The rich kid in class

I was discussing this with a friend a few days back. The conversation keeps playing in my head and many passive memories (ones I’d rather forget, actually) keep coming to the fore. So I shall write. Maybe then I can close the chapter once and for all? Or at least bury a grudge.

 

I attended a Public School.  In Public School standards, I was the “rich kid” in class. We weren’t really rich, of course. But we had a car and that meant I was rich. It didn’t matter that the car was bought by dipping into years of savings because two of the three members in our family were asthmatic. That my dad still used the train to travel to the other end of the city while my mother and I used the car within a 5 mile radius because we couldn’t walk without wheezing.

 

I was almost always in this ambivalent limbo – where at home I was trained in the importance of being thrifty and in school I was somehow the brat who got dropped to school in a car and who’s mother travelled to the US on business every few months. It didn’t help that I did well in exams.

 

So I did everything I could to blend in with everyone – which meant I took every means necessary to hide any signs of “affluence”. I saved my favourite pens for homework and used the cheaper ones at school. I hid the pencil box mom bought me from the States under my desk so no one would see it and tease me about it. I even made sure my father dropped me to school much earlier than required so no one would see me get off the car. I pretended to enjoy standing in the sun even if the dust meant I’d spend the night scratching the rashes senseless. I took buses even when I had the pocket money to hire a rickshaw.

 

In short, I truly believed money was something one needed to feel guilty about. I hated money and everything to do with it. My tuition teacher, who also happened to be a classmate’s mother, often remarked that I would never see the “real world” because I was privileged. It made me sad. I wanted to see what the glory of this “real world” was all about. Money was the absolute worst. It seems every time I did badly in exams, it had to with the fact that money makes you take things easy. Surprisingly, even when I scored well, it could be attributed to wealth because I had access to everything. At the time I wondered how the hours I spent practising math had anything to do with my parents’ income.

 

By the end of school, I was convinced one didn’t need money, and one definitely shouldn’t want money. At a time when my choices should ideally have been informed by interests and priorities, I was mostly driven by guilt and the desperate need to be liked. Thankfully, I don’t regret the choices I made – because had I not made them, I would never have met the people who taught me that I did not have to be ashamed of who I was or where I came from as long as I knew how to respect others. Another reason I don’t have regrets is because it ensured I didn’t make a choice motivated solely by economic prospects. (Though it would have saved me a lot of trouble had I given it at least some consideration)

 

It was only once college ended and I actually got to the “real world” my friend’s mother had warned me about that I was forced to acknowledge the hard truth – that I actually desired money. Not in the sense that all I need in life is money or that wealth is my sole purpose in life. I just realised I wanted to earn a decent living and enjoy a comfortable life. Comfortable – I will admit – in the standards that my parents set for me.

 

Even then, for the longest time, I wondered if my career choices should be informed by these new discoveries about myself – because I couldn’t shed the feeling of overwhelming guilt every time I considered the monetary returns. Shouldn’t I be thinking of more important things first – like society, humanity, people, country?

 

It took many years, some failures and some introspection to realise something that should have been obvious right from the beginning –  Yes, I want to earn well. Yes, I want to provide for myself and my family. Yes, I want to have the luxury to spend if I want to without having to worry about affording dinner. If I ever have a child, I want to be able to provide him/her the best of everything. An education in a private school, to begin with. And no – this is not something to be ashamed of. This isn’t even shallow. I have some priorities in life and this is one of them. It isn’t a terrible thing. No it isn’t. This desire isn’t at the cost of everything else but it is a desire.

 

This doesn’t make me less of a person, less of a patriot (my country is doing everything in it’s power to shake this though), less of a woman, or less of a citizen. I follow the law, I vote, I never spit or litter on the roads, I volunteer for social efforts, I pay my taxes, and I try to be a responsible citizen the best I can. I try my best to be kind to others. For me that is enough.

 

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13 thoughts on “The rich kid in class

  1. And the fox said , “who wants these sour grapes anyway?” That’s sad! I know it’s no consolation but the other kids were most likely (and secretly) going through some kind of ‘fitting -in’ of their own. We are taught to conform to gender, society, religion, culture norms and what not from a very young age.. And we also learn that any thing out of ordinary is to be feared and vilified.. I am sorry you had to go through this but look at how smart, responsible and kind hearted human you turned out to be despite all that…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh absolutely. Every mean act usually stems from some kind of insecurity. And it takes ages to undo the damage. Especially when adults also participate. Anyway – I am happy being an adult and do not wish to go through that growing up stage again 😁

      Like

  2. And as the Sanju who went to Rajput because Ramlal ji taught not at Model – the other end of the spectrum- life was no different. Now I know that there will always be something out of my reach. As long as what I can give my daughter is more than what my parents could give me – I is good 🙂 #life

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes yes #life Few steps forward for each generation. The least one can do. Do not repeat mistakes the elders made, learn from the ones you make, ensure the progeny doesn’t repeat yours. And Dan Life Dun.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. On the other side of this coin are those of us who said no to expensive school trips and fabricated to friends that our family had “other plans” because we were aware that money for these trips dripped from a limited disposable income bucket and that sometimes, our parents borrowed money from friends and family during those expensive school-beginning months. While mates off-handedly referred to you as “the girl/boy who never went on a class trip”…

    And then there are those of us who were jeered at / alienated / physically hurt even because we always happened to be “first-in-class”. Sometimes, it made us want to perform badly….sometimes, from being a perpetual first bencher, it made us want to sit along with the loud, fun boys in the back-benches…laugh at teachers and cheat even…just so we can blend in and not stand out…just so we feel “accepted” and not be “unpopular”. In the midst of all bullying, however, there were also those unexpected few in class who genuinely wanted us to do well and may have looked-up to us.

    In teens, when we found ourselves suddenly surrounded by well-off friends and grew increasingly aware of income gap, neighborhoods, and brands there was a brief phase where we thought it embarrassing to lack enough money…when we hesitated to invite friends to our homes where our entire family slept in one room and never knew what it was to have a bedroom of our own…when we avoided talking about our parent’s humble professions while their’s were IAS officers or business owners…when we aspired for spending power and unfairly pushed parents for branded clothes and cooler gadgets. Fast forward a little, of course, we were all ashamed of ourselves and our thoughts that disrespected the hard-work of our parents.

    Along the way, we met friends who – irrespective of family wealth – equally valued education, career, and self-sufficiency. We also knew friends who were used to traveling in flights but still rode the train with us because time spent together mattered more to them than inconvenience of traveling 28 hours in 2nd class rail compartments in summer.

    Growing up is messy irrespective. The good, the bad, and the ugly – shaped us, humbled us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • 🙂 Growing up sucks. It makes you crave what you don’t have. The kind of friends you mentioned towards the end.. It took me a very long time to find them. Maybe because I had no similar company in class. Maybe it would have been better if I was actually as well to do as my classmates in school thought I was. I would have known where I came from and taken efforts accordingly. It’s the in-between thing which was awful. We weren’t well off and I had to struggle to make that apparent. The small sacrifices we make for friends is effortless because you want to do it and their company makes you forget everything else – it just binds everyone in blissful togetherness. When you compromise for the sake of acceptance – that’s where it hurt.

      What I am saying is – you are right. It is equally difficult on both ends of the spectrum. As long as you find something worthwhile on the way and learn your lessons. No one invokes the kind of humility in you the way friends do.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah! Friends!! 🙂 This candid discussion reaffirms (to me atleast) that having a little more money or little less money is nothing to be ashamed of. Education is one enabler and gap equalizer.

        Also, making money and creating wealth are different. Just like our parents did, we desire to ensure our progeny has access to better education, more opportunities, proper health-care, and grow in safer environment. To create this wealth, we need money. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Twiggy!
    I loved this post and I have some thoughts to share on it..but right now, don’t have the time to articulate those into words…also wanted to let you know I started on your story and man, there also I have few inputs since molecular bio is one of my areas…loads to tell you…running into blog to catch on during lunch hours…hoping to share soon..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It was a very suprising composition. An interesting new perspective.
    While I couldn’t relate to what you went through, I couldn’t but help myself to some of the similar emotions we all go through during this part of our life.
    While money was not a issue of importance in my school, it still remain a topic of judgement.
    And, wanting the feeling of belonging is something we all go through. In the process of making ourselves included we often do forget our real selves and end up compromising a lot.

    Thank you for sharing this and allowing us to also consider this a thought and giving us a chance where we can also sort out our priorities and atleast ensure the next gen kids don’t go through the same.

    Liked by 1 person

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