Friday, October 21, 2011

Selling Spirituality


4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri Investigates his new booming form of market-friendly, Designer Moksha

It is an astonishing paradox of human life with progress, sophistication, modernity and success comes depression, loneliness, alienation, and insecurity! Today in the year 2011, as we scan the lifescape inhabiting planet earth – with special reference to the advanced and developed western countries – we find startling horror stories of dysfunctional life amidst plenty. Amongst us in India there is no dearth of mimics and westapers passionately engaged in the business of living a ‘proxy’ life – a life invested with ‘imported’ thoughts, beliefs, products and processes. They believe it spells progress, being cool, smart, belonging to the swish Page 3 set and generally being perceived as aspirational role–models and preferred objects of desire.

Sadly, nothing is further from the truth! In the insane and direction - less pursuit of a mirage called “happiness”, the first casualty is peace of mind Why? Because nothing in this world comes for free and the first and the first would joys offered by the enticing packages called ‘Consumerism’ and ‘Globalisation’ come with a sinister price – tage! Suddenly, the sexy, 10-digit paycheck doesn’t look so great because the tension and pressure that accompanies it is scary. Family life, social life, cultural life, intellectual life….everything is sold at the altar of moving up in life. So, what next? What is the solution? Where is the salvation? Enter the marketers of spiritualism!

Ad – man Gullu Sen – Founder of Delhi based agency From Here On Communications – comes up with an instant one-liner. “If you have a Sapnon Ka Saudagar, why can’t you have a guy hawking spirituality?! The con – game is the same, boss!” On a more serious note, Sen believes that in today’s troubled times where tension and pressures rule the roost, spirituality is in high demand low supply. “Hence, the smart, shrewd marketer who has his ear to the ground and is able to think on his feet, can do wonders – for his desperate clients and laughing wallet.” He cites the example of Aastha and a host of similar TV channels which enjoy a wide viewership cutting across all stratas of society.

Perizaad Zorabian, the gorgeous redhead scorching the Bollywood marquee and modelling scene, takes a more serious view. She believes that each and every human being has a spiritual side to him or her “but unfortunately, due to the pressures of everyday life, sometimes, they are forced to give it low pariority. Interestingly, in times of real stress, it is this spirituality that gives them the strength and sustenance to cope.” Although she lives an extremely busy life, Zorabian makes it a point to save some time each day for hersely “to catch up with her spiritual self that is a source of both enrichment and empowerment. “As for the spirituality – on – sale tack, the actress believes that something as sacred and precious as this should not be treated as a product or service to be hawked for consumption. “I find it a very sick line of thingking!”

Burly, bearded, iconoclast Ad-man Prahlad Kakkar is however totally comfortable with the idea of marketing spirituality. “Yaar, we live in sexy Kalyug times where everyone knows the price of everything but the value of nothing! Spirituality, therefore, for the stressful, materialistic, gimmee – gimmee community, is something they can easily connect with as a consumer,” he tells 4Ps B&M. Kakkar believes that the simple, innocent days of basic goodness that was the DNA of our forefathers, have long disappeared. They have been replaced by a turbulent and complex environment where basic values are frequently under siege. “Hence, a safety valve like spirituality is a super – seller – a presold, sellout!’

And now the latest – Spiritual Cruises! Spiritual icons like Baba Ramdev and Mridul Maharaj are said to be doing their number on luxury liners Heading overseas (South-East Asia and Europe) with an army of devotees in attendance! Theaters on board, which showcase raunchy entertainment at night, amazingly morph to sacred, incense sticks Samadhan by day, complete with chants! Hyderabad-based software company promoter Govind Kabra (who specialises in organismic these trips) admits that their popularity has grown with time. From 1,500 a few years ago the number has risen to a whooping 15,000 plus! Although the major chunk come from India, there is a growing NRI presence from places like US, UK, Italy, Belgium, Indonesia... Even special and customised requirements (midnight supper during Katha; masala tea; vegetarian food minus garlic, onion and ginger!) are fulfilled. And these trips cost approximately $150-200 per night. Jai Ho!

At the end of the day, I believe, it's like selling coal to Newcastle! C'mon guys, we are, historically and traditionally, a spiritual civilisation/nation with rituals and beliefs embedded in our psyche. Whether it's the sandhya-deep accompanied by conch-shells at dusk or the vision of what life is about – Karma, Maya – spirituality remains an intrinsic part of our being. Unfortunately, pathetic West-apers that we have become, we seem to be enthusiastically buying into their hard-selling spirituality to us in the form of a fashion thing; a with-it and under-cool solution to all worldly problems that blitzes our sense of peace and contentment. It's sold – and bought – (like in the West) as a quick-fix, a fevicol for the battered soul! Only re-affirming the savagely ironic fact that we live in an age of Vigyapan not Vigyan!


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