Do You Own or Are You Owned?

Kangana Ranaut just moved into her new apartment and tweeted, “what you own, owns you as well… I feel like a slave of my own possession.” Brad Pitt said the same thing in  Fight Club. And that got me thinking…

My wife is an admirer and collector of dining sets. She has such good taste, and she puts so much thought into each purchase. In fact, she is pretty much the same with furniture and home decor as well. I can always rely on my wife to present our life in the best light at all times. But during this pandemic, I got a real look at what really goes behind it – what we are actually paying to fill our lives with glitter. 

Polishing our cherished possession is pretty much all we do. We don’t use our good dishes so they won’t break. Our daughter can’t play hop on our expensive sofa because it will get flat. I take an hour to park the car right, making sure not to scratch it. In fact, even the house that we have lived in for 10 years is a constant reminder of our 20-year mortgage. There are also gadgets, machinery, furniture and so much more ‘luxury’. ‘Luxury items’ – the things that are supposed to make our lives more fulfilling. But have they? If they had, why are we buying more and more and more? We are so consumed to possess ‘good things’ that the thought of owning owns our minds. We are trading our happiness and peace in return for materialistic gain.

This is not just the story of my house. In the capitalist world, this has been the norm. We have lived a life filled with expectations – the expectation to succeed, but success was never an achievement, only a call to set a new milestone. A college degree is a way to get a good job. A good job gets you a good spouse. A good spouse helps you raise a healthy family – and on and on it goes, generation after generation, in the same straight line. We gather so many things, and in the pursuit of gathering more, we forget to enjoy the things we have; we forget to live the moments before they become memories captured in cameras. The materialistic race ends in a black hole, but when you get a taste of real happiness, it will be easy for you to draw the reins on it. 

We are possessed by constant comparison with our acquaintances, our lifestyles are hijacked by the advertisements that are poured into us and the launch of the next  big gadget or next ‘better’ version of an automobile. We have become  just ‘ consumers’ in the supply chain of ‘products’. 

They say the best things in life are all free of cost. Initially, it could be difficult to change how we have hitherto seen our lives – more money is equal to more commodities is equal to more comfort. But if we opened our minds, we could find pleasure in the simple things around us like sharing a beautiful morning and two cups of warm tea with your spouse, helping your child with a school project, playing antakshari by a bonfire, etc. But where to start?

Start by stopping.

Enough. You have enough things to go by. You survived a lockdown, right? If that were to continue for a year (not that anyone wishes for that), you would still live smoothly. That means you have all the things you need. Now, if you want to get a barbeque grill, ask yourself how you have been doing without it and how much value it would actually bring to your life. Is it a need or a desire? Will it ease your life, or is it just a momentary thrill? Will it gather dust when I get something newer and shinier? 

Stains are stories.

The oven in your kitchen has been good enough till now and will be so for years ahead. You do not need a shiny new one. Let your dog take a nap on the carpet – carpets are supposed to bring warmth and not be used as decor. Wear and tear is not to be feared – those are the tales of life being well-lived. 

Minimalism – less is more.

Let’s take a look at your wardrobe. If you were to pick out all the clothes that you haven’t worn in a year, how high would the pile go? How about items from old hobbies, cases and cases of keepsakes – these things have value because you attached emotions with them. These things that you have no actual need for are taking up space that you are paying for. Is that fair? No. So, sell, donate – get some money, some good wishes. And yes, throw some stuff out. Clear the clutter, clear your mind; make space for imagination and creativity, and new memories.

Budget your time, not your money.

That phone with that new camera and the design – you have to have it. Like, your life’s happiness depends on it. So, say, it costs 50K, and you earn 200 bucks an hour. That’s 250 hours of work. One phone in exchange for 250 hours of your life. Worth it? You have two hours to spend – you can either spend it on a fancy pen that would go nicely with your blazer or spend it by helping your daughter practice for the debate team? When you think of purchasing things with time instead of money, oftentimes, the choice becomes easy. “This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”


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