By: Haneen Naseer, writer @spillingstardust, 18 yo. Kerala, India
"Wait! I can feel something," said Ananya, making everyone stop and stare at her with concern.
"What?" Jake asked.
"Something wrong?" enquired Liya.
"No. But something will be if we don't do anything," answered Ananya, making her friends wear confused faces.
"Ice cream cravings!!" Ananya laughed and burst into a run to escape her friends' thrashing and stopped only when she had found a good cafe.
Everyone groaned and rushed after her to find that she had already found them a table. Everyone settled down and the chatter continued.
"It's your treat," said Jake with a devilish grin, looking at Rehaan.
"Sure," he said, mocking a glare at Jake and pulling out his purse. He wasn't exactly in the mood to spend but it would be humiliating to object in front of his friends.
Many teens act rich just for namesake and sometimes as a result of peer pressure. They fail to realize that their friends would totally understand them if they speak up about not being in a position to spend too much. And such a less prodded issue suddenly becomes important when we give thought to the fact that these teens are tomorrow's adults. And a world full of people with poor financial literacy and responsibility is not something to wish for.
"You guys know why I didn't choose the cafe opposite this?" asked Ananya.
" 'Cause you didn't see it at first?" Jake smirked.
"Oh, shut up, blockhead. The owner of that cafe is a totally greedy guy."
"Which means?" Rehaan seemed to be interested.
"Which means he invests more and more and tries to make as much money as possible. I've heard he was involved in some scandal a year ago. His partner got tired of his greed and left the business."
"And some divine power told you all this?" Liya raised an eyebrow skeptically.
"The ex-partner is my dad's friend," replied Ananya, shooting a glare at Liya.
The waiter arrived, his tray laden with delicious food and of course, cones of ice cream.
"This world is so competitive. A lot of people live to chase money. I mean, the will-o'-the-wisps would present a more sensible trail. Why do people desire money just because their neighbor might be rich?" Ananya did not seem to be in the mood to let go of the topic.
"Earning money is not at all an achievement. Life lies beyond what money can provide. When will the world ever realize that?" asked Liya pathetically.
"Foodh will geth coldh," said Jake, his mouth full of food, much to Liya and Ananya's annoyance.
"But we can't live without money," said Rehaan.
They flitted in and out of the same conversation over the different scoops of ice cream.
"Uff, I can't have anymore," said Rehaan.
"C'mon, you can't waste all that," said Jake, wide-eyed.
"That's something that really gets on my nerves. With every morsel that we dump into the waste bin, let's not forget there are children crying for half of what we waste," said Ananya.
"And with every bit of currency that makes our purses bulge, let's not forget that it would mean more to get some food for the old lady on the street than to buy a new sports car. And with the money we plan on spending to get that cosmetic surgery done to look better, we might gift someone a little more time to spend with loved ones by funding for a heart transplant," Liya sounded like she was waiting for ever to say all that out loud.
"And if you can't finish your food even after thinking of all the poor children in the world, I'll be happy to help," said Jake with a devilish, ice-cream-greedy grin.
"You never change," Ananya shook her head at Jake.
They exited the cafe and saw an old woman in the street with a sack of rags. The kind souls that saw her bought her food and as they walked away from her after happily receiving her blessings and smiles, Rehaan spoke.
"See, she would be happy if she had some money."
"Huh?" asked Jake.
"Oh, nothing just deserves your interest, Your Highness," Liya said to Jake, receiving a scowl from him.
"What about people like her? And all the poverty-stricken nations of the world? They'll tell you how important money is," said Rehaan.
"Not even the shadow of a single penny will follow us to our graves, but the light of our charity will." replied Liya.
"I'm not against charity," said Rehaan indignantly and added, "Besides, you haven't answered my question."
As the friends bickered lightly over the topic, Jake kicked at a stone and watched it roll down the street. His exasperated friends rushed to keep up with him and when they did, he turned to speak.
"You guys need to understand something."
Disregarding their raised eyebrows, he continued, "My point is that while it is absolutely true that much of life lies beyond what money can buy, it is necessary to create a path for ourselves in order to live a decent life. Here again, I insist on a 'decent' life and not 'luxurious', even though every single human will have their own concepts of 'decent' and 'luxurious'."
At last, the matter seemed resolved! "Now I need more food 'cause all that talk digested every bit of ice cream that was there in my stomach," grinned Jake, running to the next café, as the other three groaned and trudged along.
Breaking out of her reverie, Ananya laughed and went back to nibbling the end of her pen and staring at the blank page in front. Now she knew what to write in that assignment she had to do about her perspective on money!
"......earn rather than snatch; work rather than chase; and give rather than accumulate. After all, how much would it take to dig a six-foot tall pit? But before sinking into the earth, let's see some of our dreams come true and others' as well."
There! Done! She flicked her pen, watched it roll and lie motionless next to the stack of papers and got up to sleep.