Remember the tagline ‘Ye dil maange more’ coined by Pepsi and popularised using sports and film stars in 1998? Coming on the heels of liberalization of the economy, it had signified an insatiable appetite for all things material that money could buy. But I am not hankering after a ‘more’ of the Pepsi kind at this time when we are fighting a frightful pandemic.
I am yearning for the kind of ‘more that Captain Vikram Batra PVC, had longed for, when he used it to convey the successful capture of Tiger Hill during the Kargil War in 1999. ‘Ye dil maange more. I want to capture more peaks for my country’, he had said before being martyred.
However, the slogan had come to define crass consumerism in India in the ’90s. Everyone wanted more of everything and so portions became obscenely large. Imagine such gigantic portions bloating up already well-fed people, in their quest for more gratification. It created generations of the young, who not only turned obese and but also became victims of a host of related disorders including diabetes and heart disease.
Attractive offers and sales lured the consumers, so that when they ran out of money, the plastic money came out. Bank loans and EMIs took over their lives as they chased the chimera of ‘more’ and getting deeper into debt. And yet the dil was never satisfied as it hankered after more and more of this and that. I think I have given a crude explanation of materialism and consumerism but you get the drift, don’t you?
It was not just about ‘more’ of everything, but they also wanted them quicker, faster and RIGHT NOW! As a result, the younger generation has lost the virtue of patience. The impatience carries into communication and relationships as well. Instant acknowledgment, comprehension and acceptance are imperative for a conversation to continue. The casualty in all this impatience in conversations are the elders, who have slowed down in more ways than one and often can’t respond ‘instantly’.
Then COVID-19 happened…….
…….and the world we had got used to, was not the same anymore. Humans everywhere were locked in their homes, with offices, educational institutions, malls, multiplexes and even neighbourhood supermarkets getting closed. Daily wagers and labourers lost their livelihood overnight.
Suddenly there was no unlimited ‘more’ of things, especially restaurant and junk foods. The click of the mouse couldn’t deliver a pizza with one’s choice toppings or deliver sundry other items in express delivery modes as these services had been hit or closed down. Kids who were used to getting anything they wanted, were learning to make do with less and following rules set by their parents. Tantrums, screaming and throwing fits didn’t work as they used to, before COVID-19. The older lot might have grown up in households with limited resources, but the younger generation began slowly learning that ‘more’ is not always possible or even desirable.
After having been amazingly controlled initially, given such a vast and diverse country, the numbers of those infected have suddenly spun way out of control nationwide. So, the only thing we are getting more of today, are the worldwide numbers of COVID-19 positive cases and consequent deaths. And oh, we are also getting more rumours, more fake news, more white-washing and more hate-mongering on world fora and social media from some of the ‘acclaimed journalists’. We certainly could do without any of the above ‘mores’.
There have been wide-reaching effects of the lock down, including economic shut-down with its consequences. At an individual level, other than making people aware of the necessity to conserve supplies, it has impacted relationships both in positive and negative ways.
The modern/urban family has got into the habit of leading independent and private lives, often with members having their own rooms and schedules, which sometimes preclude even family dinners or time together. Being forced to share space constantly with others, with the work from home/study from home by spouses and kids and the absence of domestic help, have all strained relationships further. Many families still expect the wife/mother to shoulder the major share of household work and her office work too, if she happens to hold a job, which is unrealistic and inhuman. Snapping, sulking, throwing tantrums and even full-blown fights are all happening unfortunately in many families behind closed doors.
And yet, surprisingly, there has also been a revival of relationships. The same factors that strain relationships in some cases are helping others to heal. Knowing that they have to make the best of an unavoidable situation, many families have actually come closer and are pulling together. In the bargain, some relationships have got refreshed, others rekindled, some floundering ones have got a new lease of life and yet others have been newly discovered – yes, even within the family. Everyone is now forced to not only share the space and chores but also conversation with each other. After all, how long can one avoid speaking to the other? Or remain mad or sulk, even if one had a room to oneself with a high speed internet?
COVID-19 has brought home human vulnerability and mortality. All the technological advancement and economic and military might of the world have come to nought in the face of this pandemic. As has been pointed out by many, this is Nature’s warning to humanity – to stop the wanton destruction and indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources. Besides these, one should also reflect about aspects of life, our consumption patterns, relationships, spirituality, our dharma….which are the very basis of life.
It looks as if only good old human values are going to ultimately bail the world out of this mess, as we help each other, especially the less privileged amongst us, who have got the worst end of the stick. What we need today is the loftier ‘more’ of the Vikram Batra-kind — that would elevate us into being humane and compassionate, We certainly can do without the more of the Pepsi kind, that pushes us into crass consumerism.
That would be a victory in itself, going forward after COVID -19 dies down. After all, we have a nation to rebuild!
Animals on the road: http://www.Youtube.com