Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yarn of a lesson

My mother knits. Nothing short of a magician she is with a pair of knitting needles. I have often suspected that she thinks through her needles or else her needles have a mind of their own. I swear I think they see, they scan and appropriate patterns. Tight, neat, even and clean, the knitted woollens come off those pointies in fantastic shapes and sizes; the kind that will throw people off. They look machine made but are too graceful and stylized and personal to have come from bolts, nuts and levers. Yet, the appearance is so symmetrical and perfectly aligned they can't be credited to a pair of mere human hands.

My earliest memories are of the two iconic magazines: the ‘Woman and Home’ and ‘Women’s Weekly’. While Mom subscribed to them for the knitted patterns, I treasured them for their serialised stories, a precursor to my Mills and Boon days. There was a ritual to their arrival, a simple one, comprising three straight steps. One, choose the pattern from those featured; two, trip to the market for the exact same wool and step three, voila! You could not tell the difference. Shade for shade, flower for flower, French knot for French knot, tassel for tassel, stitch for stitch. 

Every finished product was like a lesson. A chapter on discipline, perseverance, perfection.

Those hands should have been insured! Tea cosies, pullovers, cardigans, booties, caps, mufflers, mittens, jackets, shawls, dolls, soft toys, Santas, Gnomes, Witches, cushions, slippers, stockings…you name it and it had been knitted and fashioned. Boxfuls of woollen craft work, hours and hours of painstaking work, a loop at a time, one knit following another, a purl chasing the other. Each of my siblings, our spouses and children, even the odd relative-in-law thus came to own a piece of my Mom’s life. She could have been sleeping or reading or watching TV during the time she spent, hunched over the ambitious designs she picked for replication. There grew, over the years, rich and complete wardrobes of knitwear in our homes.

This is one hobby that has been therapeutic at several levels. It gave Mom a creative outlet and spread a feel good factor all over the family as the owner to be of the creation in progress, puffed up with the knowledge that they will be the recipient of the ongoing  project. There is not a member of my family that has not been stopped by complete strangers at times; people who couldn't help but exclaim at the woollen pieces we happened to be sporting. A lady once offered to go into export business with me, involving Mom’s magnum opus.

Unfortunately, I don’t knit. I weave words. And I am en-lacing them here in an effort to convey what my mother's labour of love has done for the family. Just for starters, it was one of her pieces that kept Asawari warm during her Serb winter last year. And I know it gave her more than just mere warmth!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Emerging power

India comes tinged with the whiff of Ammonia. This ancient land of Bharat; her air is acrid; this subcontinent called Hindustan and a culture soaked in the smell of piss, pee, piddle.

There is no air tight, vacuumed, sealed space that is completely free of the smell of urine in our country. Neither a seven star hotel, nor the fanciest of our five star hospitals and certainly not the closely guarded cantonment, leave alone the footfall heavy, squeaky mall. The stink is omnipresent, omniscient. There is no getting away. Walking down the road, stopping by a highway, ambling along a lake, racing over a corridor, the pungent waft never leaves you, nauseating, overpowering, and repugnant. I have come to expect it; I go looking for it if it does not hit me in the face right away. It never fails to disappoint. It is always there, lurking, dark and heavy.

At Padmanabhapuram Palace
Just fancy our extreme hypocrisy. We call ‘dharti’ our ‘ma’ and then we go right ahead and urinate on her. We don’t spare our neighbours too. Indian soldiers have been known to step across the line of control just so they can dangle on record their disrespect for the enemy. Bushes, roadsides, debris heaps…it is all ‘janani’ or motherland; I want to tell these numbskulls. What makes them think the rest of the population deserves this extreme disrespect, this total lack of consideration, this consistent absence of plain human courtesy.

You have to see them. All shapes and sizes, making water with that air of right.There is such an unquestioning cultural acceptance of this horrendous habit of personal and open irrigation that no one bats an eyelid at a man parking himself for relief against a public wall. I have had a deranged urge to pick up a thick baton and swing it across those busy rears. Obnoxious, gross, odious.

Facility at Padmanabhapuram Palace
But naturally, the eternal excuse of a lack of toilets. How come one half of the population fitted with smaller bladders can hold it till they get to a proper receptacle? What if they too began to bare the butt and squat wherever and whenever? So much for tradition and conservatism.For one moment, I am willing to give the rural Neanderthals a benefit of doubt. But the urban Homo habilis? Why is he giving us a fissured nasal septum and a permanent twitch of the nose? The sulphurous stench gags you, it cuts through the heat and dust induced haze to graze harshly like long nails across the consciousness. No matter how hard you try to stamp it out, the stink envelopes one’s personal space, swirling and settling in with a final, vaporous curl.

It does not bother the public piddlers that their streams might carry bacteria or be virulent moreover, with some other mischief making germs. It does not concern them that others around are studiedly looking away from the unsightly spectacle in an effort to shut out the sound. Whatever happened to the Delhi government billboards shaming Shri Thu-Thu Kumar (the spitter), Shri Kuda Kumar (the litterbug) and Shri Su-Su Kumar (the person who pees in public).

India most certainly is an emerging power. Emerging from the pants! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sarkari Suckers

You can’t miss them. They wear the look of Atlas, shoulders hunched, brow furrowed, feet in a scamper. The reason is simple; they are trying to keep things going.

Oh no, nothing as spectacular as a path breaking research or some stupendous project of national significance, not even a first of a kind event. They are in a tizzy over the daily chore, the mundane, the given, the regular routine. And the reason this unremarkable target seems to be draining them of their life force is…..their locale, their karmabhoomi, their work place. Their arena of action is ‘sarkari’. These are the famed, abused, flogged, derided and resented minority in a government office. They stick out for one sole reason; they do their job against all odds and do it well.

Has anyone in India heard of an oxymoron as true as this? The breed is rare. Stuck in a system that is shy of recognizing merit, they work only for themselves. It is impressive, this single minded focus on getting a task over with only to move on to the next one, without taking a bow for a non-existent pat. No, they are not blessed with any mystical juggling power. They seem to get things done because they are pouring bits of themselves into the set up. They give of their lunch time, their TV time, their personal time, their family time….they snatch energy from their day to put it into what is after all, ‘only a job’. When colleagues are catching up on welfare talk, they are racking their tired brains for catchy slogans. While out on a relatively uni-dimensional supervisory duty, they are mentally calculating execution facts. While driving home from work, they visualize performance paraphernalia at red traffic lights. They are not beyond staying up nights to get a recording just right or some writing out of the way.

When they go on leave, the entire floor space knows what is to be done in their absence. They plan ahead and leave instructions behind so no one can claim a task is not done because ‘a’ or ‘b’ or ‘c’ is away. Talking of leave, strange creatures of habit that they are, there is reluctance to go absenting. To the degree possible, they will avoid missing work, availing of their dues is a concept foreign to these self-driven motors.  Give them an assignment and watch, barely a question comes forth as to why or how or when. Project accepted, thank you, they will figure it out and get on with it. There is no time for doubt or dismay or delay.

So there you have them, in the foci of an ever expanding ripple of involvements; primary, secondary, tertiary, moving steadily from compulsory to the pure voluntary. There is no recognition, no extra consideration, no special facilitation volunteered by the organization to these lone rangers. Their reward is more work, more opportunities to prove themselves, greater and bigger challenges to pit themselves against.  There is no way you can miss them. They have more bad habits. Forgetting to sign their salary registers, being clueless about their leave record and blissfully ignorant of the changing patterns on their salary slips, they are likely to be hugely surprised at the appearance of an incentive.

They are the all-time sarkari suckers, operational on a minefield of the indolent, unwieldy, dispirited majority who playact as though challenged. They suffer from an addiction of a different kind. They only listen to an inner voice. Cut the crap, cut the chaff, cut some slack come on, thanks heaven for them sarkari suckers!

Lage raho Munna Bhai; Lagi raho Munni Behen……

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Myth Mashing

There are words we hear and nod assent to, without thinking. They are so much a part of our fibre and form that they flow unchallenged around and inside of us. The veracity of these pronouncements is a given. They have been repeated so often that they ring true as testimonials.

No one knows, by whom or when these myths were manufactured? Going by their omnipresence, they certainly seem cast in stone? Are they genuine, indisputable, verified gyan or were these perhaps mere self-defense theories, cooked up by creative minds bent upon keeping things smooth. Or worse, a way to dodge responsibility, an excuse to sit on the hind legs and not have to lift a finger.

Everything happens for the best, is a common assurance. I have had occasions to differ! If that be so, why does the best come so loaded with pain and a sense of such acute loss?  

How can a death in the family, an unexpected displacement or a traumatic personal event qualify as the best that could possibly happen to the hapless? People miss out on their dream colleges, their first loves, their grand plans but it is all for the best eventually, we tell each other. We are too weak to be able to bear the harsh reality and this is possibly one way to accept the hurtful truth that we got shortchanged by destiny.

God has a plan for everybody, is another one of the omniscient pearls. Does He? Based on Karma, we tell ourselves. And we watch this grand plan unfold, leaving people torn and bleeding and crying and hurting? If my life is going to follow a path defined by my Karma, where is His design, His contribution, His master stroke, I have wondered? It has to be one hell of a plan that leaves me with a bashed up vehicle in the parking, for instance. To add insult to injury, I am told to count my blessing, it could have been worse! I am sorry but try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to be thankful for the dented and beaten up car.

Dialogue is the only way forward, more so in a democracy, we are told. But how can that be when all everyone wants is to be right? Who is going to be doing the listening while all the shouting down is going on? Switch on any TV channel today. Communications, negotiations, exchanges mostly occur along two separate music scores, each intent upon their own tune. The communicators invariably end up where they started. Certainly, dialogue helps to keep up the pretence of human engagement, that it does !

There are countless more edicts: annoying, untrue and patronizing at worst. Parents always want the best for their children. Well, the best is sometimes also the most convenient for them! Many hands make light work. Some are best kept out of the broth, in fact !You were lucky. You could have been dead, in other words !It was meant to be. Accept it and stop whining ! They also serve who only stand and wait. You will have to wait longer, is the translation !

Do these myths then, serve any purpose? Yes, they do. They are designed and floated to maintain a modicum of social control and calm or there would be anarchy.

To be honest, and there I go, this is another though to say I was lying all this while...the only one that I permit in is, “An apple a day, really keeps the doctor away!”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Count till ten

I was born with the anger gene. Family fable had it that the malady ran in the family, traceable back several generations, the famed Sangha fury! My grandfather was a teetotaler but had blood shot eyes; dander, they explained it. And even though Dad enjoyed his drink, he exhibited that very same irascible look. My brother should have rightfully inherited this family talent for pique, but by default, we both came into possession of the congenital skill of abrasion.

So there I have been, all these years, angry and ashamed of harbouring this supposedly masculine trait. To make it worse, there was my sugar sweet sister, cool as a cucumber, sailing through life on the wheelies of giggles. It was yours truly who bore the brunt of an extended family deliberation, on this unwholesome predisposition to rage.

Why? What for, they said. I must exercise control. Girls should not lose their cool, it is not pretty. Temper is not good. Count till ten!

None of this worked. I stayed angry.

People being judgemental annoyed me. Insensitive remarks on personal appearances would set me off like an acetylene torch. Preaching pundits really lit my short fuse. I would go off like a string of crackers at a perceived lie, a missed appointment or an apparent lack of will. There was consistent umbrage at what did not seem right or fair or just or kind!

The losses were bound to pile up. And no matter how hard I tried, I found it very difficult to accept the social judgement and criticism of my impatience. With time, the furnace mellowed somewhat, it had to! There was immense pressure to keep the smiling mask in place, all the while. Things came to such a pass that I began to feel like an oven in the cool off mode, embers still aglow considering I still pulled off the murderous look, to say the least. True to the associated, societal form and norm, I let my expectations hit rock bottom  hoping I would stay unmoved and cold but the visage slipped with no warning occasionally; the effect visible on the other person’s startled face. 

Truth be told, no matter how unfair a treatment I have been meted out because of my wrath, I am a great believer in hitting the button, in letting the handle fly, in going ballistic once in a while. Anger is the single most derided, devalued and berated human emotion. It deserves a lot better because it has great uses. I stand firmly by what bothers and vexes. I would in fact, go so far as to say that I have trouble trusting people whom nothing makes angry.

Anger is good. Anger is nature’s way of protecting existence. It is the adrenaline rush, critical to our survival. It is the red light that warns something needs correcting. 

I am at long last, learning to be at peace with my anger. I am beginning to use it to make changes in my life. I believe I need to preserve the integrity of self with a disciplined and compassionate use of peeve.

Befriend your anger, therefore. It is the angry who will change the shape of things to come. It is not the cool and collected but the hot and bothered who shall inherit the earth!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Litter happy

What is with us Indians and our litter happy ways? It is disgusting. Repulsive. Shudder worthy. Plop, thump, whoosh, phusshs….we drop, chuck, flick garbage with impunity, there is nothing like too close for comfort.

Is this gene for shabbiness hereditary? Did we inherit the litter chromosome or was it imported by our various occupiers? Between nurture and nature, what is responsible for our completely casual disregard for our environment while all the time clearing our throats, washing our hands, sweeping out our homes. There is no end to the Indian fastidiousness as far as personal and domestic space is concerned but an inch beyond and watch us loosen up the belt and exhale.

I replay my growing up years, looking for that culprit moment that taught me to carry a mess wherever I went.  I fail to pinpoint where and how this daredevilry with trash starts. All I can recall are some terribly embarrassing moments. On a Continental flight from Newark to New Delhi, I can never forget that cringing shame filled walk, along the aisle, on way to the exit door….there was muck and mayhem all around. Sloth and slob writ large on the cabin, blankets strewn in ugly heaps, plastic covers plundered to jagged remains, earphones hanging over arm rests, half eaten sandwiches and cartons kissing the floor, newspapers lying in untidy stacks. I also have a crystal clear memory of  the ground crew lady who stood shaking her head at the boarding counter, rolling her eyes, “This flight….this flight…”, she kept muttering under her breath.

At a children’s’ function I attended today, there was no dearth of dustbins but the acceptance of filth is so deep rooted and conditioned, everyone walked over the throwaway plastic, no wincing, no commenting, no exclaiming.

We have got to de-clutter our surroundings. Perhaps then we can move on to debugging the minds. 

Note: Puppets by Chhaya Pandey and Bhawana Ahuja

Friday, November 18, 2011

Beware of Google

Intellectual property right is a new-fangled and an anti-Indian concept.

It is a foreign word for the average Janardan who fearlessly lifts data off Google unperturbed by terms such as “public domain”, “crediting” and “copyright”. There certainly is a strong murmur of cut and paste crimes but as to what ‘plagiarism’ precisely is, the grasp is hazy and porous.

We are not to be blamed, are we?! In this country, property has always meant one of the three things: land, ‘kothi’ or gold. So there is legitimate and public vexation at the entire brouhaha over something that appears intangible, is freely shared and worse, happens to be a phenomenon claiming credit for which is considered bad form, traditionally. Intellectual property, in other words. The creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images and designs, all used for the purpose of commerce.

How does this law apply to a community amongst whom the sharing of ideas, notions and theories is the norm. Why, we Indians are masters at exchanging recipes, skills, experiences, secret tricks, home remedies… we will go so far as to share social techniques. A full, authoritative and totally confident counselling session can be yours at the mere appearance of a sad flicker on your face. 

It is indigenous, this sense of community ownership over anything not made of bricks or gold! Would a desi claim royalty for teaching the gayatri mantra? Would you expect a copyright compensation for lending a lullaby lyric? Imagine charging for a cold-potion formula! Or for that matter, kitchen cures for dandruff and a yogic asana to stamp out that nasty nasal allergy. As a matter of fact, in group efforts, the biggest contributor stays the quietest. It is not done in our culture to claim credit and hanker over something called an intellectual property law.

Who do we owe royalty to for the authorship of Mahabharata? Lord Ganesha or Rishi Vyas? And does the copyright of Ramayana go to Sage Valmiki? Did these venerable, in their times, expect to be compensated via the intellectual property law? How about the Natya Shastra? The Kaam Sutra? The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali?

What if the legal IP regime got after our nazar ka teeka and nimboo mirch totka ? They would do well to remember that the Human Rights Law at present only seems to addresses individual rights but how about the collective rights of a cultural community? 

Two things come to mind. One, the laws have to be guided by the principle of sustainable development and two, I miss the India we used to be, when ordinary people were happy to be photographed any and everywhere; today they ask for money. Intellectual property law indeed!!

Note: All pics by Asawari

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


A personal, social and family conspiracy is afoot and no I am not delusional or crazy or suffering from a persecution complex. I know with certainty that this devious phenomenon exists because of what my feelings tell me. I feel short-changed, angry and hurt.

Have we not all heard these phrases at some point in life?
Don’t be negative. You are being too sensitive. Oh come on, don’t be so serious. I was just joking. Don’t mind ok. It’s all in fun. You are taking it personally. Be positive. Forget it.
I call these the most offensive and lethal social defences in circulation. They are used to put others down, and to tell them what the speaker thinks they should be doing. It is a form of control, a dishonest way of showing others their place. People use this tool all the time. Bosses use these damaging phrases on their hapless juniors, colleagues pull them on each other and husbands keep their partners emotionally malleable with this particular choice of words.

Life has taught me that it is interpersonal suicide to be honest about perfectly human and natural feelings of confusion, self-doubt or the occasional low. You will mostly get a lecture for your efforts. Your audience will invariably roll up their sleeves and launch with a, "Let’s show these volatile nuts what they in fact are: too serious, too sensitive, and too negative!!”
When someone begins a conversation with a, “Don’t mind…”, they know in fact that annoyance should be the legitimate reaction of the recipient, but they offend with the confidence that there won’t be any such thing because we are too conditioned to do heheehee and smile….oh come on, don’t be so serious!

Worst of all, there is covert and overt gender discrimination at play. Women are better at being willing to be put down. For some reason, we are always struggling to be seen as accommodating, cheerful, mature and sensible. Woe betide a female who displays her honest feelings of frustration or anger or sadness….she is overreacting of course, she has taken it all too personally, as though there were any other legitimate way of taking it! Please mark the deadly form of manipulative control.

And beware of men who use humour. They are doing just that…humouring you; but that is another story!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


The jury is out on whether Delhi winters have waxed or waned, over the years. But for an evening’s worth of the typical Delhi nip, head out to Dilli Haat. From the parking attendant’s muffler to the smoky coils rising over the peanut cart, there is that delicious hint of snugness in the air. Holding out the prospect of a cosy cove inside, the brightly lit and festive market never fails to restore and refresh, particularly at night during these culturally prolific months in Delhi.

Once in, you come upon a gentle, unhurried hustle and bustle; a virtual feast strewn as far as the eye can see; there is glitter with glow and glamour alongside gastronomic adventures. The vendors are laid back, there are plenty platforms and culverts to park upon; it’s ticketed gate affording the place a cocoon like air so you can hang around until 10 pm with nary an alarm. The hushed hubub doesn’t seem like any heavy duty business is afoot but there is a muted level of leisurely, commercial engagement. People stop, peer, feel and move on. Quite clearly the objective is to hang about and absorb the sights, sounds and smells.

A great spot for the family and duos, there is a comforting sense of anonymity for the solo too. No one will intrude upon a marathon session of plain people watching. It is perfect for the curious and observant like me, food and drink being readily available nearby and there stretching a full canvas of humanity to share space with and appreciate. With the festival of India in aggressive gear, enjoy the added bonus of any number of authentic folk performances that will have you marvelling at the national diversity.  

There are people all around,celebrating a day out, surrounded by loved ones. Having done with 'Srikhand Puri', my delicious, buttery, piping ‘pooran poli’ forms the perfect foil for incisive thoughts: the Delhites around, their apparent group dynamics, even as they demolish 'dosas' and 'channa bhaturas' there another, more lethal craving inside, I wonder? Does the same flame burn in every heart? The universal hunger for approval, security, appreciation and acknowledgement? The need to be right? The desire to be free of blame and guilt? The yearning to break loose of expectations; the tearing free of stereotypes? The freedom of not having to live up to an image or live down some other pipe dream; the poignant tragedy being that those closest to you perhaps, find it the hardest and take the longest to penetrate these externally created and foisted illusions to really reach you.

If this isn’t ‘maya’, what is?!

Friday, November 11, 2011


If you are a woman, approaching fifty and like voicing opinions in India, the trendy young will label you only one way: an Auntyji with a desperate need to be politically correct.

There is an unfair assumption that the solo slant you will contribute will be a moral one. There is a hasty assumption of implicit fear, an impatient presumption of a certain wariness of social disapproval. 

The desire to maintain status quo is what shines from over your aging skull so far as they see it. It is therefore very hard for some twenty somethings to appreciate that you did cross that milestone once on your way to middle age.

As a rule, I support young people who invest in social revolutions. I may differ personally on issues e.g. I do not support sexual adventurism amongst the young; I do believe that the women’s fight for freedom need not extend to the liberty to stand and pee; I certainly do not equate free speech with foul language; I do hold that personal choices come with the onus for bearing the resultant consequences; there absolutely is relatively greater black and white in my book of life’s rules  vis- a-vis the grey. To the obvious labels that would then ensue such as ‘rigid’ or ‘unrealistic’ or ‘politically correct’ or ‘antiquated’ or ‘out of sync’……my defence would be only one word: time! Time will tell. Time always tells.

It is with time that I have realized that the more we have changed the more we have managed to remain the same.

This phenomenal discovery however, is far from what I wish upon the socially conscious young who are trying to make a difference today. The fact that change does not snowball fast enough is no reason to stop and give up. Socially, we most certainly have covered some path.  But it does baffle me somewhat when young Turks dismiss the inputs of my generation out of hand. What happens to their avowed principle of being open and receptive to all voices? Since when did fighting shy of fifty become synonymous with fighting shy of sanity?

Lest they forget, India’s new brand of social revolutionaries would do well to acknowledge that as a generation they probably have had the fortune of greater parental/family support than any preceding line-up.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pachmarhi Reunion

When darkness falls and all you hear is the ticking of a clock, the mind wanders. Somewhere between the persistent chirping of the crickets and the occasional honk from the main road, thoughts dart around in the head, beating, rising, subsiding, calming. 

There is a pretend stillness. A deceptive tranquillity masking the frenzied action just below the surface repose. It’s a nano while, a micro time in space when souls are purported to embark on astral travel, shunting between levels of evolution. Where do they go? Who do they meet? What do they do?

Come sunlight and the mundane life kicks back in, another schedule to keep, one more task to accomplish, there are deadlines to meet. Yet another night of all human lives is over and done with; another day left less to live.

So much goes on all the while, our lives are humming with urgency at any given time. It feels like the world will come crashing down if we so much as blinked an eye. And so the frenetic desperation goes on unhindered, cluttering our precious time with useless moments and non-memories. And then comes a dazzling day if you are lucky, once in decades.

It is no different in a physical sense and yet vastly special in clarity of recall, in the sharpness of senses, in the intensity of emotion, in the authenticity of being. The grass shines greener, the air crackles with energy, there is buoyancy in the ground and benevolence comes shooting down the trees. The usual essentials become the peripherals; you don’t remember the food, the drinks or the snacks. What registers is the niceness of being!

There is the fondness of seniors who have seen you at your most vulnerable. There is the pride of grandparents at their prospering clans. There are the non-judgemental ears of childhood buddies who are content just listening. And there is that generous, all embracing, accepting fold of a familiar community that does not doubt, does not ask, does not compare.

A richly layered event, abundant in potential and possibilities can then qualify to be defined only by one term; the Pachmarhi Reunion, 6th Nov 2011.  Here is to the Satpura Queen of the 1970s and the 1980s. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Give no take

We are not givers, us Indians. There is a deep seated, beeping voice in our heads that goes, “Don’t part with this pair of shoes, never know when you might need them.” And again, “They may be worn out and faded, but you might want to make a VIP missile out of them someday, what is stopping you?!”  And so we sit on piles of clothes, heaps of books, stacks of paper, row upon row of empty containers….all in anticipation of the impending Armageddon.

It is the great Indian paradox. We do give but we cannot bring ourselves to give away. Oh we are quite happy offering our tiffin to strangers, dishing out small change to beggars, even feeding bananas to monkeys, not leaving out the dough for the cows and our sundry grain for the birds but demand anything larger in scope, and we dry up. We are attached to our things. Even when we do take a deep breath and allow ourselves to be pummelled by the unfamiliar sentiment of charity, we keep an eye on our gifts, wondering if they will reach the “right place” and will be put to “good use”.

Now let’s see who we can blame. Is it our culture that is so smitten with the whole idea of recycling? A good homemaker in India reuses and saves. Nothing is thrown; everything has a destiny including the commercial disposable yoghurt containers. The pistachio shells are stored away for creative use in craft creations. The tiny water bottles dished out in aircrafts are tucked away for later reuse as handy, handbag aqua holders. Used milk packets are rinsed thoroughly, folded and stacked to make water proof lining. Flattened toothpaste tubes are cut open with scissors and the dregs used to clean silver ware. Expired aspirins are plopped into vases full of freshly cut flowers.  Lemon peels are kept by for subsequent rubbing over heels and elbows. Everything we own has some specific application that defines and justifies its storage.

You have got to see us in the bazaar. It is only of late that the Indian salesmen have taken to speaking a foreign language. The overriding concern of the buyer, over and above the product features and colour and price used to be, “How long will it last?” We believe in long term investment, hang the national growth rate. It is common for a batch of utensils to last four generations and more sometimes. Utility effects get handed down. Gadgets are repaired and pushed into service again and again. When new buys come in, the old are packed away in lofts. So we continue to live in swamped homes, hoarding, storing, saving, piling. The lifestyle is not without benefits. There is certain sustainability as also, a cleaner associated environment, considering the lesser electronic and automotive garbage.

But on the flip side, we remain a mingy culture with no free flowing donation and not for want of trying, mind you. We do set it all out for giving away but the trouble is, just as soon as it is put aside, it begins to look attractive and back it gets snatched in.  Our genetic thrift and racial insecurity both keep us in check, leaving us bereft of classic altruism.  

Charity ought to begin at home but strangely enough, there is somewhere in my head, a guilt that I am being wasteful and extravagant while giving away on a scale. It is quite the paradox for a society so imbued with religious strains of magnanimity and generosity and renunciation.