Thursday, October 18, 2007

Second hand books

Circa 1990s....
Me: Again second hand books? Why can't I have new ones?

Amma: Ganeshan Mama has been so kind to give us the textbooks every year. We did not even ask him. He and his wife volunteered and we couldn't refuse. It would have ben rude.

Me: But can't you just tell them that I don't like it? Arrey, I want new books ma. Why don't you understand?

Amma: Shobha, how does it matter? The books are in a very good condition. When you have such good books, what is the need to buy a new one? You can always buy other books with the same money. Tell me, don't you think the books are good?

Me: But I don't want other books, I need NEW textbooks.

Amma: Tell me, don't you think the books are in good condition?

Me: Well, yea...they are.....but.....

Amma: I think buying new books would be a waste of money. We will not spend money on something that we already have.

Me: But all my friends have new books. Only I don't have them.

Amma: Shobha, don't compare yourself with your friends. Everyone is different. Besides, is there any difference in the old and the new book? It is not as if your textbooks contain old matter in comparison to the new ones.

Me: You are being totally unfair. (I leave the room crying)

2007: SMS conversation

Me: Ok, what book you want for your b'day?

D: Give anything you want of your choice.

Me: Hmmm...ok...Will it be ok if I give u second hand books? Tell me if its alright with you. If you don't like the idea, its perfectly ok. But let me know.

D: I love second hand books.

Me: :)

From being close to tears because my parents forced me to use second hand text books in school to actively buying and gifting second hand books, I have come a full circle today. Unnecessary consumption can be stopped whenever possible. Sometimes, I realise my parents were so cool. My parents came up the hard way. The economic backgrounds of their families weren't particularly flattering during their childhood. However their lifestyles did not radically change once they started earning well. It is remarkable that they have continued with their simple lifestyle. Amma still follows the adage of 'Simple living and high thinking'. She proudly flaunts it. Hehe...

'Hand me downs' are never fun, especially when you are a kid. C'mon, whoever likes using old stuff? Not surprisingly, I always used to be at loggerheads with my parents when I was in school. Most of my school textbooks were second hand. Our family friend Ganeshan mama's son was a year older to me. This effectively meant that all his school textbooks were handed down to me after a year.

At one point of time, I used to think that we are very poor as compared to my friends because of this annual ritual. Only poor families did things like this, no? Indulging in self pity was an annual ceremony (It makes me laugh now). The ill-feeling with my parents would last for a month or so, before all my friends' books started resembling like mine and I would be normal again. Worse, after a point of time, my books looked better than their new ones.

This used to bother me quite a bit. I once asked Amma if we indeed are very poor. I remember Amma having laughed at my question. She assured me that we were not poor but was very firm on having a simple lifestyle. Now-a-days it often strikes me as to how amazing my parents have been in certain ways without even them realising it. I was never a fan of their simple lifestyle and always dreamed of spending extravagantly once I started earning. While I did indulge in some consumerist fantasies earlier, nowadays I see myself constantly questioning it. Earlier I would tom-tom about how retail therapy was an instant cure for depression. Now, I laugh at my own claims.

For the first time I will do something that I have never done before. I will be gifting a second hand book to one of my dearest friends. Amma-Appa have always maintained that it is the emotion behind the gift that matters and not the gift per se. I have never consciously gifted anyone second hand. I always thought, it was not a right thing to do. I don't exactly think likewise now. The 'always' bit can be tampered around a bit. Earlier, my refusal to use second hand books was more to do with my stupid pride. I think I was too bothered about what my friends would think of me.

I now believe that I should use every product till it completely looses its utility value. What Amma intended then makes complete sense to me now. Both the new and the old textbook served the same purpose. So, there was no point in actually buying a new book when I had a slightly older one to serve the same purpose. Besides, it also reduced unnecessary consumption.

The above SMS conversation just reminded me of my childhood. It's amazing how certain incidents can make you look at your parents in a completely different light. I love my parents' simplicity :) I think as one grows older, one starts appreciating certain facets of our parents' personalities which we would never have thought or appreciated before. Come to think of it, I consider my parents' so-called kanjoosi then as simplicity now. Hehe :)