New malls continue to define India’s deepening consumer mindset. On the one hand is the Mall of India in Noida on the outskirts of Delhi, built by DLF Ltd. Billed as one of the largest in the country, it will boast 200 brands when fully functional (stores open there every week even now).
On the other are stores like Planet Fashion from the Aditya Birla Group entering tier-III and tier-IV cities, and displacing small-town bazaar peculiarities like hawkers or blacksmiths. Bharat and India are inching closer in mindset, thanks to the most infectious ailment of them all: consumerism.
That’s just one of the reasons which makes British historian Frank Trentmann’s book Empire of Things a must-read.
Released earlier this year, the book makes more sense as more fashion weeks begin and end, as stores open all around us offline and online. There is a deluge. That creates a deluge also of anxiety as Trentmann, an expert in the history of consumption, argues.
Indiscriminate purchases lead to waste and waste eventually leads to loss, not gratification. Hundreds of details on consumer behaviour, cultural realities and buying habits across five centuries of material culture figure in the book.
It also reveals prejudicial decisions of organizations that ban certain goods, the double standards of those who protest against material greed and the challenges consumerism has faced from governments or religious organizations.
Empire of Things is for everyone who loves or loathes shopping, especially because it is not only about shopping. It is about affluence, ethics, trade routes, labour and workforces, sugar and coffee, consumer technology, and the heart and the mind.
Supriya tweets @superear