There is always the question of whether possessing expensive cars and mansions makes you rich, or whether it is the capacity to find happiness in everything. We see social media stars and influencers living extravagant lifestyles, but are they genuinely rich? The prospect of dying destitute scares people more than anything else. But does money truly make one wealthy?
It was an afternoon in May in the heart of Mumbai. I ventured into the alleyway beneath the shade of decrepit roofs, with dwellings heaped on top of one another in Mumbai’s slums, a place where I found my answer.
It is our duty to see such places and to experience such places. It would be an exciting place to witness something unfamiliar. If you ever go to a slum, you can anticipate the smell of burned tobacco spread across the alleyway. The walkways are often damp, which is likely due to the fact that sunlight seldom reaches the ground in the slums, or maybe due to the drainage line immediately alongside them. Houses are small, barely large enough for two people, yet shared by eight family members.
I continued on my journey and came upon a group of children playing marbles in the centre of the slum on a small stretch of land. The game appeared to be fierce, with each participant receiving an equal number of marbles on their side. It was a thrill to witness the excitement on their faces as they played marbles on the wet streets of Mumbai’s slum, close to the gutters. What was it that made them so happy, so drenched in ecstasy that it was contagious?
After a while watching them, one of the children saw me, and I was close enough to capture their gaze. He was a slender young boy with neatly oiled hair, clipped to the side. “Would you like to play,” he asked with a broad smile on his face. His smile smeared through the hardship and drudgery these kids were living in. The smiles on their faces were not from possessing a vast estate or an exquisite automobile, but rather to the few marbles they owned, which made them so rich and happy.
We are so absorbed with consuming that we have forgotten that real wealth is found within us, not in anything material. Meeting these children helped me realise that wealth is not just defined by the amount of money in your bank account or the number of items you own; it can also be having events in your life that bring you enormous joy. How about a close friend? Nothing beats a good friendship. Being affluent in terms of connections rather than possessions makes more sense. I define wealth as being caring, cheerful, and alive.
And thanks to this incident I made some new friends that thought me the very essence of life.