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This best describes the generation we live in, no other generation has faced this dilemma and it is graver than we imagine. In today’s age, we lack for nothing, most of us have good jobs, we can afford to indulge in any whim we want instantly, yet hardly a handful are at peace. Very few people are aware of the gravity of the situation this generation is in, and most of us are still not taking it seriously. It is crazy how easily media and advertising can normalize something in our lives which is not supposed to be normal. But we are all sitting on a ticking time bomb, I will go in detail as this is a bit vague so far.
Surrounded by excess, excess is the other side of abundance, true abundance is feeling satisfied and secure in all areas of life, so abundance has nothing to do with how much we own, abundance is qualitative not quantitative and it is definitely subjective. For example, for person A, owning a 5 bedroom luxury villa with 2 expensive cars is abundance and he/she feels satisfied, but for person B, owning 5 houses like this is abundance, we are not judging greed here, just a disclaimer, I am trying to get some perspective as to what abundance can mean. The end result when one reaches one’s goal material or personal is peace and satisfaction. But excess is the darker side, imagine a society where everyone had endless amounts of money and could whatever he/she wanted, there would be nothing left to strive for or work towards and that would not be fun at all. How does this apply to the current world? Just look at yourself, look around and then look one or two generations behind, we are the fattest, sickest, weakest, most in debt, most lonely and most unsatisfied generation yet. There I have laid it out bare, I am not saying we all are this miserable, but all of us have sides which are truly not at peace and we all have mastered the art of looking perfect on social media. Be true to yourself and you will realize this, we have now the most number of deaths due to heart attacks, strokes, and lifestyle diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure etc. Migraines, spinal cord issues, back pain are now so common. We are also the generation most in debt, that too from a young age as soon as we get that first job, the credit card companies are ready to offer you a card.
This is not always because we lack self-control, we live in a world where we are hounded subconsciously with excess of things around and the ease of getting what you want. Just ask your grandparents or parents how and if they ever took a personal loan, how difficult it was back then? We do not even think twice, bankers come home, collect out documents and within hours transfer huge amounts of money to our bank accounts. All of us are surrounded by banks and credit card companies willing to give us credit, more than willing, they are tracking us down and hounding us to take this credit. I agree the convenience is awesome and feels empowering, until you need to pay back, and thus starts the never-ending cycle of loans and debts. It is scary, and what freaks me out is 90% of us do not realize what we are walking into. It is easy to say, you need to be smart, you need to not fall for these ads, it is not about being smart, we are subconsciously tuned to an EMI culture and today, if you wanted a luxury car, you could easily get a personal loan within a day or two have that sparkling new car in front of your house, we all have lost patience and the ability or thought process of being patient and saving up for something is almost extinct. Most of us realize or rather acknowledge our spending patterns only post the age of 30, by then you have accumulated enough debt to last for years. Think about this, when did changing a mobile phone every year become a thing? Why do we need to upgrade everything in life every few years? From the TV, to the furniture, to the appliances to our laptops, to our cars. Since when did expensive holidays become a need?
We have been desensitized to spending, imagine if you are 35-40 yrs old right now, in college you probably spent 50 bucks (Indian rupee) on a movie, 30 bucks for the ticket and 20 bucks on popcorn, you watched it in a comfortable AC theatre with DTS sound, how and when did we transition to spending 500 bucks on a ticket and 400 bucks on popcorn and why the hell do we find it normal? It is crazy isn’t it? None of us questioned this, the multiplexes played into our psyche so well. I mean you can still make popcorn at 30 bucks at home, inflation cannot justify this, still we all accept it as normal and it is alarming. Past few years, there is awareness being created online and I am glad people are now waking up, with no-buy years and financial cleanses we can definitely give our spending patterns a shock and find the right balance to survive this mad world of consumerism. But still, there needs to be a mass awakening before it is too late and we end up the poorest retired generation begging on streets relying on government aid in our old age.
Food is another marketed and well targeted addiction, making food cheaper, accessible with 24X7 delivery, fried, sweeter and crunchier and with zero nutrition. Morbid obesity is on the rise, and even seemingly slim people get heart attacks on treadmills, our food has been destroyed by corporations. I mean think about it, why the hell do we need vitamins added to our cooking oil? This is not about self control, or being health conscious, it is about the amount of temptations around us, after all we are humans. The kids channels are flooded with ads of noodles, pasta, chocolates, and so on. We are being sold ridiculous things under the name of healthy, apart from the obvious unhealthy fried stuff. Even stepping into the office cafeteria you find brands like Dominoes and McDonald’s, try browsing once for Pizza and watch your social media feeds flooded with suggested ads. People gulp down Coke and Pepsi like water and who really cooks all meals at home? I was one of those at one point in life, eating out everyday, and weekends ordering out and I am not saying we should all stop doing this. But we are acting like a deer in front of a car’s headlights, just stunned and we are blindly developing patterns of eating and spending tagging it as normal. Diabetes is not normal, High blood pressure should not be normal, back pain should not be part of a normal conversation with colleagues, there should be no pressure to buy the latest Iphone. I mean Iphone is the greatest example of excess, something that nobody needs but everybody wants and is ready to sleep on the street outside the Iphone store to be the first one to buy the latest model. If that phone falls and breaks it is as good as useless, because no one can afford to get it repaired. No offense to Iphone owners, if you can easily afford it go for it, but taking loans to buy something that adds absolutely no real value to your life is madness.
Health and fitness is another crazy, marketed business that has people getting injured and spending huge amounts of money to look cool. I do not believe BMI proves your health status, that is bull shit. If you feel healthy, you are healthy, John Abraham and Bipasha Basu are not the only examples of health, they cannot be the parameters to judge everyone’s fitness. Doing crossfit, running marathons, triathlons, Jujutsu are not definitions of being fit, the fitness craze has got everyone hooked. I have personally spent thousands on protein shakes and even performance enhancers to do extra workouts in the gym, I was going through a phase of fitness craze. I spent a lot on a personal trainer, a nutritionist, hours in the gym, extremely strict dieting and I was miserable, eventually an injury made me stop. See, the thing is I was doing all this because I thought I was unhealthy, when in fact I had no medical issues before that phase, I rejected my body and wanted to match a standard that was impossible, because I thought I was imperfect. Do not get me wrong, I know people who are genuinely dedicated to working out and eating healthy, but they are not miserable, they are doing it because they really enjoy it and they love themselves. I see too many people who are struggling with body image and are miserable, spending thousands or even more, maxing out their credit cards and eventually giving up. Nothing can replace patience, and there are no miracle results that last, yes you will lose those 10 kgs in 2 months, but gain more health issues than before and once you stop, you will be 20 kgs heavier because the weight comes back with a vengeance. Do not fall for anyone promising you quick results, you did not put on that weight in a day and you cannot lose it in a day, follow people who ask you for patience and not empty your bank balance in a minute. There is a way of sustained health without spending any money, and I have embarked on it. I hope to create more awareness as I move ahead on that path. Till then search for balance, not a miracle.
The list of industries and segments is never ending, the fashion and grooming industry, the love and marriage industry, marketing and targeted selling is slowly crossing boundaries we never imagined. To remain unaffected by the sheer amount of selling around us is near impossible, and not many people are talking about it, I mean since when did this return gift trend start? I do not remember pestering my dad for money to buy expensive gifts for my friends, I remember saving up my pocket money and adjusting gifts within that budget. The fact is it all seems tiny and insignificant but this is how drop by drop our generation has been brainwashed into thinking normal about these spending patterns. The children today know no lack, they have nothing to draw a parallel to, and it is scary. Where are we headed as a society? Is this something that will eventually implode? Do you see the connection between this and rise in the number of suicides? Especially between ages of 16-25? When I speak to youngsters in this age group, they want to grow so fast, they want all the fame and money within 2 years of getting out of college and they are so disappointed when they have to face that nothing happens overnight, and sadly some of them end their lives. I was shocked when a fresher in my office in a first meeting asked me, what is the promotion cycle in this company? I was shocked, here is a youngster who has joined a week ago and instead of focusing on learning is worried about promotion.
Creating awareness, having more conversations, taking a pen and a notepad and writing down where in your life you see this pattern? Recognizing that these patterns are more addictive than cocaine and alcohol is important. Doctors have proven that some foods are indeed more addictive and destructive than drugs, as adults we can moderate but kids introduced to these foods cannot save themselves from the addiction. Identifying behaviors driven by media and marketing are important, do not be under the impression that you are smarter, trust me you will find subconscious patterns that will shock you. We all need to ask ourselves, despite so much ease and so much excess why are we still unhappy? Why are we still not at peace? What are we still searching for? Can we train our brains to stop and think do I really need this? One trick that has helped is, if I get that impulse to shop online, I spend the time online and add things to the cart and wait for a while, once that urge is satisfied I delete everything from the cart, because I never needed any of that to start with. I do the same with food cravings, I open Zomato or Swiggy I browse and add to the cart, wait for a minute and delete it all. I go to my kitchen and eat my dal rice with satisfaction and it is not really a struggle. Try it out, it is not whether you can afford it, it is asking yourself do I need it right now?
Everything that comes too easily has a price attached to it, doesn’t matter if it is a credit card, personal loan, designer clothes, fast food, fancy gym membership, or a crazy diet that promises you a flat tummy in 10 days, the price can be money and worse your health and mental balance. I hope we awaken sooner than later, this is no longer about personal choices or personal finances, the more citizens are sick and broke the more the government has to shell out, and it is all a tax payer’s hard-earned money, we cannot turn a blind eye to this any longer. The pandemic has truly provided us an opportunity to introspect, what actually adds value to life? We all have survived without a lot of things these past few months with ease and how many of us will continue looking for the real after this is all over? Can we separate need from want and can we train our children as well without giving excuses that it is normal? I was interested in a prediction made by an astrologer on Youtube, that we will eventually have two choices, first to stay in the system, with all the AI and government tracking, within the grid enjoying the benefits of technology and advancement, continuing the spending habits and sucked into the never-ending cycle of earning more and never having enough, the second would be to choose to live outside the grid, in small communities, self-sustained, having little but free from the vicious cycle of working for multinational corporations. What would you choose?