I don’t envy the rich although I used to as a kid. We were not dirt poor. Our family GDP was more than OK for a village in Kerala. The problem was in the per capita income. As a family of 13 (11 children plus father and mother). Although we were one of the leading land owning migrants in and around our village, families with one or two children always had more money to spare. None of the villagers were however in the league of were major land owners called the “Estate Owners” who inherited their riches from the British as a family or as a corporate. They rarely showed their faces in the village, the best interaction migrants like us had with them was via the “Estate Managers”.
There was always a Rocking Horse Winner (D H Lawrence) kind of atmosphere at home. So I always considered myself very poor no matter what our neighbours said. We were struggling always as a family of 13 with our unrealistic life style. Going to the hospitals in the city instead of seeing the herbal or homeopathetic practitioner. Always avoiding the far more economical village hospital, staying in ensuite rooms instead of using the general maternity wards, sending children to the university in the cities.
Although we wore some of the best clothes in the school there were a few others who wore better shorts and shirts. I did not envy anyone’s shoes though as only a few of the students had flip flops or sandals let alone shoes. We are talking about a school with some 2000 students or thereabouts. Most students had only one or two cotton shorts and shirts. But a few had polyester shorts and shirts which stirred up envy which in turn set off silly fights or taunting or bullying.
Some students even walked bare feet 8 miles to the school. Civilisation was in a stand still in our village like many other migrant villages of mud shacks, dirt roads, good houses which stood out as an “eyesore” in a poverty ridden desert of hutments, no running water, no electricity, no television let alone radios, no toilets, mammoth rains, lightning, summers, monsoons, malaria, snake bites, cobras, vipers, pythons, scorpions, spiders, creepy crawlies, leopards, tigers, bisons wild elephants which raided the villages. Sometimes we heard about people getting killed.
On top of that I also had to fear the Satan, ghosts and all other stuff just like other kids. Once in a while a “Jeep” or a lorry would pass through our village and we could hear the sound from a mile away. The aroma of petrol fumes lingered on. It was all so quiet and pure and we could hear and smell everything. Even the ripened mangoes under the trees we could smell from twenty feet away. The mangoes fell when it was fully ripe. What was not eaten were eaten by the cows or the pigs or the rodents or beasts or whoever fancied it. There were no buyers for mangoes as everyone had mango trees in their farm just like banana palms, pepper vines, tapioca pads etc
I would n’t say politics and economics is in my blood but it got in to my blood because my paternal uncle was a lawyer and an aspiring politician. Once in a blue moon his photos and statements appeared in the Malayalam daily. By the age of eleven I fancied imitating his budget speech I listened on our little radio. The radio was treasured by us all more than any IPad can ever dream of. It was a puni little radio with a leather jacket. A radio which ran on two battery cells. When the batteries ran out it sometimes took a week or more to replace. We could even listen to Malayalam programmes broadcasted from Ceylon Radio on short wave.
Despite all my pretensions before strangers deep down I always believed that I was poor as I knew the poverty within our home.