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Lesser presence of minimalism: The South Asian perspective

  • Published at 08:35 pm January 25th, 2018
Lesser presence of minimalism: The South Asian perspective
My baby steps to minimalism made me realise one thing: each journey towards minimalism is going to be unique; not only because we are talking about different types of people living different lives, but we are also talking about people from various nations having different cultures, beliefs and upbringings. Hence, although the core essence of minimalism will more or less remain the same, the approach towards minimalism is going to vary quite dramatically. I am here to discuss the South Asian perspective today. I am not particularly “Internet-savvy” but when I was browsing through the Internet for blogs, books and videos on minimalism, I did not find much content from the South Asian region. That, coupled with all the scepticism I received after my “minimalism declaration”, I began to wonder why people around me are finding it difficult to even entertain the idea of minimalism seriously. From the perspective of a middle class Bangladeshi, this is what I have deduced: Living with parents: Unlike the western world, we do not have the “moving out when I am 18” concept here in Bangladesh. Our parents work very hard not only to put us through school but university as well. Some of us, do manage to get scholarships based on merits but mostly, our parents pay for our bachelor’s degree, sometimes even master’s degree as well. After graduation, when we get a job, we are usually not expected to contribute to the family income. The money we earn is solely ours to spend on anything we want. When the paycheck is entirely ours to spend without any obligation, it’s easy to squander it all mindlessly. The story is no different even when we are married and have a family of our own. The usual practice is to live in the groom’s parent’s house as one big happy family. Of course, it should be mentioned, the number of couples moving out to a place of their own is increasing, although very slowly. I feel that this practice of living with our parents provides us with a life of fewer obligations and responsibilities, and more freedom and flexibility than people from other parts of the world.  But what does having fewer oligations and more freedom have to do with minimalism?! Well, I would like to think quite a lot. As The Minimalists point out, minimalism is a tool that grants us freedom in our lives on a lot of different levels. Hence, if we aren’t feeling as trapped in life or stressed about obligations, we might not be looking for any tool that can set ourselves free. Having a helping hand It is a normal practice in our country to employ a helping hand or even two, who live with us or come by everyday and take care of all the cooking and cleaning. This means preparing meals, doing the dishes, dusting the house, doing the laundry—you name it and it’s all done. We even have in-house baby-sitters for babies or infants as well. Although it is becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable help as they opt for working in the garments industries, having someone help with the chores is still a common scenario in the middle class and beyond households in Bangladesh. So essentially, what has inspired many people to become minimalists, that clutter and weekends wasted on cleaning and organising, we are not subjected to it as yet. If we have clothes to iron and fold, there is Feroza Bua or Shilpi to do that; if we have groceries to buy, there is Abdul to attend to it, while the chauffer Shiraj can clean the car when necessary and keep track of when to change the engine oil. Booming e-commerce industry As I have mentioned in both of my earlier posts, My Big Bang Theory and Minimalism: My Way, Bangladesh has seen the booming of the e-commerce industry only recently. It is only in the last couple of years that we have had proper access to shopping from anywhere in the world. Countless online businesses are sprouting locally as well. This is probably not the time to question us whether we have too many bags or shoes because we are in the process of getting there, just not there yet. So there it is, my amateur attempt to explain the lesser presence of minimalism in the South Asian region. These are mostly based on my personal observations, due to lack of research materials online. All these practices can be loosely extrapolated to other South Asian countries as well. The socials norms and lifestyle we have do not yet subject us to all the cumulative stress and clutter that pushed people down the minimalism road. Does that mean South Asia won’t see any minimalists? Of course not, because:
  1. Our social practices are already changing as I have stated above.
  2. Anyone feeling that void we budding minimalists talk about, will turn to minimalism to make space in their mind and life to focus on what truly matters, what they love, what gives them enduring happiness.
  3. I am already here, aren’t I?
A science major, currently dabbing in business, Farhin Rahman is like many others out there, trying to find her one true passion. She hopes that her journey into minimalism will help declutter her life of excess and bring her one step closer to what she really loves. The article was originally published in August 2017 on themakingofaminimalist.wordpress.com