Walking down the street, as Sheena crosses by the new store in the city, her eyes hook on to the beautiful, glittering and shimmering magenta gown, flaunted by the mannequin. She was nostalgic to see the crafted fabric. Though she already had six gowns in different colours, she couldn’t restrain herself from buying the seventh one. To complete the look, she also buys a nice pair of shoes along with some beautiful Jewellery. “Something is still missing’’, she wonders. She buys a classy handbag to go with her dress.
Wait! There are a few more items in the cart. Her eyes accidentally fall on that pretty party dress for a four-year-old girl. Her daughter Myra, just turned four last week. She gets the dress for her daughter. But she can’t wear this dress without matching shoes and accessories, and you know the next item she shops for.
Suddenly she remembers, “I came out to buy some groceries”, she rushes to the store and picks all the items on her list. Sheena is not satisfied as she sees a variety of tempting stuff teasing her from the shelf that were absent from her cart. Well, there is some space left in my cart.’’ She convinces herself.
The same evening while returning from his office, Sheena’s husband Bhaskar enters an electronic store to buy himself a new headset. Bhaskar reaches home with a new iPhone and the “headset.’’.
Why do Sheena and Bhaskar buy things they don’t need?
To answer this question we have to dive into their lives. Sheena is a high school teacher and Bhaskar is an IT professional. Both have different work environments but they share the same stress and peer pressure. Both are surrounded by people who are more of their branded clothes, latest gadgets and expensive cars than living beings. To be a fit in their environment Sheena and Bhaskar will have to raise their social status, even if they have to carry a mountain of debt on their shoulders.
Sometimes they shop to get a temporary escape from their real-life situations or work-related problems.
It’s Sunday, all three are at home. “There is nothing to do”, says Bhaskar. “Let’s go shopping”, Sheena says enthusiastically. Little Myra too nods her head in agreement. They drove to the city mall. The shopping list has already been prepared in their subconscious mind with each passing billboard, displaying advertisements for all sorts of products. The mall is flooded with like-minded people, everyone with a big question on their minds, ‘’what not to buy’’. Those ‘’ buy one get one free’’ offers are dragging customers towards them. People are spellbound by items displayed by popular brands. It’s not the salesperson but the products were doing the talking.
Sheena and Bhaskar couldn’t save themselves from the charms of this magical world and surrender to its power. They happily returned home after losing the game.
But why were they happy, even after spending their hard-earned money?
Little Myra, easily gets bored with her toys and keeps demanding new ones. Every new toy brings a huge smile to her face and fills her with a feeling of being loved by her parents. But Myra’s happiness is still incomplete; She wants to show her new toys to her friends to get their approval, that the toy is worth playing with.
Sheena and Bhaskar too seek novelty in their lives. They follow the same mantra for themselves and buy their new toys- new clothes, new gadgets, a new car, or to extend it a little further, a new apartment. They post their pictures with their newly bought stuff on social media platforms, with their bars of happiness and self-worth being in proper alignment with the number of likes received on each of their posts. Bigger likes equate with bigger brands. Sheena and Bhaskar will loosen their pocket a little bit more next time, to receive more love.
The only trouble in this game is that this material-driven pleasure doesn’t last too long and the urge for another round of treat arises. Since the pleasure vanishes in no time, there is a constant desire to keep rewarding oneself with new things. It’s like a failed attempt of filling a jar with a hole in it. To get the jar filled, we need to address the hole first.
Sheena and Bhaskar too feel sometimes that they are trapped in a loop of consumerism and dissatisfaction that is reflected in their behaviour. At times, they argue with each other about inappropriate expenditures.
How can they break the loop?
Sheena loves to dance and Bhaskar is fond of tennis, good options to invest their weekends on. They can also join some academies to enhance their skills.
Myra enjoys watching birds and animals, so why not visit a zoo once in a while.
Newness is not restricted to buying things, Sheena and Bhaskar can visit a new place once or twice a year to experience the freshness in life. They can interact with diverse people and know their perspectives on life, which can be an enriching experience for them.
They can take Myra to meet unprivileged kids to share her toys, books and stationaries with them. This little act of love and compassion may bring a higher level of pleasure to Sheena and Bhaskar and Myra learns the importance of gratitude, love and compassion.
Sometimes old can bring the new to life. Sheena and Bhaskar can relive their memories through their old photographs. They can call their old friends to know what’s new in their lives.
The answer to consumerism doesn’t lie in not spending money but in spending it right so that it brings contentment and paves the path towards personal growth.