From a low to a high standard of living: an interesting story from Quora

From a low to a high standard of living: an interesting story from Quora

I really like Quora – people who share their opinions are often well qualified to do so (presuming, of course, that they are who they say they are!) and the personal stories often provide an insight into very different lives. You can choose topics to follow but, at the moment, I just subscribe to the Weekly Digest because it throws up things I would never have thought to search for. Like this (anonymous) response to the question: How do people react to moving from a low to a high standard of living? 

“My grandparents, children at that time, escaped from the newly formed Pakistan from furious mobs killing masses of people in 1947. They saw everything they owned disappear within seconds in flames and their relatives stabbed to death. They barely made it to India, with almost nothing except some gold jewellery, and a primary education.
My grandad started as a daily wage laborer, then a security guard, and finally a police officer. He would study law when he was 40 with 5 children to support. Through sheer willpower, he managed to educate them.

My Dad started working with a small, regular income as an engineer.

And then I arrived the year the New Economic Policy was introduced in India, and globalization followed. Suddenly a new generation of Indians leading 1st world lifestyles arrived.

Needless to say, there have been  problems at home dealing with this change. It took me a course in management to realize that Maslow’s Hierarchy wonderfully explains the behavior across generations.

I realized that my grandad grew up in Tier 2 (safety). My dad in Tier 3 and 4 (love, belonging, esteem). And me in Tier 5 (self-actualization).

And what we experience in our youth, tends to stick to us always. So there’s always friction.

School, to my dad, is all about studies. He had to be the topper, and work hard all the time. That’s how it was in his time. Fast forward to my school, where there was a strong social hierarchy, and everyone wanted to be the coolest kid. Security of employment is no longer the aim, self-esteem and respect of others was the aim. And of course, he didn’t understand it, which led to fights. I couldn’t go to school trips, couldn’t get branded clothes, or couldn’t party.

My grandfather is staunchly religious. My dad is spiritual, but not religious. I’m an atheist. My grandfather would never even talk to a Muslim, my dad strongly dislikes them, and I argue with my Dad how mob mentality has got nothing to do with religion.

I long to go out, travel and have adventures. My Dad would only approve of it if there’s enough money. My grandad would call me a lunatic idiot and never allow it.

My Grandad scans the newspaper only to comment, “China is going to attack us one day. And this country will go down.” My dad scans the newspaper and worries about inflation and corruption. I scan the newspaper and grow outrageous on hearing countries spying on their own citizens.

Recently I had a huge argument with my dad over morality. I argued that just because someone is a murderer doesn’t always mean he should be punished. He disagreed, and felt that a murderer is a murderer, end of story.

My Grandad lives in an apartment smaller than my room, and he’s satisfied with it. He just has the basic necessities, and feels anything extra is an utter waste of money. I grow sullen when my smartphone turns two.

My  Grandad’s greatest worry is to see all that he built break up. My  Dad’s  greatest worry is not having enough savings for his family. My  greatest worry is being  stuck in a routine lifestyle, with the same old  people in the same old job.

Brands  matter when you just become rich. You’ve got to show you’re rich (see Tier 4). The Starbucks that recently opened in New Delhi had a line half a kilometer  long. No one cared about the coffee. It was all about the brand.

Maslow’s Hierarchy can so so strongly predict these behaviors that it often leaves me amazed.

For an example of a generation getting richer faster than that in India or China, look over to Dubai. I bet they’ll have even more interesting stories.

EDIT: As someone mentioned, a 1st world style living in a 3rd world country is very different from living in a 1st world country. We see poverty around in droves. We don’t have “social security”. We’re never able to shake off the feeling that everything we possess could be lost in a moment.


  1. What an excellent post! I studied Maslow’s hierarchy at university – which was far too many years ago :=) – and am surprised to see how relevant it still is.