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Recycling methods

By Nickunj Malik - Oct 15,2014 - Last updated at Oct 15,2014

One must admit that gifts come in very good packaging these days, with glossy shiny paper, which is sometimes transparent, and the bows tied in satiny ribbons that trail in all direction. It can be quite intimidating too and at times it is better to view the present from a safe distance, than actually unwrap it. Why spoil the artistically packaged creation, says the voice in the head. 

I come from a country of recyclers. Much before it became a global phenomenon, with enthusiastic people campaigning for its awareness, Indians were recycling everything. Large tomato sauce bottles, when emptied, were washed and put out in the sun to dry. They were then used for storing drinking water. In the town where I spent my childhood, there was hardly any household that did not have these bottles in their refrigerator. In fact some of them still carried a sticker of the squash or lemonade that it originally contained. People would try scrubbing it off with an iron scrubber but give up midway, if the glue was strong. 

Old sarees were converted into curtains or tablecloths and older sarees were used as a stuffing while making quilts. Newspapers lined not only the kitchen and bathroom shelves but were also reused for wrapping gifts. It made for quite a sober sight and no child was overtly excited with a toy packed inside a cover that announced robberies, murders or election results under its headlines. 

The gifts themselves were boringly practical. I mean why would a five-year-old boy be happy with a one-metre shirt length piece of cloth as a birthday present? Or even a token 21 bucks, hastily put inside an envelope? There would always be that additional one coin for extra goodwill. So the denominations ranged between a very tightfisted 11, gifted by miserly relatives, to an extremely generous 101, presented by extravagant friends. It did not make the children happy, because they hardly had any use for money. But it put a smile on the faces of their parents, for sure. 

What made us happy were the gift boxes, literally too. For instance, if there were a watch or a pen set that was presented, we kids would pounce on the empty containers. The unusual shapes of the cartons would fire our imagination. We created games around these make-believe tankers or tunnels and it kept us busy for hours on end. We used them to keep our glass marbles, especially if the cardboard case was elongated. 

Foreign products were not easily available those days and an empty coke can occupied a pride of place in my study table. It doubled up as a stationery holder with thin pencils popping out of it. The joy was in collecting these rare bits and pieces and reusing them.

But the youngsters today are completely immune to these self-innovation techniques. Recently we received a massive gift of flowers. I immediately started to rearrange the bouquet. 

“She will put the bigger flowers in big vases,” my spouse announced. 

“And dry the smaller ones for potpourri,” our daughter added. 

“Paint the flowerpot too,” my husband predicted. 

“In black and gold maybe,” guessed the little one. 

“You forgot the satin ribbon and the cellophane paper,” I reminded.

“Iron the first and fold the second,” they instructed. 

“And this sponge?” I held up the water soaked square. 

“Will hit one of our heads if we don’t shut up,” they chorused.

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