When Poorva suggested to the II team that Vikas Plakkot should be interviewed, Arun jumped at the opportunity. The two met at Yogisthaan, a cafe in Bangalore, and also Arun’s preferred place for taking interviews. In this interview, Vikas unabashedly talks about the role of wealth in his life, and why this subject is close to his heart. Interviewing India highly recommends you read this interview – it might just be a turning point in your life.
Vikas Plakkot, 28 years, Co-founder of Just For Kicks, Bangalore
Interviewed by Arun Maharajan
Why did you decide to give us an interview on wealth?
I feel wealth as a currency is very misled and I see this more in the millennial society and in our parents’ generation as well, where everything they did was towards a certain goal of wealth they set for themselves. Instead of choosing time as a more valuable currency, people have chosen wealth as a currency and I think that is fundamentally wrong with the society around us.
I find myself at a place where I do not get driven by it anymore, even remotely.
Is it because you have reached a certain level?
No, definitely not. Just to give you a background of my wealth, I come from a regular middle-class family and my parents were government employees. I went to a regular government school and a government college. So I have had very basic things in my life. I did Teach for India right after that, and after a few years I started something of my own that didn’t pay me for as long as I remember. So I have worked for seven years, and wealth is not something I have had.
I see my friends, my family and my brother. They all have the right kind of path as laid out by the society. They have the wealth, which they thought would make them happy, but I can quite confidently say I am the most content and happy person in the circle around me. I have time, I have health, I have space, I have travel, I have – what I believe – a beautiful relationship, which I think most people lose out on because they are running behind wealth.
As I was growing up conversations with my Dad were always about money. I don’t remember having conversations with my Dad where he told me how to be a good person or how to be a responsible citizen, or how to contribute to the society, how to treat your wife, treat the kids, treat your friends…nothing. The conversations were always about are you doing enough to earn this amount, and this “earning enough” is sort of a never-ending journey. And every time I have a conversation with him, I am convincing him that my pay is better than what it was earlier, I am able to support my wife (my wife is an independent person, its not that she needs my support), or I am able to support my family.
I have been in the development space and working with children for seven years. People confer all these awards on me, and I am written about in papers and all that, he becomes super happy and super excited about everything. He tells his friends about me, calls me to Rotary club meetings, but eventually when we come back home, we go back to the same topic of money. I don’t think making money and serving the society go hand in hand. Of course, I need certain amount of money to do certain number of things. But that’s it.
Do you save money?
I don’t save for the future. I do not have a car. There are enough services that provide you a car. I do not need a house. I am a nomad in the head and I keep shifting. I do not want to have a house of my own. It is a bad investment for me. I think its very bullish of people to say that I am going to save for the next 40 years. Who the hell assures you that you are going to live for 40 years? I just can’t take this bullishness. But this is the reality of life, but I don’t want to be part of this reality.
If not money, what do you value?
I have reached a stage where money doesn’t drive me. I am happy if someone gives me money, but it is not a conversation point for me. I always bargain for time. I say, “you can increase my salary, but don’t expect me to work one second more than I do.” The salary can be doubled or tripled…I don’t care. The time I have for the other person or work is only this much. It can be for my own organization or someone else’s organization. There is a certain amount of my time I am ready to give for anything apart from myself.
When I come back home I feel like going for a run because I have an hour to do that, I can look up flights to the various parts of the world and try to find a deal because I have the time to go, I can read a book tonight because I can afford to, I can cook for my wife because she is busy and I can afford to cook for her, I can binge on Netflix because I have the freedom to do that. I feel that is worth a lot of wealth. Wealth you don’t see in terms of currency. People are not willing to understand that when you get currency wealth, you are losing out on other wealth including health, which is probably the wealthiest thing you could have.
What is wealth if it doesn’t even allow you to do what you really want to do?
What do you want to do in life?
I want to retire at 30. Both Divya and I are driven by this; and we strongly want to move to the mountains, or anywhere we like. We don’t even want to decide where that is, it could be a dot on the map we feel like going to and just relax. Because once you don’t have all these unnecessary expenses in life, even currency-wise you become wealthy, I mean you are self-sufficient.
Do your friends also share the same philosophy?
Our friends don’t get this thought process either. Everybody looks at us with jealousy on one side, and pity on the other. They say, we don’t have this and we don’t have that…The other day, one of our friends suggested that we go to a restobar. My wife and I looked it up on Zomato and turned down his invitation to join him because it was some 1000 rupees for two people and we were saving for a travel trip for the following week. And his reaction was that we don’t like hanging out with friends and that was sick. My reaction was I can hang out with you even now if we are not going to that expensive restobar. Why does “hanging out” have to involve a drink in a costly place?
The last question has nothing to do with your interview topic. But we ask everyone we interview – what does love mean to you?
(Takes the longest pause in the history of Interviewing India!) Can I be a Shahrukh Khan, say something romantic and walk off? That’s not going to work…is it?
Here goes – I feel love is companionship. Not friendship, but companionship…wait let me talk about fish love. Have you heard of fish love?
Do you eat fish?
Do you like it?
I don’t know…depends on who cooks it, and how it is made.
So you are saying you love fish as long as it is killed and put in front of you. So you don’t love the fish, you love eating it because it makes YOU feel good, so who’s happy – its you and not the fish. You only love yourself. Is there any love that is not fish love?
Love means being truly happy for something else, for someone else without it having any effect – positive or negative on you.