Saturday, June 13, 2009

Want to be rich? - Part 5

Flip through up any language text book.
You will notice that the rich are
(i) cunning
(ii) cruel
(iii) exploitative

Most of my childhood, teens and early adult life, we can visualize only one path to become rich. You need to exploit the poor farmer or the trader mercilessly and grab opportunities with scant regards to humanity to become rich. The rich has his vault full of pawned goods that the poor farmer deposits in lieu of money to buy seeds. The rains fail. The rich insists on his money., Where would the farmer get the money from. His land is usurped by the rich. You get the idea!

So who are the heroes of Indian tales - the educated man who impresses the king with his wisdom, the poor brahmin who earns name and fame because he is learned, and the cunning housewife who saves the day by fooling the cruel carnivore. Yes there are benevolent kings and kind moneylenders. Yes, the good always triumph in the end, but you come away with a bitter taste in your mind for the rich.

It did not help that early independent India plunged headlong into socialism. Since the rich exploit, the state would step in to save the day. Thank goodness for the givernment otherwise the profiteers would have sucked India dry.

The divide between the haves and the have-nots in India is accentuated by another factor: the varna (incorrectly translated as caste) system. You could either be a learned brahmin or others. The educated could not be rich; the rich could not be a learned brahmin. Indian mythology supports this to the core. The two sisters, Saraswati - the godess of learning - and Lakshmi - the godess of wealth - cannot see eye to eye. Any one of them will stay in your house. You got to choose between Saraswati or Lakshmi. 'Running after money' is as great an insult as any. The only honorable means of earning money is to get educated and go about earning money honestly.

It was not until early adulthood that I realized that the businessman is the driver of any economy and the resultant prosperity. They create jobs. They create opportunities. They create wealth. But this knowledge came in a bit too late for me. Even today, and I am 44, my initial reaction is that of shock when I read that high court and the supreme court judges - nor all of them fortunately - are involved in scams. It takes me a while to recover from news of corruption in India's defence forces. I have to hello-anybody-home? myself before I can proceed.

So what is the lesson?
The rich are not bad people. Seeking and exploiting opportunities is not the same as exploiting people. Stories are just that, stories.

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