Ka-Ching. A peek in to the World without Money. But, no, thank you, I want to have plenty!

On Friday, I took O to the library. Her first visit to a library (barring a car hop in Chennai years ago), and she was quite excited.
Since it was a weekend, the Education City campus where Georgetown University is, was rather quiet. There were a few students lazing around in the library.
She knew she couldn’t talk loudly, run around or get chatty with the folks there. She carried her own book to read, since there are no children’s books available there.
The problem with O is that her whispers are quite loud. And so I told her unless it’s an emergency she can’t talk at all.
She sat with her Black Beauty till I browsed two rows. By the time I got to the third she was by my side, begging to be allowed to walk around with me. She was touching the books and soaking it all in, and I was feeling rather kicked that she was as enamoured by the rows of books at a university library, as she was by the Barbie nonsense in Toys ‘r’ Us.
I could see that obsession in her eyes that only a fellow book lover can empathise with.
She even managed to identify books she has seen me read. And then she decided to browse the magazines, happy to identify Obama and McCain on covers of magazines, and then totally tickled to find my magazines there too… pointing it out and patting me on the rump.
I was swelling up and was ready to burst – “not bad Umm, you haven’t done so badly as a mother”, I told myself; but (un)fortunately she managed to totally deflate me in the next 15 minutes.
Oh, it’s a long road ahead before I can even begin to congratulate myself.
When I sat down to read the magazine, wondering which other world leaders she would identify, she flipped through people magazine, quickly identifying every second or third picture of a celebrity. There is Miley, here is Grey (Ellen Pompei), here is Sex & the City lady (Sarah Jessica Parker, and oh please let this end), oh and Rachel (of Friends)… I quickly shut the magazine and shushed her… This is way too much Hollywood for a 7-year-old.
I diverted her attention and got her interested in the students on campus, and the opportunities a good education provides. For about 5 minutes.
Finally, I went up to the librarian to check out my books and O couldn’t digest that I was not really paying for the books –
“Even if you are just borrowing, you should pay them money, amma”
Yes, but they don’t take money.
“Oh, then they will really be poor.”
No. They have the money. This is a service that they provide. Something nice they do for the people.
“Even if you don’t give them money?”
Yes.

That’s when it really sunk in that she hasn’t see anything non-monetary yet. There is always a purchase, talk of money, about affording or not affording. She couldn’t believe that you can get something or do something that isn’t based on monetary gratifications.
The only life she is used to is of absolute materialism. As are most of us.
Then so many past conversations came back to haunt me on the drive back home.

Often, when I tell her something is expensive and wasteful, so I will not buy it, she would ask if we were poor! She has asked me so often if we get ‘richer’ will we have a convertible or 4X4? If we were richer, would we live in a big bungalow with a garden?

And here I was thinking that we were quite comfortably off. That our fair sized apartment had everything we needed, we had enough wheels to meet all our requirements… and yet in her mind, this was not ‘rich’.
We have spoken to her about it at length. That some people do have more than others. But what we have is far more than most. That we never want for anything. Obviously the message hasn’t really sunk in.

Only a day before the trip to the library she asked me what was more important, family or money. I have no idea where the question popped up from. “Family,” I said.
“For everyone?”
No for me. Each person has to decide on what is important to them.
“So I can say what I want”
Yes (and with butterflies in my stomach await her answer)
“I think it’s Money and Family for me.” (And she was watching my face for the slightest expression of disapproval and waiting for my response.)
That’s fine if that’s what you think.
“Because we won’t have anything without money.”
Yes. But if you don’t have people around you?
“Yes, that’s why both are important.”
Ok.

I did not want to continue this thread of conversation, because I knew I was on the verge of delivering a long right-wrong lecture. But I think she knew already that I didn’t quite agree with her.

It’s scary. What you are, what you are not; what you say, what you don’t say; what she sees, what she never gets to witness; what you protect her from, what she is exposed to… everything has an impact on her. What influence do parents really have at the end of the day?

What do you feel about the financial crisis?

This is a real comprehensive and clear picture of the financial crisis for those interested to know more or understand the issue.

Two bloggers I follow – Mad Momma & MumbaiGirl have commented about the crisis.
And I am kind of guilty of what they say. When the first news of the crash started coming in, and reports of all the super rich, over paid executives losing their jobs started flooding the media, I felt gleeful – petty, but gleeful all the same!

It just seemed so unfair that failed CEOs were walking away with multi-million dollar severance packages. Where is the justice in this? I understand that lay-offs affect a larger portion of the employees, many of whom have not yet bought their Ferraris and homes by the beach. It also affects those who are hoping to put their children through a good college education, to ensure a sound financial future for themselves… normal people like me and those I move around with.

Still…

Both being journalists (R & I), with a ringside view of the rich getting richer, our opinions are often one part socialism, one part pure envy and one part facts.

Of course, now with our investments (meagre to begin with) standing at half its original value, we feel the pinch too. We just wish those overpaid CEOs and honchos alone were hit, leaving the everyday investor unaffected.
In a perfect world, that would be the case.

In a perfect world, all of us would be rich, a size 10, enjoying multiple-orgasms, retired at 40 and totally free of envy. But this is not a perfect world. It’s a world full of Thackerays, Palins, Bin Ladens & Ashok Singhals.

It’s a world full of inequalities, and sometimes that means when someone falls, someone else will gloat. Because objectivity is not a natural human impulse. It’s a studied and developed attitude.

breadwinner? buttered, dry or plain stale?

I was reading this very interesting post.
Something that I have thought of and discussed so often.
Why is it important that in a relationship, the man be the breadwinner? The woman takes care of eggs for the weekend…
The man buys the house, the woman buys the blinds?
My father was the ‘sole breadwinner’, my mum the bread maker.
It worked quite well for them.

But for their legacy of 4 daughters, being taken care of or not being a substantial income earner just doesn’t cut it.
The idea of not working, or looking for a man who would ‘take care’ of home and hearth never crossed our minds.
At this point, each of us could independently be responsible for running our home. It is fortunate that we are not.

Coming from this sorority of rather fierce financial independence, I am probably the least independent of us 4. In the first three years of marriage, I did not even have a bank account, I would actually give my salary cheque to my husband (and totally hog his debit card). I am a nagger by nature, so regardless of whether I am earning or not (a 2-year maternity break), I would nag about money.

How much I earn is all about the value my work gets… there is no personal ego here.

And if I am doing an honest day’s work at office, I find no need to go overboard being a homemaker too. For that I employ help.

Yet, I know so many highly successful women, who are so damn apologetic earning well or more than their husbands. I know husbands who make their wives accountable for every last penny they spend. Earning is her duty, saving and spending is his right. Most of the saving/investment is not even a joint decision.

These women, some at the very top of their professions, try desperately to convince everyone around them that they are perfectly capable of catering to the needs of husband and child. Fresh food, laundry, school activities. What’s wrong with hiring help, take away and dry cleaners?

Haven’t they heard the latest? Our much praised ‘multi-tasking ability’ is a joke the men are playing on us, to get us to do more.

And I know women, who are so proud of the fact that their income makes no difference to the family. My point is — if you are working, your skill and time need to be remunerated without gender-bias. You earning a lot less than your husband, or your husband earning 10 times what you do, is not a moral victory.

Here in the Gulf, where a bulk of the income is sent back home to take care of family, 9 out of 10 times, it is to take care of the guy’s family.
Of course R and I are totally reasonable about this — neither of our families benefit from our income; to the contrary, we tap on their resources for small change 🙂

workplace woes

i keep asking myself why what i earn doesn’t determine how or who i am at work.
i have an ego, attitude and contentment totally disproportionate to what i earn…
because i am all about vibes, no amount of money will keep me in a place that gives my soul stress.
my first job in Qatar was at a place where the vibes were not so great… but i worked hours that didn’t coincide with the mirth-less ones. i had access to the internet, so could chat away the whole morning. the money wasn’t great, neither was the work… in terms of quantity. but i did learn new tricks of the trade.
but no sooner did the atmosphere change, and the general state of unhappiness started interfering with my aura… i scooted.
i can’t explain this any better, by myself.
i can take the help of one Ms Rowling though.
the place was like Azkaban. The keepers were the dementors. As soon as they smell a whiff of joie de vivre or sense a smile, they come down hard and give you a kiss… their very presence sucks the joy out of the place.
they thrived on seeing people unhappy… and frankly, if i think too long about that place, i can almost hear the strangled cry of my happiness.
i am away from that atmosphere, thank goodness!
unfortunately, there are people i care for who are still there…
where i am now is like Hogwarts, till Book 5. There is no room for dementors…
that may change; but then, when it does, i won’t be around to suffer it. Inshallah!