Curious Inkpot- Beyond a Blog

Stories from an Indian Millennial

Are We Scapegoats Of Consumerism?

It was one of those days when I decided to go window shopping to one of the supermarkets. Yes, you can window shop a supermarket. Don't give me that eye roll! Ask the woman sitting next to you. In fact why a woman? Ask the men too. Truth is we all like window shopping once in a while.
Anyways, so my locality has two big supermarkets. You may, if you like, classify them based on the spending capacity. I would say one is for the lower middle class to savers class. Another one is from the upper middle class to Expats. This time I decided to visit the fancier one.

To my surprise, it looked as if the supermarket had gone through a total makeover.

The first shelf I bumped into, was loaded with everything ready to eat. From your dal makhni to poha, everything was 'Heat and Eat’. For a second, I thought I was in the US. Since when did we start eating ready to eat dal makhni? As a North Indian, I'd take a rather personal offense to it. With that thought, I moved forward, ignoring the millions of green teas staring at me. Each one of them promising to be healthier than the other. That's when I came across a shelf of cold-pressed juices. They had fancy labels and unheard ingredients shouting, 'I am healthy and yes get an Oxford dictionary to know what I am’. One shelf even had a cold pressed coconut oil, priced at 650 INR only for 500 ml. But seriously, I don’t understand what's the obsession with cold pressed?
As a child, I remember my dad got us a basic mechanical juice maker and a basket of oranges. Even though, it wasn’t advertised 'cold pressed' the juice still tasted yum as an orange juice should. Plus, I didn’t need to rip off my pocket to get 1 liter of 'natural' juice.

As I was lost in these thoughts, I saw a bottle that read sugarcane juice. 'Oh Boy! You got one serious upgrade!’, said my eyes to Ganne ka Juuss. If you come from the non-metro India, I am sure you can relate to this. Ganne ka Juuss was our permanent fix for all mela trips. Isn’t it? Even today sugarcane juice is sold for as low as Rs 20 at every nook and corner of tier 2 cities of India. Yes, once in a while it may give you diarrhea. But that still isn't a good enough reason to make me buy a bottled fancy from an air-conditioned mall. I somehow can’t get over the fact that at the end of the day, it still is Ganne ka Juuss.

However, it is funny how FMCG companies load our markets with highly sugared and anything but real products. When this trend wears off, they go back to the alleged basics, organics and the raw.

I once heard a poem which goes like this:

'This is a rule that man is a fool. When it is hot, he wants cool!

When it is cool, he wants hot. Always wanting what is not!'

Now when I think of it, this actually might be the mission statement of the FMCG industry and not an innocent children poem.

Keeping this newfound wisdom to myself, I pushed my cart forward. Taking a sharp u-turn, I arrived at the next aisle. There I was caught in the eye by very exotic looking shampoo bottles. The brand names being alien to India or at least to my middle-class self. So, I went on checking their origin. Yes, I like reading all the info on the back of a product! To my surprise, they all were US imports. 'As if McDonald's wasn't done screwing with our good old Aloo Tikki’, I murmured to myself. However, it's no news that India has long been dumping ground of the US. But trust me, Europe isn't too far behind either. On the next shelf, there was a, handcrafted in Italy, soap. With its exquisite packing and impeccable fragrance, the soap would burn a hole of modest Rs 675 in your pocket. I quote ‘Rs 675’ only. So I waited in a corner for a long time to see what types of people buy these things? But sadly, I couldn’t find anyone. Maybe they are aliens who come in the night, covered in diamonds from head to toe.

As I processed all these wonders that only a supermarket can bestow, I saw a shelf full of ghee. Ahh! What a comforting sight! Ghee reminds me of home. Even Rujuta Diwekar, India’s top nutritionist, recommends that we adopt ghee in our diet like never before. She says ghee is a friend of our joints, brain, and skin. So I looked fondly at the shelf and with some sense of patriotism, picked up a jar filled with this very Indian good fat. I was busy caressing this little pot when I read the label. It said, ‘INR 1800 for 500 ml'. The jar almost slipped from my grip. 'An expensive friend indeed', I wondered aloud.
On a second thought, maybe one could justify its cost. After all, it was made the Vedic way, as per the label. But what would I know of it? As I only knew The Mom’s way. Back home, ghee was hardly a commodity we bought until I moved to the big bad metro city. Ghee was made in a traditional way by collecting cream, skimmed from the top of milk daily until the jar was full. And one day you would know that mother has made ghee because the whole house would be smelling of it. Ahaa!
Reminiscing about the good times, I walked to the freezer section. There lay hundreds of cheese with names so complicated that I almost got transported to my first supermarket visit in the UK. Until that trip, I didn’t even know that you could buy skimmed, semi-skimmed or full-fat milk. I remember standing there for a long time, trying to differentiate amongst various green, red and blue caps. You see before consumerism struck, the only types of milk we Indians knew were cow milk and buffalo milk. And the only brand we knew was 'straight from tabela’.

Anyways to comfort myself, I decided to walk towards the fruits area. I am a sucker for fruits, so I thought maybe I'll find some comfort in reds, oranges, and greens. There lay alphonsos, the king of fruits. Surprisingly, they were all perfectly ripe and yellow when it was still mid of April. And if you touch them, I swear it will straight away burn a hole in your pocket. So expensive they were.

But I thought, let me for a second keep my cynicism, ‘baniya mind’ and economical sense away. What if I am ready to pay premium pricing for a product? Is there a guarantee that what I am being sold is to the highest standards as proclaimed by media campaigns and perfectly designed labels? I mean Modi and Choksi got away selling fake diamonds as real under their premium brands Geetanjali and Nakshatra with certificates. Here I am, questioning about the day to day things that I feed to my family and you to your family. Can shelling out more money, going to imported selling supermarkets, and running after labels assure us of a healthy lifestyle? Or are we getting reduced to being scapegoats of consumerism? And if we are, can we go back to better times? And if we can, how are we gonna do that?

That day, I left the supermarket with my cart empty and my mind full of these questions.

I still don't have answers to them, do you?
If this hit a cord with you, do share it on your social media. It keeps me motivated to write more for you guys :)

You might also like: The Sho Sha on Social Media

I am a writer by passion, a petroleum engineer by accident and a proud Indian by origin. Follow my stories on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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