“Did you see this”? I asked my wife, showing her the news report that Bill Gates, fourth richest man in the world, but still a nice guy, was getting divorced.
I don’t know why I said the nasty thing that came immediately to my mind, instead of making a remark to commiserate his unhappiness, “See, money does not bring happiness,” I said, gloating that his enormous wealth could not save his marriage.
The Beatles classic, “Can’t buy me love,” started playing in my mind as I started humming the lyrics.
A university study however, reveals that money CAN buy happiness. You will be happy if you make $75,000 per year (Dirhams 275,475 or Rupees 57 lakhs). If you make more money than that, it does not make you any happier, according to the study.
My wife is my exact opposite in temperament and she empathises with people who have suffered even a minor mishap, but this time what she said shocked me: “See, giving away money also does not bring happiness,” she said, obliquely pointing to the couple’s enormous charitable efforts.
Her grandmother had taught her that, “charity begins at home.”
I then found that everyone, including our new driver, is a financial expert. He admonished me and advised me not to give beggars at the traffic lights, any money. “We will just give them this,” he said, showing me a pack of Glucose biscuits. They just waste the money,” he said.
Actually, our driver is wrong, because there are some poor folk who are better money managers than us. From time to time, you hear a woman caught at an Indian temple begging for money and later the police find she has amassed a huge fortune, has a bank account and was giving loans to other beggars, at a high rate of interest, of course).
Anyway, it was not just me and my wife who were taking cheap shots at Gates and his divorce.
The internet just went wild with memes and jokes. “Why don’t they switch off and then switch on the marriage, it might work then,” said one wise guy, spoofing techies like Bill Gates.
Another guy downloaded a blue screen and added a sad-faced emoji, with the message: “Your marriage ran into a problem that it couldn’t handle and now it needs to shut down,” making fun of the Windows message you get when the system crashes.
One woman suddenly realised that a billionaire is now free. She wondered if Bill will keep the fancy homes in five states, in the divorce settlement.
A real estate agent said there was no way the couple would be able to sell their luxurious homes that have price tags of hundreds of millions of dollars. “Imagine the dusting that this home will require,” he said, speaking about one mansion with zillion rooms.
“How can they divorce like that after living with each other for 27 years,” said my wife, puzzled over their erratic behaviour.
“It’s like working for the same organisation for years and years, day in and day out, and when they finally they fire you, there is a sense of relief and happiness that someone made the decision for you, ” I said.
“People want change, not see the same face every morning when they wake up,” I said, and realised too late I was getting into dangerous territory.
“What will happen to the poor kids, the adult children?” asked my wife.
“Bill will give them only $10 million each (out of the $130 billion fortune), because he believes that leaving enormous amounts of money to them will be bad for their psyche,” I said.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi