Food as love / food fetish

1. Food as love

“Jevan zala?  Kay khallas? ”
(Did you eat? What did you eat for dinner?)
Phone lines across the world are clogged with concerns of lovely people. In absence of real intimacy,  families and lovers resort to questionnaire of food intake and bowel movements. In absence of touch they want to ensure the mortal vessels of the their loved ones are well taken care of.
The questions are  not an exercise in inanity. They are expressions of love.

2. Food fetish

Idle chat at office lunch tables,  conversations with acquaintances…
Across the world, (perhaps the upper middle class world that is not currently being destroyed by wars and proxy wars) people are filling the space between burps and bites with conversations of food and restaurants.
Incessantly.
The virus of foodieitis is spreading faster than Ebola. Everybody see themselves as foodies. A virus that hollows out the brain of thoughts about anything but indulgent excesses. For the afflicted person, excess is desirable. excess is exciting. excess is a way of life.
Food doesn’t cure hunger; it affirms their identity; it renews their unnatural desire towards consumables. It a love affair gone too far, too weird.
and yet, because it suits the new economy, it’s the new virtue for the herd with low expectations. Consumption has become art. connoisseurs are the new pandits of this ritual of junk workship. It is narcissism projected inwards. (to the stomach.)
3 years ago, everybody wanted to be a photographer. Now everyone wants to be food porn maker. Food that looks out-of-this-world and very well might be, in all probability made from cardboard and motor oil.
Food that never satisfies, but yet that never ceases to be desirable.
Food that mothers warn about to their children.
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The N-generation

Just read a post from the crowd-sourced diary of narcissists – thoughtcatalog.com

The post is called ‘Why I’m Trading A House And Salary For A Motorcycle And Map
Please read it, because this blog post is a reaction to it.

Let me quickly summarise here the intent of the post anyways. Its a self congratulatory essay that crowd sources validation for a seemingly ‘crazy’ idea of the author. And apparently there is a moral to the story. Curious thing to note – the gratification is pre-action – the author has not actually done anything of note yet. He plans to. Maybe. and that is why this post is such an important artifact defining the current times.

The author is an adult. (atleast 30 years old. Also the fact that he owns a house that he can sell. and in his words “I’ve officially notified everyone who works in my office“.) But not quite. (the entire article. Also, he mentions the word ‘motorcycle’ gushingly 6 times.)

Some of his gems.
1. “People are legitimately awesome!”
This realization came to the author when he saw people encouraging him.
yes sayers = awesome.

2. He has a plan where he will

“try to be a coffee farmer in Jamaica with a man named Thunder, attempt to build houses in El Salvador, and try to work at a Sky Diving school in Utah”

He plans to try. these awesome hipster things in third world countries/ state.
He is planning his facebook feed, not his life. 

3. “They said they wanted to follow my blog.”
He is building viewership for a reality show that has not even started yet. The objective of the project is not traveling. It is the spectacle, it is the image. That is why he already has an idea about what he will do in his travels – farming in Jamica with Thunder! planned!
Where is the uncertainty? The author has already read ‘the alchemist’, ‘Siddhartha’ and such. He already ‘knows’ what he will learn.

He is already far into the future where he will write his illuminating experience. In the future, he will be looking back at social media mentions and pop philosophy books to inform his eyes about what to see, ears about what to hear and mind to what to experience.

4. “sharing dreams that they had and plans they wanted to make”

The N-generation wants to make plans. Not necessarily execute it.The thrill is in the plan and in the acknowledgement that others know of your plan. If there were no others, there would be no plan, no thrill.
The joy is crowd-sourced. The plan is cowd-approved.

5. “off the cuff speech about following dreams”
a. Appearance of spontaneity is important. (off the cuff) For a generation that is neck deep in images, the biggest concern is about authenticity. Hence ‘get real’ black music. Hence clinging to brands for identity. Hence organic. Hence ready outrage.
b. Author mentions casually about his ‘speech’ (college kids?) where he exhorted them to follow their dreams. Obviously, the author places himself firmly at the center of the universe. Has he achieved anything? Has he created anything? No. He is merely planning to try to build houses in El Salvador. may be.
Why is he going all TED on poor college kids? Isn’t ‘following dreams’ a tried old message that everyone hears about 1548435024 times a month at least?
Has his ‘following dream’ served him any good? why should he talk on the subject?
Its not about the students or the institution. Its about his image of him sharing his wisdom in an institution.

6. The prof. who coordinated his little talk “emailed me and shared so many awesome things that she was doing and things she wanted to accomplish.”

a. He finds needs validation. from his coworkers (“come into my office with tears in their eyes”) and more importantly, a professor – an authority figure. Obviously, he subscribes to the educational authority. That is why he is maybe planning for a PhD. For quite a few confused souls, PhD is an excellent break (atleast in their heads before they enroll for the course) to postpone their life – to push confrontation with life’s issues even further. To evade adulthood.
(Maybe planning – that deserves a separate post altogther. Something that I am guilty of too.)
b.  In author’s narrative, the prof. rushed to share her accomplishments and wishes with him. Because in his narrative, the authority has been subverted. In his world, now he is the authority in whom the prof. wants validation.

8. Then the author meanders through old lame complaints before getting here –When a person bottoms out they start from zero. They get to recreate the rules.”

Our generation is in desperate need of ‘bottoming out’. We want an antihero who would bring down the ‘system’. But as TLC says, the problem is not the system, the problem is you. (Read the blog cautiously. Very insightful stuff, though cloaked under a high amount of sarcasm, smarty aggression and American references that we might not always be aware of.)

We don’t want to build incrementally or bring in a revolution. We want to ‘recreate the rules’.

9. “So to everyone who is just now inheriting the world…”
Inherited the world. INHERITED.

10. “We’re going to create something. We’re not hippies. We’re something new that has yet to be determined.”

We are desperate to build an identity. But we just can’t choose. So we start with exclusion. ‘we are not hippies.’ We are afraid of concrete realities. Hence we are ‘something’s. We are ‘new’ and ‘creators’. Everyone is an artist.

30 and still a man-child. that’s the N-generation.
Narcissistic

_____
Originally published here.

Irresponsible brand #56: Bisleri

See these ads -> Bisleri500 Angry bride, Bisleri500 Casanova, Bisleri500 Superhero

Tell me you didn’t find them disturbing. If you did, stop drinking this irresponsible brand, and if it can be helped, bottled water altogether.


Story of the bottled water

If not, let me shepherd out the outrage.
What do you think is the brand trying to do through these ads? Its a classic advertising attack on your current behavior.
Not all behavior change objectives are bad, but they always have a big responsibility – In your quest for increased usage/ preference, you don’t want to bring harm to a culture or people. I believe Bisleri has been tremendously irresponsible in multiple ways.

The behavior shift sought here is that from shared drinking to individualistic drinking. While traveling you would often see us Indians sharing a bottle, sharing food. Sharing is a big part of how Indians define themselves.
However, sharing is perhaps a newer value that India tried to inculcate in its socialist days. Deeper in Indian psyche is the notion of ‘impurity‘ – the impurity of low caste that might pollute your food/ drinks. In marathi the word for a vessel/ plate/ food item that is eaten/ touched by someone else is ‘ushta’. In Hindi, is it ‘zootha’ (false?) All local cultures have a word for this sense of ‘pollution’ of food when it is touched by someone of lower caste.
The socialist ideal sought to change this corrupt culture. The culture of sharing was born in reaction to the divisive culture of caste. And Bisleri goes and sabotages the whole 60 year exercise in undermining the caste structure.

See the reactions of all girls in the ad film. Then see this documentary – ‘India Untouched’. (Every Indian must see this documentary.)

 India untouched

What do you think now? What is Bisleri advocating? Why the outrage? why the slap? Bisleri is asking Indians to react strongly to anyone drinking from ‘your’ bottle.
I work in an advertising firm. Ads try to propel individualism further as it is usually beneficial for brand. But the objective here is not individualism only. The objective is the reaction – a violent reaction. 

Perhaps there is a slight distinction here. The purity sought here (consciously. Though subconsciously this ad will turn the wheels of caste) is not from a caste perspective. Its from the modern phobia of ‘germs’. See any westerner in India – how obsessively they drink only mineral water. They have a valid reason for the same, India is a large dumping ground and hence dangerous to their health. If you drink from tap in Mumbai, you might as well be drinking from sewer. It would be absolutely foolish for anyone to drink from open source water in urban India.
But what has happened is, carrying a mineral water bottle (Plastic) has become a ‘class symbol’. You would see idiots buying and then throwing the plastic bottles near the pristine Himalayan streams in Uttarakhand and Kashmir. Monkey see monkey do – Indian ‘aspirers’ see westerners drinking only from plastic bottles, and then mimic them blindly. (And then restaurants (the modern arbiter of class) use this wonderfully to their advantage where if you ask for tap water, the server would look at you quizzically – as if sizing you up. )

Bisleri is not trying to instill a new culture. It is taking a small culture of fear of these aspirers and then propagating it further.
Why is it always women who get angry in the film? Its not a coincidence. The pallbearer of hygiene and traditions, women are the early adopters Bisleri is after. There’s another insight about Indian women here. You won’t find as many Indian women traveling alone as you would foreigners in India. Why do you think that is the case? Yes, India is a despicable place when it comes to Women safety and hygiene. But how do so many westerners manage it, whereas so many urban Indians cannot? Why do urban women forever live in bubbles of their own? What does it say about us? Perhaps a debate is to be had later.

Finally, I come to the ecological aspect of this brand exercise. What is the ecological cost of a individual plastic bottle used once, shared never? Undoubtedly, the brand is trying to increase its usage – frequency and units (more people more often). So this translates to quadrupling of plastic waste. How is Bisleri going to do its bit to unclog Indian waste?

I believe brands must be taxed for the cultural costs, ecological costs that they outsource to tax payers. Right now the Bisleri500 bottle is priced at Rs. 10. Which does not take into account its ecological cost to Indians. The bottle will wound up in a sewer, clogging it, causing floods. It would stay around for thousands of years polluting the atmosphere. It is undermining traditional practices of water harvesting/ water distribution and even the traditional free tap water distribution systems. (Why do you think, these days so many of the public drinking water faucets are broken or tampered with? The local Bisleri dealer had nothing to do with it?)

Lastly, see the end of all the TVCs. Everyone is as if slapped into behaving in the new 3 step way. Isn’t it time, India slapped brands like these into behaving more responsibly?

P.S. – You might like to join this community started by a friend ‘Planet trash’. and also check out the cool venture called ‘waste ventures‘.