Mohandas Gandhi once asked a Polish engineer if he could make a spinning wheel that would be light and portable. He did. But Gandhi wasn’t happy. He felt the mechanics of the new wheel was too complex for the village folk of India to comprehend. But a simpler wheel wouldn’t give as much output, protested the engineer. “I don’t care about the output. I want everyone to be employed”, Gandhi said. This quaint narrative is based on the oral testimony of Maurice Frydman, a Polish engineer, who Ved Mehta met for his biography of Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi and his Apostles.
The ‘in your face’ practicality of Gandhi’s methods would have ensured that an individual life did not have to be lived for lifetimes, many times over. Everything – from envelopes to excreta would have been re-used. You wouldn’t need government intervention to put systems in place to carry all your waste – from cooking and partying excesses to night soil. With each individual household being a self-contained unit that generated negligible waste, the garden city, the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore, would not have found itself splashed across global newsprint in its new avatar as garbage city.