Media brings materialism in India?

An Indian girl, Pratibha, 14, reports, “TV and the Internet has totally changed our life. I can’t think of life without the imagination of the Internet and TV.” In regards to Indian young women in particular, Grey Global Group surveyed 3,400 unmarried women aged 19 to 22 from various income and social levels.[i] Altogether, the project involved 40 focus groups in five large metro areas and five smaller cities. Nisha Singhania, senior director of Grey Worldwide India, reported that 51% of young single women in major metro areas say it’s necessary to have a big house and big car to be happy. In smaller cities, 86% agreed with this materialist statement: “This shows that the less women have, the greater are their aspirations,” Singhania concluded. “A typical comment in recent interviews with young women was, ‘I want money, fame and success.’” One of the materialist influences on the respondents was satellite and cable that brought American music videos and TV shows to India in the early 1990s showing passionate kissing, sensitive guys, independent women and new products.

The main goal of young Indians is to “become rich,” according to a survey by Coca-Cola. MTV’s first “Youth Icon of the Year,” in 2003, was an industrialist named Anil Ambani. When he was asked what is the one thing that stands out about today’s young people, Ambani said: “India’s youth are very, very ambitious. Very competitive. There is a great spirit to achieve success and reward.”[ii] But he added, “They’re losing touch with some of the grassroots principles of our society, our culture, our systems. I think we need to harness our core values, our religion, our spiritualism. This is what the whole world wants to learn from us. Indian youth shouldn’t give up on that.”

`           Some worry about not being able to meet youth’s rising expectations, as when young people go into debt to buy the latest mobile phone. Indrani Vidyarthi of ORG-MARG, a major market research agency, asks, ”But how to get more when there ain’t more?” According to the India’s 2001 census, about 78 million rural households had no access to electricity, so how can they have Internet access? More than 40% of India’s population depends on kerosene for lighting and uses batteries to see DVDs.[iii]

Right-wing Hindu nationalists protest the sexuality brought by foreign/modern consumerism, seen in the popularity of “cinema culture,” beauty contests, fashion shows and celebration of Valentine’s Day. Beauty is big business, as when Indian women win Miss Universe and Miss World contests. This leads to India’s reputation as a major “beauty machine,” along with Venezuela and the US. Major newspapers like the Times of India cover the winners.[iv] Opposition to the beauty business links Hindu nationalists and the feminist left. Feminists decry the contests as demeaning women: “There are clear links between globalization and the accelerated commodification of women,” stated the leader of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.[v] Although both right and left attack consumerism, it is spreading nevertheless. Women’s clothing, sexuality, and freedom of movement in public are “central to struggles over the cultural meaning and impact of globalization.”[vi]

[i] Pete Engardio, Businessweek, October 3, 2005. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_34/b3948530.htm

[ii] “If You Dream, You Can Do It” http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?222591

[iii]http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/02/14/india.village.no.electricity/index.html

[iv] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/specialcoverage/5868107.cms

[v] Ibid, p. 59.

[vi] Lukose, Op.Cit., p. 13.

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