Times have changed! So have our values! Today the amount of respect one gets in society is directly proportional to the price of the designer clothes one is wearing, the price and model of his/her cell phone and wrist watch, the brand of his/her shoes and in case of women the number of diamonds glittering on her fingers or ear lobes! We no more value people for their honesty, truthfulness, patriotism, academic qualifications or contribution towards the welfare of society. All these qualities have taken a back seat in the fast moving and materialistic world we are living in.

The brand mania has taken our society by the storm! We spent (or throw away) money without even a second thought on branded consumer goods like clothes, shoes, bags, watches or cell phones just to mention a few of them. Clever marketing tactics have hoodwinked us into believing that the more we spend, the better quality we will get, but this is not always true. I admit to the fact that to compete and succeed in the markets, branded goods usually maintain their quality. But this does not mean that cheaper alternatives of nearly the same quality are not available.

Only a few years ago, brand was a word usually used for a foreign made consumer good with an internationally recognized logo. Names like Levis, Wrangler, Nike, Rado, Reebok, Christine Dior, Yardley (to name only a few), were only within reach of the high income class. But now the scenario has changed completely. Local brands are storming the markets and fleecing people by charging exorbitant rates for their goods. Although their target consumers are the privileged class, but the not so privileged are also trapped by their advertising campaigns.

Until a decade back, most of us were content with buying lawn suits from our neighbouring markets as lawn was basically considered a summer comfort fabric. Some more budget conscious women preferred to wait till the end of the season sales, when they would buy and store their lawn suits for the next summers. Today the branded lawn suits have completely swept us off our feet and it is becoming sort of a status symbol to buy and wear these suits.

 The fashion designers, models and television celebrities are making the most of this mind set. They wake up one fine morning and announce their brand of lawn and start campaigning for it. The response they get depends upon their fame and popularity. Women rush to be the first to buy these exorbitant prized lawns as their exhibitions start. We see educated women throwing all norms of etiquette to the air as they push, shove and bustle against each other to be the first to reach the cherished material. And with a sense of great achievement they throw away hefty sums for a single suit! In their eagerness to win this rat race, they completely forget that only a small percentage of our population can afford this luxury. In a way, the brand mania is increasing the gap between the high and middle income classes, creating a sense of frustration and deprivation.

Amina, a homemaker says, “With my husband’s salary and the money I earn by giving tuitions at home, we can live a comfortable life. But I feel a sort of inferiority complex when I can not buy the designer dresses which every other women seems to be talking about. So, some months I give into impulse and get some branded stuff for myself. But I immediately start regretting this waste of money, as I have to cut down on the food expenses to make up for the gap created in my monthly budget thus compromising on my family’s health.

Nadia (name changed for the sake of privacy), a mother of four, laments, “When my two sons were young I used to get them jeans for around three to four hundred rupees. But now like their peers they demand branded jeans which cost anything from 2500 to 5000. How can a white collared family like ours afford such luxuries? Although at times I have to fulfill their demands, but more often than not I have to put my foot down and say a firm no! I fear that this may create an inferiority complex in them as most of their friends spend hefty sums on clothes,” she sighs.

I asked a student of Dow Institute of Medical Sciences, why he and his friends keep such expensive cell phones? He replied with a sheepish smile, “I can give you no particular reason for this mind set, it maybe peer pressure but expensive cell phones are a craze with our generation. We want the latest ones with unending options, most of which we seldom use (or need)! These too have to be changed at least twice a year or we will have to face the raised eyebrows of friends”.

Some people belonging to the middle income group are also seen eager to buy expensive branded goods. This may be due to the social pressure, or it may be a deep rooted sense of insecurity or inferiority complex. They may want to prove that they are not as hard pressed for funds as people take them to be! Whatever may be the reason for this sheer wastage of money, those of us who are not trapped into going for brands must learn not to feel under privileged, unfashionable or poor! All of us have the right to chose how and where we want to spend our hard earned money wisely!