Simple by choice is a story that espouses the virtues of simplicity. It highlights how resources can be best utilised for everyone’s needs and consider simplicity as a mission to be protected and spread all around. It shows how two committed professionals can make a positive difference by being simple by choice.
“What? An app on simplicity? Are you crazy? Have you gone nuts?” The dismissive response of Kamlesh Mehra’s father, Mihir Mehra to his most passionate idea was ruthless. It took Kamlesh a couple of days to gather courage to fight the opposition that lay ahead for him. Having a detractor in the family and getting rejected early was a good way to start, he felt, though.
Kamlesh had for long, earned the ire and annoyance of people around him for his inclination to simplicity and his relentless efforts to push the idea to one and all.
The front page ad screamed ‘Now, an app for you to buy your second home. You only have to dream. We will deliver.’
A few days back, the most prominent billboard in the city publicised an app that could help investors maximize their returns on investment.
Kamlesh was annoyed yet again, with the consumerist wave that had silenced every sane voice of dissent against it. “Earlier, simplicity was considered a virtue; then it was felt that it did not have many takers in changing times; but now simplicity was looked down on. Simplicity has come to be considered a crime. I must do something about it,” was the voice of conviction that had propelled the idea of having an app on simplicity.
Kamlesh’s childhood was filled with incidents of frequent disagreements with cousins. His preference of watching movies in single screens instead of multiplexes, his intolerance against insults of the lesser privileged all came in the way of his relationships with his loved ones. He remembered one incident that was particularly disturbing and that changed several things forever.
At a restaurant, where Kamlesh was having dinner with his friends, a woman with torn clothes, perhaps a labourer and her child, came there to have tea. On some probing, it was known that Lakshmi wanted to have tea at a restaurant as it was the day when she had earned some extra money for working overtime. It was her idea of celebration.
Kamlesh’s cousin gestured Lakshmi to stay far as her clothes were dirty and smelled. They could get infected, he remarked.
At this point, Kamlesh got annoyed and lectured his cousin. “This wave of paranoia about risk of getting infected from only the poor people is taking things a bit too far. We can maintain our hygiene but it is not necessary to insult someone or deprive someone of self-respect and dignified living.” Kamlesh’s relations with his cousin were never the same again.
They all knew within, that he was a kind soul but somehow these thoughts earned him a reputation of being ‘difficult’.
Simple by choice, was the name of the app. Kamlesh had bounced off the idea with some his friends but was aware that the chance of getting support was less.
Kamlesh’s response to any voice, opinion or act that derided simplicity was vocal and undiluted. He himself knew that he was probably too sensitive and his sensitivity for the ones in minority meant he would have to be in a minority too.
Kamlesh could never understand how the world had sympathy for millionaires whose businesses went kaput and who claimed they were not personally liable. Kamlesh could never understand why any person who was simple was automatically, also a miser in the eyes of the world. His debates in the mind on these issues were fierce and often kept him occupied for hours. He would decode statements and remarks made by anyone and everyone and would sometimes alter his relationships with people solely based on their ‘unfortunate’, ‘callous’ words.
Kamlesh’s ideologies were based on his favourite subject in school – Moral Science. Even as a child, he would immediately take to stories on virtues of kindness, sensitivity, forgiveness and simplicity. He grew up, with his belief in such virtues only growing stronger.
Usually, the younger lot believes more in enjoying life while the elder lot lays emphasis on austerity and simplicity. However, in this family it was the other way round. Kamlesh had regular disagreements with his father, ever since he was in junior college.
“Philosophy sounds good from the mouth of senior citizens. As a bright, young person, you ought to be ambitious and materialistically inclined, else you will lose steam early in life and will start to glorify inaction,” was Kamlesh’s dad’s sane advice to him.
Kamlesh, a passionate software engineer was ready with his response. “Dad, I believe more in creating than in consuming. For me, becoming a software engineer is an opportunity to enable technology reduce pain points of the consumer. I will need money, like anybody else, but only to the extent it is necessary. There is a world of difference between someone who is only motivated by satisfaction of having been able to help someone and someone who shirks work under the pretext of philosophy,” he said, making his stand clear.
Kamlesh’s project that he was passionate about was on building infrastructure that would support public transport, public parks and public utilities. He was trying to build a mobile-enabled response and tracking system that the public could use to point out flaws or discrepancies in the functioning of public amenities.
Unexpectedly, his proposed app on simplicity found a supporter. Antara Gupta, a psychologist found a lot of sense in promoting simplicity and making it a trend. It would save a lot of people from unnecessary and avoidable stress.
“I applaud you for coming up with the idea to have an app that would propagate simplicity. It is irony as in an ideal world, simplicity ought not to be promoted. However, I feel it can be a great stress-buster in today’s world where quarterly results have a direct impact on cardiograms,” was her comment on Kamlesh’s social networking page where he had shared his idea.
Antara met Kamlesh and the duo hit it off quite well. Kamlesh always observed how guilt-free desire would come so naturally to females. He was delighted to see a self-made lady who was not an inactive loser and yet had her roots in simplicity.
Their first meeting at an Udupi restaurant was interrupted by a call from a tele-marketing company offering loans. “I am not interested in buying a house or a car. Please don’t call me again. However, you would be glad to know about this simplicity app I am working on and will soon let you know more about it,” the marketer had already started marketing simplicity.
“So Kamlesh, what does this simplicity app do?” asked Antara with a smile on her face.
“Well, for starters, it comes with a daily tip on simplicity. The lesser the needs, the richer a person is. The idea is to hit opponents of simplicity with the same tool that they use to glorify indulgence,” he replied.
Antara felt the urge to share something. “I have seen so many young patients who lead a stressful life only to support an artificial lifestyle glamourised by marketers and media. For a long time I did feel that when one is young, one has the right to be materialistically inclined. However, I realised this was leading to unnecessary mental trauma at a young age.”
“We need to develop it further. It should share profiles of people who manage to live simply and beautifully,” Antara added.
“Bang on. Go on,” urged Kamlesh.
“And well, we can also share how unnecessary indulgence can lead to waste and only add inequality,” she continued.
“Antara, good inputs. Let’s develop the prototype and see how people respond to it. Our main target audience is teens for ideologies are often shaped in this phase,” Kamlesh suggested.
While they were having the engaging conversation, Kamlesh realised they would earn several enemies with their initiative.
“Today’s role models are materialistic achievers. A superstar who charges x amount for his film, a business baron who does not wear any single wardrobe item twice in life, a jeweller who owns a plane etc. We need to have social activists as role models. However, that is not happening. Perhaps, ‘Simple by choice’ can play a role in it,” Antara suggested.
Simple by choice app was going through its own interesting journey. Venture capitalists likened it to a sanskari app and derived humour from the idea. However, one venture capitalist, who was a sociologist professor in the past found a lot of merit in the app. He realised that what the app aimed to achieve had so much in common to suggestions to reduce inequality he had made in his paper, ‘An Equal World’.
Some other respondents felt that this was subject best managed by religious leaders and there was no point in the overlap. However, slowly and gradually, the app was being developed with intense fervour and enthusiasm.
Kamlesh was aware how dismal facilities from the government on one hand, and exploitative tactics of the corporate world on the other, were forcing even those with limited means to avoid use of affordable public utilities.
So no one drank water from the railway station. It was not a hygiene parameter that drinking water at the railway station should be clean. Even poor families chose not to get maternity treatment done at public hospitals because private practitioners had been able to rule the gullible mind that posed questions on quality. Activists did their bit but were silenced by some bureaucrats, who were hand-in-glove with private players. Government schools found few takers among the middle classes because ‘there should be no compromise on education’. Of course, the tourism industry made a killing by enthusing young minds to ‘break free’, to ‘have the once-in-a-lifetime experience’, and the insurance industry ran its business by scaring its own customers. The maximum caveats that one can find would be in the agreement signed with an insurance company.
Kamlesh had been aware of the vicious cycle. He developed each function of the app, keeping in mind the macro-view and how gullible minds had fallen prey to lure of unaffordable luxury.
Antara played a huge role in recommending the app to her patients. It came naturally to her, for she was simple by choice. She fitted well into the category of a self-made woman while also not showing any inclination to showcase her pearly white diamonds or swanky-new car.
NGOs showed a lot of support for ‘Simple by choice’. The movement took momentum. The first couple of years were difficult but soon a publisher bought the app as there was a path-breaking book penned by a social observer on simplicity.
The app was integrated with quotes from Socrates, Mahatma Gandhi and many others who made sure their life revolved around simplicity.
The app was tested for students of the arts stream with positive results. The education ministry applauded Kamlesh’s efforts and concluded that indeed there was a lot of scope to popularise the art of being ‘simple by choice’.
The app got good coverage in periodicals on healthy living and was also mentioned several times in editorials that aimed to scan the social fabric. A filmmaker whose claim to fame was only a single blockbuster made way back in the 70s, took interest in the app and bought the rights to make a movie on the theme, ‘Simple by choice’.
The protagonists were portrayed by Kamlesh and Antara, one a renowned software engineer and the other a sensitive psychologist healing lives. Fewer peers derided the one with unbranded shoes and fewer people scorned over cheap crowd at restaurants. Lesser evenings were spent abusing a relative for wearing shabby attire. Students going to prominent schools detested the act of flaunting their new brand of wrist watches. At least one insurance company decided to send ‘Get well soon’ cards to every customer who had filed claim papers. Jewellery ads stopped deriding the breadwinner unable to gift precious pearls to his spouse. Some social activists became brand ambassadors for affordable brands catering to those in the lowest rung of society.
Kamlesh and Antara knew that the world would not let power shift in favour of public good. However, they were happy that they had contributed to something positive in their own way by being ‘simple by choice’.
(The views expressed by the author are personal.)
(Pictures courtesy: Pexels)
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