Deepavali, over the years, has grown to be an occasion that unites the length and breadth of this unique country in a celebration that is a mix of tradition, as represented by dresses, sweets and crackers, and modernity, as represented by shopping for handy goods that many of us have no need for.
This year the whole shopping angle seems a bit low-key; but mostly it was around Deepavali time in the previous years that many of us went ahead and purchased stuff like ‘electric chapathi maker, a product conceived to take the laboriousness out of roti-making and reduce the burden on homemakers in the kitchen, which, of course, it did by triggering a smoky short circuit and tripping the house fuse and the family had no option but to eat out every night the chapathi-maker was put to use.
Then there is the electrical vegetable chopper, which is an extremely helpful product to have around in the kitchen to fill the attic with. With the roti-maker, you attempted to use it at least once. But with the mechanised vegetable chopper, there is no need to even unwrap it from the box. You can straightway put it up on the upper shelves of the loft away from human reach or gaze. It will stay right up there till you, in a rare fit of domestic enthusiasm, pick it, unwrap it from the box, set it up, get the vegetables ready and put the plug in the socket, and voila — this is the beauty of modern technology — you will realise that the plug and socket don’t match at all. It is an appliance that is not meant for use not just in your house, but in the entire country itself
Another product that is hugely popular as a gift item around Deepavali time is the casserole, ubiquitous in all households densely populated with cockroaches. Seriously, casseroles seem to be some kind of Shangri-la in the cockroach continent as they unfailingly attract them in Saravana Storesian-hordes. (Since they say that even a nuclear attack cannot destroy cockroaches, my secret plan for decimating them from the face of the earth would be to destroy all casseroles forthwith. But if this mission fails, I don’t see much hope for mankind, as sooner or later cockroaches are sure to take over this planet. My house, for the record, is already conquered by cockroaches and I only hope that Raghuram Rajan has the good economic sense to come up with some kind of monetary policy for my bank to collect the home loan EMIs from cockroaches henceforth).
Anyway, I don’t see any reason why the world should continue manufacturing casseroles, as modern kitchens in households seem to have no use for them any longer, as modern households themselves don’t seem to have much use for kitchens any longer, what with most of us dining out or making do with takeaways almost on a daily basis.
With white goods business enduring a slump this season owing to the downturn in economy, most of the Deepavali shopping is confined to dresses, which, I am happy to report, stick to the existing sartorial sensibilities of marrying classy stylishness with practical uselessness.
One of the main attractions this year for men is the pant stitched Jodhpurs-like, an attire that is spacious from hip to knee, but tight-fitting from knee to ankle, which makes it very comfortable to even get on a horse, provided you can get into the pant in the first place. In the shop that I had gone to, there were at least two cases where the guys fell down face-first while attempting to enter into the pant. But on the face of couple of guys, who managed to squeeze themselves into these pants, I could sense some satisfaction and confidence, which I quickly put it down to their realisation that they were sporting something extremely trendy and fashionable. I had half a mind to break to them the news that what they were wearing are exactly the same kind of pants that Ranjan wore in Chandralekha in the 1940s.
On to shirts, the thing that is in vogue these days is linen stuff. There were no takers for linen shirts till a few years back. They were deemed staid and déclassé. But now thanks to the unique imagination of the dress designers, they are high on style quotient. So what did the dress designers do? Well, they — I will get a bit technical here and use a term of intricate dress designing — priced linen goods high. The modern market rule is: Anything that is costly is by default deemed classy. If Christian Dior or Calvin Klein can think up a market for it, even your used, stained kerchief can become a symbol of elegance and panache.
Away from dresses, crackers, the other inevitable part of Deepavali, are also slowly losing their charm. They have become expensive. There are also environmental issues.
But if you still want to trigger some fireworks in your neighbourhood, the one ecologically-friendly, relatively inexpensive alternative that I will readily suggest to you is — rimshot —- electric roti maker.