I am currently reading The Great Derangement- Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh where he analyses climate change not just as a physical phenomenon but as a cultural, psychological manifestation of human need and greed. He delves into history to study the inevitability of arriving where we are today - he develops on the oft repeated argument that it is not correct to say that developing nations like India and China are solely to blame for climate change summits today becoming non-starters. Nor is it correct to say that the phenomenon of unsustainable carbon footprint is the legacy of western civilization alone. Rather, and strangely he argues, that had it not been for imperialism and the rise of colonial powers, vast swathes of land would have already been under water today; that imperialism was a good thing because had it not been for the exploitation and plunder of developing nations by Britain, France, Spain etc, these (former) nations would have been industrialized long ago and would have caused havoc much earlier in time. But then, as mentioned before, it was and is only a matter of time. The fatality of his conclusions are a bit depressing (and I must admit that it caused me to pause somewhere a little over mid-way - so this paragraph is based only on a reading of two thirds of the book).
My mother obviously told me about the simple life she and her siblings she had to obviously drive home how privileged I am. But the truth is, no one in that society in Assam in the 60s and 70s had much more than what she had. And both my mother and father vehemently agree that theirs was a happy childhood. The habits formed in the simplicity of those days has lingered on in all family members of that generation. My mother still mends clothes that are ripped multiple times instead of simply discarding it like I do. My mother-in-law lovingly scrapes the last - literally the last grain of rice from the vessel and puts it on our plates and licks the last drops of dal from the spoon used to serve us at the end of the meal. I can see the shock on my parent's faces on days I go for retail therapy and come home laden with bags of clothes and shoes that I do not wear more than a couple of times. They on the other hand carefully count the change (little coins and notes that really have no value today) they have and put it aside in a separate pouch to accumulate and then painfully use it for some of their shopping requirements. My father is way past 60 and still insists on driving long distances instead of taking on a driver as I insist he does. If at all I insist too much he simply boards a public bus or train. But the idea of shelling out more money simply to take things easy is abhorrent to him.
But as mentioned before, my meagre efforts are worth next to nothing. We are, as Amitav Ghosh puts it, living through the age of derangement and inexorably approaching self annihilation. I wish it were possible to imagine a less tragic denouement to this book. And that's the reason I struggle to complete it.