I was having a conversation recently with a friend of mine who lives in London. She is endeavoring to grow her own vegetables in a little box on her terrace, have a bird feeder and plant flowers. Is totally convinced that being green is the new way to live and eschews all things non-organic, processed and packaged. She longs for an Utopian world where everybody grows their vegetables in little boxes and has cows in their backyard, composts and plastic is a thing of the past. She is one of those rare Londoners who makes it a point to cook, never visits a supermarket and buys all her food from organic shops or the farmer's markets. She longs for clean air and vegetables unlaced with London grime and exhaust fumes. Little does she know that her Utopian world exists - in Asia.
So I proceed to enlighten her about people who have cows in their backyard, grow their own vegetables without pesticides, compost and reuse everything they can lay their hands on. She is amazed at the extent in which people can be fatalistically innovative in reusing and recycling.
Here in India another friend in Bangalore who has been living abroad for a long time and has recently returned cannot stop gushing to me about how India has become 'like abroad'. Everything is convenient, you get ready-made meals that you can boil in bags, everything comes packaged so neatly - cereal, juice, milk in cartons. With an excited squeal she tells me nothing used to have cartons before she left which was about 15 years ago.
15 years ago, we all carried reusable cloth bags to carry our shopping back in. Nobody used plastic with abandon back then, it was expensive. 15 years ago it used to rain with unerring regularity every monsoon, people did not consume so much processed, packaged food, we drank fresh juice and nothing was 'ready-made' or 'instant'. I believe we were happier then.
There is this huge sector of population in the West who are desperately trying to live the 'Eastern' way and vice versa. What is sad about this is that in the East not only are we aping the Western way of life, we are also ignoring the problems that come with it, nor do we have the system in place to cope with the amount of stress it puts on not just the environment but also our basic way of life and our health.
Don't get me wrong, I think there are lot of Western ideas and ideals that are essential for progression. But they have begun to realize that there is something intrinsically wrong with the way they live. We will too if we go down the 'ready-made, instant everything' route, in about fifty years, by then it might be too late. It is essential to find a balance now between western conveniences and eastern traditionalism.
The point I'm trying to get at is this: there will always be trouble when you choose a way of life that focuses too much on the fake plastic world.