After post-graduation, when we started working, a friend shared that her female boss wore kurtas of some brand called “W”. It was actually the first time that we became aware of the existence of such a brand. So “W” became a wish. Even today when I can actually afford, I still think twice before going for a “W” item, even on discount. I would stare at the item, evaluate if it really worth it and then decide. And today, my sister-in-law and her friends wear “W” to college.
Thankfully most of the kids we went to school or college with, were of the same economic class. And frankly, I rarely compared myself with kids who used or wore expensive stuff. As a student, I had one one mantra, “When I shall earn, I will own what I desire”. There was a wishlist of small as well big things. Actually I still have a wishlist. Owning a branded jeans or a hair-straightener became a reality only when I started to earn. Today, such things are in necessary items list for the college going girls in the family.
I tell the kids (whoever is younger than me!) at home that we should not forget where we come from. We should not forget our roots. I see around me that even kids with humble backgrounds are becoming increasingly brand conscious. There are several factors. Peer influence and media exposure being the major ones. Increase in pocket money adds to the spending power of kids.
Contrary to kids today, we got pocket money only when we moved out of our native place to study and started staying in hostels. And it was pocket money only in name. It was actually a fixed amount of money every month to take care of all expenses. In my case, my pocket money took care of my basic toiletries, notebooks and stationery, phone calls, photocopies, projects, outside food, minor college event contributions, local conveyance, etc. I used the college/university library and computer centre to the fullest so that I didn’t have to buy books or a computer. And I also saved a bit from it to get tiny gifts for the family while going home during breaks. In our times, the aim was to save parents’ money wherever possible, and ask them for extra money only when absolutely necessary. Now I see students debiting all expenses related to basic needs and studies to their guardians. Their pocket money actually takes care of their material desires and wishes mostly. And even after they have been provided for, they still have demands.
For me, there was no pride in spending my parents’ hard-earned money to fulfill my personal desires. Today, my pride lies in the fact that I am capable of fulfilling my own wishes as well as that of my parents. And I am proud of my parents as well as my grandparents that they made me the woman I am today. Fortunately, my close friends are of the same class of society, with similar upbringing. So I had never actually felt the peer pressure of brand consciousness or the need to meet any peer standards. I strongly feel that if one fulfills his/her own desires with his/her parents’ money, what excitement will be left for when you can actually buy things with the money you have earned!
When I was a child, I had a couple of pairs of shoes. When Ma was a child, she had just one pair of shoes, black in colour. And the same pair worked for school as well as other occasions. Deta had walked either barefoot to school (a distance of around seven kilometers) or wearing open rubber sandals. He and his siblings used to get one pair of new shoes during the Durga Puja festival. And if the new pair were small for him, he would rather manage with those (by soaking them in water to stretch them out) instead of giving them back because there was no guarantee that he would actually receive a fresh pair in the right size. During our times, things had changed of course, and we had more than a couple of pairs. But humble stories like that of my parents’ childhood helped to keep us grounded, to remember to be thankful for what we had.
I completed my basic education in small town in upper Assam. For graduation, I went to Kolkata. When I came home during my first semester break, I bragged in front of my granny that I watched a movie with tickets which cost over a hundred rupees in black. I thought she would be surprised at the cost. Instead she reprimanded me right away saying that my parents are working hard and making sacrifices back home so that I can have a good education, and I was wasting money on movies. Her words brought me back to my senses. So this was the way I was raised. I have been taught the value of money and hard work by my elders and that has kept me grounded.
P.S.: As I was growing up, I remember my parents and other relatives sharing stories starting with the opening line, “In our times,…..” And now that I am a grown-up myself, I have started doing the same thing; comparing things how we used to do as kids and how kids do them now. Since I have decided to start my post series called “Then and Now”, I am actually feeling somewhat old already. These posts are not aimed at reprimanding today’s kids and their value system, but merely reminiscing about the bygone time and to accept that outlook on life changes over the generation. Also please note, you may or may not be able to relate to the post. But if like me, you had a typical middle-class upbringing, you most probably will.
And yes, I am definitely feeling much older now.