Contentment is a great virtue. Though it appears to be a simple word, its understanding and more so living with contentment is one of the most difficult things. The paradox is that the more we acquire, lesser seems to be the level of contentment. India is fortunate in the sense that majority of its people are still content. These are not the people from the higher strata of society but those whom we consider poor. I have had the privilege of travelling widely in India and have come across a large number of people. I have experienced the richness of its poor people closely, which certainly makes me feel proud of my country. Here, I shall share one of my personal experiences in this regard.
I had gone to Mumbai in December 2006 to attend the Global Meet of IITians. I was to stay in the guest house of a public sector undertaking, which was located just adjacent to the airport. The undertaking had made my local travel arrangements also. I reached Mumbai in the forenoon by a morning flight from Bangalore. After check-in at the guest house, I left for the meet. In the evening I was planning to have a quiet dinner at the guest house but a friend of mine insisted on dining out along with another friend. Thus, the three of us went to a famous restaurant of Mumbai. I was told that the restaurant was a favourite place of film stars. Though I was not feeling very comfortable with this programme, yet reluctantly I agreed.
It was already ten in the night when the menu card came before us. Firstly, it was difficult to identify the items as their names were so unfamiliar and secondly, the prices were beyond my imagination. Somehow, we arrived at an agreed list of items to be ordered and this took another half an hour. By the time we finished our dinner it was well past eleven. The food didn’t give any of us much satisfaction though the total bill touched almost a whopping eight thousand rupees. Apart from indicating the level of restaurant, it was also an indication of the income levels in Mumbai. By the time I reached the guest house, the date had changed.
The next thing I suffered was a disturbed sleep after having a late dinner. In the morning, the room-bearer brought me a cup of tea and appeared to be a good person by his manners as well as disposition. This was a welcome change and I started talking to him. Apart from many general points, I enquired about his family and salary also. His name was Chougale and he belonged to the Dharwar district of Karnataka where his family lived. He lived alone in Mumbai working in the guest house as a contract employee. He was above forty and appeared quite happy. When asked about salary, he told me that it was two thousand and six hundred rupees per month, which was almost equal to the price of one meal we had paid for the last night. I couldn’t believe it and when asked how he could manage himself and his family that was five hundred miles away, he very innocently said, “It is quite sufficient, sir” and went further to explain the break-up. He used to send one thousand rupees to his family, paid six hundred for shelter, three hundred for subsidised food, two hundred for toilet and kept five hundred as pocket money.
To him, all this appeared to be very simple. Silently, I saluted this person and gave him a Hindi book of mine as a memento. The next morning he appeared again with a one-page compliment about the book, which is still one of my valued possessions. He also gave me a writing pad for my use as a memento. I was left with no doubt that this person was richer than many wealthy persons living in the financial capital of India.