Would you like to have a bigger house, a bigger car and more money into your accounts? This is a question that has been thrown at me several times in the past. It is also a question upon which I have given many hours of thought.
My name is Rajesh. It is a very common name in India. Already 2% of all men, if not more, will have this name. My other name is Kumar. A good 5% of population will share their second name with me. There is nothing in my name that forces me to believe that I am either better off or worse off than anyone else. However, when my grandma used to call my name, she made it sound like the best possible name in the universe. When my dad introduces me to his friends, and ads "my son" to my name, he makes it sound like no other name. When my sister or my cousins speak of me, they make my name sound quite like a la George Clooney. When my boss calls out my name, with a string of superlatives and expletives, he makes it sure that everyone knows...you need to be a Rajesh to get the job done, no other bugger is good enough. My name is quite ordinary. The people in my life make me believe that its extraordinary.
My earliest memories of wealth are about absence of it in many peoples lives. While I and my sister studied in the best schools in Patna, the kids of our maids dropped out of local schools early and took to helping their moms earn more money doing the dishes in our homes. We were very middle-class but most of the people who lived around us were terribly poor. The schools I went to taught us to be good and taught us to pray and work for the poor. Thank you Sr.Subha and Notre Dame, Brother Cyril and Loyola for not asking us to be anyone other than who we were. You see, we were never told that is not ok to be somewhere in the middle between the very rich and the terribly poor. Nobody asked us to detest the poor and be jealous of the rich. Rich were rich, poor were poor and we were ok types. I did not grow up thinking of my first iPad or Audi. We had an Ambi and a Chetak, and that was all right.
When I stepped into college, my professors loved me. The only unsaid rule was that I go about spending time doing things I loved and that way, they were free to take their classes without me being anywhere near. The arrangement worked just as well. They survived me and I had an awesome education. Everybody loved me and claim to miss me to this day. Thank you St. Berchmans' for fostering a spirit of scholarship in me. If my Alma Mater were to ask me to become a Steve jobs instead of a future Elliot, I would have been so at sea!
My first boss asked me to go on and become a great manager. He forced me to constantly work out of my comfort zone. He never promised me an A, nor did he promise me out of turn hikes or promotions. I took his advise very seriously and went on to work for those who worked for me. I believed that I need to work on behalf of those who seek their livelihoods and success with me. They did not work for me, I worked for them. Success and hikes and promotions happened on their own. As I grew in ranks, so did the ones I worked for. Without them, I would have had no reason to exist. Without their growth, mine would have been so unfair. And life needs to be fair. It begins with me and includes the community I live in.
I don't want a two digit hike, and I love my small house and my cheap car. Those who love me don't love me for my wealth or absence of it. They love me for myself. Its a long life I have lived. They have traveled with me through long dark and lonely stretches. I have lived through bouts of insanity and mayhem, I have lived through great losses and grief. I carry within me fear and uncertainty and despair for things I have lost, or may lose in the near future. Neither the money in my bank, or the length of my designation or the brand of my phone has ever helped me get through a difficult phase in my life.
I measure my growth with how much more I can do for those around me. When I look back, I am amazed at how exponential my growth has been. And yes, I am very happy with my lot in life, there is just no other place where I wish to be.