Oct 15, 2009

Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth...

Unlike me, my mom is not someone who is obsessed with money. She even violates the founding principles of economics which starts with "human wants are unlimited". She always seems content with whatever she has, and shuns most comforts that I crave for.

May be it has got something to do with growing up in a large, not so well off family. Where one learnt to put off costly luxuries since there wasn't enough to fulfill the necessities.

I am amazed at how detached she can be when it comes to material comforts. And yet...

"Keep the house clean, or Lakshmi will run away."
Not "it is so messy", or "you'll fall sick with all the dust", but "Lakshmi will run away".

"Light a lamp at sunset, to welcome Lakshmi."
Not "to keep darkness away", not "to help us see better", but "to welcome Lakshmi".

"Keep the front door open at dusk, or Lakshmi will go away."
So what if the only things that come in are blood sucking mosquitoes. And a small rat at times.

She also has a velakku shlokam routine while lighting the lamp, which starts with "Velakke thiru velakke..." something something, and the single stand-out line I remember in that goes "pasu maadu thaarum amma, potti neraiya bhushanangal thaarum amma..." I remember chuckling at that and asking her if she really wanted a cow and a boxful of treasure, only to be shushed at with a rebuke, "Don't make fun of Lakshmi. She'll desert you."

And it is not just my mom. I have seen it across Tambrahm households. Most of them express an inexplicable distaste for hankering after money and material comforts, preferring (pretending?) to be interested in spiritual pursuits.

And yet, the obsession with wealth (or at least its Goddess!) is to be seen to be believed. Half the time, the curses will be "Moodevi!" (the other half being shaniyan!), and half the threats for not following some ritual will go "Daridram pidikkum" (Poverty (or misery?) will haunt you!). Why not "paithiyum pidikkum" (given that I am more afraid of going mad than going bankrupt!), or even "jaladosham pidikkum" (since I sneeze all the time as it is!)? One can only speculate that losing your wealth was considered infinitely more scary than losing your marbles!

In private, they sneer at the business class. And yet, go to work for them, remaining loyal workers for life. Risk-taking is an anathema, the stock market is a gambling den, and the constant message every child gets is "study well, find a nice job and settle down." "And invest your money in post office monthly income schemes," they might as well add.

Money is not a tool to be used for purchasing comforts in life. Money is a whimsical goddess who'll desert you if you don't adhere to certain arcane diktats.
So, I grew up hearing both "Don't run after money!" and "Worship the Goddess of Wealth and don't incur her wrath!"

And the tragedy is that since she is my mom, I know she hasn't taken a hypocrites oath and genuinely believes in those two opposing value systems!

on that note, Happy Lakshmi Puja! and Happy Deepavali too!
PS: Going home for a week! Let's rephrase that: "GOING HOME FOR A WEEK!" :D :D :D Limited access to the net, and a good time to check whether I am truly addicted to this blog!


  1. "Keep the front door open at dusk, or Lakshmi will go away."

    Didn't you come back with 'I'm shutting the door so she can'trun away!!'

    jaldosham pidikkum! i'm officially adopting that!

  2. @ RR:
    "Didn't you come back with 'I'm shutting the door so she can'trun away!!'"

    I'd have gotten some long-winded explanation about how Lakshmi can run away through any exit (real or imagined), but will come in only through the open front door! Inscrutable, this Lakshmi! like most ladies are...

  3. I think there is something to be learnt from our parents...how to be satisfied with what you make and not hanker after material objectives of life and put a tick next to all of those. Your mom rocks :)

  4. Anonymous8:22 AM

    Happy Deepavali!

    Have fun at home..:)

    I guess every mom has all these 'famous' dialogues to say!


  5. Happy advance Karthikai deepam deude!

  6. I think prosperity/ good fortune/ welfare is often over-simplified as wealth. (aishwaryam vs vittam in Sanskrit, I think - never took Sanskrit.) So, technically, we are supposed to worship Lakshmi for the former. :)

    And logically, even if one is not after great wealth, that doesn't imply that they should want to be poor.

  7. @ Spidey:
    I dunno... there is a very fine line between 'wanting to achieve your potential' and 'hankering after material objectives'... at least outside of b-school interview rooms...

    in most cases, being "successful" and "happy" seems to involve ticking off things (or experiences) to buy...

    @ Anon SS:
    Happy Deepavali to you too :)
    and yeah, in spite of the template dialogue, every mom is special :)

    @ Anjana:
    hehe, is this 'wishing for the sake of being different'? btw, I love Karthikai deepam... long since i celebrated it though :(

    @ Idling:
    Dunno about Sanskrit, but the wishes and the curses seem to symbolize even prosperity and fortune in terms of money (and not for instance, intelligence or health)...

    and while one need not wish to be poor, one should not express a distaste for money in general :)

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