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A break from tradition

December 2011

By Reshma Bachwani, Bangalore

This festive season in India ushered in some unusual rituals; traditional gifts like sweets and ornate oil lamps seem hackneyed and have paved the way for gifts that are markedly non-festive. Modernity and new rituals fueled by consumerism have prompted the exchange of books, DVDs, branded watches, and perfumes; even in cases where tradition is honored, it is now done with a contemporary twist. The mythological character Ravana found his way onto T-shirts by Chumbak, a brand that sells ‘cool’ Indian stuff. In a similar vein, the traditional firecracker has been reformed into a less-polluting avatar by Shady Ideas, a company that fabricates beautiful lampshades from recycled paper.

Personal indulgence’ has been another over-riding theme this season, with people giving each other vouchers for exotic spa sessions or haircuts at exclusive salons. Many of us stashed away the money we received to treat ourselves to a vacation.

News rituals are also emerging – Christmas, formerly a holiday only celebrated by a small community, is now ubiquitous, thanks, in part, to the media’s creation of an ‘aspiration’ for a western lifestyle. While city kids now expect a gift from Santa, adults, too, even been partaking in the holiday; exchanging gifts through ‘Secret-Santa’ parties has caught on at many workplaces.

While consumers enjoy this changing tide, the World Gold Council resorts to some unusual advertising in a bid to convince people to return to tradition, urging us Indians to spend our money on gold that was customarily bought during Diwali and not get lured by the overwhelming discounts on the latest gizmos.

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