No one can deny that we are in a totally new world of sensibilities and preferences dictated by the creature comforts of modern-day living on the one hand, and a transformation of human personality on the other. Wants and likes have vastly changed. The way we dress, the modes of transport we prefer to reach our destination on time, the educational institutes we seek to admit our children, the getaways we choose for recreation or shopping, the restaurants we haunt (or the kind of food we eat on the roadside) indicate that we have come a long way ahead, for better or worse.
There was a time when we were ready to consume the water flowing out of rusty pipes and taps, at wayside tanks and ponds, wells and half-cleaned tumblers kept in hotels. But now the moment we enter an eatery, many well-to-do people ask for pure bottled water as they are scared of the possible infections they may contract. Ahead of ordering food, they ask for bottled water. Of course, there are some ready to accept water from tankers and water lorries for other uses and never question the source or purity.
As more and more take to four-wheelers, they prefer air-conditioned cars/taxis if available and don’t mind spending extra. At hotels and theatres they complain about non-functioning air-conditioners and threaten to claim compensation from consumer forums. Even as basic amenities and the access to public toilets and their conditions have to improve vastly in spite of frequent and wide protestations, the modern humans look for cleanliness in hospitals, airports and even railway stations. They of course put up with discomfort on trains and record their complaint. Realtors marketing high-end apartments are tuning themselves to continental comforts they can bring and list various neighbourhood facilities.
Right from elementary or primary education to professional colleges and coaching institutes, the urbanites exercise a high degree of conscious choice and eliminate whatever is “second-class”. They go beyond their means to admit their wards in famous places so that the entry-level income for a graduate is much bigger.
The tolerance for certain things and situations has drastically come down. Left to themselves, people in big towns and cities are loathe to stand in queue unless there are regulations and authorities to enforce them. Then there are the VIP chasers who get recommendation letters at the drop of a hat and try to jump the line.
Whatever the steep rise in purchasing power and living standards, there is an irresistible craze for seasonal discounts, weekly bazaars and combo offers. No one thinks they may have to compromise on quality while on such a wild hunt for price cuts. Some wish to show their bravado to their friends and kith and kin on their shopping exploits, from real or virtual markets.
The choosiness extends to the world of relationships. The charmed circles of friends are formed based on status, pursuits and immediate goals or distant objectives. Tolerance was a virtue E M Forster advocated years ago but it seems to be a rare commodity or at least very flexible.