REMEMBER those Hindi films with the climactic ‘neelami’ scenes where the family izzat gets auctioned off to the evil landlord? What was being sold was not merely a plot of land with a building but the very seat of one’s being, the place which was both origin and destination, where you would be born, then die and the next link in the chain would take over. The home was a signifier of perpetuity; generations came and went but the family citadel stood firm, if a little ragged.
It mattered little if the home was big or small, decrepit or blooming. Like a mother who is never ugly or beautiful, but just a mother, a home to most had little to do with beauty. We were a reflection of our home, not the other way round. We saw it as the seat of our identity, of ‘where we came from’ and the values we held dear. It was our flag that fluttered even among the raging winds of variable circumstances that swirled around us. At festival times, we refurbished our homes slathering it with a coat of pretend newness. As a fertility sign, it needed to look well looked after, rather than beautiful.
Today, home is the site where we play out our more mobile identities. The idea of home is now the idea of perpetual progress; the home is always in a state of becoming, being never fully realised, never complete. We buy and sell our homes, see them as empty spaces to be filled with our brand of loveliness till it’s time to move to a bigger house or one that’s closer to town and start all over again.
As an object of adornment, the home becomes a mirror to our evolving selves. Every element in the home is now a potential site of beauty; even the lowly waste paper basket is no exception. The bathroom, which in our traditional worldview was banished from the sanctity of the home, is now its glittering jewel. We imagine our homes as colonial retreats as we move to addresses with names like Windsor Residencies and Chancellor Estates.
Currently, the modern home is a reflection of our new found mobility. Good taste comes in three shades of marble and affluence is a Jacuzzi-sprinkled bathroom. The room is still a collection of objects, not a unified space. Our joy does not come from the totality of the effect but from the singularities of individual objects of beauty. Our homes are often overcrowded with things without concern for whether they mesh together. We are currently living in a time where more is better; only a few discriminate between what is appropriate in an overall sense and what isn’t.
As we move forward, the idea of a personal signature will evolve and taste will become a key discriminator. Stuffing a home full of objects will not be enough. But as we distribute our sense of self over multiple homes, the need for some anchor will always remain. Home will always be a place to heave a sigh of relief in when one returns, but its role will go beyond just that.
For marketers, the task is to lead the consumer gently through the evolution she is going through; to stay just a little ahead of her changing mindset. Attempts to foist an existing sensibility imported from outside will fail, as will a refusal to keep offering exciting new options for adornment. The consumer needs help in imagining the new idea of the home, but templated solutions are unlikely to be the answer.