Buy me a grand festival

Buy me a grand festival

Buy me a grand festival

The year of the horse it is, and 2014 is sure to have some cantering restless consumers. We have turned into a generation that wants a lot of things, and wants it right now. So we simply buy it, even a festival, muses Deepa Ballal.

Before every festival, we see an elaborate commercial build-up, a sort of a countdown. You are spoiled for choice. The festival dinner is not served at home, but at a fine-dining restaurant. And of course, you have the choice of a takeaway.

An elaborate 10 -15 items feast can now be ordered from a restaurant than sweating it out in the kitchen. So why bother to cook when money can buy a feast! For Diwali, sweets and snacks made at home were a significant part of the celebration, wherein each member took up one task.

But now serpentine queues in front of sweet shops is the norm. Everything that defined a festival is now available at a cost. Today, anything can be bought, even a festival!
There were times when families looked forward to festivals. They were occasions for meeting, greeting, and good food. It was more about mankind than material.

To some extent it has remained so. But to a large extent festivals have become commercial. In the past, Christmas was mainly a festival of giving, visiting homes, singing carols, and going to the Christmas service at night. But today it is all about parties, events, and shopping.

These days even the economy waits for festivals. Retailers meticulously plan for the festive season to boost sales. Thanks to India’s diverse culture if sales don’t pick up during Diwali, retailers can bank on Christmas.

Hence large hoardings and newspaper ads scream out Sale! Sale! Festival Bonanza! Bumper offer! What has festival got to do with shopping, we may wonder... But somehow a festival feels incomplete without a round of shopping. So almost everyone ends up buying either for one festival or the other, if not all!

In fact some cities like Dubai even have shopping festivals, where all souls from different parts of the world come to celebrate the power of purchasing and indulge in retail therapy. Besides new ‘festivals’, which did not exist in the past, at least not to a great extent, have come up.

Like “Akshaya Tritiya” (although it did exist to an in insignificant level). We have kind of evolved from celebrating festivals for family reunions to boosting economies.

 Gone are the days when festivals, events, and get-togethers were organized in the neighbourhood. Now the malls have taken over this function and religiously send us invites to celebrate Diwali, Christmas, and other festival with them.

“Restaurants organize super large buffet, DJ, kids zone, fireworks, band, tarot reading, alcohol and belly dance to entice customers as their offering for festivals, though they are commercially not very viable. Its just to have a competitive edge that all these events are organized,” says Sandeep who works in one of the 5 star Hotels in Bangalore.

Gayatri feels the very expression of giving is becoming more materialistic as gifts also symbolize status of the giver. “Hoards of advertisements are promoting this to a great extent,” she says.

Lamenting the commercial aspect Rehana feels that festivals have long lost their meaning as everything is measured. “Now a days it is just about outdoing each other, and returning the exact value of what we received as gifts, sweets, or even wishes. It’s like If you wish me, I wish you, otherwise who cares,” she rues.

What intrigues Rehana to this day is that though Diwali is the celebration of light over darkness: on the soul level, it means, knowledge over ignorance. “We clean up our houses, but do we clean up our minds? We distribute sweets, but do we speak sweetly to everyone? Moreover what I really don’t understand is the need for explosive sounds and blinding lights. Maybe people use them to outdo the noises inside their minds. It’s really sad,” she remarks, sarcastically.

Strangely there have been stories of sibling rivalry taking new dimensions when it comes to celebration. One brother spends thousands on crackers while the other ensures that he exceeds it at least by a few thousands and decibels. The traffic in the whole area is stopped as the fireworks are displayed only to be outdone by the other brother in a few minutes. Yes, this happens only in India, where size and sound, apparently determine ones stature.

A keen observer on changing trends and shifting preferences, Sohini feels it’s just that times have simply changed. “I think the younger generation enjoys in their own way and they are not very ritualistic but they know they have to be there with the family and friends,' have fun and enjoy. Options are also more. Earlier there were fewer restaurants and large parties, and so festivals were mostly confined to homes. But now you have the liberty to hang out more with cousins and friends,” she explains.

Strangely with the gradual break down of close knit families, capitalistic and materialistic notions creep in somehow and occupy the limelight.

“What is in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” wrote Shakespeare centuries ago. In all the hullabaloo of celebrating, spending, and exchanging gifts, the essence of every festival is the same: spread cheer and joy, value family and friends. Today, what is really a cause for celebration is that festivals are celebrated across religion and region these days. What was distinctively a North Indian festival is now increasingly celebrated in the South with the same gusto. What was celebrated by one religion is now celebrated by people of other religions too!

“Christmas has become a platform for social gathering, mostly because most people take about a week’s worth of leave clubbing it with their new year celebrations. And though we are Hindus, my son wants to decorate a Christmas tree at home and I must say, it is really fun,” says Sourabha.

“Call it what you want, every festival is really just a reason to celebrate,” sums up Jisha. “There are lots of events organized, parties, concerts. You can enjoy every festival as you want and not necessarily just as a religious custom,” she observes.

Today, we may have hundreds of friends on social media sites, but only a handful to truly really rely on. We may have numerous contacts, but only a few to reach out to. We may have a lot of connectivity, thanks to gadgets, but very less time to meet in person. For once, you need a vent.

 And all you need is an excuse to celebrate. So why not celebrate every festival that comes your way just for the cheerfulness of it all? And sure, go and shop till you drop if you must; we are a galloping generation, afterall...

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