This morning, just as I walked out of my building, a strap on my shoe broke."Damn!" I thought, thinking I'd have to run back up and change into another pair. But then I realised, just 50 metres away, sits a mochi.
Two minutes later, the shoe was as good as new. A shoe that in a more advanced country would have to be chucked into the garbage bin because there would be no one to repair it. And all it cost me was 5 bucks.
What's more, this particular mochi seems to be a pretty satisfied soul. He takes a lot of pride in his work. And workmanship. He doesn't see handling and repairing a shoe as something 'beneath his dignity'.
But, as time goes by, mochis are becoming a rarer species. I doubt their children wish to take up the profession. So, like folks in London and New York, we too will someday have to treat as rubbish what we can repair and recycle.
In Tokyo, I remember seeing perfectly decent bicycles left outside subway stations - abandoned by owners who no longer want them but don't wish to pay to take them away!
Old no more gold
There was a time when our mothers exchanged their old saris for steel bartans. Those days are gone. But we still have raddiwalas who take our old newspapers for recycling. And we still have domestic help who gratefully use old furniture and hardly-used baby clothes.
I guess in the US there is the Salvation Army where you can donate these things. And Oxfam stores in the UK. India too will soon need an organised mechanism where the haves can channel their hand me downs.
Because none of us NEEDS another Tshirt or bedspread or pair of shoes but we still keep buying them. Simply because we can. Simply because we went to the mall. Or simply because it happened to be on sale.
We throw away stuff not because it's outlived its usefulness or functionality but its novelty. Which is a new and heady feeling in this country.
A great idea
Here is one organisation which is doing pioneering work in this direction.
Goonj asks people 'to give us all such material at their home or in office, which they hardly use'.
I know what you're thinking - the mountain of old clothes which were dumped in tsunami-hit regions a few months ago. Which were of practically no use to recipients.
The nice thing with Goonj is that they take the trouble to do rigorous sorting and in a very systemic manner reach them to needy people in the remotest parts of the country for whom these are very valuable.
No one wants scraps thrown at them. Goonj take the trouble to see that the items its ends are usable and clean. If it gives someone a sari, a blouse and petticoat is generally given to go with it.
And if clothes are very old/ torn or unsuitable (who will wear spaghetti tops in villages?!) they are still used as 'chindi' - for making bedsheets/ pattis.
If u have stuff to give away, here's a list of collection centres.
I think it's a great initiative and one which a society with as much inequality as our really needs to encourage.
The fact is we Indians do hate to *throw* things away. Which is why we have so many 'give your old TV and buy a new one' offers. Big Bazaar is even buying bhangaar of all kinds by the kg to attract customers! So if your feng shui expert advises you to declutter your home, you know where to head ...