and came home.

But how can I hesitate to buy 45 Euros worth of chocolates? How?

The point I am trying to make here is that I find it very difficult to spend money. Especially on myself.

It is not because I do not have money. I do. I earn decent.

It’s that I cannot bring myself to spend it. That is the problem.

Even if I need something.

Even if I like something.

Even if I want something.

A lot of memories flash my mind by.

I remember all other kids in my class, in Madonna English School, often bringing money to eat something nice during the tiffin period. They would all eat samosas or cream rolls from the canteen or the tasty jhal murhi bhuja sold outside the school gates. It costed just Rs. 1 for a small one and Rs. 2 for the big bhuja.

I never had money to buy them, but I always had the wish.

On those rare occasions when a friend would share, the taste would overwhelm me.

For a card payment I made today at KFC at Gare du Nord, not caring what the bill amount was, there is a shy, timid kid in my past, who only looks at the tasty Bhuja sellers, and not having the money, just smiles at the smell and remembers the taste.

How can that kid buy 45 Euros worth of chocolates without any hesitation today?

Every year I send gifts worth thousands to my nephews on their birthdays and to my sisters on Rakshabandhan. For every gift I send today, there is a meek kid in my past, who is very embarrassed to have come to this friend’s birthday party and be the only one who has come without any birthday gifts. Now this birthday friend of his is pretty well off, and everyone else has brought a big box of costly something wrapped in shiny gift papers with ribbons.

This poor kid has brought a coffee byte for his friend, much to the amusement of the other guests.

That is worth five rupees. Because that’s all his father could give him to buy a gift.

He is embarrassed, so he reads his friend a birthday wish speech on the spot to make up.

How can that kid buy 45 Euros worth of chocolates without any hesitation today?

On my way here to Brussels, I flew with Etihad Airways. Even the economy class offers all kinds of beverages and snacks. There was a monitor in front of my seat, and I could see the view all around from sky, by simply streaming the front and landscape cameras on the plane. I looked at the bays and beautiful cities underneath, and at the mountains and rivers.

But at the same time, there is a fourteen-year-old boy in my past, who has just carried the luggage of his relatives to the train they are about to board. They will be boarding the AC coach, and he drops the bags just at the door, because they don’t want him to come in.

The AC doors open for a split second, and for a moment, for just a moment the cold air brushes against his cheek. He has never boarded long distance trains, let alone AC coaches. He has never felt what air condition feels like. He wishes he could go in and see, but his relatives don’t want him to.

So, he keeps the memory of that one gush of cold wind fresh for a very long time.

How can that kid buy 45 Euros worth of chocolates without any hesitation today?

Today I eat wherever I want, whatever I want. Thousands spent on one whim of instant hunger. I remember this one time in Tibetan diner in Chennai, I made a solo bill of 1100 Rs, where the cost of two was barely 600. The waitress couldn’t stop smiling. I remember eating at one very posh restaurant in Chennai with my friends and paying a bill of 18 k Rs without a single thought.

But for every bill I pay, there is a hungry kid in my past who just ate roti and papaya vegetable curry for two weeks because his Dad’s salary had not come.

He absolutely loves Gheewars, but he has only eaten once. But makes sure he pedals slowly when he passes their stalls. Just to smell.

He loves ice creams from the big shops in the main market but can’t buy any. He loves them simply because his other friends tell him which flavour, they like. He knows the names of all of them, even though he has not eaten one before. He assumes he would like Vanilla most, because butter scotch ones always felt very costly. Vanilla was the cheapest and so he thought it was what he would like the most.

How can that kid buy 45 Euros worth of chocolates without any hesitation today?

Today I have paid the coaching and semester fees of my brother. They run in lakhs. I do without a second thought, no questions asked.

But for every fee I pay today, there is this sixteen old boy in my past, who wishes he could go to Kota to take IIT coaching, but chides himself for wishing so, because he knows his father is barely able to put food on the table. He looks at other kids who have gone there or have taken to costly coaching in the same town, and silently swears to himself to work harder than them.

For every fee I pay today, there is a kid in my past, who has been called out of exam hall because he does not have an admit card. This because his school fee has not been paid. He is made to stand outside and embarrassed in front of his friends, even more so because he is the topper of his class.

He is allowed back in and writes the paper with half hour less than others, and still ends up topping the exam.

How can that kid buy 45 Euros worth of chocolates without any hesitation today?

This Diwali I had gone home. And I bought a lot of firecrackers from the main market. The loud ones, the flying ones and the light ones and the costly ones and all of them. I knew could not burst even ten percent of them on Diwali night, but I bought them in kind of a revenge.

Because there is this kid in my past who loves firecrackers and knows all their names and their prices in various shops and keeps making one list after other of the crackers he would love to buy, a mix of light and sound ones. He has to make many lists, because all he wants cannot be bought by what his father said he can spend. So, he tries to accommodate all within the limit, but he always ends up compromising something he wants.

Also, the total crackers will be divided among all the kids in the house, so he calculates his share and gets sad, because he knows he will burst them all in just fifteen minutes.

How can that kid buy 45 Euros worth of chocolates without any hesitation today?

For every time I ride my pulsar to office today, there is a kid in my past who walks home to save money.

For every flight I catch today to save time, there is a kid in my past who travels general class in trains, standing, to save money.

For every time I open my fridge and am unable to choose what to eat from in it, there is a kid in my past who looks one colourful food filled fridges in advertisements and wonders what it is like to have one.

For every night that I spend unable to sleep on my bed in my spacious twelfth floor apartment, there is a kid in my past who sleeps on the floor in a makeshift rug, because the decades old bed he slept on broke down and his father cannot afford to buy him a new one.

For every meal I do not eat and simply leave on my plate, there is a kid in my past who wishes he could eat the famous chaat from the famous shop.

For every piece of clothing I give away, there is a kid in my past who stands aghast. He has come to a different town to his relatives, and he is shocked as his aunty takes out a bunch of old, torn clothes of his uncle, and gives him to take home and wear.

You see! I can buy whatever I want. But the kid could not. So, the conflict.

The poor kid inferiority complex has stayed, even though I am not poor anymore.

There are many more such instances that make me the weirdo today. Many a times I go to the mall, determined to buy something because I actually need it. And return empty handed, because I could not make myself agree on the price.

And I think this will always be there.

The man can. The kid cannot. And so the split in my being.

2 thoughts on “The Reason Why

Add yours

  1. Somehow I am always in a loss of words by the time I reach the end. But I’ll say it anyway…

    Sometimes you find yourself reading another person’s story.

    I wasn’t brought up this way but saw it all through his eyes. He made sure of that. And so I function in this similar pattern.

    I never could make myself even accept eidi from elders. That’s how shy I am of money. I don’t accept anything gift-like even from siblings. It burdens me and I cannot help it. I teach kids so that I can provide for myself to go to college. Don’t have any “shopping habits” whatsoever. Minimalist by nature.

    Of all the years earning side money, I never spent a dime for myself. Not that I couldn’t buy anything for others, the little taka earned was always spent on supporting family.

    Like you, even I wouldn’t know what to do when I get the money free of responsibilities sometimes.

    So yeah, Biryansoo. It’s a long way you have travelled with an undefiled core.. And therefore the chocolates are to celebrate yet another milestone. 🙂

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