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

Hindustan Times (Patna) - - THINK! THEBIGSTORY - Bhairavi Jhaveri

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...

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