The Avaricious Aunt
Avarice or Greed for Possessions
Aparigraha Story 1
Around the time of my own marriage to Meera, as you can imagine there was much coming and going. Cousins from many miles away came to stay at my family home. Uncles and aunts whom we had not seen in years appeared and stayed for a few days. When our house was full my mother arranged for neighbours to put up the extra people. My marriage was something of a surprise to many people who had assumed I was to be a monk for the rest of my life. I think they came to see if I had developed cloven hooves or not. Although it was quite acceptable to change one’s life plan, it was somewhat unusual. Some relatives even brought relatives of their own, nothing to do with our family, just to meet me. I think I bore all these meetings with humour and tolerance, although some of their questions were rather too personal and intrusive for my liking. There was one particular aunt, that is what she called herself, though neither my father nor mother was related to her, who was especially curious.
“How will you adjust to family life now, Ramesh, having had little more than a rice bowl and a robe to your name? I hope you will be able to maintain the good standards of the family!” she queried in shrill tones.
I have explained in another story that my branch of the family was less well off when compared to some of the others. This woman came from the branch that had at least fifty servants and a huge estate. She wore gold bangles half way up her arm and her earrings were so heavy with jewels that they were attached to a band round her head rather than to her ears.
She looked me up and down. “What about your poor wife?” she asked, “How will she manage a home when her husband refuses to have more than one servant? Poor girl, I wouldn’t like to be in her shoes.”
I smiled and said that Meera and I would be quite contented, thank you very much.
“Contented, hmph! “ she squealed, “I personally will never be contented. Contentment does not bring you possessions, servants and jewels. You have to push people. You have to make your demands known and be very firm. You have to be ambitious in your desires for material wealth, never resting until you accumulate more than you can possibly use. Only then can you rest a little, until the next vision of riches comes to you. Then again throw contentment out of the window, and work on that vision. That way you will become truly rich. Everyone will envy you. That is what I long to see, envy on the faces of all I meet. Then I know I am worth something. By the way here is a present for you and Meera when you set up your home.” She handed me a little bone tool. I looked up questioningly.
“It’s for scraping mud off your boots. I suppose you will be wearing boots sometimes?” she added…
Not only was this woman avaricious, she was also mean spirited and ungenerous. Of course the two generally go together. As I was debating with myself about how to thank her for the paltry gift, she swished off in her gold threaded sari. I watched as she went to harangue one of the servants about the quality of the ceremonial chapatis (breads) that were being served. I was relieved she was not a blood relation of mine…