|Image courtesy - Stock Vector|
During my growing up years, festivals and birthdays were great occasions of joy for me. That time of the year when delicious aromas would waft out of the kitchen and I would be hovering around expecting my Mom to invent a miracle that would change the world forever, quite like Marie Curie. For me a hot, syrupy, melt in mouth malpua was a miracle that could cure the world of all its ills.
Ma would pretend not to notice the tiny little hands trying to paw a mishtee or two. Nothing tastes better than a “stolen” cham-cham, its sticky juice running down your arms in rivulets.
Festivals (Durga Pujo for Bengalis) and birthdays also meant brand new clothes. Pujo shopping would start months in advance. Baba would come home early and we’d all drive down to Karol Bagh. Ma would spend hours trying to drive the sari salesman insane with her “aur dikhao” demands, while we would slurp noisily from out bottles of lime and lemoni Limca.
It didn’t matter who we were shopping for. All that mattered was we were together having a good time.
Birthdays meant two brand new dresses and Ma taking the day off for me. Pujo meant animated discussions with friends, all of us trying to impress each other with our windfall of 3 skirts, two frocks and the fancy sandals from Metro shoes.
I didn’t care that none of them had labels, that my coveted croc tees were actually fakes, that the cake was pineapple every year and that I mostly got colour pencils as gifts!
Of course, every year my brother and I were subjected to the mandatory “when we were your age, we got only two sets of clothes every year” lecture, before we got ours.
I can still vividly recount that day when we were waiting for Ma in the market. She was supposed to join us from work. All three of us were waiting outside the Bata store, the minutes turning to anxious hours. I was trying my best to dissolve in my own tears, convinced someone had kidnapped my one and only Mom, when she turned-up, looking all harried and worn out.
These were the pre-mobile days and she had no way of informing us of the nasty jam she had got stuck in.
The pre-mobile and pre-Credit card days, when we shopped for our needs and not as a therapy…When we made a list of what we wanted and carried enough in our pockets to pay for it. Unlike the present, when gratification is instant and repentance awaits a credit card bill.
We go to malls because we have nothing better to do. We buy dresses we don’t need, crib that our closet doesn’t have enough space to accommodate our extravagances and then claim we have nothing to wear.
If we fancy something, we don’t torture ourselves with “do I really need this?” or wait for birthdays or anniversaries to pamper ourselves. We simply swipe our credit cards.
In our quest for making every day special, the special occasions have lost their sheen.
I’m not condemning our evolving lifestyle that caves in to its impulses than deny itself. After all, we are working harder and putting up with unimaginable stress. So, if all it requires is a few extra pairs of shoes to make me happy, why not? I’d rather live for the day, hum zindagi na milegi dobara, as I board the plane for my tri-annual break, than save for a rainy day that I might not live long enough to see.
For those of us who have chosen to stay in the material world, elevating our standard of living is a reasonable objective.
But what I do not relate to is when we use shopping as an excuse to sidestep our problems rather than confront them. I broke up with my boyfriend of seven years... I deserve that clunky watch that I have been eyeing for ten minutes. I hate my boss and I’d rather change my mobile than my job that is sucking the life out of me. I’d rather play golf on weekends than spend time playing with my children, but let me surprise them with an iPad!
No amount of money spent can replace the emotions we invest in a relationship. It most certainly cannot be used to assuage our guilt for not spending enough time with our family.
Funny thing is our love for the excessive doesn’t stop us from sermonizing the younger generation on frugality. It’s now us recounting our growing up years to our kids, trying to get them to value money… When I buy yet another dress for my daughter from Zara, I don’t fail to remind her, when I was your age – we only bought clothes from Karol Bagh!
Because I want her to know, behind the apparent ease with which we acquire modern day trappings, is a lot toil and sacrifice. And what we have today may not last forever.