Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in the middle of the make-or-break elections that he has no savings or a house, which was kind of sad.
He said he was the longest serving chief minister of the western state of Gujarat and has held the country’s top job for the past five years.
“See my bank account, show me if there’s a bungalow (from the Hindi word ‘bangala’, a one-storey home with a porch) in my name. I have never saved anything for me and my family,” he said.
I am not sure whether this is something to boast about; the lack of savings or lack of a roof over your head. I was in a similar situation, but that was because of the high cost of living and our kids’ university fees were astronomical.
There were also many expats who were living paycheque to paycheque, and some had huge bills to pay on their credit cards that they had maxed.
It is not the Indian prime minister’s fault that he has little money sense and is not financially savvy, as several Indian schools and colleges provide education to kids just to get jobs, but not how to handle money. Some of them do not impart important social skills that help you get along with people.
(BTW, some of Modi’s colleagues have become millionaires, riding on his shirttails).
So is it morally uplifting to be poor? I have read stories and listened to songs that say money can never buy you love, or happiness, but for the record I have never met a happy person who did not have any money.
When you do not have money, you derive pleasure reading in the news about rich people losing their money. Two things fascinate people; reading about a regular guy winning a lottery ticket and how that changed his life. Or, how a rich man lost all his fortune because of his greed.
If you are financially illiterate there is still a host of people out there who can help you how to master moneymaking, if you buy their best-selling books and make them rich.
Or there are apps on how to budget your paycheque and hide money from your wife or partner, how to pay yourself first before paying off the bills, and if all else fails, just disappear one day and go back living with your nagging parents in some remote village where the internet connection is dodgy.
How to be thrifty
The best way to become rich or at least be financially secure, is to be very close with your money. In other words, be very thrifty. When you can sense that the waiter will soon bring the bill, hidden in a leather folder or inside a miniature wooden door or inside an earthen pot, be sure to disappear to the washroom and let enough time pass so your share is paid by someone else.
Some say Indians can be thrifty, but there are also other nationalities that are equally stingy: Brits, Americans, Italians, Israelis and the Dutch (I am sorry if I left anyone out).
One person who went out with a Dutch group to a restaurant, said when the time came to pay the bill, everyone whipped out their smartphones and logged on to an app that calculated equally everyone’s share, down to the nearest Euro.
The other way to save money is to be like US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Modi’s friend, who is a terrible entrepreneur and real estate investor and made a huge billion-dollar (Dh3.67 billion) loss between the late 1980s and early 1990s. That helped him avoid paying tax for 10 years.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.