The very initial idea sprung from recollecting an old book read a decade and a half ago. But that the recollection happened on a road trip two years ago is a story for elsewhere, not here.
Myths are all around us. In a book written half a century ago, myth is called a language. Barthes is of course as right today as he was in the 1950s. Myth is what sells everything from shampoo to the bowl of berries that makes a snack on a summer day.
If something is organic, handmade, handcrafted, natural, cruelty free, ethically sourced, fair trade, free range and sustainable – sometimes all at the same time – isn’t it a myth that you are buying? Being the sort of person who buys all of the above, even if such a thing has travelled halfway across the world and is laden with immense embodied energy, and thus, excess carbon footprint, is a lifestyle you buy into. Lifestyle itself is a myth that is perpetuated in the pursuit of pure consumerism.
All hail the manufacturing of consent.
Manufacturing Purana is a three-month long project undertaken in London where I try to look into the many myths I consume and encounter during this period, from news – prosaic or breaking – to food to things, objects, products that serve the omnipresent gods of the modern markets. In this miniscule cross section of things and ideas, the mirror is upon events and things and histories everywhere in the world. A “farmer’s market” back home in Bangalore is not too different from the “farmer’s market” in London.
The quote marks are deliberate.
Incidentally, this is the 25th year anniversary of India’s shining new liberalization policy, almost to the date. In the 1990s, this was a utopia that beckoned us from the other side of laissez-faire. These many years later, everyone knows that is clearly not the case. All too clearly.
There never was utopia.
Yet, we buy it, all these ideas and -isms and lifestyles. We never stop buying. Buying is several degrees of validation that buffers the blow of reality, most times. Retail therapy works, in any country. I tried it yesterday in Camden Market. Worked like a charm.
At some point we buy first, if not only the idea, and the product becomes irrelevant. The idea is what shapes the markets and our reactions to it and its reactions to what we want to see, and so on.
This idea is the purana, an old Sanskrit word that means a myth, oral, written or both.
Let’s make up some stories now.
Deepa Bhasthi is in residence at Delfina Foundation, London for three months, under the third season of their Politics of Food programme. During this period, she will be looking at the various myths that make up our consumer behaviour. She will be adding a new chapter to this special issue of The Forager every week, each examining a different trend, market, event or item she has encountered and consumed that week. The photos, anecdotes, texts included here will be part of a larger compilation that will be put together as a publication after the residency period.
This residency is supported by Charles Wallace India Trust and Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation.
Deepa is a writer based in Bengaluru, India. Her works are available at http://dbhasthi.blogspot.in. She is one of the founding editors of The Forager.