What have you added to your original “Self” since you arrived as an immigrant to Uncle Sam’s shores ?

For a middle class school teacher’s son from India, it was first an extra room. A one bedroom apartment that has a unique small room called “Closet”. And a bonus outdoor space that’s called patio and not verandah. Centralized A/c and heating. Hot shower in an instant or a very cold one if you turned the knob in the wrong direction. Carpeted floor and free dial-up Internet called “Netzero”. As you wonder at the abundance compared to India, your first McDonalds meal reminds you of the feast at third cousin’s marriage a few years ago.

As you go outside your home, you notice the big roads. Bigger cars. And even bigger trucks that resemble the electric train you used to ride as a kid in Madras. Slowly but surely, you assimilate the abundances of this great country. Huge libraries that allows you to browse Internet, rent not just books,but also Video cassettes(for the millennials,wiki that) and DVD’s. Your eyes are in awe of the cleanliness on roads, restaurants and even some of the so-called trash area.

As you go from 35k salary to 55k, you start rewarding yourself with a cup of Starbucks chai. You order the tall size and as you happily exit the store,you notice a 4yr old girl with a cup half her height.You curse yourself for missing out on Venti for an extra buck.You decide never to make that mistake again. Your friend takes you to an all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffett. You stare at the five rows of food for 10minutes just taking in that view. You know right in that moment that your Lunch problem for the rest of your life is solved.

As you grow in your career, you upgrade from a coupe to Big SUV.You move from 1-bedroom apartment which is now too small to hold your stuff to two bedroom apartment. Now your couch cannot function as bed. So you buy a new bed and a dining table.You add the satellite dish because your parents are visiting. As your next promotion comes, you know it’s time to buy that house because the housing market is dirt cheap. Not just any house but a single-family house with a big back yard and a decent front yard with two car garage and four bedrooms. Why do you need 4 bedrooms for two people ? Because a house is a really, really long-term investment. There will be many occasions where your parents, your in-laws and your best friend comes over to visit. And if you have a baby, then you’re actually short of one bedroom. Let’s make that a 5-bedroom house.

Now,that sounds fool-proof. And since you have already seen the one bedroom,two bedroom “tiny” closets, this house closet better be atleast 300sq.ft. And if you have an option,a basement is preferable. Where will you have that movie marathon of Sholay and Bourne series without it ? Scratch that “preferable basement” option to “must-have basement” in home requirement list to realtor.

To celebrate that big house purchase, you take that Florida trip finally after 6yrs in the country. Disney land. Universal Studios.

What’s a vacation if you can’t have a camera ? But guess what? It’s even better in video. Thrown in that most expensive camcorder. You know you always wanted to make that documentary about Mexican illegal immigrants who overtake Indians and Chinese in Greencard line. This camcorder is multi-purpose incase you decide to abandon the high paying tech job to pursue your dream of making movies. As you look through the beautiful pictures you shot with your DSLR camera, you notice a strange person in all of them. Someone who resembles you but doesn’t look like the “you” you imagine in your head. That extra 30 pounds hurt you badly.

Guess it’s time to buy that treadmill.You know you are going to look like that dude with six abs you saw in late night tele-commercials. And above all, you don’t even have to work-out.All you need to do is wear a vibrating belt on your stomach.This is America.Anything is possible.Land of dreamers and innovators.

As you realize the abs-belt just tickles you and doesn’t really makes that paunch vanish, you get the real deal.

Bowflex 6000!

Just when you think 6000 is the model number, your Costco Amex card sends you a bill for $6000. You can’t escape your wife’s taunting eyes as you really try to bow and flex. It is exactly at that point you hear a vexing noise from left tricep. You just made a rowers knot inside your muscle that now requires intense physical therapy and chiropractor appointments to unknot your twisted nerves.

Bowflex takes a final bow as it vanishes into the small 600sq.ft room in basement.

And then it happens.

The economy crashes!

Your house gets devalued by 80K.

Your boss says he loves you but he has to let you go.

You sit in the middle of big living room realizing the futility of the excess surrounding you.

You find out what really matters!You were running after things you didn’t need in the first place.

You cut down your Starbucks Venti. You donate your Bowflex. You know you are going to drive your car until it shows 250,000 on the dashboard.

You always ask the question,”Do we absolutely, really,essentially need it ?”,before buying any item.

You find real refrigerator friends. Genuine friends who hang out with you for who you are.You cherish the moments.You realize the value of travel. Memories. Experiences.

Your life without the excess.

In a way, your life before you earned lot of money. In a way, your life growing up. In a way, how lot of folks in India live today. No instant hot showers. No big SUV’s. No permanent jobs. No 5-bedroom home with basement. No Venti chai.

You don’t have to feel guilty for the things you have accumulated but neither do you need to accumulate more and run after things you don’t need.

Going back to India, going back home, is a return to experience my original “self”, the self without any excess.

Figuratively and literally.

Shedding the excess, simplifies our life. De-clutters our mind.

Above all, shedding our excess, reduces the space between our heart and spirit.

Start your own journey of unloading the excess baggage and follow ours as we scramble on the Tarmac in a three wheeler!

~ Rama