ANOTHER BOMBAY DAY: INDIAN FAMILY MINGLES WORK AND CONSUMERISM

By Published on .

BOMBAY-By 7 a.m., all seven members of the Chheda family are awake.

Despite small quarters by Western standards-an 850-square-foot, two bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of Simla House, a middle-class building on posh Nepean Sea Road-grocer Jayantibhai Chheda, 51, and his wife Prabha, 48; their sons Anil, 26, and Jatin, 19; Anil's wife Jyoti, 26, daughter Ruchi, 4, and a 5-month-old son, Varshit, are reasonably well-off middle-class Jain Hindus.

As such, their combined income of $8,000 a year leaves them about $3,000 that can go into either savings or luxuries, such as Procter & Gamble's Camay, Hindustan Lever's Pears, and Johnson & Johnson's Baby Soap.

These U.S. products also carry a premium price. Camay costs 27 cents versus local priced soaps 19 cents; Head & Shoulders sells for $4.77, astronomical compared to local shampoos' $2.20.

The family's breakfast of milk, tea and chevda, a local dry snack, is eaten while they scan the Gujarati language daily, Janmabhoomi Pravasi. During breakfast, the TV is switched to government-run Doordarshan for the morning news.

When Mr. Chheda leaves for the grocery and drug stores he owns, Anil and Roman Stores, situated on the ground floor of the building he lives in, elder son Anil is off on his scooter to drop off Ruchi at school before joining his relatives in the store.

Little Ruchi's lunch box at times contains cookies or vegetables-a once-a-week school requirement-or her favorite Peppy's, a local chip.

"If you give her Peppy's every day, she'll be very happy," says her mother Jyoti of the chip costing 19 cents for a 50 gram packet, less than local brand Uncle Chips, sold from an open container for 31 cents.

At noon, Prabha and her daughter-in-law supervise cleaning of the apartment and the clothes washing. A servant does both, using a mixture of Lever's Surf and P&G's Ariel detergent powders for the latter. The reason for the mixture is to dilute Ariel, which the women feel is too strong.

Jyoti keeps tabs on her little son, who is wrapped in locally marketed disposable diapers called Snuggy. Her mother-in-law doesn't approve of the costly diapers-which sell for $2.15 for a packet of five, about comparable with local brands-and is strongly in favor of cloth diapers which she says don't give rashes.

By 11 a.m., lunch preparations are on. Today's menu: a soup, cucumber slices, a cereal called dal, an Indian wheat-leavened bread called roti, a cooked vegetable dish.

A 6 p.m. snack of pau bhaji, a vegetable paste and bread dish, or pizza, satisfies appetites until dinner several hours later. This meal, as usual, is light and simple: khichdi, a rice and dal mixture; a vegetable dish; and roti. By 9 p.m., when the stores' shutters have closed, the family gathers for dinner, which is over by 10 p.m.

Throughout it all, the TV remains on. It is mainly tuned into Hindi satellite channel Zee TV's soap operas and talk shows. Star TV's Prime Sports is switched on for cricket.

Commercials are avidly watched too, particularly foreign ones. Ruchi is so besotted by the commercials that she wants everything she sees. The Chhedas rarely go to the cinema but enjoy watching Hindi and kung fu movies rented for about 60 cents each. On Sunday-the day off-the family goes to see a Gujarati play.

On weeknights though, between 10 and 11 p.m., it's banter and recap time. That's when the generation gap begins to show. "Dad works very hard," said Jyoti, "but Anil wants quick results because this is a modern world ... we want to enjoy."

"What they want," says her father-in-law Jayantibhai, "is less work and more money."

In this article:
Most Popular