Saturday, July 9, 2011


I'm not that good with money. I save it, try not to use it, but end up spending everything I have on travel, art supplies, food and pens. I run out of cash constantly and end up eating khichri every day until the next months stipend rolls in. Maybe this is why I'm studying business and economics next year.

Trying to live simply this year tested my idea and use of money. Being surrounded by poverty, which may or may not mean lack of money, has made me hypersensitive to the value of the rupee.I think ten times before buying a Maaza bottle, and have walked home many times to save 10 bucks. And this is still cushioned by the fact that I do have access to money if I actually need or want it.

As with most grassroots organizations, the past twelve months has also meant working with very little money in the community center. Everything from pencils and erasers to scrap paper can be scarce, and resourcefulness has taken on a whole new meaning.

Not having enough money can make you feel deflated, as if all ideas are grounded until you raise funds. My stomach drops when I postpone the monthly library birthday party for lack of funds, and I want to punch something when volunteers ask why we don't have enough supplies for everyone. I still have times when I meet IS officers or socialites and become harshly aware of the tears in my salwar pants.

In the community, I've seen the glazed look in my students when they find out that a music class costs 600 rupees a month ($15) or that our next field trip will cost 50 rupees.Simultaneously I see thousands of rupees wasted on smoking, drinking, cyber cafes and flashy clothes or technology -- things that seem to cover up the gaping holes in opportunity and quality of life that actually do exist.

Once a student asked me how I wanted to help poor people in our community. I told him that I wanted to help them realize that they already have much of what they need.This was said just a few hours after we had given away some donated clothes, a process that always turns into a hair-pulling cat fight with people fighting over some used sweater. And I still agree (with myself) -- so much of this poverty is a mental state that could be easily mitigated by the right information, budgeting and family education.

I think that poverty of the mind exists for the haves just as much as the have-nots. We give money a power -- we think it gives us choice and freedom. And then we somehow end up surrendering to it by settling for a job we don't like or spending so much on investing to make more money that we don't have enough for right now.Inadvertently we keep disadvantaged people in the status quo because we're too scared to lose our third savings account.

In the end I want to find a balance where I only have enough money for it to not interfere with my life. Like our body gauges when its full or hungry, I want a gauge for my bank account, and an internal cue that I have enough to keep me living and thriving.

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