Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lower your expectations. Even, aspirations.

Curb your enthusiasm, enthuses Larry David. He ought to know. He curbed his, quit Seinfeld at its zenith, went on to HBO and greater heights with Curb Your Enthusiasm and later on to the lead role in Woody Allen’s Whatever Works. Recently, when I was in the US, I was witness for the spell of a few hours to the family life of a guy whom I had met before on a previous trip there and also in India. He is a trained architect from India. He is married to a white Caucasian who works as a nurse part time and owns a dressage horse she rides herself. They have two pre-teen school-going children, live in the Topanga Canyon in the Greater Los Angeles area. Theirs is a rather cluttered house built on a hillside and seems to reflect their belief in sustainable living. The lunch they served was far from fancy, no liquor – not even beer or store wine. What I saw there was a contented family. I mean, really, really contented – no stress at all. This guy is far from successful, seems to be making his living with little chores nobody else wants to do. But his Third Worldliness seems to stand him and his family in good stead. They have lowered their expectations as much as they can in the pressure-cooker, cut-throat LA environs. Alas! If only more of Middle India were to do it instead of aspiring to First World life style in India and resign to the fact that India is a Third World country that’s likely to remain in the Third World for a long, long time. Take my own case when I joined Everest Advertising 5bcqyf in October 1976. The Chairman of the ad agency, which was run along feudal lines, was a pseudo: a total fraud with pretensions of being a socialite. He dropped names, including brand names. He was surrounded by his inner circle of ardent sycophants who treated him as the ultimate oracle on trends and life style. Since I used to work on Swissair, I had to constantly interact with him. This meant I had to appear to be as suave and well-informed as the next guy in his coterie. Fortunately, there was a Swissair annual publication that used to come to me as a part of the brief. This amazing compendium used to carry advertising of the latest life style products as well as nuggets of curious information on Swissair service, year after year. Given this arsenal and my propensity to read, I could gather enough ammunition to outtalk the best of the pretenders among the courtiers. In the process, though, I began to crave a faux life style and, for a while, even lived it – thin imported cigarellos, Bacardi with soda, the works − until the scales fell from my eyes somewhere along the way. I realised that lowering my expectations as well as aspirations was a sure way of saving me from disappointment, especially since I was a Third Worlder living in a Third World country.