Ever since I got introduced to minimalism, one question has kept ringing in my head. “Is minimalism necessary for Indians?”.
In true Indian sense, I want to deny and dismiss the thought and say “no”. How can a western concept be applicable for India? Have our elders not always taught us to save and not be consumed by consumerism? On the flip side, if we were so good at saving money, why are we faced with so much debt? And why are our bedrooms so full of stuff?
There are economic factors involved here. Back when I was at school, we had two important decisions in life – the 50paisa samosa or the 75paisa samosa. Now the same samosa costs 75 Rupees in most coffee places. So, our elders did not account for inflation. But what has that got to do with minimalism?
I am not an expert in finance & will never claim to be one. But my belief is that irrespective of which era you belong, you are paid a sum that will help you keep your lifestyle intact. If that is not the case, we find jobs that satisfy these. So, finding the appropriate income is not a problem. Then the problem is at the other end of the spectrum – expenses. Minimalism can help a great deal when we consider where our incomes go to.
As is the case with most of the world, we have developed at a rapid pace over the past couple of decades. We can boast of our cities hosting skyscrapers and multi-national companies. We have developed many towns to cities and villages into towns. A lot of us own vehicles, and own houses. We live in a connected world and have owned a minimum of 10 mobile phones since our first.
There lies the problem. Almost all the money we have earned has gone into upgrading our lives. This is primarily due to social pressure. We need to own the latest and greatest gadget or most expensive car to be perceived as successful. Once the next version of the same device is released, we have to own it. This mentality leads to a lot of pressure as well as needless expenditure.
The next major expenditure that we undertake is owning a house. It is a status symbol to have our own flat. In some cases, marriages are determined by how many houses the bride or groom brings to the table. When we work, it is quite easy to pocket a house loan and purchase the place. However, the banks do not let us pay back at our pace and instead force us to pay at theirs.
From a cultural perspective, as well, we have forced ourselves to take up so much stuff. I remember having a conversation with my house owner in Delhi where they said “If a marriage invite is not delivered in hand, we would not attend the same. Also, if the invite is not delivered with proper gifts to us, then we will not attend the same.” Coming from the South, I have seen so many occasions where one has to gift a dhoti & white towel for my dad and a saree for my mom. If I dig my house, I am sure to chance upon 25 towels at home.
A lot of times, we are also sucked into sentimental purchases. Jewelry for instance, something that we buy to show our status, yet seldom wear due to safety concerns. We are pressed to giving gifts for birthday & dresses during various functions. Though these occupy space & cost, we cannot not buy these.
So instead of pondering over the question, “Is minimalism required for India”, I believe we can look at some advantages that minimalism can bring for us Indians.
- Less cleaning – Own less stuff, clean less stuff .
- Less decisions – You don’t need version 7 or version 8 of the phone unless it adds value to your life
- Less stress – Less pressure to spend or own stuff.
- Less debt – Once you have more savings, you can concentrate on getting rid of your debt
- Not tied to job – A stretch, but you can choose another job that is more aligned to your passion though the pay may be lesser. I know of many IT engineers who just want to be writers
- Generosity – Donate your excess stuff
- More space – Your home looks bigger. You can feel proud about it.
- More freedom – More time to spend thanks to less cleaning & less social media. More freedom to spend on occasions and experiences than material stuff.
- Better example for kids – A chance to change our mindset and influence our next generation to make better choices in life.
- Less comparison – You only let in things that add value to your life. Extend that to people as well & remove needless comparisons.
Feel free to add your thoughts as comments. I am well aware that as Indians, we are happy to argue about any topic. If you disagree and believe minimalism is not for Indians, I am all ears.