On September 7, 2018, Kanwal, my husband, had to undergo an angioplasty at Escorts Hospital. I was very nervous as it came as a rude shock to both of us. Kanwal had good health and was very active physically. He always assured me that I need not worry too much about running the household as he was there for me. Most of my time was consumed in administrative job and research. I devoted very little time to household chores. Our children are well settled but they do not live with us. Nor are they in the same town. Kanwal has been more homely whereas I have been more outwardly. I did succeed in gender-bending, not a mean achievement by any yardstick, under Indian circumstances! But it was my turn to panic now. I didn’t even know how to lock the house as I never had to! Though earlier I traveled all over the world alone, I was afraid of staying alone in the big house. Due to rising crime towards the elderly in Delhi, I felt very vulnerable and unsafe. My son came from Mumbai and attended to my husband in the hospital and I managed home with help from my daughter who came from Bangalore. I could not share my thoughts and fears with my siblings who took me as a very strong person.

The day my husband was to come home, I got busy in preparing the home as he always did for years together. Once I was bed-ridden for three months following an accident at Manali, my husband managed me, the house and a large number of visitors alone uncomplainingly and cheerfully. I too wished to reciprocate. Meanwhile, my daughter, a clinical psychologist, did away with eight fully loaded suitcases containing old sarees, suits, woollens, unused gifts, shoes, purses, and other household items. She called a cab and asked the driver to take these suitcases before my husband was to come from hospital and deposit them at an orphanage in South Delhi.

I was a little upset as she did not think it necessary to take my approval but she knew it well that I would not have yielded easily. When my husband came home he was really very happy to find so much space in his study. His smile made me happy too and I realised that I kept all this stuff with me unnecessarily so long just for nothing. I hardly knew which suitcase contained what and never missed any of those things. Obviously I did not need them anymore. At least these can be now used by someone needier than I.

Learning my lesson

I had learnt my lesson. Like mercy, decluttering is also doubly blessed. It helps the giver as well as the receiver. I felt lighter and freer. Later on, I gave away my old TV, PC, washing machine, radios, calculators and other electronics not in my use, reading material and paintings lying in the store for years to domestic helps and labour in nearby area and breathed a sense of relief! Later I was pained to read somewhere that 90 percent of the things bought in the USA go to trash within six months of their purchase. I have decided not to waste my resources on show off.

 My daughter became my role model. My son and daughter always take their children to orphanage on their birthdays to inculcate the sense and pleasure of giving in them since an early age. I am so proud of them. Wordsworth was right when he wrote: Child is the father of man. So was Gandhi when he reminded us that there is enough on this planet for everyone’s needs but not enough for everyone’s greed. We as a family, as a New Year Resolution, vowed to adopt austerity as a way to life and promote the “Being Model of Development” rest of our lives based on the dictum that what really matters is “who we are.” rather than learning my lesson “what we have.”

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  • Asha Gupta

    PhD Political Science, University of Delhi

    Dr (Mrs) Asha Gupta is the ex-Director at the Directorate of Hindi Medium Implementation and previously Principal at Bharati College, University of Delhi, India. She is also the Convener of International Political Science Association’s Research Committee on Welfare State and Welfare Societies. Earlier, she was the Convener of IPSA RC on Military’s Role in Democratisation. A recipient of Indo-Shastri Canadian Fellowship twice, Fredrich Ebert Stiftung Fellowship twice, Norwegian Fellowship for a project on Welfare state, UGC Career Award in Humanities for a postdoctoral project on the Welfare State and the Issue of Privatization. She was selected for the Major Research Project by the UGC on Vocationalization and Privatization of Higher Education in India. Dr Gupta has published 12 books, edited 1 book and co-edited 1 book. Her books include Socialism in Theory and Practice, Changing Perspectives of the Welfare State, Beyond Privatization: A Global Perspective, Higher Education in the 21st Century: Looking Beyond University, Changing Perspectives of Higher Education (in Hindi), Comparative Government and Politics (in Hindi) etc. She has participated at various national and international conferences and published about 70 research papers.Currently she is working on a book entitled Quest for happiness: the eastern and western ways.