…Like my Usha Chitti*.
On a recent trip with my family to her home in Pune, my mother’s younger sister brought out the red carpet and how.
She did a fantastic job over-feeding us, traded oft-repeated family gossip and ladled customized hot beverages for patrons of the balcony. But where she shone was in her ability to keep my 8-year-old nephew thoroughly entertained for the course of the week we stayed in her cozy home.
As rain pelted down Pune throughout the time we were there, none of us felt any inclination to be anywhere other than home. Bliss for us ageing fossils. But an energetic third-grader might feel the need to locomote. Lucky for us, by nature, my nephew doesn’t find staying indoors boring.
And when he was joined by superheroes from another lifetime- He-Man, GI Joe and their respective sidekicks, boy, was he thrilled to bits! Usha Chitti brought down boxes of figurines her sons played with roughly 30 years ago. They were/are in mint condition, and I couldn’t find a missing arm or leg or head in any of the action figures. (Full credit to my cousins who don’t have a destructive bone in their bodies!) She had carefully preserved assorted motorcades, robots, and other interesting toys that one would have got free with a packet of Maggi back in the 80s.
It means we did not buy a single toy for the nephew (we are fairly stingy and anti-plastic anyway!). We reasoned with him that he could not take them back home, as we had to keep the superheroes alive for Chitti’s future grandchildren- who I bet are not going to get many new toys from their grandparents either!
For all my affection to de-clutter, I saw a lot of sense in my aunt’s habit of keeping old things boxed away in her loft. She has kept old toys in circulation for visiting children, and has ensured minimum new-things re-enters her home. As chief preserver of memories, Usha Chitti has unwittingly become an environmental crusader with her hoarding. No one need bring an extra toy or book for a decade at least.
This philosophy can lend itself to any shopping impulse that we may have. If we must, we can choose to pick up high-quality, long-lasting and sustainable products that are easier on the planet. Instead of low-grade soul-sucking plastic or it’s other non-biodegradeable cousins.
Use your mother’s utensils. Borrow your friend’s tools. Buy wooden toys for children.
We have a short shelf-life on Earth, but the things we accumulate will definitely outlive us. Might as well make them worth the planet’s time!
Other links if you are so inspired: