The No 1 bestseller in India for months is a book with the above title written by an American journalist, Morgan Housel. Given the overwhelming role of money in modernity, and the total absence of its ethical and cultural education from school and college curricula, this is no surprise. Even at university, stories are more powerful than equations in teaching finance, but they are excluded from the pseudo-science. Indians are keen to demystify money and understand its nature and power, and puzzled as to why it comes so easily to some and is so much harder to acquire for the vast majority of people.
These questions are also critical to the United Kingdom and the western world. The book draws from a range of mainly American research studies, which expose the behavioural and irrational nature of finance. It shows that making money is not the same as retaining it, and skill has often got very little to do with how people become rich. These factors are contrary to modern economics and finance education, which continues to abstract living reality and seeks a universal, rational science of greed a primary human objective.
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For me, my lifelong research work on the cultural diversity of money and its influence affirms the popularity of the ‘Psychology of Money’ but at the same time expose its gaps, especially for an Indian audience. Indian cultures and wisdoms have long meditated on money and its whimsical nature, coming to a variety of perspectives and understandings. The book makes no reference to this deep Indic wisdom. It also does not discuss how for millennia India has accepted income inequality as a fact of life, without any serious jealousy or anger about the rich. On their part, the wealthy, including Royalty have often seen their roles as servants of society, never the Masters. The Gujarati word ‘Sheth’ refers to a successful merchant leader, someone who is respected and also helpful in times of need.
Modernity and Empire has divided and broken India, especially through vast urbanisation. However, faith has played a countervailing role, encouraging conscience and reflexivity on money and the human condition. Death is not denied but seen as the full stop to accumulating and hoarding of wealth and fortune. This has encouraged some of the highest and most consistent charitable cultures of the world, where to help and to serve are honourable duties and obligations.
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I wish to help India transform its finance curriculum, from one which is secular, abstract, materialistic and rational to one which is contextual, reflective and empowering. Pray for me to realise this vision. We urgently need it to heal society.