To throw or not to throw….

Over the last 25 years our family has shrunk. But for some reason that I can’t explain, our house has grown from a two-bedroom thing with a large terrace to a five-bedroom thing with virtually no terrace. We only use one bedroom, however. The remaining four rooms are used as storerooms, because, well, they are there. But every now and then, the urge to clean up, especially when the weather is benign, comes upon us and we start looking for things we can discard or, because hope springs eternal, sell. But eventually all the effort results in nothing more than rearranging a lot of junk. It also involves severe emotional obstinacy on everyone’s part. Fights ensue. Sulks rule the day. In the end it’s the whiskey that provides much needed balm.

TCA Srinivasa Raghavan
TCA Srinivasa Raghavan

For example, we still have three cartons of our two sons’ school notebooks, running from Class 1 to 12. They are in their mid and late thirties. But quite brilliantly, their textbooks have been given away because my wife thought someone could use them. I told her that by this yardstick, the notebooks were completely useless and should have been thrown away long ago. That suggestion was met with suppressed fury, and there’s an impasse. I am not much better. I am hanging on to a few old broken guitars and cricket bats. My reaction to their being called useless was total non-­cooperation. This tamasha happens every three or four years, and life goes on.

Once, when both my sons were visiting, I told them very firmly to take away their things. Both refused equally firmly. Irritated, I asked them why I had to store their things. Their response was “It’s you who has all the rooms, not us.” In economics this is called Say’s Law: supply creates its own demand. But I have another explanation. I think their wives decide what comes into the house and what doesn’t!

Meanwhile, I have given away over 400 books, mostly to my old college. It’s celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. But do you see the problem? I am giving away things that are important to me because I don’t have the space and storing things that are not important to me because I have it. In voting theory this is called the Majority Decision Rule. The minority always loses. Indeed, some have even got a Nobel Prize for saying majority decisions are dictatorial.

Every now and then, the urge to clean up comes upon us and we start looking for things we can discard or sell. But eventually all the effort results in nothing more than rearranging a lot of junk.

Anyway, during a cleaning up effort five years ago we came across a beautiful wooden box with heavy inlay work and five old steamship type clasps on the lid. We have no idea how we acquired it. But somehow it had landed up in our house and we had stuffed it with souvenirs, locked it and stored it away. We don’t even remember when that was. But it must have been at least 22 years ago. In the meantime, we had lost the key.

The problem now was to open the brass clasps without breaking them. They are old and brittle. So we went first to a locksmith, who failed. Then we went to a carpenter. He also failed. So we decided to store it away again. That was five years ago.

Last week, while searching for a room heater, we came upon this box once again. It has been under layers of plastic dust covers. We had forgotten all about it. This time, quite cleverly, we took it to an antiques dealer and he opened it in just a few minutes. Of the dozen or so awards there, only two were mine. The rest were my sons’ and wife’s.

No further proof was required as to who the underachiever in the family was and is.

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