Rich and poor

Ladakh, 1986

Ever wonder what it would be like to be poor. I mean poor, not just scrimping a little. Can you see yourself in this picture? 

I spent a long time in India and the general vicinity. I encountered an awful lot of grinding poverty - filthy, sick children playing in dusty streets that were open sewers, piles of the morning shit dotting the ground every twenty feet. It took a long time to see past the surface. In Bombay at the time about a quarter of the population lived on the streets. At night one had to describe a careful sinuous line through the soft shapes sleeping on the dark sidewalks. 

But after the shock had started to wear off (it took about a month) I began to recognize something else happening, a complexity that I’d never encountered before, dare I say it, a sort of richness to the social fabric. My feeling then and now - and I’m really trying not to romanticize it at all - was that somehow a paucity of possessions, of stuff, meant that people had to look for their relationships with other people, not with things. Think about it, the more stuff you have, the more time you spend with it or protecting it from everyone else. And the less time you spend with other human beings.

Of course I’m wondering about this as the global economy collapses all around. When do I start to feel the effects personally? I heard about someone I know who lost their job of ten years yesterday. Does that count? Has it started for me yet? 

It’s also strange to be living in Bedford through this. Many of the titans of Wall Street sleep down the road from our house. Big titans. George Soros. Maurice Greenberg (former chairman of AIG). We were driving down a beautiful leafy lane the other day and Duston said “It’s starting to feel like enemy territory”. Are there sides now? Which side are we on?

So how about the man in the photo du jour? At first glance he seems to conform to our image of what a poor peasant might look like. But he was living in Ladakh, which was (relative to the rest of India) a somewhat prosperous place. Not rich by any stretch, but seemed pretty together. And how about that key? Looks like he had a door to lock, maybe a big door. Maybe he had a lot of his stuff in there. 

That kid would be about 29 years old now. Wonder which tech firm he’s working for these days...