Three stories of economic relativity

PART 2

No one really settles in without a 55-inch LG OLED TV.

After several weeks of research, I had narrowed my eyes on LG C9, an incredibly well-designed TV, offering 55 inches of electronic love. I admired the slimness of it just as much as I salivated over the deep blacks. Price tag for my analytical yet irrational desires: 135,000 INR (about USD 2000). I loved something material. I could afford it. I bought it. Classic capitalism – ability to live in the moment, knowing someone is willing to sell you a TV because you can afford it. Right then, as I consumed the TV, I recalled a seemingly connected incident that had happened two days prior.

The payments clerk was our maid’s son.

PART 1

Our daily maid had promised a few grams of gold to the man who was going to marry her daughter. To pay the dowry, she needed money and had sought this amount as a loan from my parents. My parents are very generous, and will not only give interest-free loans, but will give away money with zero expectations of financial returns. My maid’s son, the bride’s brother, worked as a payments clerk at the same store where I had bought my TV. I had spoken with him about their financial situation, and calculated how much they can realistically afford to pay back any loan they take. I worked with the maid’s son, the payments clerk, to resize the loan and match it to their ability to pay back.

PART 3

Payment made. TV promised.

Capitalism delivered.

I stepped out of the store walked down the stairs when I saw a Jesus-like man with long hair, scrappily sitting on the street, eating from a take-away plastic lunch box that was not eaten by someone who could afford to waste. He seemed mentally ill, disregarded by most of the locals as ‘paithiam,’ which means ‘mad man’. Four feet away, a street dog was waiting for this man to be done with his lunch. My instinct was to capture this moment on my iPhone XS to share the story, but decided to let go. I just observed and respected the moment for what it was. There is no visual documentation of this scene, just memories and words.

We all have our stories of relative fortunes and distress. I’m at the top of the food chain in these three stories of economic relativity.

We don’t pause enough to realize that we should stop saying, “Life isn’t fair” and start saying, “Life isn’t unfair.”

Published by Arun Muthu

In 2019, I relocated to India after having lived in California for more than two decades. These scribbles attempt to capture my observations at what I call home through a foreigner's eyes.

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