Monday, September 12, 2005

In the Land of Abundance

Someone once asked me what the biggest difference was between living in India and living in the US. I did not know what to say to him because there seemed to be too many and I had no idea which one was the most significant. But what never fails to amaze me is the overabundance and overindulgence that I see in the US. You know what I mean, right? You walk into a fast food joint and there's this guy who orders a supersize burger, an extra large fries and a large drink, then takes one bite out of the burger, gulps down a few fries and washes it all with a few sips of the drink and then chucks the rest of the meal into the trash. And the strange thing is nobody finds that strange! Well, I do. I come from a country where there are people who go without food because they cannot afford one square meal a day. And no matter what kind of upbringing we had, we were always taught that "waste not, want not" and it bothers me to see the way things are wasted around me in the US.

I work in a place where abundance is the name of the game. We order things we need, we order thiings we may need and we order things we will never need. I have my own boxes of extra small latex-free powder-free gloves special ordered and I go through approximately fifteen pairs of gloves a day. I change gloves everytime I do something different. And yes, everytime I chuck a pair down in the trash I wince. Because there was a time when I was in Calcutta doing my internship in a Government hospital, where having a pair of gloves was considered a luxury. We went through Surgery rotations learning that we had to do dressings on patients with our bare hands. Gloves were available only in the O.T. and many a less informed green horn student who had asked for gloves in the ward would have his or her head chopped off by the nurse on duty for having posed such an inappropriate request. Nobody cared if you had blood or pus on your hands while you dressed a wound. Nobody cared if the patient got an infection from your hands while you were suppposed to be dressing his wound. Nobody cared. Gloves were recycled, washed and autoclaved, used over and over again. We even thought of buying our own gloves to use in the wards but that was looked down upon as snobbery and showing off. Well coming from those conditions you will excuse my feelings when it comes to the way we use gloves over here in the US.

And that is only the begining. I used to think we had a pretty big house in Calcutta. We had a joint family and everyone had their own rooms. But now I live in a house where we can house my entire clan and still be left with rooms to spare. When I was a kid I remember about 10 people squeezing into my grandfather's old Hindustan 14 to get anywhere, and now we have two cars for two people here and most of the time we don't need it. We have more things than we will ever require and we still go shopping for more. Isn't it kind of crazy how we have fallen into this American lifestyle of more and bigger and more still?

I guess we need to say, this is it. This is where I stop and begin downsizing things. We ask ourselves before we "want" for more whether we need it or whether it will go to "waste". One day at a time. One person at a time. Spend a little less, share a little more. Live a little better.

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Blogger Ratna said...

So true M. I recently told the Mr. we should move into an empty house with bare essentials and not buy anything. I am getting sick of having too much and feel like I am in deeep trap.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Kumari said...

Couldn't have said any better. And worse is when i am forced to spend a fortune for some very simple stuff; stuff you could have got for a dime back home...I get scared that i will fall into the American mould of 'not seeing beyond my nose' :(

9:18 AM  
Blogger satchisgod said...

"And worse is when i am forced to spend a fortune for some very simple stuff; stuff you could have got for a dime back home"...ah shopping!

Also m, in my view, the most stark difference is the law-enforcement scheme. That's not to say that people don't jump red-lights or don't commit crimes, but still...rather, it's a Catch 22 situation - sometimes I think it's enforced too much too.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Arijit Mukherjee said...

I envy time u see someone throwing excess food into trash, ask him/her to think of poor Grad students
for whom having 2 meals a day means nothing less than luxury.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Point 5 said...

6% of population (US) consumes 20% of the world's energy & resources.....

In LA, public transportation is non-existent...there r more cars than people...only the death of "road-built" economy will save the world from extinction of its natural resources.....

12:40 AM  
Blogger Rohan Kumar said...

Nice post.....reminds me of "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed" by Gandhi.

1:05 AM  
Blogger TB said...

loved this post, random-thoughts-M. and so true... but it annoys me to see ppl in delhi going the same way. too many cars. too much traffic and fuel wastage. wish they'd make some laws against it

4:43 AM  
Blogger That Girl said...

sigh.. i hear you...too much freedom...thats what gets you stuff like that...

ive seen tons of food being wasted too...its sad..

what i cant stand is when i see kids wanting something nd the parents give it to them.. then after a bite the kid doesnt want it....the parents TELL them to dump it...WHA?

id SO whack mine if they acted bratty.

youre lucky you got to see both sides... me too.. so we get to make a little bit of change,..a teeny weeny circle of change,.

12:48 PM  
Blogger m. said...

tsk tsk... dont you know tis not at all fashionable to be so non-consumerist and sensible? :)) nice post - makes solid sense!

9:11 AM  
Blogger Sonrisa said...

Amen sister!
I really liked how you expressed your thoughts in this piece. I complete relate. My friends still fight with me to go to the mall for no particular reason or need - it's really sad also to realize how many people are unaware of the existence of a world outside the US where you do get to appreciate any little thing.

1:05 PM  

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