Friday, October 10, 2008

In Bad Taste ...?

When millions lose their homes, their savings, their faith in the future - in the US, even in their own government - starkly represented by Karthik Rajaram murdering his entire family, and himself in LA (is there an irony or what? That the first mass suicide story coming out of the US in these recessionary times, in the recent financial world pogrom, is an Indian) what do we have here back home...
CELEBRATING LUXURY... This is the timenstyle thick glazed-paper spiffing supplement that has come in, with today’s main newspaper here in India. Free. Though ostensibly priced at Rs. 10/- . With ads of Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo, Vertu, Corum, Mont Blanc, Parmigiani, Lladro, Bugatti, Porsche, Bvlgari, Mercedes. Also Rolex, Tagheuer.

I have never quite figured the logic.. paying in tens and hundreds of thousands of rupees for a single watch, if we have no concept of the time running out for the planet. As we over-utilize and exhaust its resources. A fraction of the money spent on 'luxury' by each well-heeled member of the public could go such a long way in bringing a smile to less fortunate faces, changing their lives in some way irrevocably - rather than as mere charity. More important, give the lonely giver a degree of immense satisfaction that no expensive bauble owned ever can.

Just so you don’t miss the point : The spiff tells us Sheaffer Stars of Egypt costs Rs. 950,000/-. If you are like me and don’t know what we are talking about - this is not a car nor a holiday package. It is the price of a single pen.

The Times of India group is nobody’s fool. So, if they have brought this supplement out, it means there are enough folks out there who will lap this up and ‘buy in’ to luxury. With all the names listed already having paid mega bucks to advertise. Bhaskar Das in his editorial says the Indian luxury market was 4.35 billion USD in 2006. And will be 15 B by 2015.

What I read in the magazine is what is left unsaid: So what if the Sensex is down to near 10,000 and the Dow Jones trawling at the bottom. If you are unemployed, or in a state of depression - poor you. The rest of the real world (really rich you know) needs to move on, and who told you to over- invest in all those stocks anyway?
(Otoh, if you had made a killing at the stockmarket on a bull run, for sure we would all have been with you... after all, you need to park your profits somewhere)

Was reading Mukul Kesavan’s recent book ‘The Ugliness of the Indian Male’ (which is not throughout about Male Ugliness, it is a collection of disparate essays). Chapter 13 is titled ‘The Jews of Georgette Heyer’. And it begins with this line : ‘Most of us have had the disconcerting experience of discovering indefensible prejudice in favorite books’.

Georgette Heyer wrote historical romantic novels. So when she displays a systematic and repelling anti-semitism in her book Grand Sophy in describing a Jew, can she be excused since it is ‘historical fiction’. This is the deeply uncomfortable question Kesavan raises. Especially - and this is critical - when he points out that the book was actually written in the year 1950, hardly a few years after Hitler, when millions had been murdered cruelly. And the world was still reeling at the rampant carnage.

Kesavan proceeds to show that if such passages could be written and respectably published within years of the Holocaust, all it means is that she had to be able to assume that her readership shared her prejudices. He ends his essay on a hopeful note – that nothing comparable happened here (in India). ‘For I can’t think of any mainstream Indian writer publishing villainous caricatures of sinister Muslims or Hindus inside five years of the pogroms of Partition.’

And I come back to my original ugly theme. What about the respectable publishing of ‘Luxury’? ‘Celebrating luxury' – in this topsy turvy world - can that or can't that be called a crime? Blood Diamonds?? Or is this actually necessary for the 'money out there to circulate'. Does the ‘profits are all’ state of mind mean that some of us (especially qualitative researchers like me !) should not be hitting out at those that pay for our bread. ‘Luxury segment’ focus groups, observation studies and in depth interviews are very often our staple, after all. In a panoptical world, where clients choose their suppliers basis their ‘reputation’, we who question, are likely to draw the ire of ‘those who pay us’.

And if they want to draw in the poor deluded multi-millionaire sods, who want to buy million rupee pens, why should anyone have 'writeous' issues, right? Those like me, who do, can easily be painted as the fox who believed the grapes are sour.

Ya, for sure, I do have a very bad, real bad taste in my mouth through this morning.

1 comment:

Jade Graham said...

A fraction of the money spent on 'luxury' by each well-heeled member of the public could go such a long way in bringing a smile to less fortunate faces, Proact Financial