‘Show’ and ‘Substances’ are universally opposed concepts, and have passed into common parlance. But they require a brief expounding. ‘Show’ here implies attractive and tempting elements while ‘substances’ stands for internal qualities or elements of virtue. The opposition between the two is too obvious for explanation. Real substance might, and does, influence individuals, but very rarely a society. The latter is an assorted conglomerate or a compact of individuals bound by a common interest that is conducive to a healthy living. Society, such as this, can never remain ever alert against the elements of show and glamour, especially in this age of consumerism. I shall, better, point it through a personal experience.

I live with my parents in a city of some significance. Our block has a nondescript character, and my father’s flat is the odd man out, he being a genuine scholar and totally given to studies and reflections. In the ground floor the owner has joined the two contiguous flats and remodelled the original layout. It houses two institutes imparting training in English language and computers. Its smart polish and modern outfit, chic and bright frontage and tall claims on the signboard “language of letters and computers” began to draw aspiring learners. Our next-door neighbour, a family dominated by dandy girls, contributed the earliest lot among students. There is little distinction to be made between its teachers and taught, as they are all pronouncedly affected by consumer-culture or consumerism as mentioned earlier. It seems to have been a good going affair, regardless of what the pupils learn or have to unlearn.

In one storey down below our flat lives a newly married couple – a new tenant with a bachelor chap who seems to be the man’s brother. I was feeling drawn towards the institute, being swayed by its multiplying strength; but my father looks evidently cross with the pass of things there. He often tells mother to guard me from the shows and pomp – that is no better than tinsel coating on modern buildings. My parent’s language and sense of values pass over my head, and I shelve my desires. 

I saw one day Anantada, the bachelor young man in the flat below, snubbing the director of the institute. The latter, dressed from head to foot like the latest specimen of modern haberdashery, comes in a Matiz car. All these brilliantly seem to justify his shamelessly bold designation of a ‘Director’. The scene – that such a great personality takes Anantada’s rebukes docilely like a dull student – holds me in suspense. No wonder that my wounded sense of propriety becomes eager to probe into the matter. But I have no credential with Anantada. He is much my senior and too observed in something serious. 

However matters change. One morning father enters our house with a paper and shows my mother Anantada’s photo as a successful candidate in the Delhi IIT test. By evening the news sends a fanfare of congratulations and praises. Anantada seems choked as the girls of our block raid him with such praises. The climax! In the evening the same ‘Director’, the same Matiz and the same apologetic bend!

 

Anantada respects my father, and I go to him with sweets; I overcome my initial hesitation and ask him about the funny scene I have narrated earlier. He says that he served the institute for a short stint; the girls sniffed at him for his mean dress and poor appearance and to top it all, the ‘Director’ had proposed to tailor for him a presentable dress in the class. In consequence he had resigned and the attendance slumped, as their computer-coach is a good-for-nothing fellow. The ‘Director’ that day approached him to join on his (Anantada’s) terms. He had snubbed and refused.


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