The friend and I were talking about life and its facets over a cuppa at the cafeteria.
She smiled at a girl and answered my silent question ' We stayed in the same PG in Bangalore a while ago'.
'That reminds me - I must tell you about this lady who ran this facility. She was kinda screwed in the head, y'know'.
Dangle anything that remotely smells like gossip in front of a girl and you instantly get her attention. I was all ears.
Apparently this Mallu woman was married to a jerk in Mumbai. He was drunk and broke and on one fine day, was thrown out of his shack for not paying his bills. He was out on the streets with the wife, a son and a daughter.
The woman went back to Mallu-land to recover from her trauma. With noone to support her financially or emotionally, she set out to become somebody in her own right. After selling her few ornaments, she set out to Bangalore to re-build her life.
It wasn't easy. Nobody wanted to rent a place to a jobless young woman. After rejections from several landlords, one finally gave in. Now she atleast had a roof to sleep under.
This woman was a warrior, if there was one. She promptly scoured the area to find working girls who wanted accommodation. She started with one girl and has not looked back since.
Today,it's been five years since she started. She runs a PG business that accommodates close to 50 girls. She drives her own Scorpio and lives in style. She gets anything (well, almost) done, provided she gets her commission - tickets in fully booked buses, movie tickets when the show is full house, admissions for weak students in colleges and so on. Every move she makes is for cash - no free lunches!
As I listened to the story of this amazing woman, my friend was less than impressed. 'But you know what the problem is ? That woman is obsessed' she said. 'She is greedy and no amount of money can satisfy her. The hardships of life have taken away the femininity in her - she now looks, talks and dresses like a man'.
That set me thinking - when people are deeply wounded by their experiences, do they become obsessed? Are such people screwed in their heads?
Well, life hasn't been always good to me either. I've been through some really bad times myself(who hasn't?). I remember when I was a kid, I loved cameras. I thought the ability to freeze slices of time on film was absolutely wonderful.
I was the poorest (financially) among all my cousins, so asking for a camera as a birthday gift was out of the question. However, I enjoyed posing for pictures and watching pictures of strangers whenever we went to the shabby old studio near our home in the village.
Once at a family function, one of my cousins proudly displayed her camera to me. I guess I was about ten years old then. As I stared at the object of my dreams with wonder and affection, I accidentally leaned over and touched it.
'Don't you touch my camera!!! she shrieked. The naive idiot that I was, I asked her 'Why not? I only want to look!'. 'Well, because you don't know anything about cameras, you don't have one, you can't have one! Now don't you dare touch and spoil my precious camera' she seethed.
I recoiled in hurt and horror, ran away, bundled myself in a corner and cried all night. My tears then gave way to determination. I would show her, I would! I would get all the cameras in the world if I could. I might be poor now, but I would learn and earn! I would someday own a camera - even if I never own anything else. I will someday get a camera way better than hers - this I promised myself.
I bought a camera with my first salary. Whenever I went abroad, I bought a few more. All sizes, shapes, features and costs. I learnt everything I could about photography. I can probably trace the history of photography with my camera collection. I still walk into every electronics shop I see and ask 'Do you sell cameras'?
The lucky ones with perfect childhoods and loving parents probably find this a little difficult to comprehend. But when life deals you a rough hand, certain seemingly insignificant incidents gets imprinted into your mind so deep that they refuse to go away. They shape and mould you into the person you are and become your obsessions.
So, I empathize with the PG woman. Her sense of helplessness when she was out on the street must have created wounds so deep she could worry about nothing else. She is probably making all this money to fill this deep void inside her - to forget her insecurities by wallowing herself in cash. But her wounds are too deep to be healed - she is now obsessed with money. And this obsession is being interpreted as greed.
Are we both screwed in our heads? I don't know and couldn't care less. But one thing I can say for sure - if you've been where we've been, you'll know why we do things the way we do.