4 Lessons About Sustainability I Learnt From My Grandma
Ahead of her time, yet humble and kind!
A universal truth I thoroughly believe in – grandmamas are too pure for the world. Everyone thinks their grandma is the best, and it’s true, and to be honest, I think mine was cut from a different cloth altogether. It wasn’t just because of the cuddles, the secret treats, the security blanket and the warmest smile in the room. It was because of the little life lessons she taught in everything she did without using any words.
While the world took a minute to catch up on hot topics like sustainability and conscious living, I grew up with a woman who ingrained it in me subconsciously. Six years post her physical departure from my life, I bear the fruits of her teachings by practically applying them in life. Every time I do that, I picture her toothless grin and a semi-smirk (not full, she wasn’t easily impressed).
1. Need Over Greed
In the current times, if only everyone identified their need from their greed, the social disparity in our society wouldn’t be this alarming. As a little kid, I watched my grandma apply this principle to everyone and everything. She despised excessive luxury and called it a lazy man’s crutch. Therefore, even as a mother of nine working kids, she worked till the very end of her life. As a doula, she made the bare minimum, but that didn’t stop her from helping every underprivileged woman who crossed her path. Her motto was, ‘If you have a roof over your head, food on your plate, and the basic amenities to survive, use the surplus (however little it is) to help those in need’. It somewhat balances the financial ecosystem rigged by the capitalists. Let’s not forget, being economical is one of the three pillars of sustainability.
2. Local Over Lavish
As a metropolitan kid, my mother did her best to introduce me to the basic greens. But for my daadi, that was scratching the surface. On my first trip to Goa (our hometown) with her, as a fourth-grader, I went with a bubble of burgers and beaches. To my surprise, the Goa I saw was made up of remote villages, mud houses, lakes and biogas stoves. No trending shacks were visited on vintage Vespas. Instead, every day commenced with a visit to a new village and a new relative feeding us roasted kajus and a leafy vegetable whose name felt like a tongue twister. Tricoloured amaranths and jackfruit curries are some delicacies I recollect from my vague memory, but I promise I tasted every local wonder presented by the Rabi season that year. After that trip, increased infusion of mysterious greens from this side of the Western Ghats became a regular occurrence in my meals.
3. Upcycle Always
Besides being great at her day job, my grandmother was an excellent seamstress. She mainly stitched infant clothes, bibs, blankets, nappies, tummy mats and gave them away for free. This was her hobby and passion; all the kids around me grew up with one signature blankie made by her. If that didn’t make her special enough, the material she used for all of this came from the discarded fabric section of my father’s garment factory. That wasn’t her only source; she didn’t let anyone throw away their old clothes. Most of it was upcycled into patchwork mattresses, couch covers and curtains. Did I mention that even the commonly found LPG gas cylinder in her house had a lace-trimmed fabric cover? Most of my outfits as a kid were created out of her old six yards, and I happily modelled them at various birthday parties.
4. Renew And Reuse
The fancy canvas bags with heavy environmental slogans isn’t a new discovery. I saw my grandmother use an extra-large jute bag that she reused for everything. With no single-use plastic, she strategically wrapped her grocery produce from the market in day-old newspapers. In scorching afternoons, cold water was procured from mud pots instead of refrigerated plastic bottles. Even with a fully functional, filled to the brim water tanker, she preserved water and stored it for a crisis.
Her closet comprised four cotton saris with neutral coloured blouses she mixed and matched; another sari was only accepted if one from the lot was being retired. No food wastage was ever entertained; even the leftover rice was given a sweet makeover as kheer. Although she had no formal education, she taught me something we humans often tend to forget. We’re all visitors of this planet; it isn’t ours to inherit; we must leave it the way we found it, if not better.