Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Young And The Affluent...

This weekend some of my mallu juniors from the Bay Area came visiting. These are the kind of guys I would love to avoid but they shower too much affection on me that I just can't get away from them how much ever I try. It is just not them, even my best friends from school and college...the way their lives have taken off has left me breathless and of course, inspired. Some years back I wrote a post on how my American friends were faring professionally. I also wrote a post on our awkward beginnings in America. Today all that is history. I am amazed really at the changes happening in front of my eyes, half-scared, half-wondering why none of it rubs off on me. The flashiest cars be it the Porsche Boxters, the Nissan 350Zs, Infiniti G35s, Ford Mustangs, Range Rovers rest in their garages, the coolest accessories like Versace glasses, iPhones, Diesel shoes...they have it all and flaunt it too with a panache that makes me laugh at all those cliches of Indians being geeky/nerdy/shy, sticking to corollas, camry's, civics, can't even get it up with a girl, etc. My friends are changing all that. These guys dine and wine at expensive places, have begun travelling to exotic places, some look to and succeed in dating americans, you name it...its all there in their "resumes". These same guys who were once so self-conscious of their FOB status, now look at people coming from India, especially the hordes of on-site visitors and watch with amusement as they too learn the ropes of becoming cool.

We drove in to this high-end shopping mall in Beverly Hills. I assumed we were in for another one of those bouts of window shopping and kept muttering restlessly.To my surprise the guys actually went into a few stores and came out spending a cool amount of money on designer stuff that left me a little irritated, a little unhappy that I who probably made much more than these guys, thanks to a greencard holding, free-wheeling, overpaid consultant job felt the pinch in my pocket, though it was they who laid off those greenbacks.
I asked one of them, "Dey, nee enthina inganathe carum saamagrikalum vaangiche kooti kaashe kalayunne?"
He told me,"This is why I came to the US. I want a good life. Why did you come here?"
His poser left me sorry for asking, and I gingerly replied, "I had the greencard."
"What do you do with your money?" he asked not letting me off the hook so easy, I guessed there was talk amongst them, that I was a miser.
"I let it add up or send it home. I don't know what else to do with it."
He thankfully left it at that...but I felt like a child in front of this "kid" who was 4 years younger to me.

A few months back I was in Chicago at my cousin's place, and similarly put-off by the high-end lifestyle she and her friends lived. I probed her about it and she gave me and the rest of us younger kids a pep-talk that went miles into helping me decide finally what I wanted from life. She and friends studied hard through school and college not wasting time fooling around, found good jobs, banded around other super-achievers like them, made sure they were placed for vertical growth and now could fall back a bit and enjoy all the best things money could provide. She advised me to do the same, identify the right career i wanted to pursue and start putting in the hard work atleast now. She opened my eyes to a grave misreading I made about youth, friendships, etc. I was the kind of guy who prided myself on having an amazing school and college life, great friendships, wonderful memories, etc but I realized none of it was of any use now. I was wasting time then as I was now. I looked around, and realized those same friends who were part of those rowdy gangs had moved on, started taking life seriously, are in line for great success,some married already and are great husbands, yet they never lost their bonds with me and could talk in the same vein of our heydays, crack jokes, call each other obscenities, give each other advise knowing it wont be remembered in the bonhomie of our chatter.

You guys will be wondering why I have so many back-to-back personal posts. The reason is, these are some new lessons I have learnt along the way the last few months, lessons that if you who is one of my younger readers who is enjoying life like I did, may not have realized or won't have anyone to tell you. I am at a stage where bad habits have hardened and tough to be changed, where its natural to come home after work and rest and do nothing though your mind wills otherwise, where weekends are spent sleeping, browsing, watching movies, or hanging out with friends even when something keeps chanting in you to change course, where the danger of being satisfied and even further accept this mediocre existence lurks perenially around the corner. I have always wondered why the world has so many proverbs and aphorisms on time, but now I feel the pinch for every minute wasted. Happily there are no regrets for the past yet, but the present lies wasted(Sarah emailed asking, besides telling me other good things, "Why do you think the tense for now is called "present" in the english language?"). The title of this post may be a misnomer...i may or may not agree with the materialism that has gripped my friends, i guess i have no right to judge them...their lifestyles may have changed but they are still the good old guys i knew back then. Their affluence, my restlessness, the youthful vigor on which these friendships were built, our paths are diverting away from the junction we once ran into each other...when we meet again, years hence, at another confluence, what new tales will I have, to tell of their exploits?

13 comments:

mathew said...

yeah..that realisation when some of our friends start talking about buying a flat..or a big car..hits suddenly..Until then we never might have even thought about it..maybe even if we thought we just assume it is still long long away..we probably get stuck in a time freeze..I think most people esp in our generation set targets like buying a car by Year 'X'..then buy a flat by year 'X+5'..get married by year 'X+7'..Its all about milestones..Once you achieve one you plan for the next..there is never a dearth for such milestones..Maybe it could be material..or it could be achieving something else..If people are feeling happy acheiving those material milestones..so be it..The final quest for finding what makes us happy may finally leave us with no real answers..coz the answers change every day..

Nariyal Chutney said...

Hi Mate ,You have to find what makes you happy. They have their own way , you have your own. One thing I am sure after reading your posts for so long. What makes them happy may not make you happy for sure :-D but as you said the present lies wasted as long as you dont find what makes you happy

Thomas Sebastian said...

left me thinking.....im in the same path as u r, loyola, sct , lookin forward to do MS......wonder wat everything is all about.

Vinod/Kakka said...

I am too lazy to spend money, as with everything else. The need to spend money, is at some level, the fuel to ambition. If I am not into the spending money scheme of things, I really do not need that much money. If I am not power hungry, whats the point of being a careerist?
If I am confindent, bordering on being arrogant, whats the point in proving yourself?
Recognition is something that I used to crave for, but that too has gone.
The thing that I crave for most is seeing my daughter smile/laugh (and sometimes cry, for something she knows I am not going to let her do), and so I crave for patience.
Things change.
I can never be like anybody else, but I find that I end up doing the same as everybody else. (We still drive Camrys and Siennas and Acoords and Highlanders and CRVs. I guess thats got to do with being in "frugal New England")
Maybe they are thinking the same.

andy said...

I keep reading your blogs, though I am responding after a long time. Found your last blog interesting. Any emigrant has to work harder to succeed as otherwise the purpose of emigration is lost. This is understood instinctively when the economic need is very strong and sacrifices made are fresh in mind.

At some time or other , the purpose of studying and thereafter working hard, earning a decent living has to be consciously identified and then we should work towards it. Otherwise we fall prey to depression, cynicism etc.

I think you have everyting going for you. A closely knit family, good social infrastructure in Kerala and USA also. Build on it.

I wish I knew you personally as you sound interesting.

The Talkative Man said...

first timer, coming back for more!!! :)

Anonymous said...

My dear friend, during my darkest days of struggle, I have often found the greatest strength in words. It never ceases to amaze me how something as inanimate as words could inspire and invoke so much out of me. Let me share with you three sayings that I hope you would find to be insightful as well:

I am often reminded of what my father has told my sister and I - "The sum total is always zero". For every enviable thing we see in someone, there is an equally unenviable thing that we don't get to see.

The second, I read somewhere: "Man has conquered the outer space, but not his inner space". If you find yourself in intense struggles with yourself, and find that others don't seem to be going through the same, then it is likely because you are ahead of them in understanding yourself and not because they "have it all figured out".

And finally, there is the tale of a sculptor who kept chiselling away at his rock to break it, but to no avail. A hundred blows and yet not a minute crack. The hundred and first, and it broke neatly in two. More than the end result, what is captivating is what the sculptor remarked:

"It is not the hundred and first blow that broke the rock, but the hundred that went before it"

Jackson said...

i guess expats carry over to the new country, the mood of the home country at the moment they left it..
for example, those who emigrated from india to the US or the gulf in the 70s and 80s are basically hardworking, frugal people who go by the old indian algorithm of work hard--> save as much as possible--> send your kids to a good school/college--> and retire in peace (to india, possibly)..
but those who haved shifted recently tend to be more ready to spend (even on credit), and indulge themselves, simply because that is how they lived in india before they moved..
ditto with the social outlook.. things like their outlook on arranged/love marriage (usually for their kids), entertainment (sitting at home or visiting friends or going to a nightclub etc)..
they tend to want to do things the way they did (or would have done) in india, and the last real contact they had with india was before they left..
now, i'm not calling you an anachronism.. you're probably just more pragmatic about your finanaces.. it also depends on the individual's approach to money, spending, entertainment etc, i guess..
i think i had a point when i started out, now i think i've just made a mess of it attempting to explain, so let me stop here.. :)
jackson

Syam said...

@thomas
im the same path as you are now :D
and waaaaaaaaaay behind jiby chetan
lol thats like 3 of us now :D loyola to SCT


something from what i learned 7 years back
"two roads diverged in a yellow woodand i wook the one less travelled by."
how iwish..and think u also wish.. that we could have taken the rare used path
alas it were not so
but then as mr frost said
i still have miles to go before i sleep and miles to go before i sleep

Syam said...

one more
ive always been this cheerful guy.. determined to be happy whatver be around me
cos
everyone at some point will realise that the greater part of their happiness depends on their dispositions and not upon their circumstances
if you wanna be happy
no one can stop ya....
try it

Santhanu said...

my first comment...i have read all your posts till date..but something in this touched me...may be because i identify with the same situation..thanks for being an inspiration...

ursjina said...

yup..she wrte it in english..if im not mistaken she was a english prof or lecturer or smthn..

Pooja said...

Mediocre Existence. Thats what struck me. Its the exact same phrase I jotted down in my diary a couple of days back. Im more of a diary person than a blogger. My brother keeps telling me to start one, but I've never felt like doing it. Until now. See what your words have done? :-)