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Urban Junkie

Thursday, August 18, 2005


The simplification fanatics are at it again. Unplug your life, they say. Simplify. Get rid of clutter, complexity, gadgetry, technology … get rid of the life-corrupting unauthentic xyz. Go back to your roots, get out of the concrete jungle, retreat into the silence of the mountains. Unplug.

Unplug? I clutch worriedly at my Home Theatre System and spirit my Nokia 3230 out of sight. It disturbs me, this kind of talk. Aren’t we just about getting complex enough for life to be fun? As far as I am concerned, I have nowhere near had my fill of life-corrupting complexity. These are the days of miracles and wonder, and nothing you say will convince me otherwise.

After all, if you’re as old as I am, the days of unplugged existence are quite fresh in memory. I still remember when acquiring a gas connection was a lifetime achievement. (I am proud to say that I am one of the lucky few who have experienced such triumph firsthand. Oh, those years of toil – when being ‘unconnected’ had a wholly different meaning. I queued up, I groveled, I sidled greasily up to social acquaintances whose uncles owned gas agencies, I cultivated an unspeakable oily charm to endear myself to gas dealers. And oh, the euphoria when the first gleaming red cylinder finally arrived at my doorstep. I almost feel a pang for the young of today who will never experience such magic).

But I digress from my point. My point is the cocooning comfort of my now state-of-the-art kitchen. LPG is the last thing on my mind as I bask in the glow of my microwave oven, hum along with the whistle of my electric kettle, and switch deftly between gas and electricity on my dual-fuel cooking range. Never again will I go without my morning tea because the gas is over; never again will I wait with diminishing hope for the gas man to arrive. If simplification involves dismantling my kitchen I think I’ll give it a miss.

And then there is 24-hour electricity supply. For those as yet inexperienced in its pleasures, this is a nifty concept called 100% Power Back Up discovered by the more unapologetic urban junkies. Largely pioneers who have ventured into the concrete jungles of DLF, having given up bungalow dwelling, kitchen gardens and other such bounty offered by the good earth. I must admit, though, that this can cause more than a pang and almost swing you irrevocably into the simplification camp. But only until you experience Power Back Up, I promise.

In 100% Power Back Up zones, the electricity never goes. This is more addictive than you think possible. Imagine. Imagine never knowing or caring what time the load-shedding is scheduled. Imagine not being stranded without water in the midst of a shower, unable to switch on the pump. Imagine not going to office with un-ironed clothes and wet hair, having been unexpectedly deprived of iron-and-drier. Like I said, you need to live it to know it. Last summer a couple of friends came over with pillows and pajamas to sleep on my carpet, exhausted by an 18 hour power cut. They stayed on for two weeks. And no doubt will shortly be looking for a place in my concrete high-rise.

Nostalgia for the fresh earth and greenery is all very well. But better nostalgic and air-conditioned, I say, than hot, sweaty and swatting mosquitoes.

Recently I came across a more enlightening perspective on this whole issue. Simplification, it seems, is not anti-progress or anti-technology. Or even anti-possessions. It is about the ability to let go … about the absence of attachment, as the spiritually inclined say.

Oh. Aha.

So simplification doesn’t mean we must throw the Flat Screen TV out of the window, it just means we must not mind terribly if someone else does. Yes, well … I can see where they’re coming from there. Detachment from worldly possessions has apparently been proven to lead to higher levels of inner fulfillment than attachment. I can probably handle that fairly well actually; better than might be suspected basis prior evidence. When you live in the company of two Labrador Retrievers with a sharp eye for clutter, you learn to let go pretty rapidly.

My younger, Gypsy, is a high energy black Lab who regards as clutter anything that obstructs her view of her b-a-l-l (it is safe only to spell that word in our house). She recently simplified the bar area from which the b-a-l-l was a pain to retrieve. Where once stood a crystal and booze laden cupboard there is now uncluttered wall. Only a faint smell of Single Malt mingled with vodka wafts up from the carpet occasionally as a reminder of more complex times. Boogie, the elder one, is a lazy 9 year old who now is driven primarily by comfort – but she has many past glories to her credit. Her list of simplification triumphs include two bean bags, seventeen cushions, a washing machine (don’t ask), an antique writing table and several pairs of shoes.

If detachment is the measure of simplification, I think I am a strong contender for the top award. I still love my Labs, I have not thrown out Gypsy’s ball, and I willingly climb a step ladder to pour myself a drink from the bar in the loft. I have done away with the bed rather than bother with replacing chewed up legs. The bean bags were the most difficult to detach from, but I’m proud to say I now only dream of them once every six months.

But of course, I do this under duress. Detachment I do practice, but my urban junkie soul plots and schemes to hold on to my urban junk. I think the microwave is safe, because the Labs have astutely connected it to their meals. I really must get them around to my point of view on the rest


  • some of my friends hv warned that using a microwave is not good for health. i don't think i hv the patience to cook things in the gas.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 4:35 AM, August 26, 2005  

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