KV Network

Flaunting wealth

Flaunting wealth
Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

K S S Pillai :
A recent newspaper headline says: “In China, bragging about your wealth can get you censured.” It is not clear whether “censuring” includes getting jailed. The report shows someone flaunting an exorbitant hotel bill he got for his breakfast. Why the government, expected to bring down the gap between the haves and have-nots, is not amused by the vulgar display of wealth is understandable. Moreover, it is about to face another election.
The report came when our television channels were busy reporting the discovery of currency notes worth crores of rupees and a large quantity of gold and other precious metals from the premises of a businessman in a north Indian state that is also going to election shortly.
It took days for the authorities to count the notes, even with counting machines. Political parties are washing their hands of him and blaming one another for being the real owners of the find. I sympathise with the businessman, who was not in a position to flaunt his wealth and had to act like he was struggling to make both ends meet.
Bragging about one’s wealth, within limits, is not an offence in our country. The rich and powerful used to flaunt their cellphones when they were a rare commodity in India. Both the outgoing and incoming calls were charged heavily. Even the security guards hesitated to interrupt people entering their premises talking on their cellphones.
There was a time when men of substance would wear rings made of precious metals on all their fingers to show off their wealth. When thieves in a hurry started cutting off fingers to save time, and the income tax department started enquiries, most people discarded the practice.
Our social media is full of photographs of people with newly bought luxury cars or events like the celebration of birthdays at expensive hotels. If they are influential supporters of opposition political parties, the worst that may happen to them is getting a visit, with the accompanying publicity, from central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate.
We have several other opportunities to flaunt our wealth. The whimsical behaviour of the climate in different parts of our country often causes the sky-rocketing of prices of certain vegetables. What I usually do when it happens is stop buying those items and make do with other vegetables.
When I was in a naughty mood recently, I bought a hundred grams of tomatoes that were being sold at a price that was beyond the reach of many and kept them at the top of my shopping bag, inviting envious glances from people all around me. When I get my salary during the first week of the month, I go to the petrol pump and order, rather loudly, that the tank of my scooter be filled. A sudden silence ensues, and all, including the attendants, look at me in awe. What I don’t tell others is that I don’t visit petrol pumps during the remaining part of the month and ask my wife and children to use public transport if they want to go out.
I am happy thieves have not targeted my home till now, though I become uncomfortable when strangers stare at me. Of late, I often use the tactics of characters in the detective stories that I read to see whether I am being followed. I am certain clever thieves do their homework before undertaking an operation and have realised the truth about my financial condition.
Another unpleasant consequence of flaunting wealth is visits by acquaintances asking for loans. Being acquainted with Shakespear’s warning that lending money results in losing both the money and friendship, I try to reverse the general impression of me.
When local guests visit, I have instructed my wife not to serve them water kept in the refrigerator. She tells them the refrigerator has been switched off to avoid huge electric bills. I also tell them the ceiling fans are still for the same reason, but I may switch them on if they so desire. Those fabulous chaps reassure me it is more pleasant without fans and leave early.
(The author is a retired professor of English. A regular contributor to The Kashmir Vision, his articles and short stories have appeared in various national and international publications)

KV Network

Kashmir Vision cover all daily updates for the newspaper

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *