Last night, we went to a multiplex to watch a movie titled ‘Mere brother ki dulhan’. During interval, we went out to pick up something to drink. I wanted a cup of coffee but I was told, “Sorry Maam, no hot drinks.” My friends chose to go for aerated drinks (I am not calorie conscious but I prefer to stay away from fizzy drinks). When the counter guy handed me over the takeaway paper containers, I was surprised to see its ‘super-size’. I soon found out it was 650ml and the average size of the human stomach is 900 ml. Sitting in the dark theatre, I did a mental calculation to realise that the takeaway Coke container was even bigger than the 500 ml plastic frooti bottle I get once in a while to enjoy a drink (I keep the bottle in the refrigerator for some days also).To quote a newspaper article, “ Starbucks, the ubiquitous American coffeehouse chain that is expected to open in India shortly, announced recently that it was introducing a new super sized 31 ounces (920 ml) cup at its US outlets.”
Size has something to do with the power to choose one generally associates with a free economy. While growing up in Orissa, I always saw my parents having tea in small cups and saucers. The cup size always remained the same though the colours and designs changed occasionally. And then somewhere in the late 1990s, my younger sister brought one corolla dinner set for me from America. With the dinner set, there were four blue coloured coffee mugs. My mother almost fainted when she saw the huge coffee mugs. Her first question was, “Who will drink so much of tea/coffee?’ By then, I had moved out of Orissa and was used to having tea in mugs bigger than my mom’s tiny cups. But still then, the ‘American’ coffee mugs were truly ‘Super-size Me’ (much like the Mac Maharaj). Even now, when my mom sees me having tea, she can’t understand what on earth makes me drink so much of black tea at one go?
From LCD television sets to cars, size is the word. If you are climbing well on the corporate ladder then no i10 for you, it got to be a Honda civic or some big car. The size of your LCD television screen at home will tell a lot about how ‘loaded’ you are actually. Extra, excess — is the buzzword now. There is no running away from them. Extra talk-time to extra-large sanitary napkins, everything is someway or the other extra (could it have been the reason for the rise in extra-marital affairs now-a-days). Recently when I went to a shop to buy samosas for my mom-in-law, I looked at the samosoa in awe as it looked like a huge bomb. (Orissa being a poor state always has tiny samosas filled with diced potatoes. On the other hand, prosperous Gujarat (a state where almost every family has a direct hotline connection with America) believes in having its samosa really huge (stuffed with mashed potato and an overdose of garam masala powder…. How I hate to have a samosa here in Ahmedabad).
I grew up in pre-liberalised India. An India which celebrated restraint. Choice was just a word in the dictionary. Not really visible in your local market. My father always went to the neighbourhood shop with a list in his hand. Now when I go to a supermarket to pick up a packet of Earl Gray tea, I end up buying things which I might not even need on a daily basis. At one point of time in my life, we had one landline phone at home which was happily used by six of us. I don’t remember a single fight over the phone. The same story goes true for all my friends then. Today, just between my friend and her husband, they have three mobiles and a landline.
Buying clothes was always related to festivals. So, there were four/five occasions when my parents used to go to the market to buy clothes. All my friends and their families followed the same pattern. Very few really showed off . Today, buying clothes has become like a hobby. If you are bored, you go to a lifestyle store. If you are sad, then also you go there. And if you are happy, then also you go there. Whether we need it or not, we just keep on buying and accumulating in our wardrobes. Same goes for shoes, handbags, jewellery and the list can go on. Shopping malls are the new temples of India. Everytime I go to a different city, my friends drag me to a shopping mall without even realizing that I get the same stuff in Ahmedabad only.
Today with my debit card/credit card, I can walk into a store and buy many things. The choice is unlimited. Even for a small thing like a ball-point pen, there are so many choices. There are times, I get confused. I just long for a break from choice. And will somebody sell me a 250 ml soft drink at a multiplex? Or you think, it’s a damn hard choice…