The first entry I'm borrowing from the Zavelogue comes from an experience we had in Geneva, Switzerland, the first place we stopped after leaving India. Enjoy...
There's a department store in Geneva called Globus (warning: French and German only). As far as we can tell, the store's gimmick is that its displays and decorations reflect a different city or region of the world every month or so. We walked into Globus and for a second thought we were back in India. "Mumbai/Bombay" was the theme for May and June, 2006.
In other parts of the store tiffins, the little circular "lunch boxes" that Indians use, were used in displays. Water jugs, turbans, ceramic cups and other little touches were also used to give an "Indian" feel. But make no mistake, there was nothing Indian feeling about Globus. Elements of Indian culture and society had been co-opted by the Globus design team to sell consumers high-end products, many of which one would have great difficulty finding in India. For example, by purchasing a simple-looking pair of leather sandals, for around 100 euros, one can imbibe the spirit of India without actually being there.
It was hard to imagine what the average (i.e., poor) Indian would think entering Globus in all its branded India glory. My guess is that a dweller of Dharavi, India's and Asia's largest slum, would have walked into the very same Globus we visited and said, "Hmm, my life is for sale here. Why would people want to buy my life?" Yes, indeed, why would a wealthy European want to buy the trappings of Indian culture?
I'll write more about Globus, and more specifically the commodification of Indianness, in the next entry.
Technorati tags: Globus, consumerism, Switzerland