Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Wealth of Waste

This struck me in the shower this morning. I looked at the remnants of the once glorious cake of Dove, now sitting shrunk, out of shape, devoid of fragrance and everything else in the soap case. Quickly unwrapped a fresh new one and was about to bin this. When a flash of memory hit me.

In the days when the "commode"  was definitely a luxury but water was still used for the task of washing hands after the "task", my mother would keep the leftover soap cakes as "soap for washing hands". She, like most women of her times, wouldn't dream of throwing a half used soap. Or anything else for that matter.

Like the Dalda ghee which caked and recaked and caked again in the cooking pot.Till the black dregs clouded over the white and it couldn't be used anymore.
Or the newspapers which were used for lining shelves in kitchens, cupboards, spreading on the bed when we had an occasional snack on the bed and even used to wipe hands in picnics.
Or  the school skirts which we outgrew faster than the new leaves of spring, which would be carefully unhemmed to make them longer. We would go about class with a darker blue or grey ( winetr uniform) hem than the rest of the washed skirt without an ounce of embarassment. Everyone wore skirts like that.

Not to mention the sweaters which would be unwound and reknitted. Small kids would proudly wear multi coloured woollen caps and cardigans made of remnants of sweaters.

Leftover recipes were published proudly by housewives in the Femina and Illustrated Weekly. The proud housewife would even send her grim passport picture accompanying the recipe. And would get a Sumeet mixie as first prize.

Sarees were bartered for stainless steel utensils, old bottles sold to the kabariwallah.

Weddings meant old jewellery being recycled, redesigned by the family jeweller.

Was it the smart homemaking? Was it forced thrift?

When the word "recycling" meant nothing to nobody, most families lived by this philosophy.
Nothing went waste. Everything was innovatively used and reused till it could be used no more and was juiced out. ( in fact I remember a delicious vegetable made of vegetable skins)

There was a wealth in waste out there. Am sure there still is.

Just that, we don't seem to need it anymore.