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!