7 comments

  1. RG, good discussion! It reminds me of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, Steel book. The opening dialog between Yali (New Guinea guy) and JD where Yali asks why the West had so much more “cargo” (highly ironic for a post about luggage!). I guess India, no different than any other foreign dominated power, even after independence thrived on imported Western technology. But your point – luxury is a choice not necessity – is well taken, why does the Indian affluent still prefer Western luxury brands? Maybe aspiration? Maybe coming of age? Very interesting topic.

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    1. Vinay I loved that book! I guess in this case my reply to Yali is that Indian “cargo” isn’t marketed properly. I guess even in luxury one has to distinguish between the plebian luxury e.g. clothes and personal effects and objet-esque luxury like art or wine that are hard to find collector’s items. I think Shoba wrote a piece about khadi some time back, I guess that’s our way in, our “official entry foreign fashion” to the Oscars aka Fashion Week. But then that prompts the question – when do we get out of “foreign films” and become mainstream? Not, I hope, with a Slumdog entry!

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  2. Shoba, I have one question… You have spent so much of time in your blog on the Indian aesthetic etc etc, so clearly you have had this deep within you for a long time. Then when your American boss came in to life why did you switch to some European brand to impress him? If he is the aesthete you say then wouldn’t he equally appreciate it if you walked in with an Indian Rajasthani Bandhini bag? Reason I say is because I have this argument with my hubby (who is an I-Banker) all the time… it looks like he is fully American when talking and working with his American boss and American colleagues, but he is Indian (himself) when at home or among friends … but my issue is that he will not carry Indian artifacts etc at work with him… I guess this is the root of the Indian / American conflict…

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    1. Hi V. As for this, I say that it is during my ‘misguided’ youth. But your point is a larger one– about how Indians are wary of asserting their cultural identity. Forget when you are an immigrant and you have a subconscious pressure to assimilate. Even here in India, my friend, Manish is experimenting with wearing a kurta-pyjama one day a week to office. Why don’t more men do that? Why must we adopt a western identity at work? I don’t know but it is a topic that haunts me.

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      1. This is an interesting point. I don’t know if shirts and trousers are “Western” anymore. After all, we use the English language and Roman numerals for most of our business dealings anyway, and the shirts and trousers are at least 100 years old (in India and elsewhere). What is really interesting is that I found Indian women happily wearing saris and salwars to work in India (when I visited Bangalore). But again I suppose that is cultural, growing up in India I noticed that the Anglo-Indian women schoolteachers wore skirts or trousers while the locals wore saris and salwars. The male teachers always wore shirts and trousers.
        The question here is not about the contemporary default – shirts and trousers – but about the choice of luxury. I guess in this space one is free to exercise their choice among silver cuff links or Indian gold chain.

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