November 6, 2011

Less is more

'And she took her ragged clothes and with thread she herself spun on a bamboo spindle from a wad of cotton she mended and contrived to cover the rents in their winter clothes. Their bedding she took into the sun on the threshold and ripped the coverings from the quilts and washed them and hung them upon a bamboo to dry, and the cotton in the quilts that had grown hard and grey from years she picked over, killing the vermin that had flourished in the hidden folds, and sunning it all.'                          Good Earth, Pearl S Buck.

When I read this book the first time, I was too small to comprehend the depth of these sentences. I was more interested to know the turn of events in the life of Wang Lung and O - lan. Today as literature around me teems with facts and figures about the fragility of our Planet, I feel an instant connection to the above acts of frugality.

I am saddened to see many virtues disappearing today. There was a time and age when our folks never bought any new stuff home. And old stuff never found their way out just like that.

I saw my first Halloween in the US just days ago. What a display of extravagance and wastefulness? Instances like these are not outliers anymore. We don't realize how we ourselves plant the seeds of a dangerous morrow in our own progeny.

When I stayed with my in-laws soon after the birth of my first child, I remember my mother-in-law telling me about the two decade old mattress and how I ought to be taking care of it. Cloth diapers were much in 'vogue' then and she sensed that I was capable of spoiling her old mattress. I inspected the mattress and to my surprise, it didn't have wrinkles, sagging or crow's feet! During the years that followed, I saw her making use of the summer sun and turning the cover-less mattress in the sun year after year. The mattress cover also underwent strict cleaning processes and was sun dried periodically.

My seven year old is overcome with awe and admiration for his grand dad, my father-in-law who continues to use his 30 year old Bajaj scooter for daily errands. In spite of our repeated offers to buy for him a new one, he simply refuses saying, 'Old is Gold'.

I salute them for the virtues that they continue to inspire. For them, its manifest not just in the mattress and in the scooter, but in every little thing that they would or wouldn't buy and use.

During the entire length of my school days, I may have used just a handful of pencils. Now, as I look around, I see them in hordes as numberless entities. I try to inculcate similar values at home, but how will my seven year old ever understand the value of these small things when he comes home with at least a dozen gifts after every birthday party?

An eraser in the shape of a cute little duck. My youngest aunt gifted it to me when I was in the UKG. I still remember that evening. As I stood by the side of the compound well, she returned from College and I dashed to her the way I always did. She opened her little purse and gave the erasers one to me and another one to my brother. That was the first and last time I ever used a designer eraser! I used it at least for a few years. And I treasured it inside a hole in the wall lest my elder brother should take it from me. Each time I needed to use the eraser, I had to slip out of the study table and use it deftly. The things that I possessed were so less in number, but my happiness in receiving a small Parrys hard boiled candy was boundless. Every time I got a five star gifted by a visiting relative, I smiled so much in gratitude that my eyes turned glassy.

Small things were enough to spread so much cheer then.

Today, in abundance, I see tears and unhappiness. In indulgence, I see momentary gratification followed by lingering irritation.

So, what are you thinking of buying this week? Cheer or gloom?


Savita said...

Lovely, Minu. :-) It brought back memories of my own childhood.

anna's musings said...

Thanks Savita. Read your post too and now I get the connection ;) We have been lucky to have had such great, rich childhoods!

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