Chapter 01: Recycling Nostalgia

If you came to my home and opened my kitchen shelf you will surely find some reused jam or plastic jars. Even though the “trying-to-be-an-elite-Indian” in me may find it awkward to admit this fact. The Middle- class Indian in me is just happy to admit it. Now I bet, this is the case with many households, India or abroad. Some may admit it, some may not. So, I used to ignore this as one of my middle-class Indian obsessions. But gradually, me being me, I wanted to get to the roots of this. To understand why I felt guilt or pain every time I threw away a jam bottle! Why did my brain circuitry think of reusing them before throwing? It was not for sure my environmentalist or minimalist fad that was lurking.

It was something deeper. It was home. It was my childhood glimpses and nostalgia.

My grandmother was like most of the grandmothers of millennial generation kids. She lived at times where they were exposed to the more natural ways of livelihood. Earthen pots, cast iron vessels etc. etc. for cooking and storage. So, the color tones in their kitchen were a dull mix of earthy shades. Which in fact is still the case of most rural Indian kitchen shelves. But gradually when the “Plastic economy” took over, things changed. They were exposed to a new world of colorful objects that could be reused for a myriad of purposes. Anything plastic defined luxury and new world evolution in the kitchen. So eventually everything plastic was reused by my grandmother for some or the other purpose. She did not know where to stop. Somewhat like how social media has taken over a generation. But that is for another article maybe.

Years after my grandmother passed away, one of my uncles joked that, my grandmother’s possession for the next generations included not only the land & properties but also a load of plastic bottles. My mother herself admitted it that, cleaning up her old drawers at our family home, she had to throw away few cleaned and preserved Pepsi cans, jam jars, soda bottles and one of my granduncles whisky bottle. Me as a young boy, who was more emotionally connected to his grandmother, never heard them as a joke. Those things connected to my heart as my grandmother’s innocence.

A lot of years and kilometers apart her grandson today inherited it in some form. Even though for my uncle it was a joke, that behavior was carried on as a family inheritance. It turned out to be more of a lifestyle for me. Before throwing away anything I started thinking of possibilities of reusing them. But that does not mean that my house is loaded with plastic waste. Hell No! As I mentioned in the start, I try to follow a minimalist life. I throw away things that I have not used for more than 6 months. Be it a plastic bottle or my computer monitor (even though it was working perfectly fine).

But sometimes I still reuse few of those jars, because it connects me in some ways to my grandmothers warmth. Of seeing her delicately peeling off the stickers from jars and cleaning them with all love. So that she could use them to store her spice mix. It takes me back to my childhood. In a little way for a tiny moment in this vast, busy life.

In my last holiday I observed that even my mother inherited this habit from my grandmother in a small way. Even though she was strictly against my grandmothers “recycling Jars” obsession, those days. And more interestingly, the same uncle who joked about my grandmother’s obsession inherited the same behavior. In a small way what we do, unknowingly will get into the daily choices of the generations below.

Similarly, some little practices and objects will do connect us to our real self. It helped me during my homesick days in a foreign land. It can be a big stress relief. But more on that in the next Chapter.

Till then. Stay healthy. Stay Happy.
Arun

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