Representative image. Photograph:( AFP )
As the hi-pitched, blockbuster V-DAY gets ready to freak out lovers of every shape, size and colour across Youngistan, the purists and old-fashioned brigade, zonked, continue to ask questions, has the innocent fun and gaiety, once shared by family and friends been totally overwhelmed by crass carnival-style commercialism? Is every festival – or Day – in recent times perceived as market-friendly opportunities by shrewd Event-Managers and choreographed in appropriately seductive manner, to hawk goods and services of every FMCG kind? Are these very special days on the annual calendar, nothing more than hi-end glam windows where tradition and religion tango with fun, food, fashion, masti and music in true Bollywood style?
If – like the oldies and purists – you feel a cardiac coming on, you are forgiven!
Fact is, there has indeed been a paradigm shift in the way our festivals pan out today in the public domain. It’s a different blueprint. Unknown and little-known festivals – and Days – are suddenly crashing through the woodwork, raising their hands to be counted and gaining startling momentum. Regional ones are going Pan-India and the traditional biggies, such as Puja, Diwali, Dussehra, Holi, Christmas are veritable blockbusters!
Ashish Nandy, the renowned and respected Behavorial Scientist quips, in amused fashion “Festivals seem to get manufactured – or revived – each day, like FMCG products. The scale, variety and accompanying appendages are mind-bending. Even weddings seem to have entered this glam zone, frequently resembling showbiz events instead of dignified and austere, ritual & ceremony.”
Nandy is right – and the reasons are there for all to see. We live in totally consumerist times where perception is reality and Brand, the new god! Also, the fact that India has more festivals than the rest of the world must be considered. In this scenario, the way they are presented – and consumed – remains the key factor in today’s 'dikhawa' universe.
Sociologists believe that they can well indicate “new-age markers with which to delineate contemporary history and economic life along with the shifting sands colouring society and culture.” One of the biggest reasons, perhaps, lies in the character of today’s cities, with its cosmopolitan nature where free mingling of people of different regions living and working in residential complexes is a given. So, over time, region-specific festivals, such as Puja, Onam, Lohri, Rakhee, Diwali, Pongal become open-ended affairs with everyone enjoying every festival, full-on! In some fashion, the celebrations help the uprooted, urban migrant bond, mingle and strengthen human relationship, something so critical in today’s self-centred and self-absorbed times. It offers a sense of community oneness.
Unlike sociologists, economists, however, worry that beyond identity and cultural values, festivals ultimately define big bucks and blatant, aggressive consumerism drive these events. “Why. For chrissake, would festivals ever be conceived, built and presented around malls?” enquires respected sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan “and why do Pujas have celebrity, judges, special routes, pandals & big-ticket Corporate sponsorship” ask others.
It’s a complete designer and customised affair with all the paraphernalia in place. Created to woo the purchasing power of the gullible, glam-struck, new-age consumer who are bred and buttered on tradition and ritual influenced by the likes of Karan Johar and gang. Little wonder that today many of these non-North Indian festivals, for instance, Sangeet, Mehendi have gone solidly pan-India. While festivals get more assertive and pronounced, there seems to be a tendency of fusing trend with tradition, making them seem more like fashion statements than a reflection of values.
However, everything considered, the fact is while festivals become carnivals, ramp-shows and sponsored programmes, muting the spiritual and religious content, it makes sense to do a reality check and realise that it’s clearly a sign of the times we live in. In this scheme of things, cynics, critics and sceptics have no place.
Besides, if this is the way today’s generation wish to pray, eat and love, why shove something un-cool down their throat? They’ll throw up!
So what’s the takeout? Simple. In today’s non-negotiable, consumerist world, chill, go with the flow, groove … or move!
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)