CTRL ALT DEL
Having enjoyed the fruits of economic liberalisation, several successful and affluent Indians in their 30s are now turning their backs on consumerism in order to free up money, time and energy to focus on activities and relationships that they find truly
They are educated. They are successful. They are affluent. They want out. Like Saloni Gadgil, 24, and Sandhan Chowdhury, 30. A year ago, the couple who live together in Mumbai, began a journey towards simplifying their lives by consuming less.
They first decided to share a cupboard, which meant getting rid of half of their clothes. They then stopped using their credit cards. They began eating almost all their meals at home.
“We decided to spend time and money on experiences and travelling instead of on objects,” says Gadgil, a writer. Says Chowdhury, a corporate trainer: “We became more conscious about what we felt we needed and what we didn’t.”
Several Indians in their 20s and 30s, who initially embraced the new Indian economy and enjoyed its fruits, are now consciously turning their backs on consumerism and what it stands for. In practical terms, they are paring down their possessions and channelling the time, money and energy they save from not consuming into activities that are truly meaningful to them. In philosophical terms, at least some of them have come to define themselves not in terms of what they own but in terms of what they do and the values they stand for. (See on the right, Scaling down to the essence).
Not all of them are going simple to the same degree or in the same manner. Ruth Sequeira, 22, a brand manager in Chennai, began scaling down her life by using public transport and walking to work, then cutting down on her carbon footprint and not eating fast-food.
“It is all intertwined,” she says. “To simplify, you have to reduce wastage, including of energy resources.” Ashok Mohanan, 33, a gadget-loving telecom marketing manager in Mumbai, did it first by resisting the urge to buy a home theatre system and a high-end car.
To the multitude of less fortunate Indians many of these ‘minimalists’ might appear to be living a still farfrom-minimal life. Moreover, some are ‘minimising’ not out of any social or environmental concerns but to improve their own sense of well-being. Despite the differences and caveats, their questioning is what warrants noting, say experts, because it signals a shift in mindset — one that may never become mainstream but holds the possibility of influencing the mainstream from the margins. “Thanks to needs constructed by advertising, people feel they will not survive if they don’t buy certain products,” says Joseph MT, assistant professor of sociology at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai. “So a countermovement is necessary. At the same time, it has become difficult to decide whether something is a real need or a pseudo-need. So this rising trend of rejecting consumerism is a response by young people who feel out of control and feel they are just puppets of the market.”
For a generation whose parents had no choice but to be minimalist in preliberalisation India, consumerism also meant freedom. Raised in a different context, some youngsters today have the luxury of re-examining this notion of freedom — and redefining it.
“Young people who reject consumerism are often influenced by social movements, such as the Gandhian and student movements. The huge disparity in our society could move people to question norms of what constitutes success and happiness.” — ANJALI...