Illustration by Mahul Brahma
Author: Dr Mahul Brahma
An excerpt from Dr Mahul Brahma's latest book Luxe Inferno
Luxury is just like science or technology; it is as good and as bad as the user makes of it. If the sins of humans decide to take luxury to the bottomless pit of hell, it is very easy. It is also easy to enjoy the subject and the learnings and not be addicted to it, not to identify with it. Once the latter approach is taken, we realize that luxury – or rather branded luxury – is not who we are; it is not our identity, it is what dream merchants want us to believe. The essence of luxury needs to be savoured slowly, enjoyed like a good book or like a memorable journey, and all the while keeping your identity intact.
Dante (the protagonist, a journalist and a lux-o-holic) knew that his addiction was supported by two things which needed to be severed immediately – Virgil (the editor and self-proclaimed luxury connoisseur) and his one-upmanship with him, as well as the city that hailed this blatant showcasing and flaunting of luxury brands.
The next morning, he bid Virgil goodbye, quit the job and the city for good, to be with his father. He quit the game. In the next few weeks, he managed to sell most of his prized possessions and pay his debt. It was his moment of clarity, his nirvana.
On the other hand, Virgil was relieved that he would again reclaim his title as the luxury connoisseur. A part of him, however, missed Dante and the game, especially the adrenaline rush. But very soon he found a new Dante and continued a new game with her. To Virgil, the inferno was an infinite loop from which he could never transcend.
The journey to hell and back had given Dante a perspective of luxe and luxury that was rare and had put him in a very advantageous position as a writer. He decided to pen his thoughts and perspectives and take it to a wider audience so that people could understand luxury beyond the “price tag”. He started writing columns on luxury for a few foreign publications and sharing his ideas in various forums, which helped him take care of the expenses of his father’s cancer treatment. Dante realized luxury was a much wider subject and to understand it one needed to understand both the dazzle and the darkness that hides behind it.
One day, when he was telling his father how this one-upmanship has dearly cost him as well as Virgil, Dante’s father laughed and narrated a story. He said, during the time of Zamindars in Bengal, one-upmanship was very common. There were two neighbouring Zamindars who were almost at war with each other over this never-ending competition – who is superior. So when one day Zamindar A purchased and showcased his new imported two-horse driven Phaeton, Zamindar B got jealous. Within a week, he bought and showcased a four-horse driven imported Phaeton. A got very jealous and increased the number of horses by two, B retaliated by increasing it further. A took a step forward and replaced the horses by two zebras. This was the first zebra-driven Phaeton in Calcutta. They both laughed and the story helped Dante unburden his guilt a bit.
A year had passed, but his father’s condition had still not improved. For over a year, he had not made any luxury purchase. He had sold most of his luxury belongings and even gave away a few to his friends.
His writings were well accepted by audience and looked beyond any myopic view of luxury, tracing its evolution and how it has manifested itself in today’s world.
The moment he ceased being a luxe-o-holic, freeing himself from the addiction, he fell in love with luxe.
The purgatory of life had made him live with death and a fear of losing his father to a deadly disease every moment, regretting his journey to Luxe Inferno.
One day when the doctor told him that the final days of his father were nearing, Dante broke into tears. His father was a strong man. He told him, “Son, life is short and I have lived a full life. I have no regrets as I have you by my side. I want you to understand that every experience – good or bad – was God’s way of teaching you to pass in this exam called life. His objective is not to kill you, but to make you stronger. So your experience with luxury and the sins which took you to hell and back was necessary. Life has been your purgatory and you are now wiser and stronger. It has given you a purpose. So always know that god has been very kind and thank him.”
After a few days, his father passed away. He tried to remain strong, but broke down into tears intermittently. He was not able to contain his emotions. The loss was unbearable. It was a very deep wound, a gift from his inferno, which changed something deep within him. It was a throbbing pain. Unbearable. Intermittently, he felt the urge to relieve himself of this pain, to liberate the wound. To accept that change and liberate himself. He had picked up the razor a few times, taken it close to his wrist, made the cold steel touch the vein and feel the throbbing pulse. More than once, he had been convinced this was the only way to relieve himself of the pain, to escape this hell, to purgate himself. His sins took away his father. He could never forgive himself.
But then, he could hear his father’s last words, “…life has been your purgatory and you are now wiser and stronger.”
Dante has to rise from his ashes like a phoenix, for his father's sake.
Would the Luxe Inferno ever set him free? Would he ever see the Paradiso?