Death of Repairs (and recycling)

The other day, my younger son discovered after his canvas shoes were washed that he could not insert the shoe-laces into the shoe eyelets. The metal tips of the lace (called: “aglet”, now you have learnt a new word!) had been washed away and the tips were too frayed to be inserted. There was some discussion in the house whether to buy a new pair of shoe laces or to buy a new pair of shoes.

A new pair of shoes just because shoe laces were proving difficult! I was aghast!

Sanity prevailed finally, and after much debate we settled for new laces.

And this little episode brought home the point how we so casually get into a replacement mode when some common sense would do the trick and salvage the situation.

I have worn laced shoes (both leather and white canvas PT shoes) all my school life and the solution during my days would deal with multiple options: using a thick needle to coax the lace into the eyelet, or applying some water or oil and twirling the frayed lace-end into shape-enough to be inserted or even tightly tying the ends with small rounds of thread to give it some shape and firmness so that they would get threaded through the eyelets. Something did work, eventually!

Not these days, alas! No! The thinking nowadays is, if it is broke, don’t fix; replace!

But I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. Father, the sole bread earner, had to manage the needs and wants of a family of eight with the meager salary of a college lecturer. So things had to be repaired and recycled, there was no choice here.

Take for example items of clothing.

When a shirt collar was frayed, it was removed, turned around and stitched back again so that the frayed bit would be hidden while the visible part would be perfect.

Or when the buttons gave way, one would stitch on buttons, never mind if you could not find buttons of identical colour; there was nothing that a black button (or a white, or a blue!) would not go with!

Or when the trouser pocket lining gave way due to keys kept inside the pocket, it was the lining which was replaced, not the trouser.

Or when the kids were growing taller at a rate greater than what the family finances could afford. The simple solution to the shortening trouser length was to release more and more of the fabric from the fold at the bottom of the trouser! Or from the waist-line if the hips were expanding fast as well!

And finally, if all these efforts to manage the length and width failed, there was always the child next in line to utilize the trouser!

And now coming back to the footwear example.

If the shoe soles had come off, there was always this option of going to the cobblers who sat with their awls at every street corner and get the soles replaced. You even had a choice of a half-sole replacement or a full-sole replacement. (Half-sole was much cheaper).

If the hawai chappal straps snapped-off from the middle, you could have them stitched as well. Or in the worst case, have the straps replaced at the chappal-seller’s shop who would do the trick with a nifty turn of an aluminium tool and some waxy substance which he would coat around the strap end and the slot in the chappal.

Second-hand books were always bound at home with a thick needle and thread, never discarded. Dented metal utensils were tended to with care by the friendly neighbourhood “thathera”. I could go on-and-on.

Why limit ourselves to repairs, what about recycling stuff?

Old newspaper was used for a variety of applications: lining material for  shelves, covering for books, making small envelopes for sundry stuff; the applications were endless! And once in a while a contribution to the school campaign to collect funds for some drought relief or flood relief.

Or, used cotton clothes as dusting/ wiping material, father’s used shaving blades as pencil sharpeners and nail cutters, left-over rice as glue. Not to mention food recycled in a myriad ways. Each family had its own recipe for this purpose.

Nature’s gifts were always recycled to extract their utility to the fullest!

No wonder then that people of my generation had not heard of global warming or other such similar exotic stuff!


9 Responses to Death of Repairs (and recycling)

  1. pahomatribe says:

    I mourn with you. Just this weekend we went to buy ink cartridges for our computer printer and discovered that a brand new 4-in-1 printer/copier/scanner/fax machine including ink cartridges cost $30 and the cartridges for the just-print printer we already owned cost twice as much! The day has finally come when maintenance costs more than replacement. Hopefully concerns for the environment will prevail over penny-wise ones until the marketplace grows a conscience.

  2. Dr.Seema says:

    What to say? Hit the nail as usual….Kids these days..broken,torn,so replace it! So easy for them to say it….Guess we really need to try harder and explain to them…or maybe it is just THE GENERATION GAP..:-)as they tell me at times….

  3. Amit Kumar Das says:

    For present generation, especially in present context, kids are not attaching desired value to money and we are only responsible for that..the other day my daughter, with regards to something said..Dad..its only 100Rs..this shows how much they value money..but if we look at present, probably that’s the way kids are brought up now-a-days..we have also prospered and affordability has no longer remained an issue..Major change..youngest in the house decides what toothpaste and soap etc to buy..It used to be the eldest in house earlier..Radio was always kept on the top of Almirah ( to keep it away from kids) a days elders learn from kids how to operate a TV and remote..change..

  4. santoshojha says:

    Mary (pahomatribe) I agree on the marketplace conscience bit. Indeed, consumerism is taking its toll all round.

    Seema: Yes! G gap is all pervasive! I have given up on the explanations, the G gap is here to stay!

    Amit: What a change it has been over the last few decades! I too learn to operate electronic gadgets from my children!!

  5. ashish srivastava says:

    I would complement the generation before us to enable us to attach value to our smallest possession so much so that today we regret having failed to pass on the same legacy to our children.

  6. subodh says:

    hello everyone,
    Well sorry Dr. Seema jee, but wat i feel is that there is no generation gap, because everyone is doing the same and people of the previous generation hold responsible for bringing out the current changes. And at present when fashion changes everyday, children feel that using old things may keep them behind others. Of course this is not good but is also a sign of development.

  7. pk jha says:

    Once again I adore Santosh for bringing out issues which touch many born before 70’s. I feel the change has come due to different reasons : affordability is no. 1, even today if u visit many interior villages, u may find such recycling and repairs taking place. The earlier lower middle class has come to middle or higher middle class and feels the values of earlier days being given a bye bye, which we find a bit difficult to digest.
    Then comes the consumerism : earlier days people used to have the attitude of saving and so minimising the cost of living but due the information explosion and ads through media one feels to be part of higer society and wants to copy the style of their living.
    Next comes the family size : now u have 1/2 kids normally and u don’t have kid to reuse the old stuff. Earlier u had kids more than half a dozen (joint/single family) with 1/2 earning member(s) leaving no option but to go for repairs/reuse. More over the grand parents used to be guiding and value building members (without the TV serials and ads) who has seen great value of money.
    Earlier text books used to be same for years together and u felt easier using old books with underlines and imp (VV Imp tips), now every year the syllabus/book changes.

    … so on ..

  8. Ganesan says:

    As I have told you earlier also your articles simply bring back the memories in us which we assumed forgotten.

    Even for pre university going to college first time I have worn my dad’s altered pants and his used Quovadis.My brothers would not take these upfront so I became my mom’s favourite.

    Even today my mom gives my dad’s T Shirts , which I wear dutifully give her the satisfaction.

  9. Absolutely spot on article. The comments were interesting too. As to children demanding more or an apparent generation gap, children are raised by the previous generation. If we attribute credit for our ability ro reuse and recycle to the earlier generation, should we not be accepting the blame for the attitude of the next generation? It’s up to us to inculcate values in them, after all they are not born to social rules, attitudes or morals. We need to lead by example, surely?

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