As a teenager I was intrigued by some of the methods that my mom used to practice. Like making most of the food items like pickles, chips, papad, chakli, etc. at home, trying to reuse old stuff as much as possible, saving things so that they can be used in future, and many more such practices.
I always thought that she is increasing her work and getting into unnecessary complications. It was difficult for me to see the purpose of going through so much pain. I was oblivious of the few basic principles of life like reuse, recycle and reduce. For me buying from outside was fastest way of making ones life simple. My mother did try and explain me several times but I was on another planet, highly influenced by the advertisement world. Infact I loved the commercial breaks. I would wait for them and would discuss it with people on the creativity and concept of different commercials. The influence of media was to the extent that I would pick restaurants based on the products they display in magazines and menu cards. I took them to be true.
I lived with my beliefs for years till I landed in Mumbai as a resident (I did stay in Mumbai as a student before but it was very different). Things started changing around me quickly. I married a photographer and he uncovered the true story of how the advertising world works. I have nothing against them. I still love commercials. But I started questioning so many things I thought to be true or took it for granted. Its just that how my perception was based on something which was so far away from truth. I started meeting people who work not on paper but in fields. I unravelled the true picture of India. Things were so different from what the big picture looks like. During this same time, I met somebody who taught us a Geographical Information System,GIS, software.
They told us that the map that we all see and use today was first designed by Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569 A.D. Mercator successfully represented the world on flat surface, "a paper”, considering the challenge of accommodating the curvaceous surface of the earth. Even this map had its flaws but its was very close to accurate. But thats not all to the story. Whats remarkable is how he managed altering the true picture of the earth. The actual size of Africa is not as small as it shows in the map, its much much bigger while Europe is much smaller. But the distortion had to happen due to the flat representation and it has been used for the advantage of some. Europe is also not the centre of the world. But the map puts Europe at the centre of the map. This disclosure changed everything from that very moment. What we believe is a fact is also someone’s perception.
It hit me like a wild fire. It had never occured to me. But lots of things started making sense now. I started understanding why reduce, reuse and recycle is so important in our life and why it is being practiced for so long. My mom’s methods became more sensible now and sustainable too. I became a voracious reader while working with an NGO. I started connecting dots. How each decision of mine is affecting someone else and how each one of us is connected.
Lets take an example of what I mean above. Being in IT I had a good salary which I spent religiously on luxury products and buying more and more clothes and shoes for myself. I never realised what I am doing to the mother earth and myself. I started cluttering my cupboards. Alcohol was quite common visitor those days so I was more high on life but down on focus. I never cared what I am buying and how its affecting the backward and forward chain. I never cared who is making my clothes and what I am stuffing myself with. Bread, cheese, fried food never tasted better. I felt I was living a dream. But things changed. My health was affected. The clutters in my cupboards and my thoughts started bothering me. The dream though beautiful felt like a small demon growing stronger everyday. I read about what happens in clothes manufacturing factories in Bangladesh and felt the chill. I never wanted to support anything like that but there I was wearing clothes which had deep marks of my fear all over it. When I read about how dairy farms operate, it was a wakeup call. I changed.
I tried reducing clutter from my wardrobe and life, I started opting for simple food from trees and crops rather than processed food. I avoided dairy and animal products as much as possible. I started wearing handwoven garments so that I know the person making it is not exploited. I tried reusing and reducing polythene bags (usage) as much as possible.
Today I want to work on water conservation and agro forestry in rural india to promote reverse migration. I believe we had much simpler and better life then than today. I see some innocence and truth still left in the rural life and I wish to strengthen it. I want to work towards the self sustainability of rural communities to promote reverse migration. This is very ambitious but I had to start somewhere.