It was the month of December of 2019, when I took a flight to Pune with a friend of mine. No, it wasn’t to spend our vacation, it was for an internship at Srinivasan Services Trust, the CSR of TVS group.
Our internship coordinator was considerate enough to send us his car to pick us up from the airport. The driver drove us to Wakalwadi village, our working place and home for the next month. After a two hours drive, we reached a place which was beyond my imagination.
I have never been to a place so remote without any proper transportation. The village was at 5 km distance from the nearest bus stop and our house was at the top of the hillock. With dry air, bad mobile network, no shops and public transport, we were in a state of shock. But it was not the end of it. What shocked us more were the people among whom we worked.
SST has been doing developmental works in the Wakalwadi village and our task was to analyse the effects of those works in two Thakar hamlets of the village. Originally nomads, Thakar is a tribe of Maharashtra who have now settled in many hilly and forest areas of Maharashtra, without any proper occupation or what we call ‘living an average life’.
Our work required us to carry out household surveys and conducting interviews. One of our survey questions was their monthly income and their answers made me see a whole new picture. Being from a middle class family, my parents never let any of my wishes go unfulfilled. While staying in university hostel almost 3000 km away from home in Pondicherry, my father always made sure to send me 5000 rupees monthly and sometimes a little more if I asked. Sometimes even that amount fell short. I thought all those expenses were necessities, not luxuries.
But meeting the people of those two hamlets made me question my perspective. When asked about their monthly income, their answers shocked me. Many people earn even less than my one month’s pocket money, and with that little income they need to run their entire family. In that one month, I kept thinking how much of what we spend is actually a necessity. For those people, most of our necessities are luxuries that they can never enjoy. Eating out at restaurants partying with friends, spending money on clothes and accessories every month etc. are normal for us; while there are people out there for whom earning two times food is an achievement.
So how much of what we spend is actually a necessity? Our society has sculpted our minds in a way that we often miss the fine line between our necessities and luxuries.