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LIVE HUMBLY

The interview and the life lessons

A lesson in living life modestly, simply, and humbly.

In Summary

• When building a house you plan to live in for the rest of your life, build a bungalow not a maisonette.

• Have only what you need and not more than you need.

Manu Chandaria.
Manu Chandaria.
Image: FILE

A week ago I found myself watching what turned out to be an interesting one-on-one interview with businessman and philanthropist Manu Chandaria.

In the up close and personal interview, this 90-year-old who sits at the head of a billion-dollar enterprise ushered us into his home (by way of television), where he shared with us a view of his modest, simple, and humble life.

There was one notable luxury though in the billionaire’s home; a cylindrical transparent elevator that conveys the occupants of the house upstairs and downstairs. Mr Chandaria revealed he installed the lift after a fall.

So life lesson one; when building a house you plan to live in for the rest of your life, build a bungalow not a maisonette. One day you will get old in that house and stairs and old people are not friends.

Stairs means that every day, going up to bed will be an out of breath ordeal that will be murder on your knees, hip and heart, all not good things when you get to a certain advanced age. The downstairs trip won’t be a picnic either.

But back to the modest, humble life. Mr Chandaria’s built-in simple wardrobe has five suits in it. That’s right, the man owns only five suits. When a new suit comes in, he gives one away. The lesson here is not the giving, though there’s a lesson there, but about having only what you need and not more than you need.

In the interview, Mr Chandaria added the reason he doesn’t possess many material things is because he remembered that humans die, and when you do it doesn’t matter how much you own.

We’ve seen individuals being frog-marched by EACC officers to all their different homes, sometimes numbering five houses. Nobody needs five homes, all probably with walk-in wardrobes, ambient lit and full of clothes and shoes you will never wear. Quantity almost always doesn’t matter.

To illustrate this, here’s a Nasrudin tale – remember Nasrudin? 13th Century satirist, philosopher, and wise fool of Eastern folklore. Well, this tale goes: Some children saw Nasrudin taking a donkey-load of grapes to market. They gathered around and begged Nasrudin to give them some. Nasrudin picked a bunch of grapes and gave each child a grape.

‘You’re mean, Nasrudin,’ whined the children, ‘you give us so little.’ To which Nasrudin replied, ‘There is no difference whether you have many or just a few. They all taste the same. Once you have had some, you know what all the rest are like. So it doesn’t matter.’ With that, Nasrudin continued on his way.

In the interview, Mr Chandaria added the reason he doesn’t possess many material things is because he remembered that humans die, and when you do it doesn’t matter how much you own.

This reminded me of a funny story I heard told in Kikuyu where this rich man is making fun of a poor man because of the small piece of land the poor man owns. And so the poor man says to the rich man, ‘So what if you own a lot of land. When you die will you be chopped up into tiny pieces and be planted like beans so that you’re buried in all of your land?

In the end, all you’ll need is eight feet by two and a half feet, that’s the standard size of a burial plot. And if you’re planning cremation, well then, ashes take up even less space.  


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