The Good Life

Material passé

The way to the good life is not just about splurging but is also about making the right choices

Very soon, the October buying season will be upon us, with Dussehra and Diwali in quick succession and most people on a festive spree — marketers prefer to see it as a splurge. This applies even to luxury goods, which famously have no ‘season’. There isn’t a month when a Tony Burch bag is more desirable, a Salvatore Ferragamo après-shave more appropriate, a Cartier watch beyond optional. And with the young generation treating itself to extravagances online — there are always ongoing sales in some part of the world or the other — the concept of a luxury season is naïve, though the surge in buying goes up in India in the cooler winter months as festivals and weddings place a high demand on buys. Therefore, the austere shraddh period in September is the perfect time to exercise restraint and consider a few options to justify your carbon footprint on earth.

 Clothes do not maketh the man

Being wealthy does not mean you will automatically look like Brad Pitt on a good hair day. What looks desirable on Priyanka Chopra can make you look frumpy. It is the business of brands to make their clothes appear appealing — on models. How many of our billionaires can actually be called stylish even when they sport the biggest brands from across the world? Though that certainly doesn’t mean you ignore the big boys and girls of fashion, who famously spend a fortune on the structural engineering of their offerings. What you need is not to be carried away by the sway of fashion. Luxury, above all, is about comfort.
Alternate splurge: Spend on stylists.

 Don’t merely go West

It was the West that created the ‘Go West’ marketing mantra when, in fact, it had spent centuries going East in search of fortune. It is true that education of a certain kind has been the purview of the UK and the US, but there are alternatives. Universities in Singapore and Kuwait may not have the same heritage but make perfect sense — and are certainly better than spurious ‘Western’ institutions in New Zealand, Australia or even the US. A good education counts for more than a mere Western one.
Alternate splurge: Strategic courses to recharge mid-career batteries.

 Been there, done what?

Time was when a holiday to the parents’ farm meant more than a rushed weekend to San Gimignano. Is it really worth negotiating traffic, airports, delayed flights, visa anxieties and stomach upsets for three days of selfies on Facebook? Longer vacations and family holidays will help you cope better than Google mapping the world’s tourist traps every year.
Alternate splurge: A quick spa visit.

 Shopping therapy on the go

Check in a half hour ahead of your flight and spend time checking out the airport stores for a T-shirt, a silver frame, a bag for the woman in your life, gifts, or simply because shopping also works as a healing for the time-stressed spirit. Make the airport a destination and you could have more fun than finding it merely an annoying passage of fare for frequent flyers.
Alternate splurge: A foot massage before the flight can do wonders for your stress.

You are what you eat

After the foie gras and truffles, molecular gastronomy and exotic Southeast Asian curries and Japanese sushi, what will comfort you most is your choice of food when you are on the go. This does not mean heavy masalas at Indian restaurants but defining a menu that guides your lifestyle choices beyond simply eating your way around the world to a heart attack. Avoid buffets and restaurants that require booking months in advance (where you are tempted to eat more for the experience), lean towards clear soups, and eat light for a healthier frame of mind.
Alternate splurge: A dietician to calibrate your daily menu.

 True luxury is unaffordable

After corporate strategists and financial analysts, add a life coach to your retinue — a career shrink, someone you can turn to for old-fashioned advice, guidance on your mood swings, a colleague’s trenchant behaviour, boardroom strategy and personal issues. Strategise each move and plan, plan, plan. It’s what will make you a winner.
Alternate splurge: Buddhist chanting, Vedanta, a day’s silence — the luxuries only you can gift yourself in a material world.


Junk the yacht, the sports car you can’t drive in India, the private jet when first class is better and the clothes and jewellery you won’t ever wear. They won't reduce your existing stress. Instead, indulge others with unexpected luxuries — it’s far more fulfilling.
Alternate splurge: Try out theatre, art, adventure, music, dance and some old-fashioned hobbies.  

—The author is a Delhi-based writer and curator