I never imagined, one day, a podcast on ‘Greed’ would haunt me for being a ‘Chatori’. Okay, I come from a family in Delhi where most of us would exclaim ‘Bring it on’ at the mere sight of Kebabs on the grill, followed by naans, lassi, falooda. This has been a feature very intricate to me, and my life in Delhi. 

This zest for food was evoked a couple of weeks ago when my dad and I revisited the family album. As we held that ragged photo book echoing a thousand important instances, my father reminded me how my grandmother used to call me Chatori i.e. Lickerish. My family thinks I took this from my grandfather who was a man with wandering taste buds.

Both of us, together formed this “foodie-duo” of the house and every now and then we would be reminded of the same. The additional samosa on the plate, the second glass of lassi and the extra sabzi that we put on the plate but didn’t eat; everything called for the tag of “lalchi” i.e. greedy being used here and then. However, we never really bothered to care about the tag. For us, it was us and our food. And if this meant we were being greedy, we were at peace. 

I have been listening to a series on mental health ‘Neend Kyun Raat Bhar Nahin Aati’. Produced by the London-based digital hub of podcasts, Cine Ink, the series talks about themes such as depression, fear, phobia, greed, hatred and grief. The format is simple; in each podcast renowned psychiatrist Prof. Salman Akhtar is in conversation with broadcaster Pervaiz Alam. 

Listening to episodes 5 and 6 on a rainy evening, I understood for the first time what greed meant. 

The podcast managed to open new musings for me. Rather taken aback, I was suddenly drowning in the pool of numerous observations- combined with a lot of new realisations. It opened an avenue for me to reflect upon my trajectory of thought, my lived experience and my ambitions. 

Salman Akhtar explains the existence of greed as a product of one’s desire and the lack of patience to finally possess the same. He cites the famous Aesop’s Fable “The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs” as the perfect example to demonstrate greed. 

Prof. Akhtar further mentions how greed is devoid of any guilt. One consumed by greed is beyond any impending guilt that may arise out of his motivations. This is mostly because, for the greed-ridden person, his actions and motivations make complete sense. Like in my case, my grandfather and I were far from acknowledging our greed for food. I have never paid much thought to my greedy persona ever before, let alone any corrective action. I don’t even know how I manifest my greed, what are my triggers and what is it that I am seeking. Every now and then as I yearn for food, for books, for clothes, for degrees, for success; I am constantly reminded of ‘cut your coat according to your cloth’. 

I think since the beginning, my family made it perfectly clear to us that greed was the sort of emotion one needed to establish their distance from. However, as we grow up we start perceiving a very romanticised affirmative aspect of having more. We start seeing it as a potential driving force towards success which is where I believe the entire quandary begins. Greed as an emotion generates self-inducing tendencies. The greed ridden individual becomes highly self-consumed.  And since greed cannot be satiated, it keeps growing, proliferating around and manifesting itself in one’s day-to-day activities. 

I have been a hoarder my entire life. I still have my books and notebooks from class third, my friendship bands that I collected all through my school years, every single board game I was gifted on my birthdays, test papers from my childhood; I have patiently perceived every bit of it. To my surprise, hoarding is an act that comes very much from one’s greed than it does from any other motivation. However, Akhtar clarifies a passion such as stamp collection is different from a frenetic collection of ‘things’ to no limits. 

It is obviously eerie how fragments of greed have surrounded us in all aspects. Of all the insights and truths about greed, something that absolutely stood out for me was how husbands tend to transfer greed to their wives, according to Prof. Akhtar.

The stereotypical surface level belief is that women ought to be the ones who are more demanding and hereby, greedier. I have spent my entire childhood seeing this belief being exhibited in various forms and now as science debunks it, there is definitely so much to ponder upon. I am now 21, treading on an absolutely new path in life and I find myself untenably inclined towards new intangible possessions- a yearn to earn more money and more degrees, more work experiences and eventually more money. 

In retrospect, I think at every point of time we are greedy for different things. My greed for food has probably satiated and it is the greed for money and fame that may now end up controlling my life. While I am certain that this is a never-ending walkway and I need to be conscious of how my dreams and desires eventually manifest themselves. But I am also hesitant that at some time the rapacity for more may step up to the driving seat. 

What I take back from this entire process of contemplation is to stick to my needs, dream big, work towards actualising them but never lose sight of my foundation and guide my heart against “more” for more never really ends ! 

I end this piece with a couplet by Mirza Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’ as quoted by Salman Akhtar in his podcast: 

hazāroñ ḳhvāhisheñ aisī ki har ḳhvāhish pe dam nikle 

bahut nikle mire armān lekin phir bhī kam nikle 

I have a thousand desires, each one afflicts me. So many were surely fulfilled, but not enough.

Don’t be upset if you have a bit of a greed. Even Ghalib confessed to have ‘hazāroñ ḳhvāhisheñ’. 

Anjani Chadha is a recent graduate from the University of Delhi seeking to work at the intersection of media  practice and social change. 

‘Neend Kyun Raat Bhar Nahin Aati’ is a Cineink Podcast Series on Mental Health in Hindi/Urdu, available on Apple, Spotify, Google, JioSaavn and YouTube. Each week, acclaimed psychoanalyst, Prof. Salman Akhtar, USA, is in conversation with broadcaster Pervaiz Alam.