Throw it Away, Buy Another

“Throw it away and buy another”, was what the British Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) shown as a dowdy school ma’m, says in a cartoon in the 1960
s by Sir Damachine-clipart-as6091vid Low, considered one of the greatest cartoonists of the world, conveying to the students in the classroom her assessment of the British economy then. The economy needed not saving or austerity but increased spending to remedy the stagnation it had reached.
“Send yourself a five bob telegram,” she added, if my memory of the cartoon in Manchester Gaurdian is right. In the age of E-mails and SMS, you cannot send telegrams anymore, but the idea of throwing away anything at the first sign of its failure and buying another seems to have caught on.
When a mixer-juicer stopped functioning due to a broken washer or some such reason I, not being a follower of the throw-it-away culture, thought of getting it repaired. With thousands of apartments around the one were I live, I expected several service centres in the vicinity. Hours of search revealed there was none.
So I walked into a kitchen appliance dealer of a reputed brand to ask about the nearest such centre. He did not know, and said if the appliance was of the brand he sold I could leave it there are collect it next week, but an appliance of another brand would not be repaired. Buy a new one, he advised.
“Even if all it needs is a washer worth one rupee ?” The washer of one brand, he said, would not fit another. There was no standardization in India for most electrical things.
An elderly customer who overheard the conversation said it was only people of his generation who thought of getting things repaired; the modern generation believed the cost of searching for a repair centre, going there in Bangalore’s impossible traffic and paying for the repair was too much and that it was better to buy a new one. “That’s what they do in America,” he added, reminding me of a pile of microwave ovens, cookers and a mixer in my daughter’s house in the US – waiting to get be thrown into the dumpster. Their problem may be just a loose contact, but who has the time to see?
India’s ‘jugad’ culture – confined to the lower middle-class and poorer families – is the other extreme. Some use was found for almost every discarded, dysfunctional thing beyond repair. The upper middle-class social climbers pretend to be much richer than what they really are and took pride in exactly the opposite attitude. So the ‘throw it away, buy another’ culture came into being.
Throwing away is easy. But that results in a pile-up of waste material, which poses a problem. So the West discovered the virtues of recycling. And what the West does today, India must do tomorrow. So India may have to go back to the practice of repairing and re-using of things.
Much is said about unemployment, though I always held that in India had no unemployment but the problem of many people being unemployable. Why cannot youngsters learn repairing of electrical and other home appliances and fix-up with residents welfare associations of apartment houses to devote one day each to one or two groups of flats. Anyone with anything to repair can go the place in the premises allotted to the repair person and get the repair done.
There would be enough work and adequate earning for thousands of youths. Now after finishing education they want to become ‘babus’ in some office instead of doing anything physical or some useful work like repairing.
India imitates only the undesirable traits of the West. Eminent scientists or writers there worked as hotel waiters or taxi drivers without waiting for white-collared job, because no job is considered undignified by them. Here dignity of labour is only something to be extolled in books and speeches.
A matriculate son of your driver or security-man would prefer to remain jobless for months or even years till he gets some ‘white-collared’ job in a government office because, he thinks, government employees need not work and would get salaries for sitting idle or just pushing files without doing anything useful.
Maintenance is a part of modern culture. We buy equipment or establish processes, without plans for their maintenance. In the early days of solar energy many villages were lighted with solar panels. Soon all of them failed for lack of maintenance.
A printing machine worth crores, or a power generator, needs a qualified engineer to maintain it, but managements prefer to save money by entrusting them to a mechanic who may somehow make them work (sometimes by administering a kick) but that would take its toll on the costly equipment. Maintenance, which sometimes involves work stoppage is not a part of Indian mentality. We work a machine till it stops and repair it if it breaks down.
Or throw it away and buy another.

Published by

B. Someswar Rao

60 years of journalism, from the age of 16, and two books later, life has so much more to offer, there is no looking back. Not yet. Unstoppable after 70 is a simple expression of my thoughts, my triumphs, my failures and everything that makes this journey incredible. My books: - A TOWN CALLED PENURY- the changing culture of Indian journalism - JOURNALISM - Ethics, Codes, Laws Working on: - 'THE OUTHOUSE ON THE FIRST FLOOR - Coming of (Old)Age in India'

2 thoughts on “Throw it Away, Buy Another”

  1. True. Most companies do not want to repair or waste time in supplying spare parts. It’s time consuming and requires huge maintenance.

    They started outsourcing it. ..then they moved to replace and buy new at discount… they just simply don’t care. The old scrap dealer was making money for some time as he was getting things repaired to sell it to poor people. But with the new hype and false prestige everyone wants a new gadget only.

  2. It is very true. We will not locate the proper service center, for our products. If at all found they will be far away and will consume our time and energy. we get vexed and leave the hope of getting it repaired. If at all you find the service center fellow will ask you to come and collect it on some other working day, which you will not be suitable for you.
    If we started narrating there are many stories. That is why younger generation if they can repair they will do it otherwise they are going for new ones.
    As you rightly said, India may have to go back to the practice of repairing and re-using of things—
    we follow the west always, No going back…Why cannot youngsters learn repairing of electrical and other home appliances and fix-up — who is having patience to learn or time to spare????

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