I know life can be a bit of a struggle, but we don’t have to compete it like Olympics champions. Some people have to be at the starting block ready for the race and it is always reluctant friends, who are forced into the competition.

It is very annoying to receive a call from someone asking if you could accompany them to do their shopping. It is not a trip to the supermarket or your average electronic shop, but to a luxury department store.

Of course, they would need an excuse like “my car is at the garage and I don’t have transport” so you could give them a lift. Once you are there, they would ask for your “opinion”, which 42-inch television they should buy. Such person was, perhaps, felt threatened when he saw you unloading a 26-inch TV and it was time that he beat you to the finishing line.

There are other people, after visiting your house and seeing a new set of sofas, they would quickly tell you about the carpets and curtains they are planning to buy. To them, it is a race of material that they won’t be outsprinted. They are everywhere, but the problem they are also hard to shake-off. You and I are just happy to have a roof over our heads and have no time to contest for our possessions.

Perhaps, they are carrying deep-rooted psychological problems with them and the need to be noticed overpowers their better senses. They are the type of people, who would silently scorn at you when you drive an old banger or have children studying in government schools.

But they feel more comfortable when they can look down at people and hate it to be outdone materialistically. It is not the type of struggle some of us like to get involved, but it is hard not to be dragged into a game that you rather not take part.

I am convinced that they find easy prey in the more tolerant people like us. We don’t challenge them and our silence encourages them to ‘compete’ even harder. However, in some occasions, they meet their equals and the ensuing clashes put them in their places.

I saw it happening and it was not pleasant. It was a war between the tactically rude braggers with a compulsory need to show-off and the forthright offensive people with little regard for etiquette.

Life stays simple when you make it simple. You don’t score points when you feel superior over the other human being. Possessions, like life itself, are temporary. The kick you get from a fast car, plasma television or sprawling villa fades away quickly.

Familiarity makes sure that the thrill does not last long. For the chronic attention seekers, it is time they look for something to replenish the urge. If you are a neighbour, then there is no escaping it. You are just a door away. It is a vicious cycle that never ends.

Somebody like me, after being caught in this cycle, said he would suggest to his antagonising friend a new hobby. It is an energy that is needed to be drained, he said. A regular exercise or anything to take their minds away from idle thoughts might solve the problem.

I guess it is the curse of the city life. I don’t think it happens in villages. A villager does not exactly go to buy two cows when his neighbour gets a bull. The city is a showcase where we constantly watch each other’s achievements. When the delivery van stops outside your door, you bet someone wants to know what you bought.

 The writer is an Oman-based freelance columnist. This article has been reproduced from the Khaleej Times.