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One man’s necessity is another’s luxury

July 14, 2009

When I read about this research* about how Americans are taking a U-turn when it comes to buying consumer durables, about their attitudes changing towards necessities and luxuries, I thought it’s time to see where developing economies like India are at. Are our necessities really necessities, and if they are, then why are they so?

The research also reminded me of the writings of E. F. Schumacher, who had once talked about the limits of growth. He had argued “against excessive materialism and meaningless growth.” After all there comes a point when a human being has all that he needs. And growth, whether of corporations and their products, or the GDP growth of countries, is not reflective of the mental and physical health of its people. Since then there has been criticism about Schumacher’ theories, particularly about their relevance in today’s world. After all industries need economies of scale and they need to reach a critical mass so that they can provide the product at an inexpensive rate. And they need to keep inventing new products to stay in business and to make profits. Competition, which also fuels growth, is healthy too, as it prevents monopolies. But then one has to strike a balance.

Coming back to the research, India is a growing economy and more and more people are coming into money, but does that mean that they should get addicted to luxuries and start believing them to be necessities? Should they get taken in by false and/or fancy advertising which drives them to consume more and more?

This post is not about those who want to enjoy luxuries because they can afford them. Nor am I talking about spiritualism here, but just common sense. Why wait for a rainy day which could force us to cut down on the so-called necessities?

Here are the items which Americans don’t think are the life-savers they thought they were. Three years and a recession did it. What is interesting is the stark difference in the attitude of Indians and Americans towards the same consumer durables. I don’t have statistics on India and my analysis is based on what I have read and my own observation.

Most Americans think a car is a necessity although this percentage would be lower  in European countries with good public transport systems. It would also be lower in poor countries where the populace cannot afford to buy cars.  In India we are at the crossroads…newer, cheaper, and fuel efficient  cars  are being launched every year and we have a burgeoning middle class itching to buy them. With India’s limited road infrastructure and the people’s limited incomes, India has a long way to go before people will start thinking of cars as a necessity. However, the fact that many Indians believe two-wheelers to be a necessity points to the our inefficient public transport systems. Unless public transport improves, there will come a time when middle class families will start to see the four wheeler as a necessity.

Where clothes dryers are concerned, over 80% of Americans thought they were a necessity three years ago and it’s interesting to know that this percentage has reduced to 66. It’s doubtful that this trend is driven by the need to conserve energy, and is most likely due to the recession. Considering that a clothes dryer would be useful in many, colder, parts of America, the fact that many feel they can do without it makes one feel that a clothes dryer is indeed over rated. Automatic washing machines do more than half the drying anyway and to have one’s clothes so dry that one has to simply fold them and put them away is sheer luxury.  I hope that this product never catches on in India. Our weather tells us that we don’t need it. The disadvantage in India is the rapidly growing population and small living spaces in the cities which make it difficult to find the space to dry clothes.

Indian weather may eschew clothes dryers but it does cry out for home airconditioning! But this is luxury in India, even for the well-to-do. Only the top 2-3% of the population in India may think of it as a necessity. The upper middle classes usually buy a room air-conditioner or two, which is usually installed in the bedroom and used at night. The full house is rarely air-conditioned. If AC’s are used sparingly it’s due to the high power bills and frequent power-cuts across India. India is not ready for home air-conditioning, not just yet.  But if 10 years from now we do have the power, I still don’t see why this should become a necessity. Air conditioning is something one just gets used to… or unused to.

It is a little surprising to see that only 64% of Americans think that the television is essential. This is believed to be a consequence of increased gaming and the advent of the computer. Young Americans particularly are veering away from the television. In India, television has become a necessity. Go to a hut in an urban slum or to village hamlet and the chances of seeing a television are high. When it comes to computers, poor Indians are not literate enough to use them, and in any case would not be able to afford them. In urban India home computers are now being seen as a necessity though. People are taking loans and buying computers which are available on monthly payments. Prices have come tumbling down too.

Cell phones are another item which have become a necessity in India due to the higher cost of landlines. Cell phone connections were a boon to Indians as landlines were not easy to come by, with long waiting lists. This isn’t the case anymore, but people prefer the cell over the landline, particularly if is a question of just one connection.  The cheap pre-paid card with a monthly outflow of less than Rs 250/- and no deposit has ensured that the majority of Indian families today can boast of a phone connection. In the U.S. on the other hand, it is mostly the young who think of the cell phone as a necessity.

Another statistic surprised me, that only about 35% of Americans think of the dishwasher as a necessity. One imagined from tv serials and movies that a dishwasher is present in every home. Perhaps it is, but clearly the majority of Americans seem to think that they can do without it.

When it comes to high speed internet, flat screen tvs, or ipods, not many in America think of them as a necessity and well, we neither. However there is a niche segment in India which cannot do without high speed internet and/or ipods. I guess if they can afford it why not! I too am thinking of getting high speed internet as I find my present “broadband” connection too slow. But I think of it as a luxury.

I want to end this post with what John Fullerton wrote last year (he is talking of limitless growth and limitless consumption):

We need to pause and reflect carefully in light of what we see happening to the health and prosperity of individuals, whole populations, other species, oceans, the soil, rainforests, the atmosphere—indeed the entire
planetary system—if we are awake enough to notice.

*Note: The Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends survey on the effects of the recession was conducted by landline and cell phone April 2-8, 2009, among a nationally representative sample of 1,003 adults ages 18 or older. Similar research has been conducted in the past by different polling organizations, and it was the Roper Organization which started these type of surveys, in 1973.  If one takes an overview of the results of this kind of research over time, the trends are consistent. There has been a decline about what people think of as necessities in 2009. And for “almost every item for which a trend is available, the 2006 results represented a high-water mark in the necessity rankings.” 2006 was also the year before the recession set in. One will have to see whether the trends will keep going southwards or whether 2009 is simply a blip on the horizon.

Related Reading: The myth of the consumer durables
After Sales Service in India is not very good
Retailing in India in trouble
New ad code in India

Read all posts on Misleading Advertising
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110 Comments leave one →
  1. Vinod permalink
    July 14, 2009 10:00 am

    I’m going to die without an aircon in India, if I’m going to live in temperatures above 30. I’ll live eating idlis and upuma. But I can’t live without high speed internet connection and an aircon.

    Vinod, you won’t die! 🙂 You will be surprised how quickly the human body adapts. Not being able to live unless artificially cooled is something that very few Indians have the luxury of! When the power shuts off I keep telling myself that! 😀 – Nita

  2. Vinod permalink
    July 14, 2009 10:20 am

    Nita, in your first para, are you sure you haven’t mixed up the position of ‘luxury’ and ‘necessity’? I feel you intended the opposite of what you wrote.

    haha! yeah you’re right. Have made the correction. Thanks. – Nita

  3. Naveen permalink
    July 14, 2009 10:22 am

    Yes, E. F. Schumacher and John Fullerton make a lot of sense. But how can jobs be created, other than by making people ‘greedy’ and boosting their ‘necessity’ list? Its a catch-22, I guess.

    Naveen, I think it is possible to strike a balance, at the individual level. We cannot expect companies and corporations to do that as their objective is profits and that is reasonable to me. Once individual needs change, so will what the corporations offer! – Nita

  4. Nisha permalink
    July 14, 2009 10:41 am

    From my personal experiance, necessities becoming luxuries have a lot to do with men beginning to do house work. In my home we have this arrangement that if I cook, my husband does the washing up and the other way round. But since usually I end up with the cooking, my husband is the dishwasher and talk about buying a dishwasher is now becoming very frequent 🙂

    That’s an angle I didn’t think of!! 🙂 – Nita

    • Nisha permalink
      July 14, 2009 2:31 pm

      Oops… luxuries becoming necessities…

  5. Vinod permalink
    July 14, 2009 10:42 am

    Job creation may not be that important if people valued simple living and generous giving and chose to be a little less corrupt.

    Bad hormone day for me – sparks the irrational spritual in me. 😦

    • Naveen permalink
      July 14, 2009 10:49 am

      Yes, thats possible when intellectuals especially from Singapore take up agriculture 😉

    • Vinod permalink
      July 14, 2009 11:21 am

      Naveen, are we continuing something from the past? Should I be taking that personally or jokingly? It’s hard to see.

      • Naveen permalink
        July 14, 2009 3:01 pm

        Vinod, my comment was in good spirit. Nothing personal.

      • Vinod permalink
        July 14, 2009 5:01 pm

        Thanks Naveen. We’re cool.

  6. July 14, 2009 10:44 am

    a few days ago i was watching an interview of Deepak Chopra.. he was talking about materials and happiness. he gave an example of Cuba.. where people are generally quite poor many a times can’t even afford basic necessities. but they are so happy as people, its a festive and friendly mood all around the place.. when asked why the answer was as “they don’t have much to buy so they concentrate on relationships.”

    materials blind people.

    oorja, I agree that happiness is not related to physical comforts, but only after the basic needs are satisfied. – Nita

    • Abdullah K. permalink
      August 2, 2009 9:52 pm

      The Cuban model wouldn’t work in India, as Cuba is a more hedonistic society while India is a repressive one.

  7. July 14, 2009 10:44 am

    Nita, while keeping in mind that definitions of luxury vary, and also that the global economy is now based on consumption – there is one other factor to be kept in mind – and this is the consumption of finite natural resources. While enjoying our air-cons and new mobiles every 2 years, are we setting ourselves up for a future without fuel, and with the planet irredeemably polluted?

    apu, yes you said it. But to t expect people who have never had luxuries (but now have started to afford them) to give them up is a difficult thing – Nita

  8. ruSh.Me permalink
    July 14, 2009 10:50 am

    I think its all about circumstances… In Mumbai, when I was earning a 5-figured salary, it was okay fro me to travel 1st class and taxis.. but here in Pune, with a 4-figured salary, I find the 750/- bus pass most economical…

    Even in the U.S. call rates are not cheaper than India, many of my ex-college mates and ex-school mates, tell me they use VOIP more than mobile service… Talk about technology…

    Good and efficient public transport is the one and only savior for the troubled Indian roads.. Yesterday, PMPML reduced the fares for the AC buses.. Result, a packed house today morning… And why not.. Who wants to drive on wet, pot-holed, drenched roads??? Cities do have to take efficient steps for optimizing public transport…

    Reading about dishwashers, I got reminded of this site, where professionals have send in their visiting cards, revamped, after being sacked/fired or quit from their work.., everything is based on the surroundings. I would be the first to give up the car ride from where I stay into town, but I need a comfortable train to reach me to my destination. Not yet happening. – Nita

  9. July 14, 2009 12:03 pm

    I don’t believe that the products we use should rule us..I idea is simple , when you can afford something and the amount of money you spend on it is pretty less compared to your “income” then why not?

    The reason why aircons might become a necessity is simple , if I were to open my window , I will be killed by the aircon vents of all the other ACs in the area…and anyway Chennai is too hot..

    When it comes to travelling , I don’t prefer buses , though Chennai has AC buses , delux buses etc…So I take the auto rickshaws..but then I might be getting a car sooner rather later 🙂

    I can do without the TV..the only thing I watch in it is if I were to pay the internet channels i wouldn’t need it 🙂

    Internet has become a need, because well this is the place were the world comes together 🙂

    Vishesh, thanks for that long comment! It’s rather unusual to get a long comment from you and I guess that this post must have touched a chord in you! I agree with you on the internet. – Nita

  10. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 14, 2009 12:16 pm


    A pleasantly surprising post coming from someone with your professed politico-economic ideological leanings. 😉 I feel tempted to write a lengthy comment, but fortunately do not have the time to do so right now; and this promises to be a post in which most of the points I want to make will probably get covered by other readers’ responses (this has already started within the first ten).

    However, in keeping with my usual concern about how statistics are interpreted or misinterpreted, I will raise one point, the spirit of which probably applies to several things that you say:

    //Most Americans think a car is a necessity…//

    This is true if you take the US population as a whole (the entire suburban sprawl of the US was achieved by a conspiratorial partnership between the auto industry and the gasoline industry, and it included a planned and systematic elimination of the railroad system), but if you were to seek comparable data for the metropolitan areas (even though in the US they may not be as well served by public transport as their European counterparts), I have a feeling you will find a considerably lower percentage than 88 who think of the car as a necessity.

    Regarding air-conditioning in homes, those of us living in hot-arid (such as Ahmedabad) rather than hot-humid places find evaporative coolers serve very well, at a fraction of the capital as well as the running costs required by a/c, and they have the additional advantage of drowning out, with their steady hum, outdoor noises (especially loudspeakers) which so rudely disturb the peace.

    The real major culprit in India, as far as electricity-guzzling a/c goes, are the excessively glazed and aluminium-clad malls and supermarkets. They not only wastefully consume power but also divert this scarce commodity from other, more economically productive uses.

    Vivek, I do not have any idealogy and that is what I have said often in my posts and comments. I just see myself as a pragmatic person who refuses to see anything in black and white. Life is full of grays and of hues of different colours and what’s more, there is a palette where one can mix them. – Nita

    • Vinod permalink
      July 14, 2009 12:42 pm

      Regarding air-conditioning in homes, those of us living in hot-arid (such as Ahmedabad) rather than hot-humid places find evaporative coolers serve very well, at a fraction of the capital as well as the running costs required by a/c, and they have the additional advantage of drowning out, with their steady hum, outdoor noises (especially loudspeakers) which so rudely disturb the peace.

      I needed to know that. Thanks Vivek.

    • July 14, 2009 12:48 pm

      @ vivek k

      \\excessively glazed and aluminium-clad mall..\\

      as far as i know, the aluminium/glass clad buildings are more insulated than conventional brick masonary (correct me if i’m not sure abt it) becoz glass wall is mostly an insulated unit with an air gap…and suitable insulation is provided in metal cladding as well…..

      also most of the green buildings as they show on discovery channel are glass/metal walled and they save lot of energy

      • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
        July 14, 2009 1:53 pm

        v. mittal,

        The cladding I mentioned refers to aluminium only, not glass, and such cladding will, indeed work as you say if the correct principles of its application are followed, which they rarely are. Also, because the aluminium is ultimately going to cover the building, there is a tendency to cut costs with substandard and shoddy work on the basic structure that is to be cladded.

        You are also right about glass in the case of windows (not so much walls) when they comprise double glazing with an air gap in between (as in the a/c coaches of railway trains). I have yet to see this principle being followed in the malls. Effectively, the extensive glazing only adds to the thermal load on the building interior and requires higher levels of air conditioning, which consumes more power.

        The green buildings you see on Discovery and other similar channels are overwhelmingly examples from the temperate zone, where the main objective is to retain heat in buildings rather than excluding it from them. In tropical regions such as India, the opposite is what is required. A green building here has to use the principles of minimal insolation, minimal fenestration and passive thermal insulation, using a combination of cross-ventilation and evaporative cooling, and expelling hot air by convection. A few such buildings have been built and they do live up to their promise. Unfortunately the idea has not taken off, because it militates against the profit-above-all-else policy of commercial builders and “developers”, who would not like to incur the one-time cost of the more demanding design that this requires.

        Finally, in simple, single-material, economic construction, conventional brick masonry has far superior insulation qualities than either aluminium or glass. If you have access to an engineering college library or to an engineer who thoroughly understands the properties of materials, they will bear me out. Alternatively you may do a search on the internet.

    • July 14, 2009 8:50 pm

      “Regarding air-conditioning in homes, those of us living in hot-arid (such as Ahmedabad) rather than hot-humid places find evaporative coolers serve very well, at a fraction of the capital as well as the running costs required by a/c,..”

      Vivek, is khus covering the window, with water keeping it wet, not used any more? Or rarely used?

      • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
        July 14, 2009 9:27 pm



        For one thing, the average modern house has such tight space standards that even the elbow room required for something as simple as sprinkling the screens with water has become rare. Of course one can have a permanent water pipe running over the top of the screen, perforated to drip onto it. But with increasing TDS in water in most places, the holes get clogged, and unless there is easy accces to the pipe to declog them, the system becomes tedious.

        Secondly, the the screens require more maintenance, for which the contemporary nuclear family does not seem to have much time, nor the full-time domestic help that used to do such tasks in the past.

        Finally, the evaporative cooler employs the same principle using khus substitutes, with the additional advantage of a fan that can induce airflow independently of prevailing breeze direction, and through smaller screens.

        Of course one misses the fragrance of damp khus. C’est la vie!

        • July 15, 2009 2:51 am

          “Of course one misses the fragrance of damp khus. C’est la vie!”

          Ah, but that’s taken care of by khus scent, which one sprinkles a few drops of, inside the cooler to mix with the water. 🙂

          • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
            July 15, 2009 11:10 am


            Khus scent! Hmm. That reminds me, long back in the days when perfume sellers from Kannauj and Lucknow used to go around the country with shoulder-hung wooden chests full of assorted indigenous perfumes in translucent leather kuppis, I had occasion to sample something that captured the scent of the first rains on parched earth. This perfume had a special Farsi name, which I cannot now recall. Can anyone here help me?

  11. July 14, 2009 2:05 pm

    I think luxuries start becoming necessities as one gets used to it. I know of people who cannot do without ACs in India, simply because they have got so used to it. I feel claustrophobic in a totally air conditioned house.. I need fresh air. I do feel the need for a dishwasher – but when I think of the practicalities, I dismiss it – because I know that it is not going to be sustainable to use only the dishwasher – I am going to have to do some washing – even with the dishwasher..

    As for dryers. being in the UK – I have gained a new respect for the dryer – because the weather is so wet for so many days in a year. But even with a dryer – I love drying clothes on a clothes line and I am not alone – most houses have clothes drying outside on sunny days..

    I think if we strike a balance between luxuries and necessities – things work out fine.. The balance gets upset only by relentless materialism.. which is sometimes also powered by the need to show up others than by real necessity..

    Smitha, as you said we individuals need to strike a balance, for both our mental and physical health. There is nothing like fresh air, if one can get it! – Nita

  12. July 14, 2009 6:03 pm

    what an interesting listing, Nita!
    I also checked it up with myself and realised that all of these things I can not do without..a home PC and Intrenet (:), the rest I just do not use.

    axinia, thanks. I guess that a PC and internet are necessities today. – Nita

  13. July 14, 2009 6:12 pm

    I did read that pew article and was surprised that many Americans now think a microwave is a luxury. But I think all this attitude will change and people will go back to their wasteful, I need everything, ways if and when the economy is back from the brink.

    Shilpa, I fear that too! I think we humans are born to consume! Altruism, even it is not really altruism, and for the good of our own planet, is not built into our DNA – Nita

    • July 14, 2009 6:38 pm

      American kitchens often have integrated microwaves in their cooking ranges. And for some reason, amongst standalone cooking devices, they prefer broilers which are combined toasters and quick cooking devices with a lot more flex about the pots/ pans you put in them. The answer may have been different if the question asked was about those broilers.

      Shefaly, I am not sure what a broiler is! 🙂 – Nita

  14. wishtobeanon permalink
    July 14, 2009 6:46 pm

    Hi Nita, interesting post! I hope cars don’t become a necessity in India. I wish India would learn from the mistakes/success of other countries, especially the USA as far as environment is concerned.

    wishtobeanon, I agree that we should learn from the mistakes of the west but people don’t usually see it that way. You can see what is happening about reducing warming gases. The developed countries want the developing countries to stop and reduce! This is what angers people here. The western nations are now scared that India and China are consuming more, putting more stress on the planet. – Nita

  15. July 14, 2009 7:11 pm

    Having personally struggled to use them for almost one year, I feel that the dishwashers are a nuisance rather than a necessity/luxury. You need to actually clean the dishes before you can put them in the dishwasher. It only washes them. It takes me almost as much time to put dishes in it as to actually clean and wash them. The olny thing it does well is remove all traces of oil, which is difficult is sink washing.

    As for clothes dryer, I find it necessity in US, and luxury in India (because you can’t hang clothes out in balcony in US). Car is another of my necessities (there is no public transport in my city).

    Ambuj, I have heard of this problem about loading dishwashers. I guess it is useful for large loads. – Nita

  16. vasudev permalink
    July 14, 2009 7:24 pm

    a highly reflective article nita. there are many thoughts tumbling in my mind.
    but I only wonder while during my dad’s younger days our necessities were unaffordable luxuries now when I am young has luxury been made necessity by credit cards?

    vasudev, that’s a point! credit cards! so easy to buy isn’t it! and for me now a credit card has become a necessity! 😦 – Nita

  17. July 14, 2009 7:56 pm

    I think we had almost everything that we wanted before 25 years! Maybe even before that. Now the game is being changed to suit the MNC’s, not us. In my opinion, it doesn’t make a difference. Only the same necessities and luxuries come with a higher price and we also earn more!!

    Destination Infinity

    yeah now a person has consumer goodies before 25, and those that don’t often take to crime because they have become “necessities”! – Nita

    • vasudev permalink
      July 14, 2009 8:37 pm

      precisely di. the driver is someone else. hasn’t introduction of the i-pill made sex wanton?

  18. July 14, 2009 8:36 pm

    I think every bit of luxury, be it a AC or the clothes dryer, there is a great amount of pollution and depletion of resources associated with it. Through the years, the conscience has been tugged less and less with our increasing demand for luxury and everything to be electric power driven.

    Aathira, I think collective responsibility is missing. That’s sad. – Nita

    • vasudev permalink
      July 14, 2009 8:39 pm

      you mean freon pollution and the ozone layer depletion? do you really think mumbai climate necessitates an airconditioner?

  19. July 14, 2009 10:04 pm

    Hmm, thinking about my lifestyle. I need a car and mobile phone because I live in a semi-rural/mountainous area with hazardous wintry conditions and crappy public transportation. Unless I’m traveling the phone stays home. My 10-year old computer has cable internet because of my work, I’ve gotten spoiled, and it’s almost impossible to find affordable service, if any service for my area. My TV is from the early nineties and I might turn it on once or twice a week, but my basic cable (13 channels) gives me internet service and a Vonage-like phone line. A regular land line would have cost $160 just for hook-up. I’ve an MP3 player for plane rides and a few other occasions, but it’s far from being an iPod. Dryer, I can take it or hang clothes. I’ve been doing fine without AC, microwave, and dishwasher for years and doubt I’ll ever go back to them.

    Interesting post.

    Thanks Mish for that information from across the seas! I guess lifestyles differ a lot from country to country but it also depends whether one is living in a crowded urban area or not!. – Nita

    • vasudev permalink
      July 14, 2009 10:23 pm

      makes me remember my company enforced trip to mahabaleshwar on the basic principle of ‘do-it-whichever-way-u-want-but-arrive-there-at-time-given’

      the ‘catch’…the trainer empties your pockets of all cash/booze/ciggies etc. before embarking you on the adventure (and that too they did it to a lazy, cocooned, couch-potato like me!)

      i travelled ticketless on the western suburb/ i hitched a free ride atop a passing lorry/i hiked miles with a heavy backpack (comprising the trainer’s rapelling tools)/i slept on the roadside at mahad while the rain made rivulets on my face and created new rivers all around me/ i begged truck drivers for a small chai/ i did not borrow but i played on the passing subject’s empathy (u can allow yor imaginations to flow as to how i did that by now)…and then i realised how much i lived in defeat because of my new-money.

    • July 21, 2009 6:11 am

      It really does. Another reason I ignore the TV…all the “reality shows”, such as in your above post. Ughh!!

      On another note. Here’s a Proximidade Award for you.

  20. vasudev permalink
    July 14, 2009 10:30 pm

    btw…in the much publicised ‘mujhe is jungle se bacha lo’ you are going to encounter pompously protected celebrities do a protected act for the sake of the camera…

    i do not dare tell you what fears i underwent when i was deposited inside the jungles of mahabaleshwar at 12 in the night with a candle, a compass and a torch for company!!! on a treasure hunt to find a pint of rum (which included rapelling alone and a boat ride in solitude!)

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      July 14, 2009 10:36 pm


      A candle and a torch???

      That’s real luxury!!!

      • vasudev permalink
        July 15, 2009 3:07 pm

        vivek…on reflection, u got a point there! being a bad-bad boy who never learns, my company decided to revisit the course for me(with a 7 yr gap between the two events) and this time they got me into the pune ghats (despite my lame excuses of high bp and nervous breakdowns etc)…

        u know what the course is titled?

        ‘building tomorrow’s leaders…is what it is called…

        wonder what mac mohan and sonic-goon would have done while perilously sitting on a rope a quarter way down a 300 meter tall cliff and suddenly find a small wind make them drift astray…to find no pumping leg-holds?

        or a tight rope walk 10 feet up?


        at the culmination of more rain, rivulets, jungles, mosquitos, pauper-khana, open dunking etc etc i found myself climbing up some steep mountain somewhere on pune-aurangabad route (i think)…

        on a heavily rainy day they had driven a rope tight to the wall of the cliff and we were to link our safety belts to the rope and huff and puff it up all the way up a half feet wide slithering, slimey track which had the deep gorge as a slitherer’s doom on one side, all fatsos in a row and thinking they were on the last leg to conquer mount everest. somewhere on the last leg, when we were to emerge into shivaji’s born land we saw a strange sight!

        an apparition flitting down another half a feet path paralleling ours and without safety ropes, spiked shoes, rain cheaters, pilons etc. etc….

        an old native lady of some 90 years or so was skimping down merrily with nary a thought on her mind except perhaps how quickly could she slide down the cliff side and reach home to some hot gruel!

        there goes!

        • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
          July 15, 2009 4:10 pm


          You mean revisit the course on you — like the parents’ sins on the child.

          I am quite intrigued by your ‘company’ — just a minute! I got it! You mean a company of the armed forces variety, not corporate! OK, enlightenment dawns, albeit through a glass, darkly; blurred as though emerging from a dipsomaniacal slumber. Now things begin to fall into place. It makes a terrifically surreal story, in a genre that is — what’s the word I want? — Baroque? Gothic? Byzantine?

          Well, there’s naturally many things I still don’t understand (so it must be a real candidate for a Booker — or should that be Hooker?). For one thing, you got me all confused with my geography: did you mean Aurangabad, Maharashtra or Aurangabad, Bihar? And secondly, aren’t such narratives covered by the Notional Security Act? 🙂 🙂 🙂

          • vasudev permalink
            July 15, 2009 7:45 pm

            Vivek…it is not good to drink in the afternoon, and then go to sleep. You may emerge out of it looking all Gothic/Byzantine/Slurred/Baroque etc. (I smile pleasantly at Vivek and wish him a good evening!…Nita how does one smile here?)

            Thanks for the correction…yes…the company revisited the course on me)…and dear lord No! it is not the armed forces but a top corporate (one of the top global fortune 500 cos)…

            nothing is fanciful but everything is real…so i dunno how it could qualify for a booker (i may succeed with a hooker, though…)

            vivek…like i said, let the fumes dissipate and then your sharp brain should catch on and understand things pretty fast. no9 i meant aurangabad near pune (dunno if there is one at bihar…my geography was poor always)

            notional? haha! i think i should write a thriller (or a mystery, maybe?). if i ever do i shall invite you to write the prologue.

            take care till we meet next.

            vasudev, a smile is a colon and right para without a space between, but both have to be at least a space away from any other letter or fullstop. – Nita

            • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
              July 15, 2009 9:05 pm


              The doubt about which Aurangabad arose because AFAIK there is no “steep mountain” on the Pune-Aurangabad (Maharashtra) route. Check out Google Earth (set the map in “terrain” mode). All the steep mountains are to the west of Pune, and you’d climb them only if you were coming in from the coast. Pune-Aurangabad is virtually a straight route north-eastwards via Ahmednagar, with just some minor hills along the way that can be easily circumvented.

              • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
                July 15, 2009 9:12 pm

                …and yes, if you seriously want me to do that prologue, better save these prolegomena for incorporation into it.

                • vasudev permalink
                  July 15, 2009 9:39 pm

                  vivek…dumped at night into the welcoming bossoms of the western ghats mountainuos largesse one tends to make mistakes (but didn’t i say ‘i think’?)…now where is that mountain where shivaji was constrained/born/went into hiding…or so? i remember having read something like that upon my butt-forced arrival atop?

                  …and then, i have to tell u about the ghost we saw that night! now do you think i should now or i should not now (since you have undertaken to do the the prologue bit for my sordid story)

                  • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
                    July 15, 2009 10:05 pm

                    1. I don’t mind throwing in the epilogue too, for good measure, but you must fill up all the intervening pages.

                    2. Shivaji was born on a fort called Shivneri (near Junnar), which would be way off your route.

                    3. While some orographic features do appear hospitably mammilloid, I would hesitate to include the Western Ghats in that category.

                    4. I rather like your imagery of the muliebral nonagenarian hurrying to her hot gruel. To help her along you may consider adding some scree to the piedmont as she approaches home.

                    • vasudev permalink
                      July 15, 2009 10:27 pm

                      vivek…u r a thesaurus…

                      ok…so he was born at junnar but the fort i mention could be shivnery or sinhgad. don’t remember which since it is almost like 12 yrs…

                      as regards the epilogue…maybe we could discuss that during our journey towards heaven…

                      btw…do you know why the shraddh should be performed every year, religiously?

                    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
                      July 16, 2009 5:37 am


                      A thousand apologies for my goof-up. The fort near Junnar, where Shivaji was born, is in fact Shivneri. [@Nita: Sorry about this. May I request you to correct “Torna” to “Shivneri” in my response of 10:05 pm, 15 July]. You have now raised in my mind a very heretical question: Did it acquire this name after Shivaji’s birth, and if so, what was its original name?

                      Re. your question on Shraddha, we will have to seek my grandfather’s professional opinion. Please include the item in the agenda of our discussion which you propose. Of course we can take it up only at the end of the journey, so rather than making it no. 2, you can save it up for the last: “Any other matter with the permission of the Chair.”

                    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
                      July 16, 2009 6:16 am


                      On second thoughts, you can knock off that item from the agenda. My grandfather was just a shastri, not an MBA in marketing. He would not be able to articulate with the oratorial wizardry of an IIM don how strict regularity in performing shraddha has to do with sustaining it as an FMCG (actually FMCS), and keeping the service providers (and the various other actors in the supply chain) in perpetually and incrementally gainful employment.

                • vasudev permalink
                  July 15, 2009 9:53 pm

                  vivek…i still think it was on the pune-aurangabad route. as you correctly said there aren’t steep mountains there (and we had pleasantly done the initial bit of climbing) but the final shot was tough…too tough! on google it might look simple but you got to be there to really know the danger of a false step and the difficulty.

                  now the old lady is really true. we gawked at her like just – born fools god invented extempore. seeing her flitting down easily like a mountain goat we cast a thought on our huffs and puffs up the mountain, calls, cat-calls and above all…we really looked like topping idiots (to the natives)…aliens from another world (like making a chai with fire-suit on).

            • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
              July 16, 2009 5:55 am

              [Vasudev, while you must no doubt be grateful to our hostess for tendering the advice sought, I do hope you will not follow it too seriously. Other than the basic smiley, the construction of which she has so graciously explained, the new style emoticons on this blog look pretty ghastly]

  21. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 14, 2009 10:38 pm


    I forgot to ask: did you have a matchbox to light the candle with? And were there cells in the torch? If the answer to both the questions is ‘no’ then I retract my previous comment. 🙂

    • vasudev permalink
      July 14, 2009 10:55 pm

      my dear vivek…thank god for the little luxuries that were provided. i think i smoked a pack of beedhis (courtesy an erstwhile truck driver) in the jungles, just out of fear/reflex-action…so there was a match box and the torch had batteries.

      on your supine comments i shall indeed give your ambitious feedbacks to the trainer…(of late we seem to be recruiting too many iims)

  22. locutus83 permalink
    July 15, 2009 12:33 am

    In my opinion, whether a gadget or machine is a necessity or a luxury is generally determined more by the buying power of the consumer and by peer group trends, compared to individual choice and philosophical analysis. If I can afford a microwave in my current economic condition, and if microwaves are the in thing amongst people I know, 9 times out of 10 I will go for it. Simple socio-economic psychology which advertisers and product-marketers use so frequently!
    Very few people will acutally sit and take time to calculate things like the scientific pros and cons of the devices, their carbon footprint and ecological impact of their choices; even fewer will acutally philosophically ponder on whether they really need the device or not. Maybe articles like yours will force them to sit up and start to really think about their choices!
    As for the gadgets, all advances in high tech modern gadgets have some core philosophies embedded within them – increase in speed of operation, increase in machine memory and storage capacity, increase in machine control and automation and in the end, reduction of MANUAL effort, physical and mental. The energy involved to perform that operation is generally derived, directly or indirectly, from fossil fuels and electrochemical cells. Unless alternate renewable and non-polluting sources of energy like solar light, water and wind, are made inexpensive, this for demand high tech paraphenelia will stall and hit a plateau, since there will be no power left to drive them! (or there will be no humans left to use them since the world will be too polluted and uninhabitable :-))
    If humanity somehow manages to survive climate change, terrorism, war and nuclear holocaust, then maybe some millenia later, humans will live most of the time in a virutal reality based fantasy world and will have everything remote controlled through the power of THOUGHT. One may think “Tea – ancient Darjeeling brand, hot with a dash of lemon and honey” and ZAP – the replicator next to you presents the tea with the tea cup – a la Star Trek. (Incidentally, brain wave controlled electronics is now a very hot topic of research – but geared towards a more compassionate motive rather than commercial – for almost immobile elderly people and for those suffering from severe physical disabilities)

    As for me, there are times when I want to retire to an old crumbling stone monastery in the mountains like a Zen monk. But that seems too tough in the long run! Hmm, on second thoughts, life in a place like the Shire, living in a warm quaint hobbit hole like Bilbo Baggins would be ideal — sitting on a wooden stool, writing my diary with an ink-dipped fountain pen, listening to the songbird on the open garden window, and smelling the soft aroma of muffins being slowly baked in the charcoal oven.

    great analysis! I agree that most people do not sit an calculate whether they actually need it or not. Or rather they believe they do need it because of the advertising. We saw the same when there was a fad with vacuum cleaners. Actually the average Indian household doesn’t use them. But I would not prefer a star trek reality! Its okay for fanstasy, nothing more! And your last para, that, I would love it too! – Nita

    • July 15, 2009 4:25 am

      “(Incidentally, brain wave controlled electronics is now a very hot topic of research – but geared towards a more compassionate motive rather than commercial – for almost immobile elderly people and for those suffering from severe physical disabilities)”

      Well, it’s much easier to sell new technologies to the wider public using compassionate motives, and then switch to commercial. Take GMO’s – the line taken to sell it is that it will feed the hungry, only after ignoring the fact that the current food production gives us enough calories to feed everyone.

      • locutus83 permalink
        July 15, 2009 12:11 pm

        Amit, Agreed! Sometimes, the slow way to a person’s wallet is through his/her heart and conscience!

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      July 15, 2009 6:51 am

      locutus 83,

      Tremendously enjoyed reading your comment. You should write a book. In the last paragraph you seem to wax almost lyrical, but its subtle charms were lost on me — I have not read Tolkien. However, a pedantic point: “ink-dipped fountain pen” is a contradiction in terms. A fountain pen has its own built-in continuous-feed ink reservoir, whereas a dipped pen — whether with a steel nib or one of its predecessors such as the quill and the reed — has to be periodically dipped in an external, stand-alone reservoir such as an inkwell.

      • locutus83 permalink
        July 15, 2009 12:17 pm

        Thanks a lot Vivek for such a hearty appreciation of my comment! I am glad you enjoyed it. Well, at this moment I do not have the necessary patience and self-discipline combined with a sustained passionate creative urge to write a book 🙂 Such pieces come out automatically once in a while like a sputtering periodic geyser..
        And thanks for the correction. Fountain pens are indeed supposed to have their own ink reservoirs. Quill is the correct term here.

    • vasudev permalink
      July 15, 2009 7:46 am

      [One may think “Tea – ancient Darjeeling brand, hot with a dash of lemon and honey” and ZAP – the replicator next to you presents the tea with the tea cup ]


      one of my favorite books as a 5th standard boy was Enyd Blyton’s ‘Book of Brownies’ (I still read it now and then) and there is something like what you said above in the chapter of the ‘clever people’ who never smile but have gadgets which can do all sorts of things based on thought. Enyd seems to have thought about it a few decades ago same as Arthur C Clarke’s space fantasies are slowly getting real nowadays.

      • locutus83 permalink
        July 15, 2009 12:36 pm

        Vasudev, as they say – Yesterday’s science fiction, is today’s hot topic of research, and may become tomorrow’s reality !

  23. Sundeep permalink
    July 15, 2009 12:46 am


    I’m just a lazy creature. Trust me,I had a discussion with my elder bro on a similar topic a few days back. Had a lot of thoughts on this, even thought of writing a post, but as I said too lazy to write.

    I am putting some of the points that I derived from our discussions:

    *As far as spending is concerned, we all love it. The solution I was given on this is “pen down your preferences”. Spending where it is essential and this has helped me to some extent.

    *Some days back I was watching “The 11th Hour” ( Leonardo dicaprio), a mantra a learned out of it is “frugality”, it is described in the movie as “to make wise use of resources”. Resources here can be anything time, money, energy, etc.

    *One more thing that struck me is very debatable. One of my friend got into Infosys last week. He was telling me about all the so called five star accommodation that they are going to be provided during their training. Truly, who wouldn’t love be in Infosys and who wouldn’t want that luxurious living. But the glitch is, why such an enormous effort is put into accomodations, I can point out several rather unnecessary luxuries provided on campus(eg. a golf course) . My point is that, they are embedding consumerism into their trainees. So that they get used to this luxuries and this creates a cycle of “work more-earn more-spend more”. I’m not against working,earning and spending, but it is “more” that causes problems.

    Still loads of incomplete thoughts, will try to pen them down some time. Would love to know your take on this.

    Au revoir.

    Sundeep, as you mentioned it is also a question of being ingrained from a young age but I don’t see a workable solution to this. But I think sitting down and thinking what one actually needs and not going by peer group pressure is an important thing. – Nita

    • vasudev permalink
      July 15, 2009 7:38 am


      infosys earlier used to incur heavy expenditures on hotel bills till they decided to build their own five star accommodation within their sprawling complex.

      on consumerism you said it! many psus also seem to adopt it. i think they fear trainees leaving after the training and therefore want them to feel everything is great and cool. in a psu the new entrant feels like a raja when he/she gets a hell lot of money at hand as a newbie. plus car/flat/medical and all sorts of other paraphernalia. so it is like the story on : how to boil a toad.

  24. kanagu permalink
    July 15, 2009 3:34 am

    Luxuries turn into necessities when the buying power of people increases as you have explained Nita.. everything is interrelated 🙂

    But should they? 🙂 – nita

  25. Naveen permalink
    July 15, 2009 7:42 am


    I think you mistakenly added John Fullerton’s article as a link for criticisms of E.F. I am interested to read the criticism part. Thanks.

    Naveen, yes that was a mistake. But now I have lost the link I selected! 😦 – Nita

  26. July 15, 2009 8:35 am

    Hi Nita,

    Your post reminds me of ‘Wall-E’ that overlaps greatly with the theme of your post.

    There are some buildings in congested parts of Pune (like Sinhagad Rd.) where the buildings are so close together that balconies from adjacent buildings share the clothes drying lines! 😀

    For most of the year, drying clothes is not an issue in India. But it is, in the monsoons.

    Lastly, some days back, from the latest figures I could get, I had tweeted that “1 in 6 people are hungry in the world, 1 in 3 people are obese in the US.”

    Wall- E eh. I guess the environment destruction part. Yes I see what you mean. About the drying, I find that the drying in the washing machine is sufficient for me. No need of a clothes dryer, even in the monsoons. The latter is a complete waste. – Nita

    • July 15, 2009 12:56 pm

      Not just the environment destruction. The malady of overconsumption leading to people not even being able to walk correctly! The extremity of what is ostensibly ‘luxury’! 🙂

      Mahendra, ofcourse! How could I have missed that! – Nita

  27. July 15, 2009 9:34 am

    Nita,it all will depend upon priorities,situation and individual defination of necessity and need.It will depend on the mind set.
    I may sound going off the track but in India we beleive in hero worship.Not one neta has set an example by taking a salary cut.Why should Prafful Patel continue taking AI perks and ask for a package to revive the airline at your and my cost?
    Should the public be thinking like the netas?

    BK Chowla, that is a very interesting angle. We need role models for this type of behavior and we are getting the wrong ones!! The opulence with which our rich live is what is being seen as the ideal lifestyle. No one wants to emulate Gandhi! Both are extremes actually. We each need to find our own balance- Nita

    • Vinod permalink
      July 15, 2009 11:08 am

      Amit, see that? I am not the only one using the ‘We’. 😀

    • locutus83 permalink
      July 15, 2009 12:51 pm

      Regarding balance in life – Kabir had coined a rough formula about five hundred years back –
      “Sai itnaa deejeeye, jaame kutum samaaye;
      maey bhee bhookhaa na rahoon, sadhu bhee bhookhaa na jaaye”

      roughly translated as:
      “Sai(God) give me this much, so that the household is satisfied; neither should I go hungry, nor should the poor holy man at my door”

      I think balance and harmony are the general order of nature and the universe. Maybe that’s why most religions emphasize on maintaining personal balance and temperance and avoiding extremes. That’s what we are slowly deriving and proving through scientific and logical analysis too.
      One thing, if humans do not maintain their balance themselves, then nature will step in – and that shall not be a very pleasant and painless balancing act. 😦

      • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
        July 15, 2009 1:22 pm

        locutus 83,

        The second half of the second line of that doha should read sadhu na bhookhaa jaaye. Means the same but scans better.

      • openlight permalink
        July 16, 2009 1:06 am

        thats why nature has taught the lesson of importance of water and rains this season to indians who derive pleasure in washing their animals/cars

  28. July 15, 2009 5:29 pm

    i have seen thick and thin and i have realised that i can live without almost anything… but not of course with out food and water and air 😉 so that makes, almost anything! 🙂

    sakhi, you are still young! 10 years ago I could live without a lot of things, not today! 😦 – Nita

  29. mom permalink
    July 15, 2009 8:56 pm

    Such an apt time for me to read this post. I am into a major house-cleaning project this entire week and felt whether most of the things I have accumulated over the years are really going to be used anytime. It needs a strong will not to give in to the temptation of collecting things.
    Rather than wondering if some things were a luxury or a neccessity , I was dividing them according the frequency of use. Except for the microwave, car, mobile , washing-machine and the AC, most other things can be done without .
    But, I personally feel machines do a better job than manual work. For example, I feel the machines rinse clothes much better than the local ‘dhobi’ and uses less water too. Ditto with dishwasher .I hate it when I find soap stuck to the dishes. It worries me all day if I have fed the kids some soap from the dishes I have’nt checked.
    I hope I have not deviated from the topic 🙂
    I read in one of the comments that the luxuries become neccessities with constant use…I can’t agree more.

    you haven’t deviated at all! I agree with you about the soap from the dishes. I am paranoid about it, and always was. The dishwash powder is full of chemicals and poisonous to humans. Why, I am paranoid about additives in food too so you can imagine how paranoid I am about soap from the dishes! I check each and every dish and often rinse and wipe again before using. I guess a dishwasher would be ideal for me then but there is no space to put it in the kitchen. How I long for a robot!! – Nita

    • openlight permalink
      July 16, 2009 1:02 am

      but considering the low price points of kaamwalis, dishwasher has not spread as microwave/pressure cooker and hence not being aggressively marketed.

      Machines do better job as they have been designed, engineered and improved continuously for the task that’s why we have new models of durables yearly.

    • mom permalink
      July 16, 2009 8:27 pm

      🙂 thanks for the response.
      I am planning to extend the kitchen to accomodate a dishwasher. I am sick and tired of scrutinising the dishes but more than anything I am petrified of offending the maids 😦
      waiting for a robot…oh, that’s my dream 🙂
      Have a good weekend, Nita.

  30. rags permalink
    July 15, 2009 9:02 pm

    Honestly, when one wants to buy an appliance the last thing on your mind would be green house gas emissions and ozone depletion… Its all nice to be environment friendly and stuff but what matters most would be how useful that appliance is going to be and how much of work it would reduce for the buyer. On those two counts I think the priority list seems pretty sensible from an American perspective.

    I really can’t think of absolute necessities for myself… I can pretty much survive with the basic stuff.

    rags, thats true, one tends to think of how it personally affects one. But at times one buys stuff and realises that one made a mistake. – Nita

    • vasudev permalink
      July 15, 2009 9:19 pm

      quite true rags. i am an impromptu buyer!

      but… what about the vacuum cleaner you bought?

      and…didn’t u change your tv to digital even while the analog one gave an excellent display? or what about the flat tv that u bought to replace the two yr old normal tv? across a 9 viewing distance did u find your 29 incher do a better job than your 21 incher?

      was that extension phone in your toilet really necessary?

      why did u buy that digital camera when you already had one?

      don’t you think music was the same in an ipod and a creative and yet you preferred to have two!

      and when you had just spent 2500 bucks on a senheisser you wanted to buy a sony plug-in for 5000! were you satisfied with your purchase?

      ok…ok…so you think it was I (and not U) who bought all that and spent wantonly… but what about the mobile phone you changed recently while the old one was giving excellent service? now…what about it?

      • rags permalink
        July 16, 2009 3:13 pm

        Vasudev, well, I did change my phone b’cos I lost my old one 🙂
        Not a very fancy model but sufficient enough for me.
        As for the other questions they seem rhetorical. I did say “what matters most” and the list seems to echo that. Really, can’t get into the buying preferences of each and everyone, can I?

        • vasudev permalink
          July 16, 2009 9:28 pm

          rhetoric can seriously hide purchaser goofiness.

  31. openlight permalink
    July 16, 2009 12:52 am

    Article focus is again not complete in terms of analysis. Some differences –

    1. Percentage of persons in India for whom luxuries start becoming necessities is very low though rising but they will be affected due to recession.

    2. Infrastructure comparison between India and USA is too wide. In USA infrastructure to support such luxuries have been made to be accessible to large % of population but in India % of population who can access, need to pay very steep price else the deficient infrastructure compel them to cut back or pay exorbitant price points.

    To illustrate —

    – Cloth dryers are not preferred in India and hence hardly any consumer durable company makes/markets them.

    – abundance of cheap manpower (read bai, kaamwalis) make it cheap and handy to have a person for a task rather machine or to do it on own.

    -ACs ave gained ground due to high temperatures but considering the electricity cuts and high electricity bills ACs only work in elite homes or at specific time.

    – Car, nano is on way and in due course of time electric 2-wheelers/vehicles have increased. Cars as an daily transport is still low but considering traffic congestion, high fuel price and introduction of metro and hopefully better public transport (via JNURM) will compensate and car as in most homes is meant for weekends/attending functions.

    – TV sets and Computers are spreading due to low price factors but, they are also getting more power efficient.

    – Mobile phones have spread due to low price, sub rs. 1500 are the ones which are spreading fast.

    Furthermore problems especially health problems arising due to usage and dependence on these necessities ( or luxuries) are also seeing the light of day. We are getting more lazy by day.

    Thanks Openlight. Most of the points you mentioned have been covered by me in other posts though, for example this post covers the point about maids, and there are others which cover the points about cell phones, TV sets etc. Generally my posts tend to focus on one point and try to give an overview. However additions from readers are always welcome. And that point you made about clothes dryers, I assure you that a company’s job is to create demand where none exists. Having been in this field I know that this is what happens. Ideally marketers should provide products which people need, but this doesn’t ideally happen. – Nita.

  32. July 16, 2009 2:02 am

    There is a very thin line between luxury and necessity. I am surprised at how things which I considered as a luxury have become a necessity without a problem. Wifi, car, A.C., Ipod, digital camera were all unreachable luxuries but now I can’t think of my life without them. 🙂
    I think hard times teach us the real meaning of life. There are things we have which people around the world can’t even think of touching and we fail to understand their importance.

    Amit, I guess that is why NRIs don’t come back to India! – Nita

  33. July 16, 2009 11:17 am

    Good post. Periods of Recession and Growth are part of Capitalist economics . In India for abt 30 percent of population meals 3 times a day is a luxury while for abt 5 percentage of population air conditioner is a necessity.

    Charakan, thanks. I loved your comment! – Nita

  34. vasudev permalink
    July 16, 2009 12:11 pm

    vivek…no idea what shiv-neri means.

    ‘neri’ or ‘nari’ means ‘tiger’ in malayalam.

    maybe it was atop that fort that shiv-sena was concieved?

    it makes sense though.

    the tiger is their logo.

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      July 16, 2009 12:35 pm


      I have no idea of the etymology of “Shivaneri”. Will have to check.

      Your hypothesis about where the Shivasena was conceived may be a bit far-fetched. The “Shiv” in it certainly refers to Shivaji, who is the ultimate hero for many Maharashtrians, cutting across caste loyalties. And the tiger is, I suppose, adopted as a symbol of fearlessness.

      I was not aware of the Malyalam meaning of ‘neri/nari’. I would not entirely rule it out. Marathi does have a fair number of borrowings from Kannada and Telugu, and could possibly have some from Tamil and Malayalam too, either directly or via the first two languages mentioned.

      Two lines of inquiry suggest themselves. The first, which I think I have already hinted at, is that the fort originally had some other name and was renamed Shivaneri because Shivaji was born there. The second is that, since most of the forts in Maharashtra date from pre-Shivaji and pre-Mughal times — from the Deccan Sultanates, their predecessor Bahamani kingdom, and a few even earlier, it should be no surprise if they originally had Kannada or Telugu names

      • vasudev permalink
        July 16, 2009 1:07 pm

        hmmm! worth investigating.

        ‘neri’ or ‘nari’ could also have originated from sanskrit which is aplenty in malayalam.

      • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
        July 17, 2009 11:41 am


        I checked with an acquaintance in Pune who is an authority on the forts of Maharashtra. It seems ner is an old Marathi word for a narrow valley or gorge, and the name Shivner of the fort precedes the birth of Shivaji there, by several decades, possibly a few centuries. There is no record of its ever having been known by another name.

        • vasudev permalink
          July 17, 2009 12:53 pm

          then it might be worth researching whether shivaji had a previous name which was changed to shivaji once he acquired the kingly status

          • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
            July 17, 2009 1:06 pm

            I don’t think there is room for any such doubt. The salient aspects of his life are pretty well documented.

  35. vasudev permalink
    July 16, 2009 1:03 pm

    shraadh/s i understand is/are like booster rockets propelling a missile unto its final destination.
    if any stage misses the rocket falls.

    would be useful to include in will an appropriate clause.

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      July 16, 2009 2:07 pm

      But I thought in our culture the missile is supposed to be reusable 🙂

      • vasudev permalink
        July 16, 2009 9:24 pm

        haha! the conservatist sits in hindu heaven. the missile needs to reach there first before he can fill it up with another appropriately corrupted program and send it earthwards. therefore we need to do our best to send it across to heaven. or else it will be in a perpetual orbit in space (called trishanku).

        • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
          July 16, 2009 10:12 pm


          I was alluding to lesser mortals.

          Trishanku, I think, was stuck in geostationary orbit, between the ego of Vishwamitra and the apprehensions of the ever insecure Indra.

          Not for him the shuttling back and forth, as laid down by Adi Sankara in his punarapi jananam punarapi maranam, punarapi janani jathare shayanam.

          Vishwamitra could not have been bothered by such existential dilemmas. He was the prototype of Hobson.

          • Naveen permalink
            July 17, 2009 12:39 am


            gurucharanambuja nirbhara bhakta, samsaradasiradbhava mukta.

            Complete devotion of oneself to the lotus feet of Capitalism, anything can be released from the cycle of re-use. 🙂

            • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
              July 17, 2009 6:32 am


              (For my few modifications [in box brackets] my apologies to Adi Sankara):

              artha[cha] artham bhAvaya nityam,
              […]asti tatah sukha [sarvapi] satyam

              Wealth [alone is] good — thus always reflect;
              [all] happiness [springs] therefrom; t’is the truth.

              I cannot help reflecting that ChArvAk was more adept than Sankara at articulating such thoughts 🙂

          • vasudev permalink
            July 17, 2009 12:56 pm

            with your permissions could we please abandon the ‘shraddh’ topic for the time being since it directly or indirectly affects the departed souls?

            • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
              July 17, 2009 1:08 pm


              Well, it was not I who embarked upon it. 🙂 But I am rather curious about why you decided to insert your request where you did.

              • vasudev permalink
                July 17, 2009 4:14 pm

                well…recently my aunt expired and it was the reason I started with the ‘shraddh’ thing.
                and it was for the very same reason (though lately dawned) that I placed my request to withdraw.

                • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
                  July 17, 2009 4:51 pm

                  I am sorry. I did not realise there was something so personal involved.

                  • vasudev permalink
                    July 17, 2009 9:17 pm

                    never mind. sometime later maybe nita can do an article on the ‘journey of the souls’ when maybe we can discuss matters impersonally.

                    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
                      July 17, 2009 11:25 pm

                      Impersonally…hmmm…does that mean in a disembodied manner?

  36. anrosh permalink
    July 16, 2009 1:24 pm

    Calculating the total expenses in the list it becomes a luxury if you are spending XX% of your income on this and a necessity otherwise.

    Purchasing parity decides weather it can be a luxury or a necessity.

    Need vs Want – it is a matter of habit or choice.

    Examples –
    i can walk or take the public transport or a car- the choice is mine.

    the weather is fine according to me, but for someone else it is hot. i need a fan, she needs an a/c. heater during winter is a necessity and not a luxury at all – i have to foot the bill whatever it is.

    internet for me is a necessity 24/7. she uses a dial up, because internet is fun and i use it for work
    etc etc.

    anrosh, ofcourse you are right, it all depends on one’s income. However even taking that into consideration at times we humans go to extremes. And then there are many people who might want high speed internet for fun. Gaming for instance. They may be working hard the whole day and their idea of relaxing may be through the high speed internet.- Nita

  37. July 17, 2009 9:59 pm

    Its a scary thought that if the things that we are so used to in our daily life become out of our affordable range (due to decrease in income) suddenly what would we do??
    As for luxuries and necessities, I agree with Amit (Sharma). Also the definitions are changing from generation to generation. I bought a PC just 2 years back!! My kids would think it a necessity from the time they became aware of it.

  38. July 30, 2009 9:10 pm

    Wow …missed reading this post while I was away! I guess the one thing that is a certain necessity for me in this list is a computer and an internet connection 🙂
    I agree that India does need cellphones too… cellphones are no luxury!
    Enjoyed reading some of the comments, and no doubt the regular coolers are great in dry weather.

  39. Abdullah K. permalink
    August 2, 2009 10:10 pm

    If luxuries don’t become necessities, the consumer industry wouldn’t survive. Hence putting luxuries as necessity is the prime agenda of their marketing ploy.

    Europeans are a lot more content with what they have got even though they do not own as many of the consumer goods as Americans. Perhaps it has to do with the ease and comfort of life there, which removes the sense of ‘need’ for these luxuries.

  40. purpler permalink
    August 5, 2009 5:45 pm

    For me, internet is a necessity. ]
    But a car, scooter, or even a double range gas stove becomes a luxury. It just depends on your lifestyle, and your habits. Since I use public transport and eat out often, car and kitchen come in second. My social life is very dependent on my mobile (necessity) and internet (necessity). And broadband internet becomes a necessity because of my impatience 😉

  41. Bobby permalink
    September 17, 2009 12:27 am

    I have figured out the difference about 5 years ago.

    “Necessity is that which makes it very impossible not to have, luxury is that which makes it very uncomfortable not to have.”

    A developing economy always brings about change in the behavior of its people. Take for example the US back in the old days where credit cards weren’t in popularity. People had no means to buy the luxurious items unless of course needed. With the influx of credit cards everyone had a chance to buy items they normally could not afford with cash.

    Plug in the same concept in India with influx of available credit cards we started buying items that lean more to the luxurious side as opposed to the necessary side. That does not mean we have abandoned common sense, it only means we have not understood the perils of overspending. The well always has a bottom, if you keep drawing more water than you need one fine day it becomes empty. Then we will definitely understand what is necessity and what is luxury.

  42. aarti kenjale permalink
    December 11, 2009 2:57 pm

    hi!i m student of BBA-3…I learned a lot from ur writings n as a student i request u to provide me ur ny media of communication…its somethng vry essential 4m a students point of view…hope u wud help us out…

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