A Case For Radical Minimalism

Old cultural habits and trends often fade out, only to make a comeback later in a new, cool avatar. For centuries, Indians used natural remedies to be healthy. Till it became outdated. But now we flaunt our turmeric lattes, aloe vera gels and neem daatuns (sticks). Everything comes a full circle. From food to fashion to how we spend our money. It used to be a famously Indian trait to be prudent with money - choosing to live frugally to save for a rainy day. But with rising incomes, consumerism, easy credit and the need for validation in an Instagram-ready world, spending on frills has become the new social currency. When it comes to spending on the latest gadgets, fancy automobiles, fine dining and expensive vacations - millennials are spending more than they ever have. After all, our generation gave the world FOMO and YOLO. What we can’t buy upfront, we buy on EMI. What we can’t buy on EMI, we rent. Today, there are firms in the market that allow you to rent an iPhone or an Alexa.


But for every cultural trend, there is always a counter-trend. Frugality is making a comeback in the name of minimalism. Only the context has shifted. From wanting to save for a rainy day, many younger people have started embracing minimalism to be able to retire early, give themselves the freedom to take career breaks or prepare a safety net of savings to be able to pursue their dreams. The motivation is not to ‘stop working’ but to ‘start working on your own terms’. Employees who have more debt and lower savings tend to stick longer to unhappy workplaces and are less likely to speak up to their seniors when treated unfairly than the ones who are more financially secure. A financial buffer helps you become more brave about your future and go after what really makes you happy.


Going down the path of radical minimalism will give you financial security sooner but it comes with making difficult and, at times, unpleasant changes in lifestyle - moving to a smaller but more affordable house, getting a housemate, traveling on strict budgets, saying no to eating out and shopping for things you don’t need. It’s a choice between working to be able to afford your lifestyle or working to satisfy your soul.


On that note, we’ll leave you with an excerpt from the poem ‘Caged Bird’ by Maya Angelou


A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.


But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.


The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.


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