The problem of plenty

The problem of plenty

The other day, I entered an optical store to order a pair of reading glasses. The moment I expressed my need, the optician, pulling out a brochure, started rattling out the names of glasses he had to serve different purposes. “’Progressive’, that adjusts to near, intermediate as well as distant vision, ‘bifocals’ for near and far vision, ‘photo fusion’ that alters according to the needs of the eyes in light,” and so on.

Now, I had heard about glasses that correct near and distant vision. Moreover, for a person like yours truly, who cannot distinguish between a BMW, an Alto or a Mercedes Benz till they come near showing off their names (and are just modes more comfortable than an auto to reach ones destinations), this list was a difficult poser! I explained to him the nature of my daily routine and requested him to select one for me.

The modern penchant for myriad choices and confusing names is mind-boggling, especially for the older generation for whom a telephone was just a simple instrument in a corner of the house for the family to communicate and nothing more, unlike modern-day smartphones with countless apps, each serving a different function and purpose. At times, such confusions are due to ignorance, the attempt to be unique and discreet, but many of them are rooted in problems of plenty.

An aunt of mine once became the butt of jokes when she applied toothpowder on her face mistaking it for talcum powder! The lack of proficiency in the local language led to the following incident when my son, Vivek, was in Japan. His friends decided to visit the deer park in Miyajima. Here, deer roam about freely mingling with the visitors. The group from India bought some packets of biscuits for themselves and opened them. But they were a little taken aback when the deer started followed them begging for the biscuits till all the packets were emptied. “How greedy are these deer!” they muttered. Next day, they narrated the incident to a Japanese friend of theirs. “Oh! The biscuits are meant for the deer, not you!” was his answer.

Many of our advertisements fall in the second category. After watching the whole commercial, one often ends up wondering which product the advertisement actually endorses!

Enter a supermarket for a tube of toothpaste or a packet of biscuits. Each toothpaste brand announces its ingredients and benefits — one claims to fight tooth decay, another ensures healthy gums while a third promises to keep bad breath at bay. Likewise, biscuit packets too vie to announce their merits — some flaunt their fibre content, others their protein count or taste. Which one would you possibly choose, because aren’t all these things essential for us? Would you buy one from each type or just walk out of the market confused?