An eminent Indian origin professor of a reputed US University was a member of a high level team from the American Universities, discussing scope of opening up their branches in India. Five years ago they visited New Delhi to meet with Indian Prime Minister. The team flew in by executive class and was treated with VIP status in New Delhi. The Indian professor was very happy about the wonderful experience.
After the meeting at Delhi, the professor visited Bangalore on some business, which involved me too. He stayed with a friend of his and I chauffeured him around Bangalore out of courtesy. He wanted to buy a gift for his friend, but found no suitable item in any of the stores we visited; items were either too expensive or not good enough. Over the weekend, he wanted to travel to Hyderabad to visit his parents. I accompanied him to Bangalore airport – the old one. There, he hopped from one to another booking window, checking fares, willing to wait hours and take a late night flight to save rupees fifty or hundred.
I gave him an unwelcome advice to spend extra couple of hundreds and take a more comfortable flight. “I am spending this money out of my own pocket,” is what he told me as an explanation for scrounging.
Is it acceptable to indulge if it is someone else’s hard-earned money? Is it OK if it is the state’s money or that of a company? Is thrift applicable only when we spend the money we consider ours?
Many people are proud that their office provides luxury cars and expense account to spend on food and leisure. The wife goes shopping in office car and children travel to their school. Visiting uncle and sight-seeing cousin use the same car. Office peon attends to many personal needs.
When I last travelled by air using 4 different economy flights in two days, about 1% of the people would have bought meals in all these flights. In the years when the meals were free, we would not find even 1% of the passengers not eating what is offered. In international flights, with changing time zones, meals are served in unearthly hours. Full meals are served with a gap of a couple of hours. People shake off their sleep and gorge. Would they do so if they paid specifically for the food? Is it important that we have to consume because the fare included the cost of food?
In various seminars conducted in star hotels sooner the food counters are opened, people rush to the queue. They gulp the rich food that makes them doze in the afternoon sessions. In functions like marriages too, it is usual to get a glimpse of craving for food as the dining hall is crowded sooner meals are announced.
Balakrishna Birla, the founder of “Ask Laila”, also owns a few restaurants in Bangalore. He told me once that whichever kind of crowd or class of people he catered in meetings and functions, people behaved as if they starved for food, and competed for food.
When we consume a resource, irrespective of who has paid for it, the resource is spent. Not paying directly for it is not reason enough to consume or hoard when we do not really need it.
In “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey coined the idea of abundance mindset, a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and success to share with others. He contrasts it with the scarcity mindset, which is founded on the idea that, if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you lose; not considering the possibility of all parties winning in a given situation. Individuals with an abundance mentality are able to celebrate the success of others rather than feel threatened by it.
Covey contends that the abundance mentality arises from having a high self-worth and security, and leads to the sharing of profits, recognition and responsibility.
“People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.”