I was congratulated recently by someone who said he was enormously enjoying his poverty. I was very pleased that I had given many people a big reason to be joyous, ostentatious and clueless, but I, sitting in my comfortable AC room, also wondered how on earth I could be talking about poverty, since I have not smiled back at someone having less than a bank balance of USD 1 million for the last 20 years.
I have always emphasized the importance of poor in Nobel Prize winning topics, in Oscar-winning scripts, in JNU dissertations, in trending columns of NDTV, The Hindu, NY Times, etc. and in seat winning political speeches. Poverty is not only the backbone of humanity, but it is one of the pivotal requirements of evolution. I love the word ‘poor’ to such an extent that even a remote reference of poor gives me a Magic Mushroom high. In fact, let me take this opportunity to make a request to you all to embrace anything and everything which gives you the slightest hint of poor – be it a poor kid, a poor society, a poor handwriting, a poor sweetie pie, or a poor joke.
For example, let me talk about the Nalanda University. The ‘poor’ university was stifling under its glorious past. For a long time, the university was waiting for a visionary who can bring back the glory of Nalanda, specifically glory of its ruins. The poor university received the love it deserved for a long time. After crores and crores on investments, the university still stands intact as ruins. What a beauty! Ruins of crores (after adjustment of Inflation, PPP, Intoxication) can be the most dignified dedication to impoverishment.
It is of some intellectual interest that comparing Nalanda University with Harvard has been a subject matter of discussion for a very long time. “Is there anyone, in the five parts of India, who does not admire China?” asked Yi Jing (I-Tsing, in old spelling) in the seventh century, on returning to China after being in India for ten years, studying at the ancient university in Nalanda. No one can disagree with Yi Jing. We spent thousands of INR to buy cheap Chinese chairs, tables, doors, windows and toilets in the university. 6 out of those 39 chairs broke on the first day. One student who got some injuries was taken to a nearby hospital. Poor fellow. I love him because he could be called poor for some or the other reason. How better could have we admired China.
Right now, I am finishing my coffee in a highrise of Mumbai, peeking at poor peddlers from my balcony, thinking of another research paper – “How do poor look from 49th floor”