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Purano-Notun chinta bhabna

  • Published at 03:56 pm July 23rd, 2019
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Photo: Courtesy

Out with the old, in with the new

Chinta tells me that change is constant, that the definitions and parameters of wealth are flexible, that we immerse ourselves in the distorted and invented annals of socioeconomic and cultural portrayals by commercial movie producers, magazine editors, fashion designers and tour guides, that we become blatantly hysterical about the acquisition of taka poysha, and overdramatic about its loss, and that economic growth generates social mobility. 

Then how can we demarcate old money and nouveau riche?  And where do they intersect? Are these even stable categories? Or are they merely terms we have invented because we are unable to cope with life unless we put people in boxes? 

Chinta again tells me that we are struggling to define and redefine the narratives and counter narratives of affluence (or greater purchasing power) as we maintain, reject, borrow, invent, fuse, and create elements of our history and culture and those of others. 

Following are a few of my personal observations, and instead of ambiguously classifying people, as money transcends the past, present and future, I would say that overall there has been a transformation of social norms and practices. 

The old: would hail from desher bari.

The new: hail from Dhaka shohor, or world fashion capitals.

The old: would speak proper Bangla, and/or English with a Bangla, normal, or English accent. 

The new: speak no Bangla, and/or Bangla with an English accent, and/or English with an American accent. 

The old: would travel to and from bidesh, and proudly preserve their heritage jewellery, clothes, recipes, furniture, and property. 

The new: destroy their heritage, and then fly to bidesh and proudly acquire jewellery, clothes, recipes, furniture, and property.

The old: persevered with emotional connections. 

The new: persist with financial associations. 

The old: would give credence to text.

The new: give credibility to photographs.

The old: would discuss values.

The new: discuss prices.

The old: dissected character.

The new: scrutinise spending.

The old: would look at an attractive young girl and wonder about the boy she is with and investigate how many times she has been seen with him.

The new: look at an attractive young girl and notice which bag she is carrying and investigate how many times she has been seen with that brand.

The old: would judge a boy by his achievements.

The new: judge a boy by his inheritance. 

The old: would discuss marriages.

The new: discuss weddings.

The old: would fly in goods and services for a marriage.

The new: fly out bride, groom, and guests for wedding.

The old: hosted parties.

The new: host events.

The old: conflated sophistication with culture.

The new: conflate sophistication with consumption.

The old: valued education.

The new: value degrees. 

The old: encouraged intellectual or artistic pursuits.

The new: incite shopping.

The old: collected.

The new: hoard.

The old: were tenacious.

The new: are unattached. 

The old: would describe humble as the absence of ostentation.

The new: describe humble as the display of ostentation accompanied by contrived self-deprecation. 

The old: anticipated.

The new: expect.

The old: posed.

The new: posture.

The old: are archaic.

The new: are anachronistic. 

And so on and so forth….

Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.