The Trappings Of A Material World: ‘Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye To Kya Hai?
Weekend Musings: Reflections on life, gender, families, relationships, movies, travel & more
The pandemic has levelled all differences and divides of class, caste wealth, haves, have nots, the marginalised, bigots, believers, rebels, peacemakers, doers and non-doers, naukars and maliks, politicians, naysayers and conformists. COVID has dealt with everyone equally. The pain of sickness and death has been a big equaliser. No one got a respectable end.
Amidst the veritable ‘dance of death’ that we saw during the peak of the second wave, Sahir Ludhianvi’s memorable song Yeh mehlon yeh takhton ye taajon ki duniya…. has been playing on loop in my mind. Nothing has brought out the brutal truth of our life more than this pandemic. How did he know the futility of a material world so many years ago? Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai?
This song has often been perceived as the angst of a defeated, pessimistic person, wallowing in self-pity. Yahaan ek khilona hai insaan ki hasti, ye hasti hai murda paraston ki basti, yahan par to heevan se hai maut sasti…But I say, how many of us can contest this truth?
The pandemic has made millions all over the world homeless, while there are others for whom ‘millions’ are of no use because they didn’t survive to enjoy them.
This brings me to the question of materialism and our quest for wealth. How much is enough? Where to draw the line? When to say ‘This far no further’?
The pandemic has given all of us time to reflect on these questions. I belong to a generation whose parents were born during the Partition and were refugees from Pakistan. Growing up in post-Independent India, their aim in life went in this order: Study, get married, have children, own a house and ensure that children, in turn, get ‘settled’ before they (parents) retire.
We, their children, fulfilled their aspirations, becoming doctors, engineers, lawyers and journalists (me). I got a princely salary of Rs700 a month as a cub reporter back in 1987, which became Rs 1500 once my job was confirmed. My goal at that time was to earn Rs 10,000 and call it a day. Life was good even after sweating it out and travelling in buses, eating at roadside stalls and sipping hot chai under the tree.
The late 1990s changed everything. While I still took pride in my khadi kurtas, the world around me was changing. Food started becoming exotic, clothes got flashy, cars became bigger and houses luxurious. House became properties and cars turned into fleets. We became ambitious, envious, harmful and gratuitous. Our wealth multiplied at the cost of relationships, peace of mind, health and most importantly, the environment.
We are now bearing the brunt of our misdemeanours of the past twenty years. The pandemic has given us an opportunity, albeit the hard way, to mend our ways. Materialism is not evil per se but to make it the sole purpose of life is.
Bhagvad Gita says that materialism reduces human life to an inhuman race from nowhere to nowhere. We didn’t exist before being born and we don’t exist after we die. But while we live between life and death, we sell our soul to hold on to material possessions. All we have to do is to recognise, realise and reflect upon the consequences of the pernicious activities that we indulge in our quest for material acquisitions.
I am in the process of buying a house for myself. The choice is between an average government-made house in a decent locality where the first sight in the morning from my window is of a tall tree or a house in a tall building that was built after cutting trees. Will a bird ever perch on my balcony if I buy a house here?
My choice will be the parameter of how wise the pandemic has made me.