Friday, April 14, 2006

Are scruffy people more eco-friendly?

During the sixties and seventies the scruffy look was the in-thing in the west. Prosperous young Indians also mimiced what they saw in movies and magazines. But these were limited to the westernized segment of society. Those who were affluent and could afford to cock a snook at convenional beliefs. Those studying in St. Stephens Delhi or St. Xavier's Mumbai. Those who knew what Woodstock was all about. Thanks to satellite television and the internet torn and faded jeans aren't the prerogative of kids from the affluent parts of society. Almost everyone wears them. But one can make out the torn and faded jeans which the rich wear from those which the middle class or the lower classes wear. The label says it all. Levis, Lees and Wranglers for the brat pack and desi brands for the Buntys and Bablis.

As the French saying goes, 'The more the world changes the more it remains the same'. Today we have milions of educated people who know what is harmful for the environment and what is not and who still end up committing acts of ecological sacrilege. Flying down to London for some shopping, using cars driven by fossil fuels for trivial tasks, maintaining lifestyles which depelte the earth of its scarce resources. I think it was John Lennon who had once said, "Never trust anyone who is above thirty, married and wears a suit." But nowadays even the eco-warriors wear suits shave daily, and use deos. In the cold countries of the west till a few decades ago most people would bathe once a week and would wear the same set of clothes for days on end. Even in India if I think of places like Kerala where people bathed twice a day and changed their clothes twice a day the lifestyle was still simple. One may have changed one's clothes twice daily, but it wasn't at all necessary that one ironed them unless one ws going for a formal occasion. If we were to take an Indian who wears an unironed tee shirt at home, we are looking at a person who is not consuming a few score units of electricity per year by this simple act. Multiply that by, say, four hundred million middle class Indians and the saving is awesome. A small act multiplied millions of times becomes a great act. Makes sense doesn't it?

Today television commercials motivate us to wear shirts which are whiter than white. The amount of detergents which must be consumed to attain this must be taking its toll on the environment. I guess nature would applaud if we avoided wearing white shirts. I remember seeing a British eco-warrior being interviewed on BBC television. He said that he has never got a suit stitched. According to him most of his friends have, on an average, something like 50 suits. Each suit costs an average of 500 pound sterlings. That comes to 25,000 pounds sterling. According to him this is a huge amount and if invested properly in a third world country it can make a serious difference in the quality of peoples' lives. What he said does make sense 25,000 pounds would come to around 1.75 million Indian rupees! And that is indeed a lot of money. And if used propery it can bring about a positive change in people's lives. This reminds me of a photograph I saw in the book titled The Best of Life, a rather scruffy looking Bob Dylan is quoted as asking, "Do you mean to say that all these people have come here to see me look clean?"

In a country like India the scruffy look may make others mistakenly think that one is not sufficiently well off. And that is the biggest insult for an Indian. But all over the world the affluent can convey the fact they are what they are even if they are not dressing as per expectations. In India we hae also seen the phenomenon of followers of different faiths and religions who live simply and do not leave much of a carbon footprint. Sackcloth and ashes is something we are used to seeing. But for many these acts of simplicity become rituals and they practice it without undersanding the significance. At the end of it all I would say that there aren't any answers which will satisfy everyone but one can take measures which contribute a drop here and a drop there.One can attain an inner composure which gives one the strength to cock a snook at conventions if one knows that by doing so one is making the earth greener and healthier. Occasionally wear that old shirt you always wanted to and avoid using the car every now and then and when you do these simple things take pride in the good you are doing. One must count the good that one is doing without getting a swollen head and without becoming arrogant.
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The article from BBC News which inspired this blog entry: Scruffy is the new green.
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