The title of this post is inspired from best-selling title , With due apologies to the author of, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
They say, childhood memories stay with you, forever. They remain hidden in the recesses of your mind and suddenly resurface when you least expect it. This childhood memory is very vivid in my mind, although it happened many years back, when I was a child of ten. It was vacation time and we had two options.We could visit my mother’s younger sister’s (Rich Aunt) house in Secunderabad or her older sister’s (Poor Aunt‘s) house in Thirthahalli.
Now, my Rich Aunt lived in a palatial bungalow. We were working class people and although we had what we needed, we weren’t as rich as my aunt who had a big house, a car and a beautiful garden. They had servants too…a full time cook, maidservant, driver etc. My cousin sisters were quite naturally, the envy of the rest of us. My grandparents were always full of praise for their slightest achievements. As kids, we could never understand why the same appreciation never came to us, although we excelled in every field, that too, entirely on our own and without the same resources, as them. We were too young to understand the power of money, then.
A little about my Poor Aunt, here. My Poor Aunt lived in a hamlet-like house in the small village of Thirthahalli. She stitched clothes for the neighborhood women, to make a living. Her place was also an attraction for us city slickers, as staying there, meant a chance to stay in a village set up, complete with the ‘bhans” (indigenous heating systems!) and the cowshed (kodke). But we still decided in favor of my Rich Aunt. We thought we would have the time of our lives, living in a big house, going around in a car and playing in our own private garden!
When we reached their house, I was all excited. But within a week of my stay there, I was hoping, we could leave. The beautiful house was so cold to my siblings and me. A few instances made us feel unwelcome and with that, all the first attractions …the house, car etc. meant nothing to me. When I accidentally broke a button on their tape recorder (which I was most fascinated by), my aunt tartly told me that”This was not the way to behave in other people’s houses”. Later, my uncle took us to Basera, the finest restaurant in Secunderabad at that time, and a trip to Birla Mandir too. But it was done more with the attitude of “I can do this for you” and you cannot do this for yourself. I was just a child but I understood. I was waiting for the weeks to fly by and was really glad to come back
The next vacation, we went to my Poor Aunt‘s place, in Thirthahalli. She was so happy to see us. Even as we approached her house, she took me in her arms. My uncle (who owned a small shop (angadi), located right next to their house, was meeting me for the very first time. I still remember how thrilled I was when he opened the lid of one of the many candy bottles in his shop and handed me a Five Star, a Cadbury’s (as we called any cocoa based candy, then), a BIG treat in those days. As kids we were always hungry even between mealtimes, so my aunt had made special arrangements, for us. In one corner of her house, she had kept a big tin box filled with seasoned puffed rice “Don’t feel shy, dig in when you feel like it”, she had told us. For an outing, she took us to a farm nearby. It was the most wonderful experience for me to wade through a stream and to see grapes growing on wines. Before we left, she gave us farewell gifts, small cloth purses that she had stitched from leftover pieces of cloth that she had made. She had packed food for us, for our journey back home, by train. Waving good-bye from the train window, I remember that we were all very sad that our happy holidays at Thirthahalli, had come to an end.
I remember thinking about both these experiences during my growing up days. My Rich Aunt had everything but she had nothing really, in her heart to give us. My Poor Aunt had nothing much in material terms but she had so much to give. She was the one really Rich. I learnt that ‘Rich and Poor ‘ were just terms we used to describe material wealth, but it really did not matter and it was definitely not a way to measure people or base relationships upon. As ultimately, it is not what people have, that is important, it’s how big their heart is.
I am thankful to both my aunts as this childhood incident taught me my most valuable lesson in life. Being Rich means what you are and not what you have.
Today I watch my country embracing a culture that worships wealth. Nothing wrong with that. But I know I make my choice of friends and relatives very wisely based, on my childhood lesson of Rich Aunt, Poor Aunt.