Can This Rat Race be Halted?

March 29, 2010

So have you received a mail lately that extols the virtues of growing up in the eighties and your eyes mist over with nostalgia? Do you find yourself wondering; is his blackberry better than mine? Are quite a few people you know either into Buddhism, Art of living, Vipassana, Yoga, Meditation or some other spiritual quest?

Guess you must be somewhere in your thirties and living in a metro if you answered yes to one or all of the above.

You must be one of the many, dwelling within the closed confines of a new order - You communicate mostly through sms and Facebook. You feast on reality shows and download podcasts. You watch the MUFA, PUFA content on oils and fried snacks. Your next vacation is no longer at a holiday home. And catching up with friends is now meeting at bars and pubs over drinks, with loud music playing in the background.

You shop at supermarkets, spend your weekends at malls and queue up for the latest release at the multiplex. You carry hand sanitizers in your bag, credit cards in your wallet and the hanging sword of EMI's on your head.

Welcome the new breed living in post liberalization India. The shift from chawanprash to cornflakes has been a phenomenal one, just 10 -15 years' post liberalization and we have had the boom of satellite TV, the credit card craze, high penetration of mobile phones, steadily increasing internet users and Indians traversing the globe like never before.

We are all now on the quest for smaller, better and faster. Just Google it, is the new just do it. No more research or fact finding for that truly accomplished feeling. Will it be a Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, iPhone or Blackberry? And will it be Pizza, Sushi, Khowsuey or a Gelato? Global trends, global exposure, too much information and too many choices are gradually eroding our identity.

Indian urban cities will soon become a homogenous fairy tale, just like every pizza hut looks the same anywhere you go. You will have the same retail chain of Departmental Store, Book Store; Supermarket, Restaurant and Coffee house which ever metro, mini -metro or even a tier 1 city you visit. Everybody now watches the same YouTube videos, forwards the same posts and uses the same Facebook applications. Conversation with anyone across the world is easy, we are all heading towards the 'one' culture of consumerism.

Just as human bodies, animals, plants and eco systems evolve over time so do societies. And India is now an evolving society grappling with the ills that come with fast paced growth. People are grappling with stress that comes with a fast paced lifestyle- living beyond their means and looking for newer and innovative means of entertainment to satisfy their limited attention spans. The overall quality of life has improved, but time is the new luxury in short supply to develop, sustain and maintain deep and lasting relationships. Hence the increasing need for answers and the spiritual quests, as the wants and the choices endlessly mirror each other into infinity.

The fabric of our society has started fraying at the edges. If we don't wake up to this phenomenon in time, our local bhajiwala's, fishwali's, doodhwala's and the kirana store wala who still know us by our first names, will be displaced by impersonal, swish, automated and sterilized environs of a supermarket. Too much of TV and internet is going to make us isolated and obese just like the Americans. Independent lifestyles, higher disposable incomes and more options are already leading to an increase in divorces, while the concept of a joint family is being edged out to make space for super kids and super moms in nuclear families.

Times indeed are a changing with many everyday rituals and old ingrained habits vanishing just like papads and achars left to dry on terrace tops. The disposable mentality has hit us with zip locks and aluminum foils. Remember recycling at its best, getting sweets from your neighbor neatly wrapped in a used plastic milk bag. Where are the traditional kid's games? When was the last time you saw kids play Kabbadi or Lagori? When was the last time you saw friends just hanging out at building compounds or neighbours catching up over the day's happenings?

Time we started somewhere. Let's nurture our languages, traditions and customs. Patronize and bring alive our traditional cuisine, arts, crafts and games. Let's spend more time with our parents, relatives and friends and less with mobile phones, television and the internet.

Let's learn from the mistakes of the west. Let us always be the answer and the meaning that foreigners come in search of. Let's not get caught up in the same mindless rat race of smaller, better, faster, richer and smarter. Let's keep our values intact and ensure we pass them down to our children. Let's not push them into the rat race and on the knife's edge of a suicide.

Let our rich culture, traditions and heritage shine through the gaps of change.

A content writer- a writer who is content with where she is in life. Curiosity, coffee and creativity keep me going!
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