The festival season is already upon us, yet again. Those in the Western world are gearing up for celebrating Christmas and New Year. Those in such emerging economies as India are already in the midst of a shopping frenzy, having kick-started the season with Raksha Bandhan, Janamashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga Puja, Vijayadashmi and Muharram.
They now eagerly look forward to celebrating Guru Nanak Dev’s birthday, Diwali, the festival of lights, and Eid. These would be followed by Christmas, just before the New Year rings in, bringing in its wake Pongal, celebrated in the southern parts and Makar Sankranti, celebrated in the northern parts of India.
Come festive season and a new spirit seems, every year, to cast its spell over the entire community. A spirit of outwardly cheerfulness and goodwill prevails. Fresh rays of hope penetrate through the dense clouds of gloom. Concerns of eking out a living fade away, giving way to a transient resurgence of happiness. Relationships get nurtured afresh. Networking concerns reign supreme.
Much before the actual festival, a tornado of gigantic preparations hits the unsuspecting populace. Hectic preparations get made. Almost all segments of the community experience a rush which sends the adrenaline shooting up to stratospheric heights. Many bemoan the fact that there is so much work to do that there is hardly any time left to, well, celebrate!
Some corporate sparklers
The CEOs in companies can be seen burning the midnight oil to scrutinize the list of VIPs and friends who deserve to be gifted this year, ostensibly in proportion to their Helpfulness Quotient to the company they work for. Hapless managers can be seen working late hours in warehouses and super markets, collecting either samples or bulk deliveries of the goods to be ferried to the offices and residences of the high and mighty.
HR honchos are busy trying to freeze their festival bonus negotiations. Finance wizards are scratching their heads, trying to dig up deep resources for the upcoming heavy strain on their company’s accounts. Marketing experts are busy ensuring that all promotional campaigns run with clockwork precision, and that distributors’ payments are rolling in at the same speed at which the goods are flying off the shelves. Hassled production guys are praying for the festive rush to get over so they might be able to return to their home and hearth, sit by the fireplace and spend some quality time with their families.
Inwardly, lesser mortals twiddle their thumbs trying to figure out how to manage the finances for buying new clothes, sweets, gifts, crackers and decorative items which go along with the festivities. Much time and effort is spent in ensuring that their bosses – whether at home or at the place of work – are not left behind with a sour taste in the mouth after the festivities get over and the last of the sweets have been shoved down the hatch.
The retail fireworks
Those still in the business of brick-and-mortar retail continue to have sleepless nights. Stocking the right goods, replenishing stocks at the speed of Light and changing the window displays thrice in a day are only some of the challenges they have to cope with.
Owners of shopping malls chew their nails trying to figure out which happening brand to bring in next year so as to arrest the downward spiral of customer footfalls.
As e-retailers become more aggressive, hefty discounts allure the lay customer. Courier companies make hay while the festive sun shines. Telecom companies register abnormal jumps in their revenues. Career prospects of delivery boys and girls brighten up. The economy gets a solid boost, cheering the politicians who claim absolute credit for better days having finally arrived for the hoi polloi.
In traditional communities, the festival of Diwali cannot be consummated unless some yellow metal is bought afresh. Bullion traders, designers, jewelers and craftsmen work round the clock and laugh all the way to their respective banks.
A positive spin on the news of the day
Those who devour their daily newspaper with much relish, a cup of steaming hot tea by their sides, are a happier lot these days.
News of a depressing kind – terror, violence, murder, rape, vindictive politics – is relegated to the background. Instead, full-page advertisements and pull-outs featuring scantily dressed models enticing them to own the latest smart phones, electrical appliances, cars, furniture, clothes, jewellery, pickles and such other items greet them upfront.
An alien being passing by our planet these days, were she to come across some of the enticements on offer, could be excused for believing that she has finally landed in Heaven!
The frowning calorie-counters
At festive times, managers face a different genre of pressure – not the ‘peer’ kind but that of the ‘pear’ kind. Since no celebration is complete without their gorging on an assortment of delectable sweets and cakes, not to mention their having to guzzle down a wide range of tissue restoratives, the fitness freaks amongst them are a worried lot.
Calorie-conscious denizens are revisiting their exercise related pious intentions stated in their last New Year’s resolutions. Larsen Exercises popularized by Ashe Marson are being looked up on Google. Gym memberships are hard to come by. Sales of physical fitness equipments zoom.
Some models which fail
Minor employees of shops, departmental stores and other nests peddling their goods and services smile invitingly when approached by customers. Lured by hefty but deceptive discounts, the latter shop to their heart’s content. In supermarket aisles, it is common to see hassled husbands hidden behind a tower of shiny gift packets dutifully following their wives to the nearest billing counter. Lobby managers in hotels and restaurants can be seen perspiring, trying to manage the queue of weary shoppers pouring in.
Those in the transportation business have no moment to spare either. Since everyone wants to travel to some place or the other, even the best of linear programming models and queuing theories fail to provide succour to a professionally trained manager desperately trying to satisfy her customers.
What happens to all the festival presents? This is a question which has long vexed thinking Homo sapiens. Every year, a tsunami of incredibly useless junk bursts upon our civilization. Experts in Sustainable Development advocate drawing recycling lessons from many of our religious outfits which permit the same invocatory items to be sold and resold to gullible devotees, till the process of natural decay or irreparable damage takes over.
Thrifty homemakers rummage through their cupboards to pull out gifts received from others during the year. Skills in polishing leather, silver and brass items help them to burnish their own brand value. Experts at repackaging the same for another set of beneficiaries, their shopping is merely confined to glistening gift wrapping papers, shiny ribbons and cute little cards which must carry the name of the gift-giver more prominently than that of the clueless gift-receiver.
If they happen to possess qualities of humaneness and genuine love, they gift items which can be recycled by the unsuspecting recipients next year round. The risk, of course is for them to receive the same item back a few years down the road.
Members of the rag-picking tribe do a wonderful job – that of picking up the junk discarded by haughty recipients and handing it back to retail chains which are happy to recycle the stuff at the next festival that comes bounding up.
It stands to reason that the tribes which manufacture and distribute such items strongly resent such practices.
The young brats who cause many a doting parent to wonder if the decision to bear a progeny was indeed a wise one can be seen sitting in a dark corner with a sullen expression on their faces.
Santa Claus appears to have neglected them. Their friends have procured the latest range of crackers – a feat which their father has not been able to accomplish. The i-Phone or the tablet they were hoping to get by way of a gift is nowhere in sight. Instead, they have been dumped with some creaky plastic toy which has long since gone out of fashion. An uncle who has popped up from a distant land has merely brought a digital time clock so they may get up in time to catch the school bus.
Surely, all this does not deserve the old-time gratitude, warmth and sincerity which even a chocolate bar used to merit a few years back. The Yuletide spirit is singularly absent.
Raising the level of intellect
Some shop for books to be gifted. Shiny volumes of Shakespeare, Tennyson or Wordsworth get chosen for the elderly. Neatly packed omnibus editions of Omar Khayyam, P G Wodehouse, Khalil Gibran and Rabindranath Tagore get selected for the young-at-heart. Shimmering publications in the Harry Potter series fly off the warehouse shelves, delighting old and young alike.
All these activities generate much-desired revenue for a number of writers who refuse to abandon the proverbial pen and keep churning out stuff which gets devoured only by a select group of their fans. Employers who have been deprived of their services breathe easy, having been spared the torture of hiring and firing absent-minded writers who would have otherwise messed up quite a few things in their company’s operations.
Publishers who are still in the conventional mould rely on the festive season to help them to get rid of several non-moving worst-seller tomes which they have published during the past few months, merely to oblige their spouses’ relations.
Thanks to advancements in technology, the tedious task of selecting shiny greeting cards, signing them individually and then ensuring that the same get posted well within time to the right addresses of the intended recipients has got simplified. The omnipresent Internet ensures that common relatives and friends can get greeted with effortless ease over mails, social media or applications like WhatsApp.
Invoking the Guardian Angel
The manner in which we view our festivals depends on the phase of the life we are in.
For a homemaker bringing up irrepressible kids in a joint family, there is no time to brood over such matters. She can be seen hurriedly pulling out all the grandma’s recipes so as to effectively compete with Anatole and get praised by her family as ‘God’s gift for the gastric juices’. The so-called Lord and Master of the household can be seen scouring the markets for the best deal possible for gifts to be procured.
A quieter soul like that of Bertie Wooster might wish to skip all the buzz and plan to instead go off on a retreat and enjoy a few weeks of rest and repose. A country cottage built along the lines of Wee Nooke would get booked. Arrangements would be made to ensure that Edwin the Boy Scout is not around. All supplies of paraffin would be cleverly concealed. While Jeeves would ensure a steady supply of soluble piscine vitamins, Bertie would invoke his Guardian Angel and practice on his banjeole. His batteries would then be fully charged up for the big bash lined up at Drones on the eve of Christmas.
An elderly person in the mould of Lord Emsworth might just continue to potter around the sprawling gardens at Blandings Castle and wonder if there a way to stay aloof from all the commercial jazz. Instead, he might simply prefer to find a quiet meditative spot in the moss-covered yew alley, get connected to the higher power which any particular festival is supposed to invoke, and pray for an all-in-one package to be granted: For the Empress to remain in the pink of health, for the Hon. Frederick Threepwood to remain preoccupied with the promotion of Donaldson’s Dog-Biscuits in distant lands, and for Lady Constance to remain off his abode for a long time to come.
Peace would prevail. God would be in heaven. All would be well with the world. Real celebrations can then begin!
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