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Offbeat: Writing

By Divyanshu Dutta Roy. August 2012

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Urban India has been overrun by multiplexes, shopping malls, branded apparel and chain restaurants. There, I said it.

And no, I am not some snooty old hag with pursed lips and a perennially disapproving stare merrily bashing away perfectly wonderful things such as buckets of fried chicken and imported shoes. I am just a 21-year-old who swears by an assembly line sandwich and NSMTWTAS (not-spending-more-time-walking-than-actually-shopping) as much as the next guy.

I like the convenience of things that we have built for us today. But having recently moved to Gurgaon, the “Millennium City”, I can’t help feeling that all we are doing is making wannabe Dubais - or at least what I imagine Dubai to be (an isolated island of glass, concrete and sand).

The “profile picture” of Gurgaon on Wikipedia is the kilometre-long Ambience Mall. Need I say more? I mean really people, a kilometre-long shopping mall? What are we, giants from Jack and the Beanstalk?

When I was a kid, my mother and aunts used to be super excited about shopping safaris to Delhi Haat, Sarojini Nagar, the Tibetan market. But today we have made online shopping and gargantuan abominations of glass and steel our exclusive retail partners. 

Sure some people are bound to say “You sir, are an alarmist. We still do our shopping from some-dingy-shack-tucked-away-in-old school-street.” But really, can anyone deny that this format is fast eroding making way for swanky establishments -- which is not necessarily disastrous, but certainly provokes thought.

And it’s not just retail. But the culture of Incredible India itself that I think is being razed to make way for arguably misguided preconceived notions about how 21st century modernity should look like. And no. Don’t blame the West.

Let me confess, I am a homophobe -- not the fear of consenting adults finding love, but the fear of a homogeneous society. Where every man wears grey suits, eats nutrition pills and retires to sleeping pods. If you have seen the famous Apple ad from 1984, you know what I mean.

I guess it can be said that the said homogenisation of our culture is a fallout of globalisation, and really now, we can’t resist globalisation can we? “If you resist progress, you’re gonna find yourself on the wrong side of history,” is how the rhetoric goes, I suppose.

But the good thing is, embracing the quirks of unique cultures does not mean resisting globalisation. Indigenous entrepreneurs who have expanded their breadth of thought have found that there is indeed a market for heterogeneous culture that can support a market for itself. 

Just ask an Amul or a Khadi Gram Udyog.






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