New Zealand website is selling a 'Charpai' as 'Vintage Indian Daybed' for Rs 41,000
It’s all about “marketing" as capitalists would sum it up. A New Zealand retailer has taken a very common Indian household item, given the image of the item a spin, and marked up the price. For Indian culture, this isn’t new. From mehendi to ‘hella designs,’ selling ‘kurta-pyajama’ tops as ‘vintage boho dresses,’ the only thing that’s changed in the ‘up-marketing’ of Indian items is the item itself. Using the traditional mehendi to draw freckles which became a popular beauty trend, to copying ‘chandan’ from Indian religious occasions as ‘face painting decor’ during music festivals, India has seen a lot of its culture misrepresented. If it wasn’t just appropriated, sometimes items too face a very similar fate. In 2019, a British clothing brand faced flak and criticism online for selling “vintage, boho dresses". The ‘dresses’ by the clothing brand look very much similar to the traditional Kurtis or Kameez with their side-slits and traditional motifs, minus salwar. The images were from a vintage and retro clothing website based out in Purfleet, a town in England. The latest item to meet the same fate is the humble Indian ‘charpai.’
A New Zealand brand, ANNABELLE’S, is selling the common Indian string cot, as ‘Vintage Indian Daybed’ complete with the old white bedsheet tossed over it in India. The difference? The price difference between the cost in India, and the ‘Vintage Indian Daybed’ is at least 10 times.
Described as a “One-of-a-kind" and “Original" the ‘charpai’ is currently on sale, at $800.00 NZD or Rs 41,211.85. For comparison, a ‘charpai’ at a local market near you will cost about a thousand bucks, at most. Even on Amazon India, the prices of ‘charpai’ go as low as Rs 800, and stretch to a maximum of Rs 10,000 for really fancy designer ones.
For those unfamiliar with ‘charpai’ or ‘charpoy’ as its called in some places, here’s a dictionary definition, according to Collins Dictionary: a bedstead of woven webbing or hemp stretched on a wooden frame on four legs, common in India. For visualization, its the same ‘outdoor cot’ kept in houses in rural India for guests in the courtyard, or the same cots used as seating for ‘dhabas’ in North India.
The shop, Anabelle, may have actually sourced the ‘charpai’ from India itself. In an FAQ section on the website, it explains how “On trips to India, China and Indonesia, every piece is handmade, old and unique so not being able to see the proper colour and finish in person is a real challenge." A lot of other products also seem to be procured from India, in a separate blog post which mentions ‘New Arrivals from India’ in June 2020.
While appropriation itself is a problem, sometimes the upscaling of an item isn’t only non-Indian brands. In early 2020, Nicobar, high-end retail brand known for its stores in posh South Delhi localities like Khan Market and Vasant Vihar started selling what Indians locally call, ‘sambal patta,’ and Nicobar describes as ‘Pattal Quarter Plate.’ In other words, this is the same plate your local mithai wala gives you your samosa and chutney in. The same plate, which you buy from your local grocery shops, where a set of 100 costs around Rs 200, and is used for serving guests at home. These same, exact plates, a set of 8, are priced at Rs 100 at Nicobar. That means each disposable plate costs almost Rs 13. The move was met with much mockery on Twitter.