The three R's

My pile of used bags grew into a monstrous heap under the kitchen sink

Representative image. (Photo/Pixabay)

When my six-year-old granddaughter asked me what the three R’s were, I answered without thinking— Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmetic’. She said triumphantly, “You are wrong. The answer is Refuse, Reuse and Recycle.” The three R’s of yesteryears seemed to be more difficult than the three R’s of present times. It set me thinking about the innumerable times I had got into trouble in my childhood because of them. While the last R,’arithmetic’ was the most fearsome, reading was equally difficult as I preferred listening to stories.

Summer would also bring the feared fourth R— our results of the examinations for which I had not studied, which resulted in (the second R) of writing imperfect answers.

The third R, arithmetic was the devil, which confounds me to this day. On reflection, the new three R’s seem to be just as tough, if not more so than the old ones. The first R—refuse, is more easily said than done.How can you refuse a gift brought for you lovingly from abroad? I did just that when a relative of mine brought a pair of gloves too small for me from Japan, saying, “These will
help you in your gardening efforts.” I refused the gift very politely saying my hands were not small enough for the gift. Probably she misunderstood my words; she has not spoken to me in three years. Although we can refuse the plastic bags from vegetable vendors, we can hardly refuse to buy milk or coffee powder or other essential items as most come covered in plastic. Most people hoard these plastic packets to reuse them as garbage bags. My pile of used plastic bags has grown into a monstrous heap under the kitchen sink threatening to choke the drain. Reuse, the second R, helped one of my friends make a handsome profit. Recently her trusted mechanic asked for a loan of Rs 10, 000 which he said he would return in a day. He returned the money after two days along with five per cent interest per day. Surprised, she asked him what he did with the money. It turned out that he had bought an old 1950 model Morris Minor car for 8,000 rupees, and repaired and painted it and sold the vintage car to a connoisseur for Rs 32,000.

The third R- recycling, has great proponents. The famous Venice bienniale was replete with sculptures using old clothes, iron gates and dilapidated boats. Beauty has taken a back seat in artistic circles with artists finding fulfilment in depicting subjects like climate change and refugee influx. Ordinary mortals like me recycle kitchen waste into compost and sew cloth bags from our children’s old clothes. Old newspapers are now in great demand for making paper bags to carry medicines and fruits. Still, piles of rubbish line our streets.

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