Friday, November 02, 2007

Another dimension to gala festive season

India is known as the land of rich culture and heritage. Be it Eid, Deepawali, Durga Pooja, Gurpurabs, Christmas or Lohri, each festival has its own charm. With celebrations becoming more important than the occasion itself, the essence of traditional celebrations has been lost somewhere down the line.

My eight-year-old niece, Tanya Sethi, who is elated to be part of pre-Deepawali celebrations, with mom getting her dresses and guest list prepared, papa busy buying gifts for everyone, grandma planning the pooja ceremony, and elder bro burning rubber to buy best of crackers… there is complete festivity around!! But when I asked Tanya if she knows why we celebrate Deepawali, her reply was: “Its party time and something to do with history. (After a pause) God Rama. I remember I had an essay last year in my syllabus.” That’s where we seem to have lacked in passing our culture to the progeny.

No doubt India has succeeded in keeping the traditions alive but not maintaining the status quo, amidst the consumerism and globalized celebrations. It’s a healthy sign that the tradition has seeped into globalization. Sweets are exchanged on Deepawali not only between friends and family but also corporate sector, firms and clients. But not sweetmeats, rather Swiss chocolates or labeled mithais are preferred. The tradition is same but the trends are ever-changing, instead of silk clothing, we all prefer branded labels. At times, the corporate sector also miss uses the occasion by giving costly gifts as legal bribe to the influentials.

Apart from the auspicious time and effervescent mood, which manifests itself in a high propensity to spend, there are some critical drivers of the ‘festive phenomena’ which are pivotal in enabling this increase in consumerism. Not only high and mighty, but also middle and upper middle class want to enjoy the temporary increase in disposable income, courtesy the Festive Bonus.

Adding fuel to this extra purchasing power is the ignition provided by heightened activity by market players offering alluring schemes and irresistible purchase offers. This results in an explosion of purchase and consumption pattern.

Interestingly, this change in consumption patterns is associated with intrinsic traditional rituals of specific purchases like utensils and home appliances on Dhanteras. Deepawali, Durga Pooja & Gudi Padwa are focused not only around new clothes but also largely around giving ‘homes a makeover’ by spring cleaning, fresh wall colour, furniture and furnishings. Vijaya Dashmi is a time when automobile sales spike. While a majority of festivals see consumers go into a self-indulgent mode with acquisitions for self, there are also those festivals which arouse a generosity of gifting to others – Eid, Deepawali and Christmas.

Let’s introspect whether we are celebrating the festivals in their true spirits!

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