Wealth of Guilt

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(only a part of my ‘wealth’)

My Wife had been nagging me for the most of last year to clear old and excess stuff and unusable items in my study, bath, wardrobe, and show case. As usual it faced stiff resistance till one day she cleared out partially and brought out many stuff out in the open in the drawing room. I could not resist any longer and plunged into clearing the weekend before year turn. This is what i found by way of ‘excess’ – quite apart from what i kept for possible future use or current immediate revival.

  • 1 home theatre and 2 music systems and a CD/DVD player, (I have 2 more systems for use)
  • 6 speaker sets, may be a dozen ear phones (apart from the half a dozen retained),
  • 23 leads 2 way pins old style which engage making a click sound,
  • 10 charging chords, (I have kept 18 chords of various kinds for future use),
  • 14   2-pin or 3-pin plugs,
  • More than 32 combs,
  • 17 mouth wash bottles,
  • 2 dozen tooth brushes,
  • 5 calculators,
  • Lucky I disposed off 4 shoes i am left with only 10 pairs now besides 5 sandals /chapels,
  • An embarrassing number of pens of various description (at least half a dozen of which are of high end variety like Waterman, Schauffer, one gold cross pen (gifted to me in 1993 and today’s indexed value must be more than Rs 60,000 but never used),

Batteries, watches, cell phones, batteries for cells, dozen toilet kits, scissors, staplers, punches, marker pens, fevisticks,… too embarrassing to tell.

I am sure many of you may not be far behind if you care to count and admit. I am sure that wealth – things bought with enough ‘economic’ logic’ in ‘emergent’ circumstances – afflict corporations, government departments, perhaps even ERPed organisations. (that is if they don’t have 2 versions of ERP running one for back up).

If I am not able to control this accumulation of ‘wealth’ (sure all these have entered into the National income and GDP of some country) why blame the likes of Imalda Marcos for her 4500 pairs of footwear and 15,000 saris of Tamil Nadu CM … perhaps they may have exercised their choice and bought for pleasure and it may have been far more affordable to them than the above things were to me.

Don’t read me wrong – I am not a kleptomaniac. My mother has given me strong sense of values not to pick even an unclaimed 10 paise coin. They say that we start questioning the logic of everything by age 13-18 and start questioning our values by 40 (so perhaps the saying ‘Don’t get naughty when you turn forty’). In my case this particular sense of righteousness seems to have survived the battle with values. So not for me inflating tour expense accounts, spending differently if it is from company’s account than it is from own account, seeking bribes on duty, etc. Values settle many day to day decisions for me instantly … no ruminations, no vacillations and hence no agonising over them. In that sense it has been a source of great help and happiness…regrets, I believe, come in only from foregone alternatives. A strong sense of values sort of effectively shuts out many of them and hence a lot less of the feeling of ‘foregoing alternatives’ and hence much less unhappiness.

Nor am I a shopaholic… just shopping for pleasure… compulsively!

Or profligate spender with loose controls. Again my mother would have accounted for every grain in her kitchen/house (some exaggeration here… but those were her times). Regret she didn’t train me in the same mould. Or perhaps she did. And I get overwhelmed by the scale and variety of new gizmos, articles, choices, things we are flooded with (deluge, should i call). The best of training has limits, I guess.

Regret my school didn’t train me in being responsible in housekeeping – putting things in their place for easy retrieval later, not buying anything more than strictly necessary. But then again any upbringing also has limits. They could train me to take care of 2 pens – one as reserve, but could they have imagined that one day i will be faced with a deluge of 200 pens/pencils in my house? In their days that’s what shopkeepers would have had.

I think this accumulation of ‘wealth’ may have happened in 2 ways.

These days most electronic gadgets come with their own set of connecting wires, plugs, chords to interface with TVs and Laptops without ask (and most of them look alike) instead of leaving it to be purchased independently. The Government should tax these add-ons heavily so that neither the seller or buyer supplies them as an automatic annexure.

The next perhaps bigger reason is lethargy which in a sense (at least in this) seems a sort of arrogance of affordability. Lethargy in keeping things in their designated place … or designating a place for each and taking cursory care to keep them in that place and lethargy in searching when required. When things don’t materialise as wished when required I get frustrated and go to the nearby shop to meet the ‘emergency’ or when we visit the mall next if it is something that can wait out my frustration. When I buy, an exaggerated sense of importance of my time overcomes me and ‘economic order quantity’ (why spend so much time shopping for such a small thing… hence take more than two or perhaps a dozen) is bought to be kept wherever till I hit the same patch of lethargy and frustration and the cycle repeats.

I wonder how much of our GDP and national wealth are of this kind.

How effective or desirable is ‘market economics’ when it allocated ‘resources’ for such ‘inessential’ uses when there can be so many out there more needy (or the future generations) for whom the use value would be far more even if they don’t have the ability to pay.

I don’t mean they should be given a dole at my expense. I hate doles and charity… except some basics. There is no better way to kill individual initiative and breed mass lethargy against progress than doles and charity, me thinks. But some kind of a prick on my ‘arrogance of affordability’ or on the ‘lack of discipline – lethargy – needless buying’ cycle so that i become responsible… and don’t ‘deprive’ others by boosting demand and inflating prices for them.

4 thoughts on “Wealth of Guilt

  1. On a Saturday morning, sipping coffee, sugarless of course, reading the above makes me terribly guilty as I too have accumulated stuff that ‘could’ be useful. Of course not to the extent like expensive pens that I hardly use or toothbrushes. Long back, a family in SOBO left for greener pastures, in obviously the USA and they had stuff well preserved and useful too that they would never perhaps need or can carry. They simply cried over the lot and had a ‘sale’ for three days in their a apartment. I picked up a load of toys and a few Texas instrument gadgets that were really useful and in great shape too. Down to earth sale rates. all affordable to the ones looking for bargain that they never would get elsewhere and on the last day even free take away.

    We should too perhaps resort to having such a ‘garage sale’ regularly as giving to the used ‘paper wallas’ will only get them junked and smashed in to pieces for compacting them for further down the line disposal for recycling. We perhaps shy away from such an act and accumulate and in that process, add to the misery of not locating a particular stuff in time from the heaps and resort to buying again. Yes. Very timely post. However filling up the coffers by taxation on the already high taxes they have resorted to by the government to spend on their personal indulgence like foreign tours or lavish limos is definitely not in my thought.

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  2. Most of us are equally guilty. Answers are OLX, spring cleaning, garage sale etc. In some cities like Brussels they have a market for second hand goods. Some of the items bought in that market are still around in the house. May be along with raahgiri they can arrange a second hand market in CP on Sundays.

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