Why Minimalism

Of late I do not seem to have much to say at all.  So I am planning to integrate my other blog here and hopefully find motivation enough to keep the writing going on. Henceforth I plan to write about my thoughts on minimalism as well food right here on KannadaCuisine.com.

I am not the type to be associated with any 'ism's. They are too narrow for a free spirit like me. Why this 'ism' now? The other day I was stumbled into a program on one of the Indian new channels on home interiors. I just started watching the program out of sheer curiosity. Four interior designer or perhaps architects commented on how Minimalistic decors never work with Indian homes because Indian were collectors and hoarders. I found such comments amusing initially. Are we not born minimalists? We are from the land of Mahatma Gandhi. I cannot think of anyone who is more minimalist than Gandhi himself. But then it got me thinking. How can four or so professionals have a similar opinion? After it does not happen in my profession. The joke is put ten economists together, to end up with eleven opinions. So why did the interior designers have similar opinion? Perhaps some thing has changed since Gandhi? The more I see, the more I think how different India is today, for better and for worse

As a little girl growing up in a middle class family life was comfortable. Both my grandparents and their families were well positioned financially as well as socially. But they lived simple lives. They had few furniture, just enough beds for each of their family members. When ever there were guests, one of the family member would lend their bed to the guest and sleep on  a spare mattress elsewhere. For the large families both were, the families lived in houses with just two bedrooms. Then each family member had a few sets of clothing each, so much so that all the clothing items of such large families could probably be fit into two medium sized Closets. Every person in the family also owned only two pairs of footwear.  One the nice pair to wear to wedding etc and the other pair to wear to temples and on rainy day. I myself owned 2-3 pairs of footwear well into my college.
Perhaps the most crowded part of the house was the kitchen, rightfully so.  My grandmothers cooked a lot. They cooked from the scratch meals and also in huge quantities. They cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks for the whole family. They were judicious in their use of everything. They grated coconut till the last of the flesh was removed. They saved scraps, vegetable peel etc and fed it to cattle. They conserved water, electricity and all other resources. A bedspread with a hole in the middle was converted into bags, patchwork quilts or other thing useful for the family. Basically nothing went waste.

Today when I see my own life and the life style of my peer, it is startlingly different. Most of us don't mind throwing a perfectly nice apple into the dustbin just because it was sitting on the counter for a while. We routinely discard food which has been past the 'best before', though the food is still safe to eat. We own dozens of pairs of foot wears and we  have walk-in closets for a family of four because there is just not enough spaces to store our clothes. Our kitchens are filled with ingredients from all over the world but ironically we do not cook much at home. Our kitchens are also 'well equipped'. We will have a dozen knifes of different sizes even though all we need is perhaps a small knife and a big knife! There will be dozens of pots and pan of various sizes and various finishes, and there will be dozen appliances starting with one to grind coffee, brew it,  one to cook rice, one to cook eggs, one to pressure cook, one to slow cook etc.  Despite all the fancy appliances there are fewer meals coming out of the kitchen than the closest take out restaurant. Then comes the curios.  Every corner of the house is filled with curios,stuff. Because we have so much stuff, we need more space. Therefore we need bigger house. Having lived in a two bedroom house all my life, I cannot stop wondering when people end up with huge four bedroom, one den, one family room etc home. 'Duplex' is the fancy word with the Indian middle class, broadly indicating a multi level house with a living and kitchen in the first floor and multiple bedrooms on the second floor. People who can afford more end up with three-four storied houses all for a family of 3-4.

Big houses, tonnes of clothes, dozens of footwear, dozens of pieces of electronic equipments, over stocked pantries and kitchen, furniture , curios and in general things and things and more things in our lives than ever before. What is the point of having so many things? The Economist in me tells me that having more things in life should be better than not having more things. After all that is roughly how we measure our GDP. But is that all? Are we really happy? Is life any better if I own a house with five bedroom filled with hundreds of things?

A few decades back, simplicity was a way of life. Standard of life was much lower and fortunately China had not yet joined WTO. Gandhi was then not just a face on a currency note.  Simple living and high thinking was most ideal way of life. People living austere lives by choice were revered. The quest for happiness took one away from material possessions. Now it is the exact opposite, we are searching for happiness thru material possessions.  Does improving the standard of living means enabling people to accumulate more and more 'Made in China' clutter? Is this rampant consumerism making life better? It reminds me of Gandhi again. He did say something about western style consumerism to support 300 million Indian stripping Mother Earth of her resources and vitality. He is so right all over again.   

I have kept questioning myself for a few years now. My education, upbringing, people around me helped me evolve into the person I am today. I have owned dozens of footwear and closet full of clothes. Been there, done that. But that was the distant me, the person who lost herself in the chaotic affluence that followed the liberalization of the early 1990s. But of late, everything is falling into place. My perspective is different. I am longing to go back to  a way of life my grandfather lead and my parents lead today. Now I feel anything that obstructs a clear line of slight inside my house, unless utilitarian is to my eye- clutter. Simple living and high thinking is back on its pedestal in scheme of things.

It is this change I intent to chronicle in this blog.  The change was not a drastic overnight 'Eureka' moment. It was over a period of time that I found something amiss in life. This is my quest to make amends to my life style to address the hollowness of my soul. Welcome to my journey and hope it is enjoyable.


radha said...

So true. I hate wasting anything for that matter. And getting older, one feels the need to have just what is essential and donating the rest to those who might put it to better use. But it is not easy. I have things that belong to my parents and grandparents and somehow getting rid of it, even if it means donating is not easy. But I am getting there. Slowly....

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Don't Know said...

If you don't mind can you share some examples on how did you decide what to throw out and what to keep. Just guidelines....I am so overwhelmed because I feel phobic because of all the stuff in the house. But I don't know where to start and I end up making more mess. LOL

Kannada Cuisine said...

My thumb rule is for non seasonal things, if I have not used a something in the previous six months, it is time for it to go. Seasonal stuff, consideration is two seasons as in two years. But i typically do not buy a lot of seasonal stuff to begin with. I understand it can be quite overwhelming but once you become conscious between your needs and wants, things will fall in place.