Today is a very special day in India. It is known as MahaShivratri, a grand night when Lord Shiva, the first-ever Yogi (Adi-yogi) married his consort Goddess Parvati. Shiva is considered the owner of the universe in Hindu belief, but he is a yogi with no possessions. It is ironic that I chose to write down my thoughts on owning a dream home on this day. Coincidentally, it is also the day my mother and her midwife heard my cries for the first time, as per 40 solar calendars ago. And, my journey to start calling things and people mine started from that day.
A few days ago my very dear friend, Sanjeev Kathuria, asked me to write a blog on the real estate sector and the current financial crisis around the residential real estate sector. I was hesitant to write anything about it as there are enough experts, more qualified than me, more in touch with the numbers.
I have very consciously moved away from numbers over the last 2 years, and focus more on the complexity of the human mind. For me, the primary malaise of the real estate sector is demand among millennial youth. It is a widely debated topic that the millennial youth is shying away from asset creation.
In my opinion, this issue has its roots at the emotional level and the transitioning that our society is experiencing. My sincere endeavor will be to share my thoughts, as I experienced them in my life, and will make an attempt to share the virtues of owning a home.
Before I share these virtues, I want you to join me in contemplating if the following are the fundamental reasons for this falling demand.
The fear of commitment
A person has many fears namely fear of loss, fear of rejection, fear of death being principal fears. However, there is a new fear that has come about in modern-day and age, *fear of commitment*.
Commitment to buying your own home has a direct relationship with a commitment to your job, employer, and your relationships. It just becomes part of our second nature.
Philosophers had propounded that this world was a small place and before experiencing this truth, our youth found its tangible evidence in a 6*2 inch screen. The world is a small place that was supposed to be like a Zen moment but we handed it to them on their birthdays, gift wrapped. Yes, a Smartphone.
Our Smartphone and Smart Apps have sent the desires soaring sky high. Desires to experience the world, see new places, travel, follow the latest trends are top on the bucket list that the whole idea of settling down in one place becomes a little clichéd. In fact, I find it amusing that people in their 30s talk about a bucket list. There is nothing wrong with having these desires but I feel only a responsible person can have more fun and enjoy freedom, in its true sense.
Another downside of too much screen-time is that we are spreading ourselves too thin. Our attention span has reduced to minimal. Multi-tasking has increased. I call it depleting of Attention capital. Someday, I shall write on “Managing Attention” as I believe it is going to be a more valuable lesson than “Managing time”. The smartphone is not the issue, too much screen time is. Divided attention has a direct correlation with our self-confidence and depletion of will power.
It is a given that times are too uncertain these days. Markets are disruptive, tech is changing too fast. Hence, Jobs and incomes are uncertain. In my opinion, the only thing that is uncertain is our mind. Too much exposure to information and what is happening in the world gives rise to this fear. Someone who focused on acquiring skills, using his time productively, less multi-tasking will not be bogged down with this “devil of uncertainty”. Fear of commitment is a child of this devil of uncertainty.
Follow a simple mantra, do one thing at a time, and plan your day. Have one creative pursuit where new learning is happening each day. This fear of commitment does not come close.
Somewhere I feel that if we addressed this fear better, we can fundamentally solve a lot of issues.
Rented house vs Own Home- A change in Mental make up
Allow me to share with you my own experience of rented versus my own home. I bought my own home 7 years ago after living in rented accommodation and changing 4 houses before buying my own. The mental make-up of a person in a rented house undergoes a change after owning a home.
In a rented home, I was tolerant, or worse, careless and lazy about the conditions of the house. It’s leaking taps, wearing paint on the walls, loose hinges of the kitchen cabinets, etc. These things somehow were not my priority but I would wear good clothes and focus on the external display. My point:
– We do not come to know when this carelessness enters into other walks of our life.
– And the need for external display resulted from low self-esteem and misplaced identity.
My home gave me a sense of belonging. Imagine if we keep uprooting a plant and move from one pot to another, its growth will remain stymied. We never really let the roots grow. A home truly bolsters your identity and confidence. Your skills, your work, what you stand for, are some of the other things that shape your identity.
Most youngsters would have to take a mortgage to buy their first home. This means EMI and repayment schedule. Lack of excess disposable income would initially lead you to suppress a lot of your desires. Most of these desires are about having more fun in life. I won’t dissuade you from having fun, but it is a slippery road and someday you will slip. I would rather shut up here lest it becomes a moral lecture. However, I think this financial tightness goes a long way in shaping our character. Forced saving is a blessing that we realize much later in our lives. This forced saving becomes a boon, especially in a period of life when we are most susceptible to fall astray.
In a traditional Indian society, and elsewhere in the world, untouched by the glitz of material life, marriage was used as a tool to tame a passionate young man. Wife and Kids were used as a tool to put the burden of responsibility on his shoulders. Sooner or later, most young men would fall in line. This is how the fabric of our society was protected and in an effective way.
Over the last 3 decades or so, however, the role of women has changed in the world. In a world of equal opportunity, we have both men and women working in a house. More disposable income at their end! You see what I am getting at! In a funny way, a home completes the marriage. It’s an entity that binds them besides children, of course.
I understand that our job assignments have made buying a home really tricky. The uncertainty around the jobs has increased our indecisiveness. Yes, it may limit our options if we settle down in one city, and freedom, in that sense, is curtailed. But silently, our home is making us more responsible. Only a responsible person can enjoy freedom. Freedom’s neighbor is recklessness and the boundary is porous. There are job opportunities that exist in every city; one just needs to look harder sometimes.
And as parents, we must cut down on big fat weddings. It is an utter waste of money. It’s time that as a society we stopped this practice and helped the newlyweds with some down payments and initial deposits if we must use the money on the occasion of marriage.
The world is an illusion
Ah! We started this discussion with a mention of MahaShivratri and Shiva- being a symbol of detachment. I have heard my friends speak about being detached and owning a home brings unnecessary suffocation. Let me give my two cents on this as a closing remark, do not confuse between un-attachment with detachment. Detachment is that indifference where the mind is at ease with the presence or absence of a thing in our life. Detachment is a stage post attachment.
Go out there, look for your home. That suits your budget; that speaks to you positively.
It is not that things that I write have not been thought of, spoken of, written off by others before me. I just let the words flow out of my very being when I am joyful. I am neither an expert in literature nor proficient in the English language. Hell, I am not even a voracious reader. I observe, empathize, internalize, contemplate, and start to give words to the voice I hear from inside. Please do not get offended or take it personally. I may be factually wrong, become repetitive, or downright silly but that’s just me. I am not perfect. I am just a fellow traveler. Have fun reading, if you like then leave a comment and share. If you don’t like, leave feedback. Be nice and smile always. Finally, my obeisance at the lotus feet of my Guru, Om Swami