"Recycling" the Indian way….

Thanks to the friend who recently pointed out how we think “Recycling” is an alien, Western concept to India, wherein it’s been a part of our “gene psyche” for centuries already. Of course, solar panels, rainwater harvesting etc. are all newer conservation ventures in India, due to dwindling resources throughout the world, more so in populous country like ours. But, what about re-using and recycling within homes? It’s definitely not trendy. Been here, people are doing it already.

Ok, i’ll go with food first. I’m extremely nitpicky about wasting food, which traces back to my middle-income upbringing. My parents’ used to literally lament about the food left-overs “going down the drain” through the garbage disposers whenever they come to America. Never struck odd to me there, but now that i’m living in India and having to see poverty directly, every single day….it pains me too to think about gallons of food that we’ve blissfully thrown, without any regret over the past years. All part of the things you learn, only when you compare the two hemispheres. So, does food ever gets wasted here? Amazingly, not.

The “food revolution” has definitely benefitted the country to the extent that food is no longer a scarce commodity anymore. But there’s still so many mouths to feed, atleast someone who hasn’t eaten for the day that you can share yours. There’s also the culture of cooking and serving food for the homeless in temples or homes, which is traditionally carried out all corners of the country. Even birds and animals are given a share of food every day, which is amazing. And, let me clarify something too. This takes place across economic sections of the society as a part of daily routine, with both the haves and the have-nots. Call it a crude example of “trickle-down” economics at best.

Next is Water. The most essential resource on Planet Earth is still used in homes with care and intent not to waste. It’s a different matter that there’s bitter battles among governments over water or the rainwater not being stored properly, but i’m not going there. Are the people effectively conserving water? Yes, very much so. Electricity too is not taken for granted because there’s a shortage of it all the time. If I, the “never-so-responsible-citizen” am consciously switching off lights and fans when not used, you can imagine how the rest of the population lives. Rest my case.

Moving on to reusing. Plastics, which are a relatively newer addition to the society, but it’s reused many, many times. I’ve seen plastic bags being substituted for garbage bins, food packing, short-trip suitcases, etc. I’ve even seen plastic bags used as a “raincoats”, and amused at how ingenious we can be! Used clothes, furniture, toys, accessories – everything is reused immediately.

Cloth bags, the simple yet powerful, non-polluting storage containers are still used extensively and not as a new-age, fashion statement. But, gotta confess – those cute, jute bags are my latest craze and I grab them in many sizes, shapes. Note – didn’t say colors, because no offense to the relatives of the Corchorus family, but why are they all the same, drab, muddy brown?

Going back to the origin of the topic, we only need to look no further than our parents for inspiration on recycling and reusing. They’re definitely the masters in the “Art of Rationing” and we’ve to learn a lot from them.- starting now.


On health and hygiene…

Do you obsessively wash your childrens’ hands till the poor skin loses one-inch of epidermis? Are you absolutely convinced that the sole mission in a bacteria’s life, is to hunt and infect you and your family? Do cleaning and sanitation products take complete priority in your shopping list? Paranoid about dirt-attacks? Have to have those squeaky-clean floors? Ok, i’ll stop now because by now, we all know whoever you are. Here goes a new theory that i came across and thought i’ll share. Just for you.

Dr. Erika Von Mutius, a health researcher has come up with a new theory to explain why the number of asthma and allergies in children are increasing in the much cleaner West. She dubbed it as “The Hygiene Hypothesis,” which states that children who are around numerous other children or animals early in life are exposed to more microbes, and their immune systems develop more tolerance for the irritants that cause asthma. Also, the human immune system has evolved two types of biological defenses. When one defensive system lacks practice fighting bacteria and viruses, perhaps from an overly sanitary lifestyle, the other system becomes too powerful and overreacts as an allergic reaction to harmless substances like pollen. For more info, you can peek into – http://www.hygienehypothesis.com/

So, what we should we do? I can already hear kids woo-hoing out there, but meanwhile, should we parents let go a little? Not maybe mind the dust around? Allow microbes to co-exist in peace?