People look the same, but they think different, act different. Values have transformed. Yes, the place is booming with progress, but booming to the extent it makes an old fashioned me feel nauseated. Returning to my home town after only a few years, I find the world there has fast forwarded many many years.
Commercialism is at its helm sweeping everything and everyone with its flow. Huge malls have burgeoned with top international brands to cater to the new middle class with excellent pay packs and plenty of dispensable cash. The rush in high end brands is as if the stuff is for ‘free’ give away.
My favorite hideouts for ethnic stuff sulk with few visitors— mostly being tourists or old fashioned junkees like me. To my utter shock my favorite state craft emporium which was known for it’s exclusive handmade stuff, is now stacked with second rate , far more expensive machine made ugly embroidery—and they call it ‘handicraft’. And the stuff which I wouldn’t cherish even for free, is exorbitantly price tagged. The lone hand embroidered trinket I dug out from the old stack, turned out to be way cheaper than the new commercial stuff.
“Why? “ I ask.
“It old fashioned”, the lady remarks.
I walk out disheartened for it ceases to remain a den I will ever again aspire to explore.
Delhi Haat, the hub of art and craft, is deserted with over half the shops either closed or unoccupied. Few love-stricken couples, roam around on a look out for solitude in the empty shops. The shop with state of the art hand embroidery from a remote state sells it dirt cheap—
I again ask. “ Why?”
She is dumbfounded. How could anyone call it cheap, as people still haggle with her to bargain on that price.
The official passing by over hears, and explains— “Yes if she won’t sell that cheap, no one will buy. And she will have to pay the freight and carry it back to her home town 2000 km away.”
My heart aches. I buy without a bargain. I hug the woman. Call her my sister to overcome the guilt of buying such laborious art so cheap.
My brother buys an IPL Calcutta Night Rider’s T-shirt for my son at an exorbitant price tag. My heart sinks. The high-end store selling original T-shirts has teenaged boys falling one over the other for their favourite team’s Tshirts. Then I see, not one or two, but many boys buying several Tshirts from different teams.
I again ask a mom , “Why?’
“He collects them all”, is her matter of fact reply.
Maybe I am somewhat old fashioned to make sense of that.
I walk into another shop in the fancy Mall, for a friend’s demand of a bridal dress. They serve you lassi, thandai, fizzy drink, mineral water—whatever soft drink you name. The cost of what I was told to buy is 4 times the price my friend had asked for. I tell him my range—and the ‘seth’ in the shop gives a jerky smile, turns to attend to the next customer, never to look back at me again.
I call him and he says, without looking at me, “With your range you will not get it anywhere, you may try elsewhere if you like”.
I walk out dejected—knowing that my friend would never believe my story. She wouldn’t buy my explanation that India isn’t simple and inexpensive, anymore.
Not just the usual stuff, many more interesting things are for sale too. Male or female sexuality is on display too, in TV Ads, selling trivial stuff like deodorants. A deodorant Ad shows a woman fanaticizing about sex after getting a whiff of the man’s deodorant. In another, a woman finds a man’s deodorant so attractive that she starts unbuttoning her blouse, and yet in a third one, a woman is drawn to her sweet-smelling brother-in-law.
When the government objects to their being inappropriate on TV, watched by families at home — the fashionables cry for freedom of expression. That the woman or men should be free to express their sexuality in public. Yeah sell the deo ‘using’ a woman’s sexuality. This is called commercial freedom. Perhaps I am too old fashioned to get that.
Then one hears the news and the rescuing of under aged girls, as old as 12 or 13, from brothels in some cities. They are lured into business with a ploy to better jobs and are sold in brothels. There are two business models to make them comply in the trade- first, physical torture, and secondly, drugs. The two methods are applied enough to kill their self esteem, and they obey their seniors like robots. These little girls physiologies’ are on sale too.
Another commodity on sale is the woman’s womb. Many agencies have sprung up taking pride in making India a hub of reproductive tourism. Now if you have a vacant womb, you can rent your womb and bear another couples child. It was a scientific feat, especially for those who could not bear their own child for some medical reason. But now the reasons have extended to economic and social convenience. Many couples who have enough money, but not enough time can rent a womb and let it carry their baby. And once born they are legally the parents and the surrogate mother has no right either emotional or legal over the baby she nourished with her blood and tissues.
Busy rich ‘desi’ couples in the west are the clients mostly. Who shall tell these money struck parents that to go through the whole sequel of ‘Pregnancy test Positive’, to each stage of pregnancy, week by week , month by month, cuddling an unborn baby, feeling its kicks is a journey It’s the real honeymoon in a couples life, that no money can replace.
Bring home a baby ready made, not able to breast feed, no knowing what pangs of birth are or what morning sickness is- is hard for me to comprehend.
Yes really hard to comprehend.
For sure because I am old fashioned.
Very old fashioned.