This weekend and last weekend, my current crush, Guy Martin, has been on C4 touring around India. Sunday nights are the best nights on telly at the moment – Top Gear, Our Guy in India, Mr Selfridge; and next week, we have The Casual Vacancy (which I’ve not managed to read yet) and Indian Summers. There seems to be a bit of an Indian theme at the moment going on.
I’ve really enjoyed Our Guy in India. He was on Radio 2 the other morning, and he was just brilliant: he’s just such a normal guy; he loves his work, and he loves working, and being busy; and he can talk the back legs off a donkey.
This evening, he went into the slums of Mumbai. When I did geography at school, it always struck me that in the slums, and not just of Mumbai but of anywhere, there was such an imbalance of priorities: they didn’t have running water or sanitation, but they sure as hell had their massive tellies, satellite dishes and Xboxes. And Guy walked through this huge slum and he too pointed out the biggest TV ever – what did he say? “It’s like Currys in there, innit?”
Yet he went to the house of a family, three generations who lived in what looked like a cube, though the neatest and most orderly cube in the world, and the grandaddy was a Hindu priest. Yet speaking to him, Guy found out that this man was so happy with what he had in his life: he didn’t need to fill his house with things, because he didn’t need those things: he liked eating, so he had all he needed to prepare his meals. It really makes you feel humble. I wrote on my other blog, notmuchofayoungfarmer.wordpress.com, about how we are a culture of rushing and hurrying everywhere: the same seems to be of having things. When I left uni, there seemed to be this enormous pressure on graduates to get jobs with huge salaries: it was as if we had do something with our degrees to make it worthwhile. As if they could only be measured in monetary gain: it cost this much to go to uni, so we have to justify that decision in making a salary which for me, someone who has a relatively professional job in the north of England, is just out of this world. I was reading in a copy of Glamour magazine about disparities in salaries within individual couples: such and such is a made-up professional and earns £70,000 a year; so and so is a bunch of random words strewn together, and earns £55,000 a year. Why must our decisions be measured by a salary? What even would you do with £70,000 a year? I’ve never shied away from spending; I like my luxury; I like my Mulberry handbags and my Dubarry boots; but I spend more of my money on books and CDs and – to be honest – diesel. Guy pointed out a huge skyscraper that was the home of the richest man in India: he had 200 servants for four people: himself, his wife and his two children; his empires in whatever, real estate or building or what have you, had made him £15 billion. £15 billion! That’s a scale of money I can’t even comprehend. What would you do with that? I think I’d buy myself a Porsche, and then be like, right, OK, I don’t rightly know what to do now. I’ll stick it in the bank. No, I’d just give it away. £15 billion! I can’t deal with that.
At the very end, Guy said, “be happy with what you’ve got.” Around me, people – people my age, people I went to school with, people younger than me – are obsessed with getting this, owning this, having this, and then making it bigger, getting it bigger, upgrading, upsizing. I was once one of them, and probably in a few months, I will slip back, and become one of them again. But at the end of the day, if you have a roof over your head, food in your belly, and people around you that you love and care for, you should be happy with what you’ve got.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to look at dresses on the internet.