Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Growing aspirations and changing lifestyles in India

Me and my friend are having lunch at our condo canteen. It is definitely more than a canteen, with nice sofas, tables, chairs, TV and of course sumptuous food J Not to ignore the other condo facilities like the video game stations, table tennis tables, aerobics room, reading room, gym and the swimming pool just besides the canteen. You will ask – why do I need to talk about the amenities here? Well, my simple response to that is, wait to read this post till the end, and am sure, you will be able to relate to this and appreciate what I have written here J

As we both were having lunch, we just talked about various things and points of importance. And suddenly my eyes stuck at a school going kid sitting on a chair nearby with books open in front of him. I just turned around and there is a girl behind me going through her note-book. And thereby started our discussion – how can these people study in public places like this? Isn’t it disturbing? Do these kids not need enough peace to concentrate and study? Surely, there was this peace missing at a public place like this and I am a culprit towards that too. With talking loudly on my cell phone, I was surely adding to a bit of noise pollution in that public space, even though, no one seemed to be bothered much.

Not even a few seconds passed that we both started talking about our past. How we used to study and how it is so different now. I am sure, most of us, would agree, in our days (though more than a decade back now), our parents would always switch off the TV or the radio, if they would see us studying. Or if they have to watch something important on the TV, they would make sure that we leave the room and go in a more silent room to concentrate and study. Even better, at times, I remember, TVs were moved out into other rooms so that both the things can happen in parallel. And if we are studying in our rooms, no one would even come to disturb us, not even our ever fighting and naughty siblings J

In our days, group study was really unheard of. I think, once or twice when we really tried to do so, we had to fight with our parents to allow us to do this. I think, they knew, there is nothing called as group study. And believe me, until a few years back, there wasn’t J I still remember, whatever group works we have done during our school days or college days (especially engineering), all ended up being fun activities J. During our school days, we all wanted to celebrate “Basant Panchmi” – the kite flying festival in India. And on the pretext of tying the knots (“kanne”) for flying kites the next day and of course “group study” as well, we all got together and stayed overnight at a friend’s place. And we all know what group study we did. It was more of group dance and jokes and full on fun timeJ How much I wish even today that we have such group works J

All this was pre 2000, now cut to 2012. We see group studies all around us. You can see one group of kids together at one corner of a coffee shop or a pizza outlet or any of these fast food joints. Is it really worth sitting at these joints, spending some hard earned dollars of your parents at these costly joints? Well, I am no one to be judgemental on this and say yes or no. What I am talking here is why is this happening now when it never happened 10 or more years back.

People might have their own reasons for this. Some might argue that this is western culture killing our Indian culture and what not. Again, I am emphasizing  I am not here to criticize any culture or glorify any either. I just want to put my thoughts and discuss this with everyone.

If I have to sum up my reasons for this, I will just say this is because we are getting used to this. This surely becoming our habit now. And from where do these habits come from? These are emanated from the easy availability of such joints. And why do we see big companies investing so much on these joints or our very own Cafe Coffee Day mushrooming across every nook and corner of Urban India? Simple answer to this is – increasing wealth of Indians. And with increasing spending capacity coupled with easy availability of information on new things from across the world we have our growing aspirations. With a lot of international travel these days, we are witness to global lifestyles and with money in hand; we all want to adopt them.

Another important thing to note here is with such an easy availability of these outlets nearby and with nice decor and seating, we end up being there more. It is all about being lured into these outlets and getting used to them. And overtime, it becomes our habit and thereby completing the full circle.

Imagine 2 kids talking to another gang of kids and telling them – we spent quality time at a coffee outlet and what best is they allow us to sit there and study J I am sure this is bound to generate more business for these companies. This is akin to the strategy adopted by Reliance India Mobile way back in early 2000 in India. They made mobile phones so cheaper to own and made consumers into contracting them for 2 years that they were making us all get used to it and make our daily lives revolve around them. And what has happened since then in Indian telecom industry is known to everyone.