Consumed by consumerism

Our present lifestyle is only creating more garbage and wastage but the construction world is all geared to profit in the rat race for products. A look by Sathya Prakash Varanashi.

Let us look around to count the number of products and objects in our homes or offices. It will definitely be called as a waste of time. Try walking into a neighbourhood shop and see how many items are for sale. Or still better, walk along a shopping street, counting the number of retail establishments full of things to sell. All these sound fairly difficult. If so, we dare not even imagine the possibility of counting all that is available in a mega mall.

Why are we talking counting products? Fifty years ago, our seniors had access to possibly one-hundredth of what we have today; a hundred years ago, our elders might have lived with one-thousandth of products that we buy today. This is just an analytical thought, with no real counts. However, because we have access to thousand times more products, can we say our lives are thousand times better than our forefathers?

The generations who lived before us were no less than us in any way. We may claim advanced technology, faster life, better health care, worldwide networking and such others; so too they can claim more leisure than pressure, deeper social networking, balanced environment, abundance of resources, absence of contamination and such others. This comparison is not to throw open a challenge about whose life is better, but only to realise what have we lost and gained.

Once there was the problem of deficit, and now we have the problem of the surplus, at least with an increasing number of people in our urban centres. While the purchase power is increasing, India also continues to house the single largest number of poor people in the world. New Product Introduction (NPI) is what everyone is talking about, from salt to software; from creativity to consumption.

Our daily life seems to be no more controlled by ourselves, but a hundred other factors including peer pressure, technological upgradation, surplus income, gadgets offering comfort, standardised employee benefits, incentives of varied kinds and of course global consumerist trends. Naturally, all these will only lead to more production, more purchases, more wastage and more garbage. Our younger generation, already accustomed to many modern gadgets, may even wonder how our elders ever lived and managed to survive without cars, computers, cameras and phones.

The construction world is all geared up to profit in this rat race for products and profits. Today we can buy kitchen sinks at Rs. 80,000; jacuzzi at Rs. 4 lakh; toilet wall tiles at Rs. 800 per sq. ft.; shower taps at Rs. 10,000; this list can go on. Are these gadgets judiciously priced? How did once people live without them? Why are we not continuing manufacturing the same proven product, instead go on replacing every product too often?

Is it ever going to be possible now, to live with less, or say with the least again?