Till just a few years ago, we used to hear stories about how people in the US and in Japan used to throw away ‘electronic items’ like TVs, calculators, washing machines and God knows what not. It was so unbelievable! How could someone throw away something so valuable? Born and brought up the way we are (and thankfully so), Indians could have been some of the best conservers and re-users in the world … even if it meant we were completely wrong once in a while…
Take for example the soap. The last part of which would never be thrown away – it would be ‘attached’ to the next bar of soap to ensure full use, or even miraculously dissolved in water to make ‘liquid soap’. Then Eureka! One of the wiser ones came up with soap saving devices… strange shapes of steel and plastic that would stick to the bottom of the soap so that it would stay ‘dry’ and last longer.
Manufacturers got wiser and created soaps with a U curve that would no longer use these miraculous devices. Then an amazing thing happened – one of the dish-wash soaps decided to ‘dissolve’ less even when it was in contact with water…
The world was fuelled by invention. And we for conservation! It was well known that completely dead batteries when kept in the sunlight would ‘recharge’ and give some extra life. A cycle tube could easily run another year even if it had just 20 punctures. Your old clothes could be exchanged for new ‘Aluminum’ vessels. Your old vessels could be made new and shining thanks to men with ‘kalai’ (I always thought they were alchemists).
A bus was meant to carry as many passengers as could be stuffed inside and loaded over the roof too. Milk packets could be cleaned and saved to be sold to the ‘raddi-wala’ for some money along with the old newspapers. You could repair your umbrella every year thanks to the ‘chatri-repairwala’, who surprisingly never seems to carry his own umbrella. Chappals and shoes had typical lives of several hundred kilometers thanks to your cobbler, who could almost refit a new part from somewhere everytime (and finally finally use your footwear for spare parts for someone else). Cow dung and coconut had a thousand uses.
Televisions would be draped in the finest of cloth to prevent it from dust, not to mention the intricate wooden shutter boxes for the more privileged ones. The rare Mixer-Grinders would be kept in their boxes under lock and key when not in use. Almost everything could be ‘repaired’ and reused… glassware, furniture, shoes, clothes, used tyres, rope, wires, broken switches, fans, buckets. The list sure seems endless…
Today we are perhaps surrounded by plenty. Many of us don’t even think before we throw away tons of garbage including electronic and on bio-degradable waste. Think of the countless plastic covers each of us would have thrown over the years. Don’t get me wrong here – it’s not about being stingy.
In what our earlier generation did, there was a message. A message to conserve and reuse – in ways they thought best. Something they perhaps unknowingly did. Or maybe out of need. Either way they seem to have led a more environmentally aware and mature life.
Fortunately, some of these funny practices still exist. I don’t know for how long… but I sure hope we all find newer and better methods to get environmentally friendly, even if it means crude, but effective ways Share your whacky ideas in the comments…
After all, that’s what makes India Special!
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