The photograph showed a young male wiping his shoes with a £50 note. In a flash, I ran the gamut of emotions from rage to anguish. One of the earlier lessons taught to me was that you do not step on food, on books, on elders and on money. I was told, 'if you disrespect food, you will die hungry'. Disrespect the written word, and learning would desert you [a potent threat in a family that venerated information]. Disrespect the silver-haired and you would never grow wise [that's why I refuse to dye my hair, see!]. And, everything from a lowly anna coin upwards was seen as a manifestation of Goddess Lakshmi.
Maybe, these are very Asian sentiments. You could ask me how your treatment of an inanimate object could gift you wisdom or poverty. True, there is no rational explanation. I think it is more about respecting the effort that lies behind a rupee or a grain of rice. When you refrain from stepping on a grain of rice, you do not do so fearing a curse, do you? You do so because you recognise and respect the effort that goes into growing and cooking food. I do not have to tell you about how easy it is to spend a rupee and how difficult it is to earn it. The £50 shoe wipe reportedly first appeared on an Instagram account—Rich Kids of London.
India is in a transition phase when it comes to spending. Earlier, the rich refused to splurge. Now, they do, on things they are passionate about. Old money never used to flaunt it, people tell me. Well, then how did the palaces get built? Yes, the pattern of spending has changed over the years. Yes, the motto now is work hard, party harder. But, please let us not generalise.
In journalistic circles, people often point to sportsmen. Many who hailed from humble backgrounds have pulled out all the stops when they made it big. What else do you expect them to do? Bury their earnings and set a fearsome cobra to guard it? The key has always been responsible spending. And, that is what this Luxury Special Issue is about.
Other than the cover story, two stories that caught my special attention were about Sanjay Dutt and Mike Tyson. Gifted men both. And, they have run a roller coaster of experiences. Their idea of luxury would surely have changed from what it was two decades ago. I hope you will enjoy these stories as much as I have.
A new set of columnists have joined us, since my last letter. Please join me in welcoming General Bikram Singh, Vinod Rai, Anita Pratap and Sanjay Manjrekar. And, I would also like to draw your attention to the ideas page that we have started on the website. If you strongly feel about an issue that we must write about, please drop us a line there.
Coming back to where I started, I recently read about someone who has been kissing books and bread for a long time. Salman Rushdie. In the home he grew up, he was expected to kiss a book, if he had dropped it. Same goes for rotis. “All this happened before I had ever kissed a girl,” he wrote. Now, you might be wondering if I had the same fate. Let's not go there.