7 Nov 2011


We live in a greedy little world--
that teaches every little boy and girl
To earn as much as they can possibly--
then turn around and
Spend it foolishly
We've created us a credit card mess
We spend the money that we don't possess
Our religion is to go and blow it all
So it's shoppin' every Sunday at the mall

All we ever want is more
A lot more than we had before...

In the music video of the above song (Ka-ching), Shania Twain  finds herself in an abandoned mansion and city. She goes looking for the inhabitants, finally finding them in a casino gambling away. Everyone is consumed with the need to spend money, their greed apparent in the expensive things they own that they have deserted.

I have not listened to this song in years. It used a favorite of mine. No idea why that stopped. I spent about a week in Cincinnati early April this year,  screening our film. Actually, I spent time moving between Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. At one point, I slept in Indiana, had lunch in Ohio and dinner in Kentucky! I digress.

My friend who invited me there and organised the trip arranged for me to stay at his friends house in Cincinnati for the better part of the journey. Now, this house is a house like no other. It used to be a wood work machinery factory, dating back to 1887. Its a huge space. Very very huge. The first time I walked in, I did a double take. There was a lot of stuff. See, 'stuff' suddenly felt such an inadequate word. 'Things' even less appropriate. Over the next few days, I quickly learnt that if I did not put back my things in my suitcase immediately after using them, I might never find them again. Every empty spot in the house would quickly be filled up with something or the other. An empty space was abhorred in that house. Anything you can possibly think of was in there. It was as if Hurricane Katrina blew all the debris across the country and straight to that house. It is a three storied house, houses a few artists studios...you know the ones that has no canvases of surreal paintings, no easels, no paintbrushes...nothing. Thinking spaces they call them. Hogwash I call it, but then again, what do I know. I'm only a consumer of the brilliance that finally comes from those 'thinking spaces'. I saw a inside one of the studios, and the 'stuff' somehow ended up there too. For a 'thinking space', it made me think I was going insane!

I thought about hoarding. And how we seek to fill our lives with things to cover the emptiness within. How we, especially  those of the female-bodied form, think that that one shopping spree will make us feel better. It maybe a curse, every time I travel, I contrast situations, lifestyles, people...back home and what I am experiencing. In one part, I had a vision of a young mother in Kenya ( or anywhere else in Africa for that matter), living in a one-roomed shack, furnished with a bare bed, a stove, some cooking pans, a broom in a corner, a bed sheet separating the bed area from the rest of the room, a worn couch, half of which is used as a storage area for the children's clothing. The most expensive item in that house is the mosquito net, donated by a local NGO.

Then picture this:

That is a bedroom.Or used to be.

Couldn't help but wonder, is hoarding a condition of the rich? Can a poor person hoard? I once told someone that some conditions, sickness, etc are 'white people's sicknesses'. Between feeding 5 kids, dealing with a cheating, alcoholic husband, dealing with impossible inlaws and demanding family, we don't have time for panic attacks, postpartum depressions, etc.

I pictured that young woman with life sitting squarely on her shoulders like the proverbial troll, walking into that house. What would be her thought then? If the two women were to sit down and discuss what they wish they had, what they are looking for in life, what would they think of each other? Would each understand what drives the other?