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Ajit Saldanha has a finger in the pie, and another on the political pulse. And when he writes, he cooks up a storm.

Tech me down, Scotty

Published May 7, 2017, 4:48 am IST
Updated May 7, 2017, 4:48 am IST
We seem to have gone overboard with our experiments in upper-middle class lifestyle consumerism.
A Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Caramel Macchiato, anyone?
 A Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Caramel Macchiato, anyone?

I have a great business idea: luxury dog walking. This calls for white-glove handlers with high-end portable toilets that attach themselves to your pooch's rear and are then taken to a central dump for vermi-composting. The poop, I mean, not the pooch and before I incur the wrath of CUPA, let me state for the record that I love dogs.  Bangalore has overpriced every other basic commodity of human existence, so why not take that trend to its illogical conclusion?  If I run into one more imbecile who describes it as India's Silicon Valley, I am going to projectile-vomit.

We seem to have gone overboard with our experiments in upper-middle class lifestyle consumerism. Far be it from me to romanticize poverty but one can't help noticing that the flaunting of wealth has been elevated to new heights, make that lows. The labels aren't the usual lineup of designer brands; instead people pay 5k for jeans and 4K for yoga pants. We don't go to a play or a concert; no time, yaar, but we overspend on the basics of life.

 

Coffee, water, artisanal bread and don't get me started on housing. Forget about what you read in the glossy brochures: 90% of the residential real estate available is shabby and dimly-lit, besides being a grotesquely-designed monument to bad taste. Incidentally the biggest rip-off is the carpet area which is usually less than 80% of super-built up area.  While we all share the blame, the rot set in with the tech community.

Here's what happens:

Some Bezos bozo creates a business for nerds with too many stock options and pretensions of superior taste. This takes the form of wearing tracksuit bottoms while flying business class or using Uber Black. Techies, being one of the largest demographics in the city with ample disposable income, patronize, promote, and even invest in said business.  This jungle expands daily while it stalks you online to track your spending habits. The tendency to sell worthless crap on the instant gratification, drone delivery method extends to those outside the tech community who are now empowered to create more app-driven businesses that cater to the bored and over-privileged.

The sales talk is peppered with buzzwords like “organic, fair trade and artisanal,” the most meaningless of them all. We are saturated with overpriced crap that is comparable in quality to less overpriced crap. Middle class and working class families and elderly individuals in the community find themselves priced out of goods and services. Small family businesses, angadis, condiments shops and genuine artisans in all these sectors languish and then vanish. A dosa and a cup of coffee shouldn't cost 200, but I can't imagine the tech community dumping this trend any time soon. We're obsessed with false notions of quality. We make a fetish of processes and benchmarks with absurd price tags that have no bearing on how good something is.

Ultimately we reach the stage where the average (and levity aside, most of us are average) consumer can no longer distinguish between a high value and a beyond superior product or service. Take hi-fi for example.  Most of us can't really make an accurate distinction in quality between a 50K system and a 500K system, yet the price tag subtly suggests that the latter is of much higher quality. Those holding more pink notes than grey matter buy the latter.

The same applies to basics, so why do we pay more when we can't tell the difference? Research suggests that it's because we want to look smarter. Ours is a knowledge-based economy and one that practically quivers with excitement when a tycoon appears on a cookery show. We want to show each other that we are audiophiles, master brewers and bakers; that we're not only loaded but also carrying the weight of the world's knowledge on our frail shoulders.

We want to look smarter, but we are only displaying our insecurity and indulging in pseudo-giri. Bake your own bread. Buy coffee-powder from your neighbourhood shop. Anyone can be a Google expert but aspire to be wise rather than merely spouting stuff. And in the process, help to save Bangalore from yourselves. Real estate, idlis, vegetables, fish and the various simple pleasures that contribute to a Bangalorean's "aarama" have become unaffordable.

This, Bangalore techies, is partly your fault. One has reached the point where one is tempted to agree with one of our much vilified politicians who was being attacked for poor infrastructure by an IT honcho on TV a while ago, " I say, we didn't ask you to came here, mind it." Ajit Saldanha has a finger in the pie, and another on the political pulse. And when he writes, he cooks up a storm.

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