Posted in Lateral Thinking

When & Where Minimalism Is Way Of Life

In the times of corona pandemic, maximize your spending habits and bills and consumerism for the sake of humanity. Just don’t go selfish and minimize !

Where and when Minimalism is way of life than cultivated, do we even have the need to talk about it.

Asian way of life. Stripped to the bare minimum for existence, mostly up until the turn of the century at least. Forced to change by globalization pressure.

Eating by hands. 99% of Indians have no business with spoons or forks or any other form of cutlery. Imagine my consternation at table etiquette they show you in the ‘Titanic!’

Who is to teach what is culture. Sitting cross-legged on the floor on the straw mat and eating out of banana leaf is my native culture. This is good for your knees. Except for eating with hands, only for writing do we scoop our fingers together for anything. This is a Mudra, a form of Yoga by itself. Up until at least 1993 this was my way of life even if we had had a dining table at home.

We don’t hoard chinas and crystals in our homes in India. Mostly we use stainless steelware now after having grown out of copperware. Copperware is picking up again. In south India especially, even the grandest wedding feasts are still served on BANANA leaves. Eating from banana leaves with your bare hands. Feeding the cattle with the used banana leaves. Drinking water from cups made from palm or lotus leaves. Well, this was our lifestyle just until a few decades earlier. Now even the leaf cups and plates are patented in the west I believe! I can still remember the weddings when kheer always used to be served in leaf cups only. At least banana leaves are still in use.

And then came the ceramic and teflon companies trying to sell their ware for us and we fell for their gimmicks. Most harmful to health, fellow Indians are now going back to traditional cookware such as stoneware, ironware, clayware etc. The minimalism we practised right in our kitchens stood us in good stead until there came foreign interference.

Brushing teeth with neem picks. Until now in India, rural Indians do not use plastic tooth brushes but use neem twigs and have healthy teeth for a lifetime. The MNCs of the west said it was unhealthy and denounced everything native and good for entirely selfish business purposes.

Returning to desi toothpastes packed with cloves and neem oil over the branded Colgate etc these days.

A brief time in Andhra even delighted me with the warm sight of cow being milked in front of my eyes early in the morning. Coffee in that frothing warm milk boiled for first time is heaven. Which Starbucks can offer you such a luxury. Coffee freshest from plantations of India, packed just a few days before. I guess contrary to what outsiders opine, we have a fairly better standard of living in India in true sense. If you discount the sedans and party circuits and aerated drinks and theme parks that is.

We being a certified third world country, still enjoy star comforts (as far as food and clothes are concerned) that we take for granted for which we have to pay through our nose in the west. Farm fresh veggies not much laden with chemicals and sprays – at least not the way they come in other parts of the world. What a stunning range of spices, veggies and greens and pulses and millets. Why should we even restrict ourselves to a singular repeated meal for life. Then what is the purpose of living at all. This is ridiculous and not at all healthy.

Until my 12th year at least, I used only besan (gramflour) instead of chemical soap for bath after soaking in coconut oil (coldpressed and unscented). The west forced the synthetic foaming cosmetics into India calling Indians barbarians. Anything that did not lather and was unscented was declared unhygienic. Going back to organic soaps of India now.

Our kitchens had only coconut oil, gingely oil and groundnut oil and mustard oil, never the sunflower or vegetable oils prescribed and marketed by the western companies. Cold pressed oils good for the heart. We learnt our lessons and are turning back to origins now.

Rice and wheat are staple for us in last 60 to 70 years only. Unpolished native grains and millets and pulses were our original diet. Embracing old ways yet again throwing out the Kelloggs cereals and Quaker oats. India has no place for this junk.

Sleeping on straw mat/mat hewn from coconut leaves on hardfloor did our spines a lot good before the polythene derivative filled foamed mattresses from west came into vogue. In India, even for mattresses we used either coconut coir or silk or cotton fillings for foams. Never the rubber or synthetics. Minimalism is truly this. Sleeping on floor on straw mats with your spine erect like we did in our younger years. All this was accounted cheap in others calculations. The day we changed ourselves for their approval is the day India started plunging into disaster.

Not the least is the Asian habit of using a water faucet in our toilets. From Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia to India, Pakistan and Arab countries, water was what that’s used which these westerners thought was crude and filthy and gloated about the toilet papers and tissues for which they fell and keep felling forests over centuries. I don’t think any Asian country fell for the toilet paper nonsense. You saw the toilet paper fights when corona broke out from places as far as Australia and America.

That brings us to the question of diapers. There weren’t baby diapers available in India until 2000 like the way they do today. We used only cloth handmade napkins or those cottony napkins washable and reusable for newborns. Now the diapers from western companies are flooding the Indian markets. The clean habit of rinsing soiled clothes and drying out the washed ones in the sun was touted as unhygienic and unhealthy, unsafe for babies. Chemical stuffed baby diapers made with synthetic was touted as healthiest choice even if that bruised the babies with nappy rashes. Imagine tons and tons of diapers, tissue papers produced in America and Europe and these guys who cannot give up this literal colossal waste of paper destroying Earth every minute talk big about minimalism.

Who uses dryers in India? Its Americans and Europeans who use dryers and washing machines maximum. These operate at very high degree as also the dishwashers. What about the electricity consumed for these chores that can be easily manually managed. Maximum global warming. How about minimalism here. No wonder these guys are so OBESE!

Asian climatic conditions require us to shower more than once a day. Still we don’t indulge ourselves in bathtubs like those in the west do. Washing clothes and donning fresh clothes every time is not a luxury but a necessity born out of sweaty humid conditions. Which in turn raises demand for cotton clothes which are organic produce, unlike the polythene based nylon or crepe or georgette fabrics which use synthetic yarns as used in the west. Even our textiles have mostly handblock prints, silk weaving is handloom or sometimes part mechanized with more manual participation. The dyes are invariably vegetable dyes such as indigo. And these guys who cannot even have a grasp of others’ ways of life lecture about minimalism on clothes in our wardrobes.

In this country of mine, in villages, men still go topless. The simple single piece dhoti is the preferred male garment. Mahatma Gandhi wore only his loin cloth when he went to meet Churchill. This was the way this nation of mine has been for millennia. Women’s saris are single 5.5 meters of unstitched piece of cloth only. We now add a blouse for decorum that’s all, keeping with times. Up until 1940s, women of India went blouseless only covering their torsos with their saris. Such was our simplest way of life.

Today in foreign media, the sari is ridiculed and distorted as a symbol of racial identity of Hindus. For what reason? Only because in spite of all the gimmicks tried by these guys, women of India refuse to give up sari for cheap skirts and trousers and miniskirts.

Dressing up is such a beautiful feeling in India because we have hundreds of native weaves of yarns from all over the country, with multitude of organic dyed handblocks which print the same ethnic motifs that our ancestors wore with pride over centuries. Tribal arts survive. These arts are kept alive with demand for clothes. Families of artisans feed on the income generated from weaving and dying and handblocking. Cotton farmers can have a decent debt-free life with cotton selling good with a healthy procurement price in the market. It is a cycle really. Unlike the labels you may find in Milan or New York or London or wherever. Clothes are lifelines for millions in India. These are not just clothes. You have to live and travel in this country and look at our textiles to realize what a treasure trove of natural organic fabrics India is. Silk or cotton. It is all natural yarn not manmade or fake or synthetic.

When you do not create demand, what happens to the society. Markets shrink. Production goes down. Labour gets cut. Unemployment ensues and this becomes a vicious cycle of misery.

I do think of going for vegan leather and vegan silks. But there is another theory going on. Leather and silk are still organic even if not ethically appealing to some of us. Vegan leather and vegan silk still use chemical additives which can inflict more harm on environment in the long run.

I think world will be a far better place to live in if we close the Cocacola, Pepsi and Pizza and Starbucks outlets around the world. Maximum damaging to young lives. Forcing themselves into unsuspecting Asian societies and wrecking damage to the health of younger population. Is this what globalization should be about. In that case, let India opt OUT of globalization. Take back this nonsense, we have far better option.

These guys who ridiculed curry must know that it is curry flavoured with natural vegetables and spices only that bestow us Indians with immunity to fight the corona. Maximizing on desi/native food habits and eliminating the western eating habits will go a long way in restoring health across the world.

Is minimalism only about tossing just a few chairs and tables in your living and hanging two suits in your closet. Then what do you with all that money of yours. What is even the need for money. Where is the logic to work and earn a decent living in that case.

You want to have a good life without contributing to any growth prospect around you: is this not hypocrisy. Even in the times of pandemic, the factory worker, the train driver, the advocate, the teacher, the artist, the housepainter and others have to live. Let us allow them to earn a decent living, not cutting back our demands for their goods and services.

Minimalism to me means living close to natural ways, maximizing opportunities that can result in job creation engaging population as responsible citizen and as a healthy shopper. What we can indeed cut is emission of smoke/pollution, wastages to begin with.

Normally against extravagant lavish weddings but on the other side, look at the employment this can generate. How many arts and crafts flourish. Masses still have to survive. Sometimes I buy things I don’t need because I feel that giving business to the roadside hawker can ignite hope in him/her and could go towards feeding a family.

Who I wouldn’t want to give business is to MNCs, MNCs and MNCs.

Small retailers and sellers and cottage industries are the backbone of Indian economy. What we can minimize upon is doling out licence to malls by booting out those like Disney, Ikea etc., out of our country.

Even in the case of transport, the poorest countries use mass or public transport to a large extent even if out of necessity. Can Americans follow suit. West leaves maximum carbon footprint on Mother Earth compared to rest of the world put together. How about some minimalism here. Can these guys contemplate hopping into a train for a change instead of driving out thousands of miles in their luxury sedans.

So many many of our traditional simple native medicinal practices and eating habits and healthy lifestyle have been ridiculed to the extent by the west that many in Asia thought they must switch over to western ways in order to become more ‘civilized.’

Well, some of us just don’t still!

A lot of rethinking is mercifully going on. A lot of things we are unlearning and a lot of things native and original and healthy we are trying to introduce back into our lives.

Of the things we want to be booted out of India, we have christianity topping the list followed by islam! World will truly have peace in that case. Say a big LOUD NO to the Abrahamic culture that is consumerist and capitalist without a thought to nature.

Still, admittedly it is not entirely possible to do away with anything and everything imported. After all even my family is now mixed. There is a lot of interdependency like never before that the possibility of sealing our borders tight about anything just is not feasible. Wherever therefore foreign participation is unavoidable, incorporation of the same is fine. Minimalize imports and maximize exports and local produce consumption.

What we can do for HONEST Minimalism is:

Reduce softcopies if we cannot cut totally.

Use mass/public transport maximum.

Saying NO to Coke/Pepsi/Burger/Pizza culture and opting for native cuisines

Saying NO to fastfoods

Saying No to synthetic fabrics/textiles and clothes there on. Opting for natural fiber.

Use more of handmade products than machine produced

Saying no to paper and plastic plates and switching over to organic options. In India, we have to go back to banana leaf plates totally. If not totally, at least as much as we can.

Cut tissue paper usage. Switch over to water faucets because water is replaceable with next spell of rains. Nature can balance and make good the water circulated, very easily in no time.

Reduce plastic usage

Reduce tools/add-ons/accessessories in everyday life such as spoons, forks, buttons, straws etc.

Saying NO to GM food (again this is impossible in America)

Say no to clothes dryers, electric chimneys.

Maximizing usage of handmade goods/products

Maximizing use of manual labour wherever possible

Minimizing usage of made-in-china factory-line mass production goods

Saying no to food processing/packed foods

Some of us who don’t talk about minimalism still live life minimalistic way that will never make sense to superficial minimalists.

Minimalism is not something we must be talking about during pandemic. At this point of time, we would like to have masses engaged in fruitful productive activity and contributing to national GDP for it is imperative to keep the wheels of our economy well oiled and rolling. There may come a time in a few years when we can think of shrinking our markets, but right now time is hardly perfect for such a frugal practice.

I would say, go out more, shop for things that you may not want just to create a demand. Set the production line rolling and cash registers jingling. This is not the time to preach and hold back. What a selfish philosophy this is.

We have all taken a lot from our nation, from our economy, from our fellow citizens who may be working in any capacity helping us improve the quality of our lives. It is really time to give back now so let’s not tighten our purse strings in the times of corona virus pandemic.

If you can help being a Maximalist, please be one! World and especially India may have use for you.

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