Sunday, November 04, 2012

Pleasures of anticipation

My colleague and friend who had just taken up running was planning to buy shoes. Egged on by my relentless rant about running injuries, he switched his mind from the low end Fila shoe he had been pursuing in Myntra to Asics. Since we don't get fancy gait analyses done in Hyderabad, he and I started reading up extensively on what shoes one should buy and how to analyze one's gait.

We found out that Reliance Footprints were the only retailers of Asics in India. Since the store was located so conveniently opposite to our community, we spent about 2 hours analyzing shoes and talking jargons like professional runners and thereby irking everyone in the vicinity. We were smirking at other people who were randomly buying the likes of butt toning shoes without knowing their feet type, pronation and heel strike. We were amazed how people buy shoes for 7000 Rs because the lady in the poster who was wearing them looked good. It appalled the researcher in us as we had spent more than two days doing gait analysis to the rest of the team.

This is when we realized how our middle class upbringing had imbibed a deep sense of optimization within us. We were both talking about how much research we put into when while buying anything slightly higher than our threshold of normal expenditure. For example, my entire office knew that I was going to buy a scooter as I had asked advice from everyone I knew. I researched day and night on automobile portals which is probably why I gape at people who walk into car showrooms the day they decide to buy a car and come out with one. The anticipation & the torture I put myself through to perfect the deals I get and the amount of reading I do before I buy stuff, make the experience of buying anything insanely satisfactory.

 Recently, I read an article about a research that talks about what makes a person happy. Apparently, it is not so much the money as much as experiences and how anticipation makes anything far more enjoyable. Experiments show that waiting for something and working hard to get it made it feel more valuable and more stimulating. I can completely empathize with these statements because like most of the children in Madurai, I was brought up in a performance based reward system. There weren't malls to walk into and then come home with a pair of Nike shoes. I used to grovel on the ground begging my mother to buy me a box of poster colous or this really fancy Ballerina Barbie complete with comb and a change of dress. My mother would hint that if I got a 100/100 in quarterly exam I might be considered for a packet of Artoons sketch pens. For the next two months, I would live the dream. I would spend the waking hours thinking about the pens and make a mental list of things I would do if I got those sketch pens such as how I can decorate the first page of my rough note, how I can touch up on the labels on my books with a little flower or basically flaunt them at the girl who already had the pens. Life would look 1000 W brighter with the sketch pens.

I would promptly not get the agreed upon marks in that very important quarterly exam which stood between me and a much better life the sketch pens promised. This used to make me cry in buckets and my parents would see me getting down from the school bus with swollen eyes. I would moan so much in misery that my parents used take pity on me and get me the damn sketch pens anyway. I have never gotten anything I asked for immediately though. I didn't get the Barbie too. My mother got me a much fatter and an Indian version of Barbie, Barbini,with lot of curls which looked not unlike the doll that kills people in Child's Play.

Barbini, still around, with the Pyjamas I painstakingly sewed for her during my fifth std summer holidays

It took 98% in my tenth board exam to be considered for my first computer. It was never really about whether my parents could afford anything I asked for, as there weren't anything that was unaffordable in a place like Madurai. Not like now, when my little cousins converse in Reebok, Puma, I-pod, Galaxy Tab and Park Avenue and eventually end up getting super disappointed if their bags are from Roshan. In my time, Roshan bags and Bata shoes were practically luxury goods and it took many a fiery elocution contests to transcend to that level!

I guess the next generation will never know the drastic difference in the quality of life that possessing a phone (with a manual lock over the dial-pad), a computer, an internet connection or going on an one week tour of Bombay (for which your entire family comes to railway station to bid farewell), brought about.

Thanks to globalization, deals and mostly my credit card, I succumb to the perils of online shopping more than impulsively than a wiser version of myself would approve of. But thankfully, this is restricted to clothes. For sporting goods, watches and bags that I keep looking at, I would show up in analytics tools as the customer who proceeds to the checkout with a full cart and closes the window at the last stage. Thus, I become the victim of re-marketing as all the goods on my abandoned cart  show up on every damn website that I open thereafter, begging me to reconsider their charms.

 These days I make a conscious effort to get back to the  anticipation based approach to happiness. This way I can rhapsodize to my heart's content and relish the vision of owning something a hundred times even before I own it. Hang in there Jabra Bluetooth headphones, there are only 30 KMs of running every week, six more months of ruminating and a full marathon for me to be worthy of your possession!