It was day nth of the ‘Soft Lockdown’ – the one that is in effect currently.
I’m one of those in the extra-careful mode. Haven’t been out of the house except for groceries, or a trip to the ATM.
Haven’t got on public transport, not even to the barbershop.
On days I don’t have to attend another online meeting, I look like a guy with a bad hangover with my wild hair and unshaven face.
So, this particular day…I was at the store. I had a list of some groceries to buy and was waiting in line. The store owner has marked circles for shoppers to stand in and keep distance. However, that’s easier said than done. People are anything but patient…they act as if they’re in a hurry to acquire life-or-death supplies, nobody wants to wait in line, the owner has a hard time making everyone listen.
I stand quietly. I am in no hurry – at least not to indulge in the small crowd. The shopkeeper calms everyone down. He makes them wait and calls me up – the guy knows I was there first. In these times, it’s nice to see some common sense and decency.
Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to say.
So, there I am, getting my stuff, and am having a hard time deciding one brand of toothpaste over the other…a little girl runs up, not older than 10, points at a jar of some candy wafers and asks, “Uncleeeee…esko katiii hooo?” “How much is it?”
The shopkeeper already starts to look annoyed.
Comes the curt reply. But he does so with experience, probably.
She points at something else. “Ani eskooo?” “And this?”
“Rs.10”, he says, bagging my stuff. “Anything else?”, he asks me, hardly paying any attention to the girl.
I try to remember.
The little girl looks at her hand. She has a 5-rupees note. She stares at it for a while…seems to me like she’s trying to make up her mind. She finally looks up. She points at 5 different candy jars one after the other.
“Malai yo dinu, yo dinu, ani yo euta, yo euta, ani yo la?”
“Give me this, this, this, this, and this…”
She hands him the Rs. 5 note.
With a long sigh, he opens one jar of small candies, takes one out, closes it, then opens another, and repeats the process five times. You can see on his face, the look…he’s beginning to question the meaning of his existence.
The girl grabs the 5 candies, pockets, it and skips away – probably ecstatic with the transaction.
I completed my transaction, too, and left the store. I had a bag full of supplies and some snacks – some of my favorites – but was I as happy as the kid? Heck, I wasn’t even feeling satisfied. There was a feeling of emptiness.
Was it strange?
Would I be as happy If I’d spent all the money in my wallet? Maybe, maybe not.
Would I be, if I could’ve gotten only my favorite things instead of supplies?
Did I know what I wanted?
Would I even be able to figure out the optimum utilization of my extremely limited resources to ensure maximum satisfaction?
I’m as bad at figuring out what I want as much as I’m a bad financial planner.
I can tell because, at the end of my money, there’s always too much of the month left.
But kids…kids have their version of financial planning pretty sorted out.
With Rs.5 in her hands, the girl ensured she got the highest level of satisfaction. It was not just a “please give me this”. It was a “how much is this?”, “how much is that?”, careful analysis, and then making the decision that would impact the next few minutes or hours (depending on how aggressive she is with the candies), of her life. Sort of a genius.
There’s a concept in Economics on the Optimum Utilization of Resources – which is actually more for organizations or the economy – but the point here is, I, as a pseudo-adult, I have read, and (I’d like to think) understood that concept quite a while ago. Yet, here I am, unable to utilize my resources to the extent that can give me the highest level of satisfaction.
But the little girl didn’t need it. She simply walked up, enquired about the prices, evaluated her resources, and was done. She could have purchased the larger chocolate wafer. But no, she didn’t. Probably, she wanted to get more things out of it, or she had friends she wanted to share the candies with, either way, ensuring the maximum output.
That, we have to learn from kids, I guess…
Of course, kids do not need to have concerns for saving for future or income. But imagine this. Even when you’re at a restaurant and you have enough money to spend; after spending more than an hour at the restaurant, do you always leave content?
Would we function differently, if we did not have to learn the concept of “Optimum Output with Limited Resources”? Are we unhappy because we know more?
Or is just kids’ ability to be happy with less? But then again, there are spoiled children who are never satisfied with what their parents provide.
Or maybe it’s not having to worry about the future that gives children that level of satisfaction? Would we be as happy if we didn’t need to?
Maybe the real conclusion is “Trying to become more adult results in less happiness”.
The more I think about this, though, the less sense I start to make, if any.
Also read There is no Glass