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Consumerism

There has been more than one culture clash in my life recently. Attitudes to money would be the main reason for that, in my humble opinion.

My husband grew up in an era when one rupee (that's the Indian currency) had some value. Money was hard-earned and didn't come easily. When money had to be spent on items other than food, it was spent on items that were expected to last. That was the era of the lifetime guarantee. It would have been similar in some ways for me, although things had begun to change in the western world by the time I was growing up.


Life has totally changed. I remember when I bought my first mobile phone ten years ago. It was a solid little phone, no bigger than a bar of chocolate. It could make phone calls and had a little calendar in it. I loved it. But one day, when I'd had the phone about three years, it broke down. I brought it to a repair shop to get an estimate for the repair. The repair cost was the price of the phone itself. I knew it was time to get another phone. My next phone had a similar 'candy bar' design, but amazingly, it had Internet. The Internet recharges were reasonably priced and it felt great to have a mobile Internet connection, even if the screen was tiny. But no mobile phone of mine has ever lasted as long as my original one.
You'll still find the steet vendors here

Years ago, when people bought goods like clocks and tables, they were made to last a lifetime. Now, a 'lifetime' means three years. It's incredible. If I have a phone I love, I would see no reason to change it. But no-one seems to have interest in something after it's a year old. I know that sounds a bit extreme, but things have gone that way. And it's quite a culture shock for people of my husband's generation, many of whom are grandparents now. They would see themselves as working hard for whatever money they can get and when one of the grandchilren needs a new mobile, the older people would see the  money as simply being wasted. It's hard to explain. I suppose things have moved along pretty fast during the last few years.

A fabulous Asian mall
The older people in India have a habit of saving money, which was inculcated into them as youngsters. But when I mentioned this to a relative living in Ireland, I was told that nowadays, people live a credit card lifestyle. Apparently, the habit of saving is obsolete. No one has savings. No one holds on to old stuff. It's all update, update, update.

What's really complicated about Indian life is that there are several layers of society here. There's a layer of affluent, English educated elite who enjoy a consumer lifestyle, with all its benefits. At the same time, they enjoy some of the benefits of living in an economy where there are a lot of poor people.  So you have families where the kids eat pizza and chat on 4G mobiles while there is a servant (maybe even a child servant, though that's against the current law) washing the floor in front of them.

Because Indians follow traditions of giving their daughters and sons-in-law a lot of gifts at the time of marriage, this puts tremendous pressure on parents of girls about to be married. One doesn't wish to send one's daughter away to her marital home with household goods which are not of a high standard. Everything has to be up-to-date and state-of-the-art. Even if there is no demand for these items from the boy's side, the pressure remains. So one has to have plenty of savings to fall back on while keeping up with the consumer society. Talk about having the worst of both worlds!
Despite modern trends, traditional vendors are still around

Nowadays in India, you can buy your vegetables in a modern supermarket. But you can still buy them off a barrow on the road or in a roadside vegetable market, if you prefer. Recently, while shopping for clothes for my nephew's marriage, I enjoyed a trip in Lucknow's Aminabad market, buying bangles to match whatever saris I was planning to wear at the various wedding functions. My friend Babita is an expert shopper in these traditional markets. An Irish friend, Aine, who was coming to the wedding, was with us. Babita told Aine and me to just select whatever bangles we wanted. Then, when the shopkeeper tried to charge an exorbitant price, Babita argued him down the right rate, with a skill that comes from years of practice. This wasn't only shopping. It was entertainment. 
Outdoor vegetable market

As for me, I like nice stuff. Nice phones, nice computers, nice clothes. But I tend to use all my possessions until they fall apart. I do not care who is impressed or who isn't. And even if anyone gossips about my 'cheap lifestyle' I'm not strong in Hindi, so I can't understand them anyway.

Some of the wisdom of the East seems to have influenced me. One should be less materialistic and more spiritual in order to maximize one's satisfaction in life. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!


I have recently resumed blogging with the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of bloggers who post on the same topic/prompt every Friday. I'm an old member of this friendly group and delighted to be back. The current blogging members of this group are: RamanaChuck and Pravin. Thanks to Rummuser for the topic/prompt 'Consumerism".

Banner courtesy of Canva 
Image of 'Young Woman Talking On The Phone While Shopping For Clothes' by 'nenetus', courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
All other images courtesy of Pixabay


Comments

  1. Great post. Like they say, there are two India's. The consumerist Indian who subscribes to the use-and-throw culture. And the other who believe in saving every paisa and the repair-and-use culture. And often the two reside in the same household.

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    1. That's right, Adite. That's the interesting aspect. Often the two reside in the same household. I love that paradox!

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  2. It would be fascinating to live in India in these times I think. Smanychanges coming so rapidly and serious culture clashes. Interesting post - very informative.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, Chuck, you are right. It actually is fascinating.

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    2. Chuck, you have a standing invitation to come and stay with me for as long as you want and explore the exploding india!

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    3. There's an offer you can't refuse, Chuck.

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  3. Wisdom of the East? It has gone up in smoke in urban areas and increasingly so in rural areas as well with vacationing rural folks going back home with goodies for the family. Consumerism is playing havoc with that nice old fashioned wisdom much to the chagrin of the older folks like your dear bhaiyya.

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    Replies
    1. Let me get the kids sorted and we'll set up that ashram we talked about before. I always fancied being a gurumaa. . Eh, bhaiyya?

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    2. You will be a stunning Sales Manager!

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  4. I think the world will change again, and then consumerism will be old hat. No way of influencing how and when that will happen though. For myself, I just don't like buying stuff very much but I like to be able to do it when I want to.

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    1. Oh, Jenny, I wish! Thanks for visiting and commenting, great to see you over here.

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  5. I'm with you all the way. I also wear/use things until they fall to bits or stop working. I have no urge to keep replacing things every five minutes just to get the latest trendy update. I'm currently wearing a jumper with a large hole in the sleeve! I have a very basic pay-as-you-go mobile phone capable of phone calls and texts and that's it. It's several years old and hopefully will last a few years more. I think Jenny is right, people will get tired of consumerism eventually and go back to a simpler lifestyle.

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  6. Great stuff, Nick. I have a jumper with two holes in it. I wear it especially when I'm walking my huge mutt of a dog. He destroys everything. It's the KISS formula,Keep It Simple Stupid. Well, I wouldn't call anyone stupid, but you know what I mean.

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  7. I worked with a woman in 2010 or so who had a cell phone that was at least ten years old. It finally broke. She took it to the cell shop and they were calling people over to look at it. She had a plan that only gave her 30 minutes or something and they were saying, "You could have upgraded a long time ago to MANY more minutes for the same price." She kept her cell phone in her car and only used it if she broke down. Strangest thing!

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    1. My late father-in-law worked his way through a packet of disposable rezor blades which lasted around ten years.. Thanks for visiting, Dtephanie.

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  8. i enjoyed reading your post dear friend,it reminded me my [late]mom who used to save money even from a little amount abu used to give her on weekly bases when he visited home.
    i am never had that skill though i do not LOVE shopping just tend to buy things when i really need them and by doing so if there is some money saved it is not my effort at all but i am lucky to have husband who does manage to save money for bettering the life and future studies of kids etc.
    i too had a watch ,a phone and a bag for many years until they were out of order or torn .
    i think you are very right to use things until they are able to work nice .

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    Replies
    1. Lovely to see you over here again Baili. I'm over 50 and I think our generation was taught to value money and things more than the younger generation, who seem to just 'use and throw' things a lot ore than we did.

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