The true gift of a middle class upbringing is not only the “values” it teaches. It is the knowledge, hard won through experience, that while money can buy many things, you don’t need very much of it in order to be happy. Today, I, like many of
Mint’s readers, enjoy a level of affluence that was unthinkable for our grandparents’ generation. While I enjoy the luxuries that money brings, many of the activities I enjoy—hiking, spending time with kids, reading, music—require little or no money. We all have our numbers—the amount we need to save in order to retire, and it varies widely. But here’s the thing: the true gift of the middle-class upbringing is that while you may aspire to Rs100 crore; while you may have saved Rs10 crore; you know at your core that you could be just as happy with the Rs7,000 that your father earned per month. You know why? Because you were.
Favourite things: (from top) The sunrise in Machu Picchu, Peru; cricket in Varanasi; and the Dior 61 tote.
Now let me offer you the other end of the spectrum. A list of desires, of recommendations, a wish list. Things that you can do, for yourself and others, to spread cheer and happiness. Some involve buying gifts; others are activities; some are over the top and outrageously expensive; and some don’t fit into any category. So here goes. My intensely personal take on what constitutes “The Good Life”. Happy New Year, ladies and gentlemen!
1. Drink tea, if possible in a manicured tea estate and especially in the early evening when the ground heats up and the mist rises. Darjeeling or Nilgiris—the location doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have a robust hand-rolled second-flush tea, drunk straight up without milk. This is tea as the aficionados have it; tea with the complexity of wine; tea as an elixir from the gods. Not chai but tea. Gambolling dogs and children are optional but will add to the enjoyment.
2. An evening gown from the Salon de Couture Mireille Dagher in Lebanon. Her designs suit our Indian skin colour and shape. The sequined turquoise gown from her Spring-Summer 2008 collection takes you right back to the Arabian Nights.
Also Read Shoba’s previous Lounge columns
3. Listening to Pandit Omkarnath Thakur on Sharad Purnima on the ghats of Varanasi. This can only happen in your dreams of course. Apparently, he used to do riyaz (practice) there every Tuesday when he was alive.
4. A diamond necklace from Graff. The 18-carat Golden Drop perhaps? Or anything from Gem Palace, Jaipur—as long as it has Munnu Kasliwal’s stamp on it. A bracelet from Lotus Arts de Vivre in Thailand. A tanzanite ring, the larger the better. Giant nawabi pearls from Hyderabad.
5. The software and computer that gives me (or anyone) the ability to karaoke in Garuda Mall, Bangalore; or any other mall. I saw it done and it was fabulous.
6. To attend a really over-the-top Delhi wedding dressed to the nines and dripping emeralds and rubies on a cool winter night. If possible, at the lawns of the Imperial hotel.
7. Handmade perfumed stationery with your initials embossed on it. Scratch the perfume if you are a man.
8. A sweaty game of basketball or cricket with a bunch of children.
9. Your grandmother’s Kanjeevaram or Patiala still smelling of sandalwood sachets and mothballs.
10. Medium Dior 61 tote, thankfully without the full logo dripping down its side. The single “D” is discreet and the pink colour is flamboyant. Nice lines and fully functional.
11. Drag racing on the Mumbai-Pune highway, if possible on a Bullet Thunderbird Twinspark and especially with Miriam Makeba’s Pata Pata thumping into your headphones.
12. Eight hours of dreamless sleep, if possible on Porthault linens with scalloped embroidered edges. Scented with Guerlain’s Vetiver.
13. Piping hot chhole bhatura at Cream Centre, Marine Drive; or the erstwhile Woodlands Drive-in in Chennai; or Nirula’s in Delhi.
14. Fragrant flowers everyday: tuberoses, lilies, jasmine and magnolias. Not particularly roses. They are overdone and don’t smell that great anyway. A single pink lotus floating on a bronze urli (bowl).
15. A temple, any temple, at dawn. Particularly Kerala temples with the women wearing white set-mundus (saris) and combed-back wet hair.
16. Piping hot pakoras and chai on a monsoon afternoon in Mumbai. If possible, with a group of old college friends singing cheesy songs such as Hotel California.
17. Manchego cheese and bone-dry sherry at any tapas bar in Barcelona, Spain, followed by dinner at Alinea in Chicago. Private jet essential.
18. Rainbow Chair by Pierre Paulin. To admire not to sit. The jersey fabric tears too easily anyway and is not designed for sitting. But the thing is a beauty…and what did they say about joy forever?
19. To hear Urdu shairi recited in the sonorous voice of a gentleman of a certain age in a luxurious salon in Lahore of the 1930s. After dinner, cigars and cognac.
20. A private chamber concert. Any music. Any chamber. Privacy essential.
21. The view from the penthouse room at R.N. Shetty’s hotel in Murudeshwar, Karnataka. To be enjoyed in solitude, if possible when you are sad. Balm for the soul.
22. Nara in Japan followed by Rio in Brazil. One city is an epitome of old-world refinement and restraint; the other, a paean to over-the-top exuberance and a state of undress. What better than to contrast the two?
23. Scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico; watching the sunrise in Machu Picchu, Peru; talking architecture at a brew pub in Berlin or talking design at Eindhoven Academy in Holland; taking in the wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania; learning to cook a tagine in Morocco; and figuring out if Bengalis are really as intellectual as they are made out to be in Kolkata.
These are my list of trips to undertake. Never been. Want to go. If possible with a local.
What’s your list? Write to Shoba at email@example.com