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Is there a fine line?

With rising disposable money in the hands of the middle and upper-middle class youth, it is not surprising that form the market for major multi-national chains. It is evident from the advertisements we see around us — young people flicking out the latest mobile phone to put an “uncle” in place, college students gratifying the gluttony of their friends in 25 happy bucks, attracting the attention of the oppositte sex with the blessing of a toothpaste or fairness cream and what not.

Then there are advertisements of products which portray the youth in the adversarial role — a departure from the laid back consumerist image. In this category you have the youth who woke up the corrupt politician from his limbo with a strong cup of tea. Then there is the ad where you see a rush of young blood burning down all the chairs to pledge against sitting back in inaction.

The forced shut down of Barista Lavazza in Presidency University, Kolkata, last October, probably brings forth a debate on this perceived split of identities.

While a group of students protested against the presence of Barista citing “privatisation of Presidency”, some students felt that this agitation was misplaced given the pervasion of multi-national companies in their lives.

Hailing from a peer university in the city, I understand that the intrusion of Barista in the campus might be an eye-sore for many. If Cafe Coffee Day enters Jadavpur University tomorrow, trying to squeeze between our dusty canteens, my reaction would be negative as well.

But trying to be pro-active against MNC culture by shutting down a cafe on campus — isn’t that a shortcut to complacence ? What about those Penguin books and photocopies from Xerox machines. Not to mention the jeans.

The culture of consumerism has been inviting criticism for quite some time now. Even my most shopaholic friends express disillusionment at times — it has indeed limited the horizon of expectation and expression of a major portion of the urban youth. With ‘n’ number of brands around us, this is indeed is a paradox.

But what is more scary is the attempt to address this with spurs of indignation. How can we expect mass protests in public places to resolve a problem that is necessarily rooted in our lifestyle?

The harder way is to sit back and make small changes in our ways of life. Otherwise “activism”, like consumerism, is an easy way to momentary gratification.

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