Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
Wealth : August 27, 2000
The merits of Mammon
Piali Banerjee (Mumbai)
R. Krithika (Chennai)
"Every man of ambition has to fight this century with its own weapons. What this century worships is wealth. The god of this century is wealth. To succeed one must have wealth. At all costs one must have wealth."
Oscar Wilde said this in the 19th century. And that's a laugh. For now we're into the 21st century, and the gods have grown even wealthier. Role models like Bill Gates are now on the horizon, whose earning clock ticks by the second. And of whom the joke goes that, on his way into the office, if he drops a $1,000 bill on the ground, it's just not worth his time to bend over and pick it up. For he would make more just heading off to work!
Here a cross-section of people offer their views on what they think of as wealth.
Vijay Mukhi (Internet guru):
"How do I better my future? How do I make money? These are invariably the first questions I'm asked at lecture sessions. All the taboos have gone - the ideas that making money is bad, that all work and no play makes one a dull person. The youth of the country is all charged up. And the reason for their excitement is wealth."
Rani Mukherjee (actress):
"In these times, where you have to pay for bare necessities like drinking water, money is very important - and anyone who says it isn't is either a hypocrite or a liar. Even a sanyasi lives on the charity of his followers who use the vital medium of money to fulfill his needs."
Ashok Kaul (director, Zee Institute of Creative Arts):
"I feel that giving too much importance to wealth is a sure way of letting the degradation of values set into one's life-gradually. So gradually that one may not even realise it, until the damage is done."
Priti Hiranandani (entrepreneur):
"I think what you do with your wealth is a more important consideration than merely seeing how much you have. And as long as you're giving back a healthy percentage of what you're getting from society, you're doing fine."
Sanjeev Kapoor (chef):
"The importance of wealth is always relative and the connotations differ accordingly. To one, wealth could mean the luxuries of life. To another, it could stand for basic necessities like food and shelter. To me, it could well mean sound sleep at night!"
Binita Sen (marketing executive):
"Wealth definitely means a lot more today than it did earlier. Our attitudes are a lot different from those of our parents. We're more charged up, we're ready to job-hop, we believe in seizing every opportunity to make it big, so to speak. And why not?"
Jackie Shroff (actor):
"Money is important to me. And I must admit that I have done many films purely because of the money they have got me. But so far, it hasn't been important enough to make me inhuman either. And there have been many times when I have let money go and acted in films where the producers have told me beforehand that they will not be able to pay me."
Atul Phadke (professor):
"Wealth, to a great extent, constitutes the flexibility to make choices - in terms of education, career, children. As an end in itself, it doesn't mean much but as a means to an end, it becomes important."
Dr. Archana Rao (Student counsellor):
"The problem today is that the main power of wealth is to not to supply wants. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it creates more wants than it supplies. Thus running after wealth is more like running after stress."
Anagha Fernandes (MBA student):
"Wealth buys you success, power, even leisure. In turn, it makes you slog. If you're game for it, it's yours. And we students today are game for it. We don't want a 'comfortable job' after college. We're ready to work 25 hours a day, eight days a week, provided we get the returns."
Sajid Khan (Television host):
"Wealth, for me, means enough money to fulfill my childhood dream - that is, to buy the best music system in the world! Once I achieve that, I'm going to retire!"
Charumathi Ramachandran (Carnatic vocalist):
"The term has many connotations. It is not just having money though that is important. It can be used to create other forms of wealth. For instance, the Saraswati Mahal Library in Thanjavur could not have been created without access to money. But the money was used to create intellectual wealth. Another form of wealth that I think is important is health. It may be a trite saying but I believe 'health is wealth.' If you are not healthy all the money in the world is of no use to you."
C. K. Gariyali (Vice-Chairperson, Science City, Chennai):
"To me, wealth means knowledge, cultural heritage and the natural resources. Knowledge helps one put things in proper perspective. Money and material possessions are important to satisfy certain basic needs but one should not acquire material wealth at the cost of damage to our natural wealth."
Maitreyi Ramadurai (Secretary, Music Academy, Chennai):
"The world does not begin or end with money. It is necessary to make life comfortable. I would look at wealth in terms of ideas. At a personal level, I think having good friends who rally around you is the greatest wealth a person can have. One can also have a wealth of memories."
Bhagirathi Narayanan (Theatre personality):
"I would define wealth as having more money or possessions than one needs to maintain a lifestyle that one is used to. To me the basic meaning of the term is the economic angle. Looking beyond that, I would say wisdom is wealth."
Balaguru (Physical Education Teacher):
"The most obvious definition to me is health. Nothing will give you any satisfaction if you are constantly ill. The other aspect I would look at is to have enough money to satisfy your needs."
S. M. Sivakumar (Businessman-cum-actor):
"Wealth means a feeling of well-being with enough comforts to leave your mind free so that you can do what you want in life."
Sriram (Management Trainee):
"Not running short of money for your needs is one definition. Alongside this is the use of money. Using it to help others or give others cause for joy is also a form of wealth. But I think the kind of wealth one has in terms of relationships with family and friends is as important as any other. "
Swami Suddhananda (Spiritual leader):
"Wealth is a very relative term. Its meaning depends on the time and place. In a famine, whom would you call rich - a man who has a bag of gold or a man who has a bag of rice? The best form of wealth is life itself. Without life, the person does not exist. One needs to strike a balance between the mind and the body. Life exists in three dimensions - material, subtle and absolute. Absolute wealth is indefinable, timeless and unchangeable. But a person who has achieved absolute wealth also needs sustenance at the material level. Neither type of wealth will satisfy in isolation. One needs a balanced diet."
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