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In Glitzy Malls ….:CONSUMERISM DEVOURS INDIA, by Proloy Bagchi,26 November 2010 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 26 November 2010  

In Glitzy Malls ….


By Proloy Bagchi


Shopping malls are the churches of the 21st Century, pointedly observed famous thinker Malcolm Muggeridge. He hit the nail on the head. Turn North, South, East or West the story is the same. Swanky malls with numerous escalators, automated ramps and modern lifts are mushrooming faster than one can blink, all over India. Offering the choicest of shops, chain-stores, perfumeries, electronic shops, eateries, food courts, movie theatres and even bowling alleys et al, catering to all ages and tastes. You name it, it’s all there.


Clearly, a quantum jump and quite a transition from crowded neighbourhood mom-and-pop stores. Packed with stuff manufactured locally or imported from oversees ---- America, UK, China, South-East, Japan, Cambodia, Australia and as far as tiny New Zealand.  Obviously, there is a lot of money and people are happily throwing it around.


Undoubtedly, Generations’ Next and X are lucky as they are exposed to all that the new Century’s materialism has to offer. Whatever is available in the developed countries of the East and the West are all available in India. What’s more, almost simultaneously as products are unveiled world-wide. All made possible by Manmohanonics: the liberalisation of the economy in the early ‘90s.


Remember, the time we Indians grew up and lived most of our life in a closed economy, a financial system that pretended to be socialistic in character, but was far from it. Even as late as the early 1980s the aam aadmi had not seen many of the mechanical and electronic office equipment that were freely in use globally, including in neighbouring South East Asian countries, known as “The Asian Tigers” for their rapid economic progress.


For instance, during the eighties and nineties, we had never seen, leave alone used a simple thing like a calculator. Photo-copiers were absent in offices, as we lived in the ‘stencil-cutting age’. Our hotels were so unlike its counterparts in Kuala Lumpur with its escalators or Singapore’s razzmatazz huge shopping malls stuffed with goods seldom available even in New Delhi or Mumbai shops. From perfumes to shoes, apparels to branded luggage, Japanese cameras and electronic items, all available in great profusion.


In Japan’s Capital Tokyo shops brimmed with VCRs, invisible then in Delhi shops (a craze as CDs and DVDs were still to debut). Food processors were available in profusion. They made cooking so much easier unlike the Indian sil bataa. In another shop the salesmen rattled of various famous Japanese brands of cameras, not a few beckoned customers to sample their stuff. Just like meat-sellers used to do years ago in Gwalior’s meat market


In Bangkok, not only large but small stores too had basketful of goodies --- of calculators or 35mm colour-film rolls. One just had to pick things up according to one’s need and pay up. On virtually every street one would find an outfit that processed colour films in a matter of hours on automatic machines. In India’s small towns like Bhopal, Meerut, Bhubaneswar people had to hand over exposed colour rolls at a Kodak outlet (if there was one) which would send the film for processing to Mumbai. It would take over three weeks to process the films and the photographs handed over.


Thankfully, the country has travelled a long way since the early ‘80s. Whereby things are far different now. Not only has the Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) risen spectacularly but also the country has become the target of all big producers. Particularly, as India’s   billion plus population is considered the biggest market after China. This has resulted in all international chains of various industries along-with big brands setting up shop in the country, fostering consumption and encouraging consumerism.


Make no mistake. Indeed, the consumer-culture has well and truly set in and is on the upswing. Undeniably, this is worrying. As these malls, hyper-markets and such-like have a flip side. While the burgeoning middle classes are having a great time, the aspirations of the lower classes are being spurred on. After all, today’s lower classes are tomorrow’s middle classes, who, in course of time, will fall prey to the same consumerist culture.


Questionably, can India really afford such a culture? Egged on and persuaded by the glitz, glitter and the glamour of innumerable malls and hyper markets? One shudders to imagine what our Planet Earth will be like if hundreds of millions of Indians, ape the consumerism of the West.


Remember what Gandhiji wisely observed over seventy years ago. Asserted he, “We will need resources of two planets if Indians are to acquire the living standards of the British.” In the Mahatma’s India, we were only three hundred million then, today we a billion plus. However ecologically we are already in the red. ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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