“Hello, Are you not declaring your wealth? Dr. Manmohan Singh and his ministers have declared their wealth.” Lulu, my parrot asked me.
“Oh, you must be going crazy, Lulu. I do not have enough money….nothing that can be called wealth…..moreover who is interested in knowing how much I own? Not even Anna Hazare! ” I said.
“Do you own a car?”
“Yes, I do, an old one, but it is not for sale.”
“Do you own an apartment?” Lulu asked rubbing his beak on my shoulder.
“Yes, I do, a twenty-five year old apartment, but it is not for sale. Where will I go if I sell it?”
“Do you have some fixed deposits with banks?”
“Yes, I do, but those are just enough to see this old man through a ‘rainy day’.”
“Do you own a parcel of land or a resort?”
“No. I don’t. You must be joking, Lulu. A salaried man does not own land or resort unless he gets it from his father. Or father in law. Why exclude him?” I said.
“I really wonder what you have achieved in life, given that you were born in India, the land of opportunities for all those who wanted to be rich.”
“You have put your finger on the most sensitive issue, Lulu. But I have earned whatever I have, honestly.”
“Sounds like ‘mere paas maa hai.’ What do you understand by ‘wealth’?” Lulu asked fluttering his wings.
“Hmmmm…..Difficult to define. You are getting very ‘professorial’, Lulu.”
“Do you know that the word wealth comes from the Old English words “weal” (well-being) and “th” (condition) which taken together means “the condition of well-being”?”
“No…I am learning something new. Go on …”
“And the internet informs me… Did you know that the father of accounting Lucca Paciolli, a 16th century Franciscan monk and mathematician, never defined the word “wealth” nor did he provide a definition of “profit”? To this day accountants have no clear definition of either word.”
“Tell me Lulu, have you met the political leaders recently? They seem to be capitalising on this ambiguity!” I laughed.
“Well….Robert Kennedy said that ‘wealth means things that make life worthwhile’.”
“That too sounds like ‘mere paas maa hai.’ What Kennedy said is a very sweeping statement yet very true, very accurately saying what wealth is.”
“So did your political leaders tell you what they value most, what makes their life worthwhile?”
“Did they declare what personal and professional values they preach and practice, for we can understand what makes their life worthwhile if they tell us about it?” Lulu asked. It made me wonder if he had been seeing some TV anchor of late.
“Nah, they can’t! People will rip them apart if they did.”
“Can you declare?”
“Must you ask me such a question? I am not a political leader who is under public gaze for his honesty or corruption. I am a retired person who has made his little chunk of money honestly. That is the problem with these declarations. The ‘Genuine’ wealth, being what Robert Kennedy meant it to be, is never declared.”
“You are right! But remember what you practice is in public arena and your personal and professional values are known to people, even if you attempt covering them up. And tell that to your political leaders!” Lulu said as he resumed his flight towards Delhi.
PS: The Prime Minister and other ministers have declared their wealth today. [Link]