Rakesh was in therapy after a nervous breakdown. As he took stock of life he wondered what had gone wrong. He and his wife, Reshma, had built a picture perfect life with highflying jobs and kids excelling in the best schools. They lived in the penthouse of the city’s most prestigious apartments sailing among the clouds. It looked like they had it all before it all came down like a pack of cards.
More Homes and More Loans
Between the many cars, properties and gadgets they felt compelled to have, somewhere life had gone out of control. The gadget mania that seemed to have taken over meant they always had to buy the next iPhone or MacBook that was launched. To top it they had to keep up with the high-end cars that were launched every few years.
To save tax they took loans; bought more properties but then to pay off those loans they had taken up more stressful assignments that took them far away from each other and the kids, Ritvik and Rishab.
The stress of it all began to take a toll on their health and their relationship. Their marriage was in shambles, their children became disconnected from them and it ended with a heart attack and nervous breakdown.
Sometimes breakdowns are good, Rakesh thought. It gave him time to take stock of his life as he looked at it with fresh eyes. He had started as a small town boy in a big city, where he had come to fulfill his dreams. He wanted a house of his own where his family could live in peace, opportunities for his children that he did not have, a life of dignity, and a career for his wife which his mother never had.
He had fulfilled all of this within the first few years, buying their own home, Reshma had a career on par with his and the children were given resources to do all they could ever dream of. But he got sucked into the rat race of big city living, keeping up with the Joneses and forgetting to live his dream.
Making a Fresh Start
He agreed with his therapist that things needed to change and reprioritized his life. He sold off some of the properties he recently bought and cleared all the loans. He cancelled the booking of the new car. All this provided him much needed financial freedom. He and Reshma decided that for the next few years they would not upgrade their phones, other gadgets or home furniture until it was broken. They also decided to cancel holidays abroad and to only vacation in India with each other.
In a few months’ time they saw a big difference in their lives. They had been earning so much but only now they actually saw it in their accounts. They realized they could afford to go part time or take up consulting and still have enough to maintain their current lifestyle. So now they were actually masters of their own time having time to do things they always wanted to for themselves and for each other. Rakesh started cooking; Reshma took up her sitar once again.
The Real Transformation
But the children complained. They wanted the new PlayStation and the new SUV dad had promised. They wanted their holidays in Europe and America. However, Rakesh and Reshma stood their ground.
When it came to the family summer holiday, Rakesh and Reshma had two sullen teenagers in their car on their road trip to a village in Gujarat. They complained about everything – the dust, the bad roads, the roadside food and the minimalistic accommodation, not to forget the mosquitoes.
But then something happened that changed their lives forever. They were living in a home stay with a family living on the edge of the desert. The three kids in that home had hardly anything decent to wear. The rare guests were one of the few sources of income. Yet those kids seemed so happy. They worked hard carrying water from far, breaking wood, trekking many miles to a school where the teacher hardly came. They looked with amazement at the games and smartphones the boys had but they were not jealous. They sang and danced and were thankful for the daily provisions.
Rishab and Ritvik said nothing during the trip but once back home they were changed people. They no longer complained about what they did not have or bickered for what more they wanted. One day Ritvik suggested that they should help other kids in need. They opened their hearts and lives to others and in return they received the joy of abundant living.
They started going every weekend to a village close to the city where the four of them would spend the morning helping kids, by giving them tuitions in Math and English. In the afternoon they played sports with the kids. They had the best time of their lives. As they drove to the village they would have time to share about what’s happening in their lives with each other, and in the evening on their way back they stopped by for an ice-cream or dhaba dinner, enjoyed each other’s company and the simple pleasures of life.
The boys too started studying better as they wanted to be equipped to help the children. Their Math and English scores improved. They decided to give away a lot of things they had accumulated and also put a moratorium on buying new things for themselves unless it was really essential. For his birthday gift this year Rishab suggested that they send new clothes to the kids in Gujarat. They had come a long way.
Now the family had no debts, less clutter but more meaning and joy in their lives.