Being “rich”

Once upon a time, in a land and time far away, the idea of having a million dollars seemed like a big deal, like really really big — so significant that when you finally reached that amount, you could label yourself a millionaire. Wow, I’m a millionaire! Yippee!

That time, at least, for “middle class,” white-collared professionals, particularly ones living in particularly expensive and dense areas such as New York City or the San Francisco Bay Area, has ended. Now, what does a million dollars buy you — a crappy, dilapidated two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, crawling with roaches and full of lead-filled paint? A one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side? Is that what you would consider “rich” today?

It’s a depressing thought. I used to always imagine I’d have a comfortable house, maybe four or five bedrooms, with a huge backyard where I could plant fruit trees, endless flowers, and have a section just for vegetables. When I was young and dreamt of that, the idea of money and building wealth wasn’t top of mind. I didn’t know the real worth of a dollar then. I don’t really want that anymore, but I do still wish I had some outdoor space. Who has that while living in New York City?!

Now, in a time of the Coronavirus pandemic, the idea of “richness” to me has changed in meaning. Now, I think about being rich in terms of food and toilet paper. Tonight, we had a third delivery from Mirchi Market, an Indian/Pakistani grocery delivery service, now a standard delivery for us during this period, and when Chris opened up the boxes, I marveled at all the fresh fruit and vegetables, the dosa batter, even the Indian mixture snacks he got. I especially widened my eyes when he unveiled an entire flat box of 16 beautiful yellow mangoes, fragrant from being nearly ripe.

I was so excited. “We’re rich! We’re rich! Look at all these mangoes!” I exclaimed. We’ve had to store some of the mangoes in our coat closet, and as a result of this, as the days have passed and they’ve slowly ripened, when I open the closet, I am immediately greeted by the floral, sweet perfume of their juices nearly oozing out.

This is what it means to be rich, to have so many gorgeous, delicious, sweet mangoes that you don’t even know where to store them all; to have a freezer so full that you have to hesitate before considering adding yet another frozen item to your shopping cart while at the grocery store; to not make another dish until you have more free space in your fridge. This is what it means to be rich right now.

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