By giving our children everything they desire without any effort, we could be killing their instinct to succeed tomorrow.
THE FIVE children–two girls and three boys, age three to six–frolicked in the small, plastic pool. It was a delight to see them fight the early-summer heat by splashing water on one another, turning into mermaids, crocodiles and fish, as the colours of Holi turned the pool from yellow to red to green. It was also an experience that offered insights into the process of wealth creation. Four of the children were from well-off, even wealthy, homes. The fifth one–let’s call him Hari–was the son of a government clerk. What his family spent in a year would be about one to two months’ expenses of the others’. Hari did not have expensive toys like the other children did; he had never seen a home pool. The other children were completely unaware of the economic divide between him and them, and although Hari was conscious of the divide, the child in him rejected these artificial layers of separation that build walls between adults.
The quintet moved on, from the pool to the cycles to the lunch table to the mom-and-pop games. In all the activities, there was only one leader: Hari. He only had to see a toy being used once and he’d master it. He was the organiser of all kinds of games: making a ‘house’ with dining chairs for walls and bedsheets for a roof, teaching them to pedal more efficiently, hold their breaths underwater and blow bubbles, and generally creating magic out of the ordinary. Hari, I felt, characterised the spirit of enterprise: he had nothing, not even a knowledge of how the remote-controlled jeeps and the other gadgets worked. But he created conditions under which the other children became his followers, chanting "Hari bhaiya, Hari bhaiya", doing what he told them to and having a great time. If he keeps at it, he could end up very wealthy.
Column in Outlook Money