I was startled to find that I had no money.
No money, what does that mean to me? I felt momentarily unsafe to be honest, how do you survive in this world without money?
In order to feel slightly more secure, I returned the extra metro card I owned which had some cash deposited, and that did buy me temporary relief.
So are all of us dependent on money and its permanent space in our lives?
Surrounded by a plethora of insurance benefit advertisements, education loans, deposits and investment plans, it does seem quite likely that we are much dependent on money and its enviable significance in our lives is just perhaps expanding and gaining more ground.
However I have also been witness to a very different treatment of money, where money is perhaps not the epitome of security.
I am particularly keen on reflecting upon the nature of the puppeteer community at the colony as perceived by my amateurish lens.
I have never seen them being as obsessed about money as we are, money does not have a permanence in their lives, it comes and goes and might not be there for quite a bit. They do not expect to have it with them at all times, but life and its celebration does go on.
It is just a different way of being, yes they need money, yes they use money, yet they are not probably thinking about it as much as I do, they are not worried about saving it or increasing their wealth, they live on a day-to-day basis, where you could borrow from relatives and friends without the kind of inhibition that causes me discomfort or embarrassment in asking for money. Life is real, money is just a medium to enable procuring some means to live life, money is not their lifeline, their lifeline are people, their contacts, their human bonds.
I have seen them revel on days with a good income, they would celebrate and invite one and all, they would delve in small luxuries and make loved ones happy. I remember a young puppeteer buying a second hand gift for his daughter even on days he had hardly any money, I never saw him worried or engulfed with morbid fear due to less money, he was relaxed, he did not expect permanence in how much money he owned. This might be confused with carelessness, it isn’t so, it is a freer state of thinking about your needs, it might not satisfy mainstream norms of living, but it doe snot mean that they haven’t put thought to it ever. They have a well-established support system within their families and community at large, a reason why understanding their eco-system if of great importance to provide appropriate solutions for rehabilitation. When in your community you have your own network to take care of your daily needs including transport and pure emotional support, when a community is equipped to organize its own festival and invite only people from outside and manage the rest from within, you know there are layers of interdependence breathing here, which cannot just be transferred to a boxed life.
I have seen people sing and laugh on days they had no money, because they did have money through people around them, they know they will survive. Even though I have my own network, I do not feel such confidence that I will survive, this tells a lot about their inner strength which is generally ignored behind our skewed perceptions of Ghumantu communities.
To be continued…
(Next: Land and Security)