A lesson about living within our means
In Kannada, the native language of Karnataka, where this proverb originates, it reads as ‘haasige iddashtu kaalu chaachu.’ The literal translation is: stretch your legs as much as the length of your bed.
What does this mean?
Like all proverbs, there is a much deeper meaning to this one. In simple words, it translates into ‘live within your means.’
The beauty of local proverbs is that they always make a veiled reference to life. When you grow up hearing some of these every day, it seems to etch itself deeply in your psyche.
‘Stretch your legs as much as the length of your bed’ is such a gem of advice. It teaches you to keep your perspective. A diametrically opposite thought is conveyed by ‘the sky is the limit.’ When you hear one and then the other, it gets confusing.
However, when you think about it, it is not confusing at all. While we are encouraged to dream big, we also need to be conscious of what we actually have.
Dreaming big and taking concrete steps towards achieving lofty goals involves a lot of hard work and sacrifice. It is critical to be aware of our strengths, weaknesses, and liabilities during those times and work within the boundaries.
Why is it relevant?
I recently watched an interview where the interviewee talked about this aspect. She said that lots of people dream big and achieve big. In theory, they bring home bucket loads of money, but they are so neck-deep in debt that their actual net worth is negative.
What is the point of that kind of achievement? Will that person ever be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor? Won’t they always feel like there is a sword hanging on their head?
Instead, if we fall back on age-old wisdom that says we should stretch our legs just as much as the bed, wouldn’t life be much simpler? The pins and needles we might experience by letting our feet hang outside the bed will no longer exist.
Think about it. Proverbs are always built on generations of wisdom and experience. We must pay heed to them. Almost all of them have withstood the test of time and stay relevant even today.