What is the difference between a rich and a poor person? The answer will vary from person to person, from situation to situation and also upon the way one looks at the question. Rich and poor are not absolute terms. However, we shall define here richness as that level of prosperity, at which one is able to comfortably meet his personal and social needs. Unfortunately, most of those persons also who fall under this definition of richness, consider themselves to be poor. This article is mainly addressed to them.
Let us have a look at the requirements of a rich man. His basic three needs of food, clothing and shelter are the same as that of any other person. Maybe the quality of food consumed, clothes worn and houses lived in would be better than that of a so-called poor person. But in quantity he is most likely to consume less as far as food is concerned. He will either have no time to eat properly or will have dietary restrictions, self-imposed or imposed by the doctor. I have a very close doctor friend whose wife is also a practising doctor. They earn lakhs of rupees every month. But they have hardly time to eat their food properly. So much so, that sometimes even we have to starve when we are their guests. Another factor related to food is its cooking. A rich man in all likelihood eats food cooked not by his wife or mother but by a servant. The thoughts which go along with the cooking of food are very important. These days, servants very rarely have true loyalty to their masters. Cooking is just a paid job for them and they have no love for it. Their interest is better served if the family members do not eat properly. They are hardly bothered if the food cooked by them is relished or not.
Another aspect of eating food is whether the family members eat together at the dining table. It is generally seen that a rich family is more individualistic and each of its member has his own time for eating food. Thus the entire family is hardly able to meet at the dining table. This way they miss a great opportunity to come closer to each other and also to enjoy the food. Then there is the question of appetite. Rich people are generally caught up in so many worries that they have no appetite for food. Eating is just a part of their engagement sheet and not an essential part of living. They forget that the very purpose of earning more and more is defeated if they are not able to take genuine care of their health.
Coming to clothing, no doubt a rich man will have a large number of clothes and expensive ones. But the basic question is, can anyone wear more than what is required at a point of time? One cannot wear two shirts at a time, nor two pairs of shoes. However, I can say with certainty that a poor man enjoys his good clothes more than the rich man. Getting a new suit stitched brings much more pleasure to a poor man than by a rich person procuring ten new suits. Even a new shirt will give him immense pleasure which a rich person cannot think of. The same is the case with shoes, sarees, jewellery, etc.
When we look at the problems in maintaining a large number of items, I feel it is not worth it. For example, if one has, say, four pairs of shoes, every morning he has to decide which one to wear. There is always a conflict in mind when one has to choose. Then the one intended to be worn may need polishing. For a variety of shoes one will have to keep a variety of polishes and brushes. A poor man has no such worries and feels quite happy with his limited possession. Factors like cost of maintenance, fear of getting spoiled, fear of theft and even the worry of disposal are additional botherations of a rich person who has a large number of expensive items. In all probability, his possessions remain showpieces because they are never used to an extent which makes them disposable. On the other hand, a poor person’s possessions find utility even after he has used them. He has no hesitation in passing them to a poorer person after using it himself.
More or less the same arguments apply to shelter also. One cannot sleep on two beds at the same time, leave alone two rooms. Today no one wants to have a large number of children, specially the rich. Also a rich man generally does not entertain his guests at home. Then of what use is the big house? Its furnishing, maintenance, taxes and envy of the neighbours will always be a cause of worry. The size of the house is also likely to keep his real well-wishers away and chances are that he will remain surrounded by sycophants only. The most important fact is that a rich man will hardly have any time to enjoy his large house. He may have a big lawn but may not have time to sit there. He may have a swimming pool but no time to swim.
On the other hand, a modest house will always be enjoyed more. It can be maintained properly without much external help. It can be furnished easily. The guests are generally welcome in such houses and one can really enjoy the company of well wishers. A rich man may not be able to sleep in his big house without sleeping pills whereas a poor person will have sound sleep in his modest house.
Thus we find that in the three essential aspects of life, a poor person is somewhat better placed as compared to a rich person. In other aspects of life, he may be lacking. There may be few rich persons who may be really better off than a poor person in the essential aspects of life but that is mainly due to their way of thinking rather than their wealth.
Now a few words about those aspects of life, where a so called poor person may feel lacking. These may be the areas like liberal use of car, eating in good restaurants, presenting gifts, or holidaying. Here a wise person should analyse whether such desires are merely for impressing others or are genuine needs. If it is the former then such a person is bound to invite trouble for himself and nothing can be done about it. However, if they are genuine needs, my experience is that one can afford to be liberal in these areas also by proper planning. For example, while using a car one can plan a journey in such a manner that many destinations are covered in one trip. Similarly, eating outside can be an occasion on which one would spend otherwise also. In the matter of gifts, purchasing at suitable occasions or making proper use of the gifts received is of great help. Holidaying can be made very much economical if timely planning is done and one does not feel tempted to do unnecessary shopping while holidaying. The point being made is that even in these aspects of life, one need not feel poor.
The idea here is not to condemn richness but to condemn the feeling of being poor. Riches do make a difference in life. Money is important and it changes the quality of life. In today’s context, it is more so. But overall it makes only a marginal difference, say, ten per cent. It is again emphasised that here poor means those who consider themselves poor despite being able to meet all their essential personal and social needs.
So, friends, stop feeling poor. The difference between you and the rich is only marginal, about ten per cent. An additional ten per cent will make you rich provided you are mentally rich. Enjoy what you have rather than fret and fume about what you do not have. It is the total quality of life which should be taken into account and not a lopsided view of it. And if you do so, you will have no cause to complain. You will also feel rich and will ‘Refuse to be Poor’.