Saturday, May 25, 2019

Illusion of perfection

We are all gauging each other's actions as per what we think is the right way to exist. Woven with intricate relationships we all are simply walking on pins and needles.

I try to survive on my own terms and focus all my energies on myself. I do not want to be someone else's 'version of existence or expectation or perfection'. I will stay true to myself, being myself no matter what. There is no perfection and there is no illusion of perfection either.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Ban


Every other year I impose a shopping ban on myself. So I do not shop for even a hairpin in that year (I am obviously not talking about the essentials - such as groceries). The max I have gone with the ban is 3 years straight. I must tell you it is quite challenging, because there are temptations all around us. I get to try out many combinations in the ban periods and use everything that I have.

So why the ban? Because I cannot help but cringe over the materialistic world we have formed around us. We are all dwelling in excess. Believing in retail therapy more than believing in ourselves. Why do we feel we need to shop to feel happy? We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like. I am just trying NOT to be that person.

I have always been a big believer in savings. If you give me money, chances are I will straight away put it into my savings, planning for real estate investments. I didn't buy anything in 2018 and 2019 is a ban year too. Anyone interested in trying out the ban?

I do not condemn shopping, it builds and nourishes the economy. But here is a thought, in the good old days people got their clothes mended from tailors, shoes fixed from the cobbler, got small little parts of blender and stuff from the dingy little stores located in some tiny alleys - this all paid the small local businesses. Now the mentality is we are looking for something to go wrong with our stuff so that we can buy new stuff and throw away the old stuff.

So I say - I do not condemn shopping but I condemn the stigma attached to repeating clothes, needing something new to wear to every party, having things in the closet with their price tag on and yet complaining about having nothing to wear, throwing away stuff without even trying to get it fixed first and just mindless shopping for self-gratification or shopping for the sake of having-everything-everyone-else has.

That is why I follow a shopping ban every other year or so. I have enough stuff to mix- match - use, I think most of us do. Imposing a ban gives a break to the mind and forces you to make most of your existing closet, try to make things work. While sometimes the temptations try and take over your sanity but staying strong gives you a greater sense of achievement later. Not to mention the money and time you save you can spend on hobbies, activities, travel or may be go towards paying your loan.

If you are interested in pledging a shopping ban then -
Things that are banned:
- Clothes (all kinds!)
- Shoes
- Accessories/Jewelry
- Bags/Purses/Clutches
- Cosmetics
- Electronics/Gadgets and anything that is unnecessary

Things that are allowed:
- Food
- Water
- Home Supplies
- Medicines
- Toiletries (shampoo, soap, etc.)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Greed


Is greed just about money or materialistic things? or greed is also wanting more and more from life, going through the fear of missing out or wanting every.single.thing in every.single.shape.and.size?
I feel greed can be for many things like knowledge, learning, helping, growth, progress, improvement, betterment. If the past generations were content with whatever they had then we wouldn't be living in a technologically advanced world today. If the whole world feels content with everything that they have then how will science advance, how will more discoveries and inventions happen, who will create empires and provide us with jobs? Also not feeling content with our health/ weight/ knowledge makes us live a better life. In my opinion greed (when it is not turning us into a demon) is essential for our and world's growth and progress.
Thoughts?

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Motherhood


How consumed are you in motherhood? Are your kids the best part of your life? Do you feel complete as a woman because you have kids? Are your profile pictures/ status updates/ conversation topics/ small talks/ thoughts/ dreams everything of and about your kids?

I don't understand why anyone would think that way. Life is so BIG. So vast. There are endless possibilities of self-discovery. I hope people explore them all. Kids can remain a beautiful part of life, but not the sole happiness. One needs to feel complete without kids/ or for that matter without a partner.

I hope motherhood doesn't put any brakes on your quest for life, but accelerates it.

My 2 cents: There are some who think there is nothing as important for women as wanting to be mothers. Such glorification of motherhood also means if you can’t or don’t wish to have any children there must be something wrong with you. Having children can be one aspect of life but it isn't the whole life. It's okay if you want to have them and it's okay if you don't. Motherhood does not complete you, you are complete even without it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

3 in Science


Saturday, April 06, 2019

Fashion 1 0 1


Fashion industry is the second largest industry in the world after oil industry. The owner of Zara Amancio Ortega is the richest man in Europe and the fourth richest man in the world. That says a lot about the world of fashion.

Fashion is also number two most polluting industry next to the oil industry. It is a socio-economic topic covering the whole world and pertaining to each and every one of us. However everyone is not aware of things happening in the fashion industry and the way clothing production works. I think the more people know, the better we can work to make a change.

If I were to invite you to read just one topic on this blog then this would be it.

The maximum number of clothing items that I ever bought in one single year was 10  (clothing items include work clothes/ night dress/ socks/ undergarments/ scarves). And there have been years that I didn’t buy a single clothing item, the max I have gone without shopping is 3 years. I did not buy a single item (not even a hair pin) in 2017. I can create loads of combinations with the quality products that I already have and it gives me a feeling that I am wearing something new everyday. The clothing items that you see on this blog are accrued over a period of 15+ years.
And why am I telling you this? I am coming to that.

There are many people who have a budget set (say 100$ per week) to buy clothes/ shoes/ purses/ accessories. Unfortunately it is a story in most households. Do you know the average number of clothes bought every year by Americans? It is 65 per year - not per family but per person (I think the East is catching up too).
The point I am trying to make is - we buy too much.

Why do we buy so much?

Because we associate happiness with owning more. They call it ‘the retail therapy’. However therapy is something that fixes us for life, therapy is treatment - therapy can not be something that gives momentary pleasure, so chocolates or retail can not be termed as therapy. If retail is a therapy then it is so only for the shop owners, not for you and I. If you think following latest trends is making you look trendy or how many clothes you buy is showcasing you as rich then no - you are getting poorer and the only person getting richer is the owner of brands.

I have said this before on this blog - I am just reiterating myself - contrary to popular belief food and shopping can not be hobbies. Owning stuff and materialistic attitude is not going to make us happy. The way to solve the problems in our life is not through consumption.

Careless production and endless consumption-
I did a part time fashion designing course from Pune, India. I used to sew my own salwar kamizes for years in college. Sewing is a time consuming task, it is physically challenging too - it would give me a lot of back and neck ache, so how much ever I enjoyed sewing I decided to call it quits (and now instead I break my back on a software job).

However I must admit that sewing is one hobby that makes me the happiest. One sewing project takes hours and now I pick only one or two sewing projects every year. Good quality fabrics I buy for my projects start from 10$ per yard and you need say 3 yards for an adult skirt  (more if you add lining). On top of that other materials are needed like thread, elastic, zipper and whatnot.
Anyhow, so up till now you must have understood from this post (and earlier parts) that
  • We buy too much
  • Sewing projects are time consuming
  • Sewing causes a lot of physical discomfort and
  • Sewing is an expensive affair if we want quality material
Doesn’t it make you think how are the shops filled to the brim with dirt-cheap clothes? How are H&M, Old Navy, Forever21 selling skirts for less than $10???

Remember that everything that we wear is touched by human hands … not robots. How is it possible that we are paying dirt cheap price when someone is working hard to make them? How much are the sewers paid?

We can buy clothes so cheaply because they are made of very poor quality materials and because people who make these clothes do not earn a living wage. They work in factories that do not fulfill safety requirements. They work with highly toxic materials. They often work over a dozen hours a day, six days a week, with no provisions and no legal arrangements, in locked buildings they can not leave even in face of danger. They risk with their health and with their lives just so that we, the people of the West consider it a given that we can buy a cheap t-shirt. And then, tragedies occur, like the one in Rana Plaza where over one thousand people were killed in a clothing factory building collapse. When we buy cheap clothes, we are playing with people's lives and well-being and on the most basic level, on human dignity.

Their need to work, their need to earn money is being misused, they are being treated as slaves. They need to be treated with as much respect as any other working professional would  - be it the working hours/ safe working conditions/ health benefits/ sick leave.

In Cambodia when textile industry workers marched to ask for increase in the minimum wage - police fired guns killing and injuring people - their only ask was 160$ per month - they are currently given 30 cents a day. Why their government doesn’t help with this? Because they fear that if the wages are increased the business will go to other countries who are offering lower wages - the businesses obviously care only for profits. Our government has no rules and regulations over the trades, the companies decide the working conditions, minimum wage and these corporations are making loads of money.

This explains the reason why Zara owner is the fourth richest man on Earth.

But wait there's more to that. The fast fashion industry has a massive and negative influence on the environment. The aim is to produce as much material for clothes as fast as possible. This means that the chain of harmfulness starts right at cotton plantations. The cotton isn't just sprayed with pesticides but also monopolized by big corporations which means very few rich producers are able to farm ecologically.

BT cotton is cotton in which a gene has been added from a bacteria to produce a toxin - this patent is owned by a big company (Monsanto) and a poor farmer has to go to the company to buy seeds, these seeds are extremely expensive. The pesticides that are used to produce the cotton for our clothes is spoiling the soil. Use of fertilizers pesticides increases toxicity in the region where cotton is grown, it causes cancer, birth defects and many such illnesses. There are also weaving mills, dyers (Chemicals are used to dye) and tanneries polluting earth and water and also making people working on them and living close to them sick because of the proximity of all the toxic materials. Clothes are not biodegradable that means if you throw them they will sit on the land for many years.

I express my grief over many things like (a) people don’t work out, eat junk, parents feed their kids restaurant food/ processed/unhealthy food every other day (b) animals are killed for food and making leather for humans (c) many do not know even the basics of gender equality (d) clothing industry is treating the laborers/ environment poorly - people tell me not to think about it - enjoy your day, why do you have to think about all this they say. But I believe we should care. Let’s not merely, just exist. Let’s live a conscious life. If we are talking about a long term sustainability and well-being on this planet then the industry will have to change and also ‘we’ have to change.

I can't stand authoritarian opinions and I dislike selling my point of view. But remember that I am not knocking on your door telling you how to live your life, you have chosen to read this blog where I am expressing my opinions, so continue reading if you feel you need to change or make a difference in this scenario (how much ever little it is), else you can say 'I know how the fashion industry works but I don't care to make a difference', in that case stop reading now.

Here are the steps that you can take if you care about finding a solution to the fast fashion problem, like I do.

The industry works for us and gets rich thanks to us. The consumers are not some statistic, imaginary group: it consists of individuals, of you and me. We let it grow and get strong. So how do we start?

  1. Slow down. Don't let the ads tempt you, don't go browsing the shops. Detox. We're buying too much anyway. If you see a skirt for 4$ think what kind of quality it is - the good quality fabrics that I have bought in this country for sewing an adult size skirt takes at least 10$ a yard - so something that is sold for 4$ is plain bad quality and also think how much was the sewer paid for his/her hard work (as the company is going to keep maximum profit). Next time you buy at sale realize that the company is still making it’s profit - the sale that you get is by cutting the wages of the sewers. I have thought a lot on this topic and the best solution that I see is - Stop the mindless consumption, reuse, recycle and reduce.
  2. Buy sensibly - from a lot to good. It is better to buy something that you are positive about: something that will match the rest of your wardrobe, made well and out of quality materials. Something that will last for many years. That way you create a well defined personal style. It's a smart thing to do for the environment and the society. Every year we dump millions of tonnes of clothes and only a small part of them reach the second hand/thrift stores. We spill a massive amount on developing countries, destroying the local and traditional workplaces at clothes making. The largest part goes to garbage dumps where it will decompose for hundreds of years, harming the environment (clothes are not bio-degradable).
  3. Look for better alternatives. I buy only few items every year from decent brands, I know their fabric is good quality - and I prefer to buy at brands who have ethical rules and regulations - you can check it on their websites is they follow ethical process. People who can should look for alternatives - look for tailors in your area, or local boutiques who you know are doing ethical business.
  4. Donate your clothes (when you are done using them) to someone you know or someone in need. As I said earlier clothes are not biodegradable. In my family we all use each other's clothes, my nieces use the clothes that don't fit me anymore or the ones that I think are no longer age appropriate for me. I have no issues using clothes that someone else has used before but I know many people do not like it, using used clothes is too lowly for them - it is something that only the poor do, well I don't want to comment on how you should feel about it but think innovative ways of reusing, recycling and repurposing clothes. For example, I use worn out clothes at home, turn them into rags, I have seen people making quilts with their old clothes or repurposing clothes to make  baby/ toddler clothes. When it comes to donating clothes - My first preference is donating clothes to people I know - so that I can see them getting used and the next option is donating to salvation army. I am sure you will find lot of people around you who will happily accept used clothes - so donate.
  5. Start to think about your clothes like they were made to last. Head fashion designers keep saying that fashion should not be disposable. So, start to clean your clothes the right way: it's different for polyester and cotton and wool. Tags will help you decide what to do and then there is internet to dig through for detailed instructions. I always use the handwash mode on the machine for washing all my clothes and also I never put them in the dryer - the result is I use the same clothes for more than 15 years. If you own a piece for so long that it got damaged over time, then remember that you can shave the pilling on a sweater, patch a hole on the elbow and if you lost weight then all your clothes can be adjusted for the new measurements. Some things you can do on your own while it is better to have others done by a professional. A lot of skirts that you see on this blog were a size or two bigger, they have been adjusted to fit my new measurements. Why is this important? You're caring for the environment because you're limiting trash production. You're also supporting local artisans and so, helping people whose jobs are going extinct. For example I always go to a cobbler to get my broken shoes fixed but many people choose to throw away things in the excitement of buying new stuff.
The clothes that live with you for a long time, get a lot of stories ingrained in them. One of my childhood friend wore skirts that her mother used to wear when she was in college. Those skirts were a different fashion altogether, they were unique because they were not in the market at that time and she got a lot of compliments on her clothes and a lot of surprised reactions when she said this is my mother's skirt. So if you've ever been given a garment worn by your grandmother or your grandfather in their youth, you know what I am talking about. Also it is good for the pocket - you can save money and rather spend it on some good things like real estate!

And lastly 'The true cost' is a very good documentary on this topic.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Book Reviews 2017.4


Reviewing books that I read in 2017.

16. Wedding Night - Sophie Kinsella
Did not like it, even though it is written by Kinsella. 2/5.

17. Into the Water - Paula Hawkins
Second book written by the author of 'girl on the train' (which I loved and couldn't put down). Into the water was a let down, did not enjoy it. 2/5.

18. Mrs Funnybones - Twinkle Khanna
I didn't know before buying the book that it is just a collection of Twinkle Khanna's blog posts, which I had read already. Loved reading them again, as the name suggests the book is very funny. 4/5.

19. Joy in the Morning - P.G. Wodehouse
Edwin was my favorite character in the book. Wodehouse at his best again. 4/5.

20. Mindset: the new psychology of success - Carol S. Dweck
"The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although many people may differ in every which way - in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests or temperaments - everyone can change and grow through application and experience." Liked the book and would definitely recommend it. 4/5.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Book Reviews. 2017.3


Reviewing books that I read in 2017:

11. Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty 
Did not like the book but absolutely loved the show on HBO, which would be an ideal example of how to adapt books for TV shows. 3/5.

12. My not so perfect life - Sophie Kinsella
I read all her books, does not mean I like all of them :-). 2/5.

13. Space Chronicles: Facing the ultimate frontier - Neil deGrasse Tyson
Tyson illuminates the past, present, and future of space exploration and brilliantly reminds us why NASA matters now as much as ever. Loved the book. 5/5.

14. My Man Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse
My father has read all of Wodehouse books. And I want to. I am short of words to express what a legendary writer he is. Wodehouse is my favorite author when it comes to wordplay. His writing has a very natural flow, and even though the stories are set in British context, you feel very close to his characters. The only other author who made me laugh so hard was P. L. Deshpande. Wodehouse's stories are charmingly simple and yet delightfully funny. 5/5.

15. All the missing girls - Megan Miranda
A very well rated book on Goodreads, but I failed to understand all that hoopla around it. 2/5.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Book Reviews. 2017.2


Reviewing books that I read in 2017.

6. Death by black hole - Neil deGrasse Tyson
This book is a collection of essays that Tyson wrote for Natural History magazine over a ten year period, on a variety of subjects related to science and scientific inquiry. Tyson's perspective and his voice always makes his books stand out from the crowd. 4/5.

7. Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of cosmic evolution  - Neil deGrasse Tyson
This book covers an enormous period of time, fourteen billion years, and even provides some interesting thoughts concerning the future of our planet and galaxy. The theme of the book is clear, it deals with the origin of the universe, the various types of galaxies, the formation of the clusters, all the types of stars, the origin of the planets and life in general. It concerns itself with vague topics like dark matter and dark energy and black holes, all the mysteries of the universe. 5/5.

8. Astrophysics for people in a hurry - Neil deGrasse Tyson
. The book is for people in a hurry and I am not in a hurry
. Astrophysics is not Sophie Kinsella's book story that can be told in three lines (just being a hypocrite, I read all her books).
. People in a hurry should not make an attempt at astrophysics to begin with ;-)
. The book left me wanting to know more, high time Tyson writes a book for people at leisure!
3/5.

9. Belles on their toes - Frank B. Gilbreth Jr.
Cheaper by the dozen is one of my most favorite stories of all times so I had to read it's second part and I was beyond disappointed. 1/5.

10. A little life - Naya Yanagihara
This is a very well rated and a famous book, unfortunately I did not enjoy it at all, first of all it is huge and second of all I had to drag myself everyday to read it. 1/5.