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December 17, 2014

The Splurge…And After!

Text by Sandhya Mulchandani

The gates of consumer heaven open during the festive season. Normally inured to shopping-induced euphoria, Verve succumbs to the seduction of the moment and returns home loaded with buys

It’s that time of year again. To look back and mentally assess what the last 12 months have totalled up to. For me, it’s been as a tyre company says, a ‘Good year’. The joyous announcement of an engagement, the impending wedding, a new home in Goa, and a general sense of bonhomie, added to the festive season.

Come September and North India slowly emerges from its long heat-induced hibernation: the promise of better weather, the forthcoming wedding season, serious binge eating (drinking being weather dependent), outdoor lunches and of course, assorted festivals. From Dussehra to Christmas, there is an energy, a charge in the air, that impels even the most jaded, cynical and world-weary individual to sit up and take notice. Add an element of celebration to this and it gives birth to a very serious activity called shopping, which—whether done out of necessity, boredom, fashion needs, poor body image, or sheer indulgence­­ — really does makes the world go around.

Never to miss an opportunity – after all, commerce and religion, celebration and consumption go hand in hand – the gates of consumer heaven open, urging and enticing everyone to come out and shop. It’s seduction at its best. Propelled by newspapers , television commercials and supplements that run to 40 pages, everything is on sale – from sanitary ware to jewellery, clothes and bags, discounts on apartments, cars, even biscuits…well, just about everything.

Normally inured to such shopping-induced euphoria, this time I decided I no longer wanted to be a mere bystander, watching as the world feted and feasted. After all, this was a special year….a year of new beginnings. So out with the old, I decided…no more dreary pujas and havans, no more sensible gifts and family dinners. Change and events beckoned, and what better time to do it, when everything was on sale. My friends cheered along, happy to finally see me bite the dust. So I set out in full sail, credit cards in hand…brains duly turned off.

The first day was exhilarating…so much to see, so much to buy. Gorgeous Benarasi saris, 60 inch curved television sets, microwaves and ice vending refrigerators, Jimmy Choo shoes and Louis Vuitton bags. And shop after shop of designer wear – all glitz and glamour – beckoning enticingly. Visually assaulted, bewildered and confused, I returned empty handed at the end of day. Depressed that I couldn’t even shop properly, a quick consult with more experienced shoppers made me realise that it’s no simple task, rather a finely honed art form.

It takes years of training to become a true shopper. You have to learn to sift the wheat from the chaff – the run-of-the-mill stores from designer Meccas, suss out all the hidden gems in the back streets, get to be on first-name terms with designers, store managers, the owners of jewellery boutiques, the silver smiths in Chandni Chowk, and have the numbers of shawlwallahs, jewellers, carpetwallahs and all the other wallahs on speed dial. During season, you have to ensure invitations to sale previews, know where the discounts are, and cadge free gifts. See, it’s a very serious business, not something that can be learnt in a couple of weeks.

Since the only number I had on my phone was Surender the grocer, I obviously needed help. Surprisingly, many a friend generously pitched in with telephone numbers and helpful advice….that Benarasi saris were on sale at Ekaya, that a certain store was giving free Philips sound bars with televisions, and not to forget the free Tupperware and Teflon saucepans when I bought household appliances.

My husband showed much less enthusiasm when I triumphantly returned with some purchases. “What would a young five-foot tall girl do with a nine-yard kanjeevaram sari? And did you forget that she’s English?” Sure, there were a few hiccups. “Never mind,” I said, “we will find someone to give it to. It was on sale.”

And so it went on as I started replacing ten-year-old fridges with ice-crunching monsters, and bought microwaves that baked and barbecued, iPhones, televisions that surfed the net, saris and shoes, bags and boxes – so much, that by the end of the week my living room looked like Jayalalitha’s house after the raid. Constricted by space and unwanted plastic containers, dissent became a chorus as even my staff started protesting. Why had I bought three duvets for Goa? (Just so you know they were free). What were they supposed to do with heart-shaped Nicer Dicers and neon coloured over-the-sink chopping boards? Well, you can’t expect maids to have a finely developed sense of aesthetics, can you? But more irate was my normally reticent husband. “You’ve lost it. Celebrations are not about shopping or buying unknown people unnecessary things just because they are on sale. A little indulgence maybe, but this is outright stupidity.”

Exhausted after a fortnight on the road, I had rather reluctantly come to the same conclusion, but won’t admit it and definitely not to my spouse – especially because I found out that goods on sale cannot be returned or exchanged. So, I’m left holding a few unwanted things…after I discovered that my daughter-in-law to be won’t wear saris and neither will her mother or grandmother, that the wedding would be a very quiet family affair in London, and the house in Goa would take many a long month to get completed.

I’m now seriously contemplating taking Kapil Sharma’s advice and selling these extra things on the net. I’ll keep you posted on how that works

In the meanwhile, I’ve been put on a year-long shopping ban.

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