It’s been snowing for quite a bit and I am waiting downtown for the bus after a busy day at work. There is a long line of office goers (soon to be a thing of the past) waiting ahead of me in the queue. Its around 5:00.p.m. and the multi-axle bus striped in green and white ambles its way to the front of the line and stops.

I graciously wait for my turn to board, but when I reach the front I am told that the bus is full and I have the option of waiting for the next bus (30–45 minutes away in this bad weather). I look at the time and board the bus knowing that I may end up standing for the full journey before I reach my suburb.

Unfortunately there was a snowstorm that day and with bumper to bumper traffic on the freeway I stood the entire journey till the end. I reached home tired and famished.

4 days later I am in the same situation, waiting in line for the same bus. This time though, I decide not to board the crowded bus. I told the conductor I would wait for the next bus. Now here is where the argument starts: -

Conductor: Sir, there’s still room in the bus.

Me: Oh yes, but the seats are all taken. Think I’ll wait for the next bus.

Conductor: Sir, but you can stand.

Me: Errr yes!!@@!! Well, I’d rather not. How about, I just wait for the next bus.

Conductor: Sir, you stood the last time. So, what’s the problem now? Oh !! and there is no bus after this !!

Me: What the heck??@@!!

A rather strange situation to be in. A hypothetical one though. I am sure the conductor knows that my comfort is of paramount importance to his business. Wait a sec — is he actually assuming that the discomfort I voluntarily put myself through in an emergency financially works out to a gain in the profits of his transportation company and so now this should become the new transportation norm?

Sadly the encounter above reflects much of what is happening in today’s world. A new norm we are all not used to is being thrust upon us in very much the same way that standing in the crowded bus does, making exceptions till they become permanent. The Work from home option that was being touted as a “reform-in-waiting” for years is now finally here. The concept of comfort as we know is already being re-imagined.

So great will the family dinners now be that fathers would be slicing bell peppers in the kitchen with knife-cuts all over their fingers, mothers would be hopping from room to room running the house, while kids would occasionally be screaming and running around the house after they’re clocked hours of addiction on their playstations.

The question is, how long will these happy reunions last?

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One thing which the office gave us was freedom or in a manner of speaking a certain amount of privacy. We could saunter around the coffee machine while catching up with our colleagues about how things were going (also called gossip) and fill each other in on how our lives unfolded, a much needed break. It was another world we were all cohabiting, which we all took for granted and never thought would sunset. In fact, Some would argue that, we were spending a large part of our lives in office than we would with people who mattered, at home.

While there was a certain merit in this, a correction was needed, but clearly not a 90 degree turn. Major Tech companies (that are at lesser risk than their counterparts in manufacturing) are already planning for a future where a skeletal staff is present at the workplace. Some like Twitter, are giving all their employees the option of working from home permanently.

How did we get to this? Yes, since when does an emergency morph into a new norm!! Is this how Capitalism starts biting off its own tail?

What do I mean? Capitalistic societies are built on the idea of consumption. Hell! Economics is built on growth driven by consumption. All our economic indicators head north the moment a customer puts his hand into his pocket and pulls out his credit card, or clicks on a mobile-app to buy a deodorant he never really needed. Money doesn’t make the world go around, but consumers spending money does.

In times of crisis, whether a pandemic or a recession, expenditure on non-essential items/luxury goods is the first to take a hit. Now with the spate of the lockdowns implemented in some countries globally, we’re forced to rethink what comfort and luxury really reflect in the context we are in today. To put it simply, cooped at home with the uncertainly around us — how much will we spend?

The next time I go for a marathon (oh wait, will they even have those again — crowds running together?) will I be running with a mask on? (please see the latest report on a series of lung collapses). Will I ever be able to head out to my famous dimly lit tavern on Friday for a round of drinks against the background of light music?

Will I be able to drop into a mall on the way home to window shop for brands I saw my neighbor sport yesterday? ““ Oh wait, I have had to undergo temperature checks so many times in the mall itself that I’m scared my body temperature might actually rise”!! “Oh what do I need to install? An App? What app? I have to download a contact tracing app now else I can’t enter the mall? It can access my camera, my contacts, my location? So what now !! I can’t tell my better half I was working late today, what if she does insist on peeping into this app?”

So what will luxury look like in the new world? In fact the classification of luxury goods and services itself depends on the Geographical region based on the study below that was done by Deloitte just recently, but if you can see, baring a few exceptions the trend line is heading only one way — up!!

In the front-lines of the luxury industry are the famous past-times some of us have grown used to such as the costly Yoga studio membership (with sauna and steam room fittings), the regular Balinese massage visits where pampering is the order of the day or even the visit to the rooftop cocktail bar to down a few Martini’s, oh boy, weren’t those really happy hours!

Even as supermarket aisles are emptied out by wary customers, while trucks carrying produce replenish them at break-neck speed, luxury watch stores and Gucci showrooms continue to remain shut.

Over the last decade, luxury goods have become an increasing part of our comfort and have played an important role in generating employment as well. This is something we should not forget while re-opening the economy. For many of us, the line between luxury and necessity blurred a long time ago when we opened mini bars at home, bought flat panel televisions for every room or even bought more cars than we needed.

We may not realize it, but for some we are all living in our own lap of luxury.

Runner at Dawn: Trainer by Day: Reader by Night: Dreamer at Midnight..