Staying hungry, staying foolish

Stay Hungry, Stay foolish. I have often heard my  friends quote this phrase as their life motto. These words spoken by Steve Jobs in a speech to some college kids became really popular around the time he passed away. Well, I have always wondered what he meant by this. Don’t get me wrong, I understand and can guess from his context what he intended but these words can be read in so many ways, like the usual game words play with your mind.

I frequently find myself using this phrase in completely different ways. Pardon me if you are a moral duty bearer of the preservation of English language but this is how I make sense of it.

This happened a few days ago while I was standing in a queue at the bank. If you live in a city in India or have visited one recently, you will know of the ongoing fiasco on demonetization by our current government. Much is being spoken about it so I will spare you the details over here.  I was visiting the bank to collect my profile password that I had forgotten, the one crucial to  make online payments. While I stood, I noticed the long queue of customers waiting for their turn to exchange old notes, withdraw cash. The staff in the bank were under high stress and each staff was convinced that they needed to make this stress apparent in their behaviour with the customers. I frowned as I heard rude remarks, loud grumblings from the various counters. In the corner where the receipts and drop boxes are kept, stood a hefty looking man with a pen and notepad. Every now and then when someone finished their transaction, they would go to him, he would write something down on his pad and they left feeling accomplished. It did seem strange. The man stood with such air and suspicion at the same time. He caught me staring at him multiple times. I decided that it wasn’t a safe proposition to continue my curiosity so I dropped the matter there.

It was only much later I realized what was happening. With the new attempt to curb black money, hoarders like the Man I saw in the bank have been bribing slum dwellers and the urban poor to use their accounts and convert the illegit stash into legit money for them. So this man was clearly either himself very rich with black money or worked for someone who did. And hence one after the other, men, youngsters and women, mostly from the nearby slum ( if you lived in one place all your life,you can tell your neighbours from the crowd) exchanged money for them. I am not shocked by this arrangement. Not at all. Not even by the fact that the entire staff were oblivious to this.

What I was left with was the pathos that such a situation evokes: Like those men and burqa clad women I saw in the bank, the poor in India have remained a naive population. They are starved, robbed of hope and yet stay clueless of the brutal politics at play here. That life in today’s world is like a game of monopoly doesn’t seem to strike them. At what cost were those in the bank taking the risk to help the Rich bad guy ? Do they understand the consequences?  I fear if they do not get out of this bubble, this filmi understanding of world as black and white, this insane hope of divine intervention, if they do not learn to fight back and claim what is justly theirs, they will be staying hungry, staying foolish.

Staying hungry, staying foolish so far.