Does the word ‘consumerist’ trigger an automatic denial in your mind, or at the very least, make you push a bit of guilt aside? To me, it does. I think I read about the “ugly” mall-and-multiplex culture again last week, and I *knew* the author was talking to me. Still, I simply looked around and tsk-tsked cluelessly. Metaphorically, that is.
Let’s see why that’s so. My hairdresser peddles to me potions and sprays I thought I never needed. My groceries don’t come from the thela-walla anymore. I don’t know the address of the nearest tailor or the nearest boutique –wali, like my mother. My Janpath-syle bargaining power has rusted, as my purchasing power went up. The shoes are hardly ever the kolhapuris or mojaris. Malls are my getaways. I use the words “my” and “I” a lot. For “I” am a consumer, and every 100-ft. hoarding wants my eyeballs. They tell me I’m important. Most important, in fact. They tell me I deserve the best. And just like that, they nudge that one pronoun “I” to the highest position in my mind.
Can you see how my mind started recognizing the denial it puts itself in, and then changed tracks to blaming the dope-peddler? Let me start over. What I’m trying to say, or admit, is that I’m rightist. More than a little right off the centre, if you will. The advertising boom didn’t make me so. I always was a rightist. Even when I had no money of my own, I was just that. Governed by the prettiness of the toys. Saving the frilly frocks for a birthday. Searching for jewellery that’s not obviously-junk. The little ways a penniless jobless individual can induct herself into a lifelong commitment to capitalism.
Just in case you’re struggling to know which side of the centre you lie in, the final answer will come to you in finding what the basic, stripped-of-all-conditioning, earliest premise of your ambitions has been. I always wanted to be a doctor who owned a hospital. Or an army office who ordered 50 more sit-ups. Or a pilot who took all the risk, and was rewarded suitably. (All that was until I learnt what an MBA is.) Suffices to say I never set out on a journey in which the prospect of not knowing where my next meal came from, was particularly appealing. There was money to be made, India was rising and I was the last person to applaud from the sidelines. A die-hard competitor who, in retrospect, has never stopped and been grateful for the headstart she had on similar 12-year olds who shine shoes and sell flowers for a living.
So yes, there happens to be that unshakable shadow of Marx in all of us. No, this paragraph isn’t meant for redemption for things I so flaunt in the previous few paragraphs. All I’m saying is that once in a while, when you look for a dustbin to dump the popcorn you paid 100 bucks for, because it has too much cheese, your conscience may be struck unawares by the hungry hands that grab the packet before it hits the bin’s base. Or when you pray for peace (Left is largely anti-war). Or when the feminist in you gets the better of you (Left is also more inclined towards recognizing and working for sexual equality.)
Those are the times when the subdued Leftist in you grins and holds her jhola a little tighter, even if it means loosening her grip over the shopping bags.
Just when you’re getting used to being anti-establishment and itching to ‘give back to the world’, you find yourself bunched with red revolutionaries and what are traditionally called “unrealists”. Anti-progressivists. You’re struck with visions of a burning Wall Street and a jubiliant Dantewada. You try to imagine how Jute Chappals would win against High Heels.
High Heels always win. Always. No matter how I sound to a budding Maoist, no war was ever won without an unquestioning belief in the collective reason to fight it in the first place. Capitalism is driven by the unquestioned sum of our individual desires for “more”. A common love leftist ideologies lack desperately. Maybe the Naxalites have found something to be strongly and impulsively passionate about, or maybe, they need to wait a couple of decades to see how naturally it comes to their future generations.
Where does that leave ME though? A little right and a little left. A revolutionary at heart, who finds comfort in order? Or a conservative toeing the line, daring to be romantic?
I don’t know.
What inspired my gibberish?: A shoe-shiner working multiple shifts on a rainy day outside the new Zara store @ Palladium, Phoenix Mills.