This appears in the August issue of The Man
WITH THIS COLUMN FOR THE MAN, I am embarking on a new journey and a new relationship. Unlike in the past (particularly when it comes to the latter) I haven’t often had time to ponder. Today, however, as I sit in a plush seat, 39,000 feet in the air, on my way to Toronto to watch U2 live in concert, I have ample time. And I am thinking about luxury!
I think luxury means different things to different people at different stages in their life. When you’re younger, say in school, anything that you didn’t have but wanted, and anything you couldn’t do but wanted to do, defined luxury. Getting that prized stereo, traveling, not having to give exams were definitely a luxury. Gradually that definition begins to change.
The thing about luxury is that, the moment you have it, it is no longer one. So as you get your first job, buy what you’d spent years pining for, you realise it is not quite the ‘luxury’ you thought it was. I suppose the Law of Diminishing Utility does apply. That car, that watch, that gadget, that luxury you’d been craving all along, ceases to be a luxury once you have it. It simply becomes a part of you.
So is luxury really an illusion? Probably yes. You ask some one who has it all, say Anil Ambani, and he’d probably agree (or at least thats what the rest of us can feel better thinking). I think this is because we allow other people to dictate what we should want and aspire for. We aspire to attain a lifestyle of luxury arrived at by some absolutely random authority. Some one out there has decided we should get a Rolex when we’ve made it, drive a Jaguar, holiday in St Tropez and of course fly private(jet, of course). But is that what luxury truly is?
To me, luxury is not something specifically material. It is a refinement of living rather than a necessity. It could to some extent be a lifestyle, but eventually luxury is about having a choice, a choice to be able to do things your way. A lot of people would agree that today non tangible things like time and space are a luxury. One wants to be able to have time to do nothing. One wants to be able to visit places that are yet untouched and serene.
My idea of luxury changes depending on how I feel. Sometimes it is a weekend in a ‘luxury’ spa hotel and sometimes it is in a cabin on a remote lake in the wilderness in Finland. It could be a new hand bag from Louis Vuitton or a bag I made at home from an old pair of Jeans. It could be the Chopard watch I am lusting after or the $30 ION rubber watch. Sometimes I think the hour I spend in the gym is a luxury. Time spent with loved ones and family is always a luxury.
In years to come anything that is scarce will be a luxury, Water, a piece of land, gold or that limited edition Hermes bag, those handcrafted made-on-order Italian shoes or that vintage no-longer-produced Omega. Stock up on it! I will be back next month with an entirely different and perhaps contradictory take on luxury in particular, and things in general. Because being always and never the same is the ultimate luxury. Consistency be damned!