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Posted at: Apr 16, 2017, 12:08 AM; last updated: Apr 16, 2017, 12:08 AM (IST)TAKE MY WORD

Cornucopia of jackpot & schadenfreude stories

Harvinder Khetal
Cornucopia of jackpot & schadenfreude stories
Cornucopia istock
The lucky girl from Latur lapping up the Rs 1 crore lottery of the Lucky Grahak Yojana scheme aimed at promoting cashless transactions led me to the cornucopia (an inexhaustible store) of stories of abundance and unforeseen fortunes. Shradha Mengshette, an engineering student, was felicitated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Nagpur last week as she hit the jackpot (have great or unexpected success, especially in making a lot of money quickly) for making a transaction of Rs 1,590 through her card online to pay the EMI for her mobile phone.

A late 19th century word, jackpot is a portmanteau of ‘jack’ and ‘pot’. The term was originally used in a game of poker, where the pool or pot accumulated until a player could open the bidding with two jacks or better.

The jackpot reminds me of my cousin’s convenience store in the USA. When I visited him some years ago, there was a sudden rise in footfall in his shop following a windfall received by one of his customers who had won a huge amount from a lottery ticket bought from there. What luck!

Tales of windfall and bonanza evince immense interest in us humans. No wonder the Internet is a gold mine (a source of wealth, valuable information, or resources) of trivia related to people showered by wealth in swift, sudden and surprising ways. Even mythology is replete with plenty of references.

For example, the word cornucopia yielded rich information on the Net. In classical antiquity, the cornucopia (from Latin cornu copiae, literally horn of plenty) was a symbol of abundance and nourishment, commonly a large goat horn-shaped container overflowing with grains, vegetables, flowers and nuts. Later, cornucopia came to mean in the figurative sense of an overflowing supply of good things. The filled horn (or a receptacle resembling it) has served as a traditional emblem to suggest a store of abundance in art, architecture, and design.

A traditional staple of feasts, the cornucopia is believed to represent the horn of a goat from Greek mythology. According to a legend from Greek mythology, infant Zeus, who had been hidden from his devouring father Kronus in a cave, was cared for by divine attendants, including the goat Amalthea (‘Nourishing Goddess’), who fed him with her milk. The suckling future king of the gods while playing with his nursemaid accidentally broke off one of her horns, which then had the divine power to provide unending nourishment. 

In our Hindu mythology, we have the Akshaya patra (Sanskrit, inexhaustible vessel) that was provided to the Pandavas, producing unlimited quantities of food for their nourishment.

This tale from the Mahabharata takes one to ordinary people turning maha-crorepatis overnight by a stroke of luck. Well, one keeps hearing of them off and on. But from among the cornucopia of these stories on the Net, some schadenfreude cases held my attention. Schadenfreude is pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune. It comes from German schaden ‘harm’ + freude ‘joy’.  Apparently, it’s not uncommon for lottery winners to go broke. A lack of financial planning and foolhardy spending habits can soon take them to the bottom of their pot of money. In a typical easy-come-easy-go style, they find that they have blown their windfall on exorbitantly priced frivolous luxuries such as homes, cars, vacations without first ensuring a secure future. 

When in 2003, Callie Rogers scooped the £1.9million jackpot at 16, she became Britain's youngest lottery winner. But she frittered the fortune away on drugs, booze and cosmetic surgery, becoming so depressed she even attempted suicide. Luckily, she pulled herself together and went on to study nursing and being truly happy living hand to mouth.

Wish one could say the same for some of our brethren in India who came into a lot of money during the real estate boom period around the turn of the millennium and succumbed to a lavish lifestyle before staring at doom.

There are all kinds of lottery winners. Washington’s Tyrone Curry is one of a kind: he kept his job as a school janitor after winning a $3.4 million jackpot! He just paid off his debts, and other than that, things pretty much remained the same. 

The story of Jane Park of Scotland is also interesting. She struck gold by winning £1 million in a draw when she was just 17. But she later felt that the prize money had “ruined her life”. After splashing out on two houses, a luxury car, designer handbags and designer dogs, she said in an interview to a newspaper that while her friends are stressed because of being badly paid, “no one who really understands [how] I feel.” So much so that she even considered taking legal action against the lottery organisers for negligence. 

People envied her lifestyle and cash but it was nothing worth lusting after, she said.

“They don’t realise the extent of my stress. I have material things but apart from that my life is empty. What is my purpose in life? It’s scary how different my life is from my friends,” she said. “There’s no one in the same boat as me, no one who really understands. I feel like I’m a 40-year-old.”

Well, well. Life is itself a lottery. We can never tell who will get what and when, materially, mentally and spiritually. Wish you all good luck!

hkhetal@gmail.com

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