When I got a job in Chennai, then known as Madras, in the 1970s, I moved into the city from my native place carrying a steel trunk containing a few clothes and other sundry articles, and checked into a mansion. I paid Rs. 32 a month as rent for one cot in a room which housed two more cots and three persons. Then lifestyle was simple and the cost of living was still cheaper when I could get a meal for 90 paise. It would be only 80 paise if I bought 30 meals coupons for Rs. 24. I invariably purchased monthly coupon as it was not only cheaper but also provided food security.

Since then, I have changed jobs and lived in 14 places in three States and am on the verge of retirement. Though I do not smoke or drink and am a vegetarian, I have acquired a costly habit of shopping for the sake of shopping, which is not need-based but dependent on factors like rising income levels, peer level, spouse pressure, advertisement matrices and an acquired urge to spend our time in malls and shops.

Way back in the 1980s, when I was on a visit to a place where one of my friends was residing, we went to an exhibition where I purchased a wooden ruler because my friend purchased one. When we returned to his house, his wife asked him why he purchased the ruler. He simply answered that because I purchased it, he also did so. I knew his answer was an escape to fend off a verbal assault from his better half. And I invented a reason and justified the purchase, saying it could be used to make straight lines in paper. This wooden ruler was also getting transferred along with me and I really do not know where it now rests in peace.

My wife brought a copper vessel as part of the utensils given to us when we got married. This vessel was supposed to be given at the time of marriage and can be used for boiling paddy to make rice and to boil water for bathing. This vessel is now occupying one of the bathrooms without ever being used as we have switched to the heater and are ordering polished rice from our grocer.

Similarly when my wife wanted a sewing machine, I purchased one Singer machine — not that we needed it but out of love and affection I had for her. This machine was used for six months or so and is now immobile, and is being moved from one city to another.

While the whereabouts of the wooden ruler are not known, the sewing machine and the copper vessel still occupy precious space in my apartment. If I raise the topic of disposing them of, my wife disposes of my proposition with a counter-proposal of disposing of my collection of books also along with her (?) articles. I keep quiet and buy peace.

The crux of the issue is that though life can be simpler with fewer needs, we have acquired the habit of buying articles with perceived needs but are not of real use in our day-to-day life. And we go on increasing the carpet area of our dwelling places to accommodate these acquisitions.

Logically, if we have not used an article for the last six months and are not in need of it for the next six months, we may throw it away as it will free the shelf-space, may be for buying a few more articles. But domestic hostility may not allow the option to succeed. So I lament the smaller nature of my three-bedroom apartment and go on acquiring articles as it pleases the government, industrialists, traders and builders who are happy that these purchases will ensure more employment opportunities and higher GDP growth.

(The writer's email id is muthu.pe@gmail.com)

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