Friday, June 13, 2008

Better to stay home!

Many Americans decided to stay home during Memorial weekend and not go on their usual long-weekend trips. I was delighted to find a new word that they had coined – STAYCATION. And it’s not just staying at home during long weekends – wheel-happy folks in the US are buying less SUVs and even choosing to travel by train. Obviously, the zooming oil prices are having an impact on everybody’s lives.

What is interesting is that, recession and high oil prices are forcing people in America to turn to thrift. In India, we’d always been taught not to waste food. When we were young, crass consumerism was by and large frowned upon. It was things like “don’t waste food” or “you don’t need any more clothes” etc. My grandmother had painstakingly taught me frugal values – she told me to try and keep my needs at a minimalist level.
But, economic liberalization brought with it the concept of ‘consumer is king’. And thus, it became very un-hip to not buy lots of clothes, not turn into foodies and not take foreign vacations. So the middle class in India went in for the kill armed with plastic money and bank loans to buy big houses and bigger cars. People who still wanted to keep their consumption at a minimum level were either looked down upon as not fashionable Gandhians or even condemned as Communist conspirators.
Seems like now the wheel has come full circle – with America teaching us to take Staycations and buy smaller cars. Besides helping us to save money for ourselves and reduce the overall oil bill, Staycations will undoubtedly help save scare resources for our geNext as well. Really hope that the Delhi-ites - with their passion for bigger cars, better houses and larger plasma TVs - are listening.

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