Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Save this planet.

I learnt an important lesson in life, as a boy of 12. I had carelessly discarded a tube of toothpaste, believing that it was empty. An aged relative who was passing by – or rather was keeping vigil- pulled out the tube from the dustbin, rolled it tightly, squeezed it professionally with both his hands, managed to salvage another week’s supply of toothpaste and then delivered a long lecture to me on the importance of getting the maximum bang for the buck. Of course, he didn’t resort to such Americanisms, as he didn’t even suspect that such a place as America existed, but you get the point.

Another aged relative got on to a bus, traveled a mile beyond the point where she actually needed to go and walked her way back, so that she would get maximum value for the 10 paise that was charged as minimum fare those days.

Frugality was strictly practiced by members of these yester-generations and implemented mercilessly. Everything had to be re-used, recycled or handed down. Nothing was to be wasted. When purchasing something- if at all- durability was the only criterion to go by.

Watches served several generations. My first watch was my grandfather’s and if I hadn’t lost it during a cricket match, I would perhaps have passed it on to my grandson. Pens were for keeps and one went through the entire education process from kindergarten to post-graduation using the same pen. Well, not exactly. Till the 4th or 5th standard, you got along with the pencil passed down by your elder sibling.

Food had to be consumed and could never be wasted, even if one was choking inside and sambar was oozing out of the ears and the nostrils.

If you bought a pair of slippers, you not only had to choose the sturdiest and rugged pair in the locality, you also had to walk down to the cobbler across the road to get an attachment (made from old tyres) stitched on, so that the wear-out period would be longer. It was forbidden to buy the next pair, unless the existing one had worn out completely and the soles had disappeared completely.

Such habits don’t die. They stay with you forever. I can never get myself to throw out anything, if it still has got some life in it. I can’t keep water running in the wash basin, a second more than necessary. My wife refuses to buy footwear from Bata because the damn things last forever and never get worn out and she can’t bear to throw them away even after they’ve gone completely out of fashion.

Do all you kids out there realize that you are depleting the earth’s resources so rapidly with your extravagant lifestyles and with all your disposable stuff ? Does it even occur to you, misguided souls, that the environment doesn’t belong to you and we ,of the earlier generation have just given it to you for safe custody till the time it is passed on to your children? Must you cut all the trees, burn all the coal, combust all the oil, ignite all the gas and release all the CO2 in one lifetime? Can’t you show some restraint?

There. It’s finally done. That outburst certainly made me feel a lot better and morally superior. I had my chance to get even. I could take it off on someone.

7 comments:

Lalita Mukherjea said...

My personal peeve against the younger generation is how they never turn lights and fans off as they leave a room.

I can't bring myself to leave a tap running either; or throw anything out that still has some use left in it.

Recycling was drummed into our generation, I think. Disposable culture makes me cringe and rant. Now you have ranted on my behalf. Thanks.

Cmreddy said...

Its pretty unfortunate that for most of young generation, the Americans are the role models in consumerism.

It seems every one (Our generation along with Americans) learn their lessons the hard way. Lets see if we can make it by the magical 2020..

Raj said...

lalita, cmreddy : I read a description of our times that said that we are all on a hedonistic treadmill. How true.

Anonymous said...

Hey,
hold on. There are still loads of youngster who still follow the old way (if i can call it so). Just move out of the metros to get a glimpse.
I infact, still use those unused sheets in notebooks which i used during my highschool and college days.
All said and done, you are right! ;)

Shiv

Srik said...

How cruel you are to blame one full generation?!

I dont throw a thing that is still useful to me, inspite of it being out of fashion.

There may be increased US's consumeristic lifestyle followers here, but its not totally true that we are spoiling the planet.

It is still as good as it has always been :-)

Raj said...

srik, relax. I was just mouthing cliches in a tongue-in-cheek tone.

Anonymous said...

Good one !