What does it mean to be poor?
It is easy to describe poverty through the lens of money. Somehow that is the one definition that seems to stick across the spectrum. There are programs for alieviation of this wretched state. Governments are made and unmade on this topic.
But what does it mean to be poor?
On a summer morning, from a construction site that was fast making realty a reality, I saw a lady pass by. A hop now, a skip otherwise and a jump now and then.. In tow was her daughter. Playing with an empty water bottle and struggling to keep pace. On her hips, her little son cackling with laughter and undoing her hair.
She spoke in a language I didn’t recognise. But her tone was enough to tell me a bit about her love for her children and the richness of her heart. Atop her head were building material in a red basket with a yellow safety helmet sitting pretty. Like a crowning diamond on Her Majesty’s crown.
The bright red flowers on her saree sat easy with the glass bangles and matched her happy step. Her work shift was all set to start. The anklets on her feet seemed to announce that with every step she took. It was going to be some time before family time in their temporary dwelling that they lived in. The builder had given them one until the high rise that they were part of constructing, got done.
There was genuine happiness in them. All three of them. The daughter often stopping to pluck flowers and throw them at the wind and then scampering to catch up with her mother. They went about reaching out to the morning with a joyous spirit and a gentle sprint. So full of life and yet with tenderness and care. Oblivious to the stranger in me watching them walk by.
Are they ‘poor’?, I remember asking myself. A monetary lens will affirm. But look at it this way.
To walk by with a happy stride.
To carry a weight but not seem bothered by it.
To provide life in real terms to your children by exchanging your living moments for it.
To embrace each morning with smile and all the possibilities that it brings in.
That is not ‘poverty’! Ask any rich man. Or the office goer. Observe faces on a Monday morning as they come out of trains, buses and cars. It often is a weary lost look and an impossible to miss sadness. Not in all, but in many. And even as you wonder why, remember to look into the mirror as well.
What are we chasing? What do we have to give up in order to be ‘rich’? Poverty, as they say, is a state of mind. So is ‘Richness’. To be truly ‘rich’ is to be mindful of ourselves and our choices being fully present to how we think of our state of the mind. The lady with the red flowers and the eloquent yellow diamond atop her dirty crown showed that to me. She is long gone but the happiness in her voice and the cheer in her children remain in my memory.
The high rise she helped build now is lit by big swanky cars, sophisticated scents and solemn looks. Especially so, on Monday morning. Often it takes me back to the laughter of the lady with the bright red flowers on her saree. We have choices
We have choices! Lets remember to choose a rich life.