Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Bas do minute!"

- Ruchi Junnarkar

What do you get two working parents, a hectic college schedule that has you running until the late evening, project work that never seems to end and a cell phone that never stops ringing? The answer, my friend, is Tinned Meat, Granola Bars, Baked Beans and Toast.

With the needs of the Indian market constantly evolving and consumers striving for a lifestyle much better than the ones they lead, eating habits of various people across the country are changing drastically. People tend to prefer preserved, ready-to-eat or canned food over actually going through the painstaking process of adding every tiny detail to a dish to make dinner a family meal. This is not to say that Indians are lazy. On the contrary, when it comes to food Indians have a global reputation of being quite elaborate when it comes to preparing meals. This new phenomenon however, is a reflection of the increasingly westernized work ethic and changing needs and aspirations of the “great Indian middle class”, or more accurately, the upper middle class.

This Indian middle class, a growing group of about 300 million, has now shifted its primary concern from financial safety to materialistic comfort and is much richer than it was say, twenty years ago.  With their needs and aspirations transcending to a desire for a second car and a second home, they are now being targeted as consumers of fast foods, canned food, preserved  and ready-to-eat food products, which are not cheap, mind you. But they’re easy, and the TV says they’re cool too. There is also the increasing phenomenon of working women emerging from the same class, showing, perhaps, a change in mindset. Is money being prioritized over old beliefs or are feminist ideals actually penetrating our society? Whatever the answer may be, it’s certainly reflecting on a change in one’s lifestyle habits.

Moreover, with the world becoming a bit of a cultural melting pot, lifestyles and needs are now beginning to overlap due to common role models, cultural cues, fashion, music and ideologies depicted in movies, leading to a faster pace of life and growth. One simply does not have the time to engage in small hobbies or interests and tends to risk a poor work effort if indulging in the same. Holidays, a concept that has evolved from visiting relatives to pure relaxation, are considered only after careful planning and have become a bit of a necessity to avoid an overload of work, while television fills the gaps in our lives, gratifying our beliefs and egos while we run around from one chore to another, barely paying attention to the messages we subscribe to.

The growing middle class is now being taught to cook food under five minutes and serve it as “healthy snacks”. Families rarely eat together, preferring to spend their mealtimes in front of the television or with members sitting in their own rooms. There is an increased demand for items that make every day chores easier, such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, instant coffee makers and so on, so it’s only reasonable that food follow the same trend in time conservation. The world, as they say, is a small place with even lesser time for individual needs, so it’s hardly surprising that when you complain of hunger, mummy grins at you over the kitchen counter and says “bas do minute!”

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