FunctionalPosted: December 11, 2009
Luxury is a state of mind. Huh? So this is probably not what you thought i would be saying. But this is something i believe. Why? Well … If you have been a manager for some time, trying to contain costs, you probably don’t have a choice but to subscribe to this viewpoint. After all, what you get at lower costs is functional knick-knacks. Huh? Let me explain.
Not that i am going to start now. For now, allow me to tell you this. I started writing this a few days back, with a few drinks on the inside of me (if you havent figured that out yet, please resist the temptation to continue reading). I tried to pick up the threads a few days back, in one of those rare moments of complete sobriety but they seemed to be disappearing into clarity. Today, with a few cocktails inside of me, those threads are clarity themselves.
Back to the topic that i am writing about. What is luxury? And what is it that makes some things luxurious? The question is straightforward, the answers not quite so. To begin with, luxury is like beauty. Not that there is something innately similar between the two, rather, that they both lie in the eye of the beholder. What is luxurious to one person may not be so to another person. While that is a reflection on the nebulous nature of luxury, there is also the idea that the way luxury is seen changes with time. What you thought was luxurious when you were at college, and were drinking hooch from plastic glasses, sprawling on the lawns of the hostel (if at all you believed in something as civilized as glasses), would be quite different from your idea of luxury at 60, with more than a few streaks of silver.
Lets take a few examples. There was a time, for example, when rich, fattening red meat, the richer and the more fattening the better, was considered a luxury. The oh-so-un-luxurious ones lived on the simple fare of Daal and Rice. Need i say anything more? The Daal, in all her beautiful simplicity could cost you quite a sum in a luxurious atmosphere. To some people, Kewda, Kesar, Khus-Khus, Pista, Kishmish, and of course, Ghee, are luxurious ingredients. You wouldn’t find too many of the rich and mighty counting themselves among fans of Khaalis Ghee. Or, that the Feni, which adorns any self-respecting bar, is essentially country-liquor, which got transformed into a luxury drink. There are quite a few people (i have done that too) who would have paid much more for Steamed Rice Dumplings with Coconut Sauce, than for Idli-Sambar. Arent they the same thing? They taste the same, and the only difference the discerning could discern would be the crockery, the ambience, and the fluency of the people in English. One is luxury, the other is what is lovingly called Tiffin. Or take the example of gold. Apart from the fact that gold is inert, and it endures, what is it that makes it highly valuable? If you think thats because it endures, then one would need to ask what you think makes crystal so valuable?
So what is it that turns something commonplace into a luxury item? The Ghagra from the villages of Rajasthan and Gujarat became luxurious when ethnic chic became “in”. Functionality, quality, look-and-feel, or service? Or a combination? Rather difficult to say, isnt it? And thats the question i am asking. Is it positioning, or is there more to it? While i think the former, being the philistine i am, please do leave comments and let me know what you think.