Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Festival of Consumerism

We were tempted. Since months we had been contemplating purchasing a new TV. “Wait for Diwali” said everyone and we readily agreed. Diwali was the time for festive offers, deals to be struck and freebies to be won.  What would we get as a deal we wondered… a noise cancelling headphone or that gorgeous new blue ray player? The mind feasted on the options and plans wheeled into motion.

Yes, that was the first thought of Diwali that came to our mind, of festive offers and television sets. Sheepish however we did feel, even more so when we realized we were not alone. Washing machine purchases had many a housewife take home Revlon kits to add to their vanity case. There were many grabbers for pen drives that were being distributed in abundance with every kitchen appliance sale. Discounts on clothing were making the ladies yearn for a shopping trip to the mall while offers on phones and cameras had many a men swoon.

If the stores were going all out to engage the gullible customer, the virtual world was not one to be left behind. Online retailers announced their sales with discounts that boggled the mind and made their event the talk of the social town. Credit card sales were picking up and ATM withdrawals crossing all limits. In hindsight, if one cared to take notice, the online sales were anything but discounts, the prices at which the durables were sold were higher than what stores had to offer on a normal day. But did anybody bother to check?

Diwali and Dussehra are not the only scapegoats for sellers; Akshaya Thritiya probably takes the cake when it comes to consumerism. An auspicious day among Hindus and Jains, the real value of this festival is supposed to be found in “giving” say the scriptures and spiritual gurus and that is meant to multiple the return one gets. However what has become popular belief is that purchasing gold on Akshaya Thritiya will lead to immense gain and return. (Read here for more on this)

So what drives this fervent urge for premium purchases to be at its peak during these festivals?

Festivals such as these are now increasingly becoming the face of effective marketing gimmicks that sellers are adopting for higher sales. Yes, there was a time when festivals such as Diwali meant giving your (and your family) life a new start with a clean-up/makeover, purchase of new household goods but over a period of time that has diminished to be the primary reason for making buying decisions.The festival has now been reduced to being a mere premise for being cajoled into heavy duty purchases that one might not have made otherwise.

These festivals now seem to be more about the purchases you make and the gifts you give and not the quality time you spend with your family and friends to celebrate their presence in your lives and pray for more such moments. The definition of prosperity and well being has developed a materialistic tone and given rise to a new festival of sorts- consumerism.

Somewhere along the line we seem to have forgotten the identity and true meaning of these occasions and allowed consumerism to take over. Over the years regardless of whether we prosper or not we have ensured retailers and wholesalers do.

These thoughts were playing on my mind when I was reading the newspaper the other day hunting for news items that were buried somewhere among all the advertisements and sale campaigns. The broadsheet screamed discounts from all corners cementing the thoughts I was mulling over. In the entire mayhem one tiny cartoon strip caught my eye, adding substance to my rumination. This was one feeling I was hoping I wouldn't be right about… but alas.

Wonder what is molding the way that we have been for generations till now... wonder what is changing the meaning of these festivals in the eyes of the average Indian?... I suspect the answer to these questions likes somewhere deep within you and me.

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  1. Hi You brought out a serious issue to discuss with. People(devotees) are fooled by the business community especially in the festive season, the offers they announce thru newspaper and other media to cheat the people is a plain truth of cheating but still people rush towards such malls and shops to get fooled by themselves.
    Here who is to be blamed is a great question! is the business people of we ourselves. We the writers need to make an awarenss among people about this gimmick or the hidden agenda in these type of announcements.
    Thanks for opening up this debate here, you need to promote this thru social media.
    Hey pl. remove the word verification from here, this really irritate your readers to post a comment.This you can do it by visiting your dasboard's settings page. Thanks

  2. Very true! Festival time is gifting time and people make demands for gadgets and consumer goods! Marketers delight!

  3. @ P V Ariel- Glad this resonates with you and hopefully with most, I am doing my bit by sharing it.:)
    About the word verification, unfortunately a lot of spammers tend to attack if that is not in place :( Do let me know if you are aware of any other way to avoid spam.

  4. @ Anita- hehehe true :) did you hear about the Flipkart sale? Apparently the prices were higher than the stores and nobody realized :)

  5. This has been a long time practice in US. We see Thanks giving sale, Columbus day sale, July 4th sale and what not. Probably the trend has moved to east as well.

    Either way people burn lot of money in the form of crackers and patakas. Why not spend the money on gadgets instead and save the world from sound and air pollution. Gadgets last longer than crackers and Patakas, don't you agree!

    Pity on buyers who get jacked by sellers. But who cares, its festival time, time to be happy. forgive and forget! Ignorance is bliss

  6. @ Happy-Thanks for stopping by! Yes def. a wonderful way of looking at things :) however I still do feel it causes an imbalance with unnecessary spend/consumption of electricity etc etc.. an imbalance economically or ecologically.. just something that could be done without :)

  7. That was a good article and I agree with the points you made.
    But looking at another perspective, the consumerism is also helpful for our economy.
    In the festive times, more and more money circulates in the market, creating more business and more opportunities and so on, which is ultimately good for economic expansion.
    We just need to be judicious in our choices and that where are we spending money. Are we helping our local/national/regional economy or are we helping foreign economy? This makes a huge difference.
    Being wiser in our strategies, we can use consumerism in our favor to boost Indian economy.

  8. @ kuchbaateapni- very well said :) It is about how judiciously we spend.. unfortunately most dont do that and purchases are made when there might not even be a need..
    Thanks for stopping by :)

  9. Very true. When we were kids, we looked forward to Diwali for the festivities- the sweets, the lights, the celebrations with family. Nowadays, it seems to be yet another glitzy holiday used by sellers to sell overpriced goods to unsuspecting consumers.
    Btw, read your reply to Ariel regarding word verification. I think blogger allows you to let comments appear only after they have been approved by you. You could try that.

  10. The first three paragraphs are very well written, enjoyed reading them :)

    Yes, the kids of today would never enjoy the festivals like our parents did.

  11. @musafiratheart- bang on with that, you spoke my mind :) I did have moderation activated but many readers voiced the feeling that comments should not be qualified.. i'll give this some time and see how it goes :)

    @Karthik- like you said on the forum.. we were lucky :)


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