Monday, 23 January 2012

Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle the philosophy of jugaad

As an essential prerequisite to human existence, India since time immemorial has been discoursing about sanctity of the “being”-the conscious awareness. It identifies an individual among a greater cosmic existence as an interdependent liberty. It does not separate individual from nature and vice versa as it is evident from the four Mahavakyas; the foundations of Indian schools of philosophy


In broader terms it says that creator at any point is not separate from the consequences of the created and what presumably separates one from the other is only the ignorance. This highlights the responsibility of a creator for his creation and its consequence.

This also simplifies to a great extend the social construct of Indian society who tries to find a sane connection to anything and everything surround their life.  It seeks permission from the tree, and the birds live in its branch before it being cut. It does not glaze the pottery for the fear of not going back to nature.  It does not consider single possibility for an outcome or a product; it tries to find alternate use to extend its life span.  It finds creative ways of recycling things and thinking in “ jugad ways” to re-contextualize things and thinking where coffee powder and Horlicks is marketed in storage containers!

 It certainly doesn’t discount the profit and production but as we have no other space other than our limited earth to sustain our life and for the generations to come, it calls for an approach that is more realistically practical –upholding the sanctity of interdependence and values to sustain it.

At the onset of 21st century, when the world is trying to come in terms with climatic changes, exhausting resources, mounding solid, chemical and other wastes, depleting energy sources, it slowly but steadily is opening up to this realization- the need for a decisive approach, an holistic understanding of systems.  Today the leaders of the world is not talking about the improved speed of our computing or rockets that dominate outer space, but they are talking about the approach that we have to develop to address the sustenance of essential life systems undone by our deeds – the indiscriminating consumption and greed. They are now talking about the need for an  holistic approach to handle these issues, "the approaches" that are more bound with values and collective systems, things oriental cultures had been championing since long.

There are many approaches in India that are in line with this awareness and one of the prominent among them is recycling.  It is an intervention to consumerist world’s action and its disastrous consequences.  The more we consume more will be the waste and more will be the depletion of our precious resources and at the same time it is also impractical to ask people to stop consumption in capitalistic world.  Here, India acts more pragmatically by suggesting the longevity of the journey that an idea/material/object becoming waste by finding alternate use (jugaad) or converting to another idea/material/object  (recycling) so that less resource is exploited, less waste is created and still it severs the purpose.  This is the philosophy the world now talks about – the recycling/ reusing approach, the essential approach for any designer.

There is an anecdote in Jataka tales wherein it narrates the dialogue between Buddha and his disciple exemplifying this argument.  One day one of Buddha’s disciples was lighting a lamp with a wick made out of a torn cloth. On this Buddha asked him “ why is he using a good cloth for making wicks?” The disciple politely replied that he made it from his old dhoti.  But dissatisfied with his answer Buddha countered him saying “ you could have used cloth for much better purpose” the disciple again replied “ sir, but I first used my old dhoti as bed sheet, after long time I used it as towel and pillow cover, again after a long time I used it as foot mats and then only I used it for the wicks…” smiling at him Buddha said “ now you are a Buddha you started living…”

This may be an exaggerated situation but reflects design answer from India for many alarming issues in contemporary living.

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