Satish C. Bhatnagar : My stay of more than three months in India was eventful for a number of reasons. It has been three months since I returned to Las Vegas, yet, so many Indian vibes and vibration have been impinging upon my consciousness. Looking back, if there is just one word to describe my ‘mission accomplished’ in India visit , then it is Repair with capital R. This may sound even weird, but that is how it unfolds.
My two dentists (General and Periodontist) had been telling me to get at least two tooth implants- costing about $10,000 from my pocket. It is a ‘going rate’ in Las Vegas, as I did check it out from another dentist. Last fall, my visiting nephew from Ahmedabad told me of his dentist who charged around $300/implant. Well, I did save a bundle That is the Repair Story #I; however, this saving was at the cost of $12,000 that I ‘lost’ for not teaching at UNLV for five weeks of July and August! In fact, a point comes in life, past the age of 65-70, when the answers to the two questions – how much more money to earn and how much food to eat, do become clear at the individual level. That is why, I have already told my Department of teaching only one course in Summer-2019 instead of two that I always did.
The Repair Story II has deeper roots. This reminds me of a catchy commercial of the 1990s, “Take care of the hands that take care of you”. Dan Marino, the legendary QB of Miami Dolphins promoted a brand of leather gloves. However, this maxim applies in every aspect of life, that one should take care of people, objects, and institutions that have nurtured you. This has weaved into my philosophy of life.Last May, one suitcase, bound for India, had four footwears needing different kinds of repair jobs. 1. A 20 year-old Punjabi jutti (a flashy footwear, popular with the rural populace) bought from a small town near Bathinda. Its upper is perfect with golden thread work, but its soles had shriveled off due to excessive dryness in Las Vegas homes. 2. 11-year old slip-ons – bought from a friend’s shoe store in Bathinda. Its inner sole (patawa) had torn out. 3. Nearly 10-year old US sandals whose inner sole had cracked up, but the upper and bottom say in shape. 4. The outside heels of the SAS-brand casuals had grazed away after 10-12 years that I nearly slipped on a couple of occasions.
It was interesting to notice the changes in the attitudes of the people in India owing to the recent rise in disposable incomes. They just wanted me to buy new pairs, and felt embarrassed by my getting them repaired. How could I convince them that these shoes have served me well for years, and it is my time to do a bit for them. It is an extension of reciprocity with human beings. In this respect, some people are in a way ‘ahead’ of me in ‘throwing away’ money to the hospitals where their folks are at their natural Ends. These days, people rush to the hospitals at mere cough/sneeze for fear of contracting deadly diseases.
Well, I walked the streets of Ahmedabad to find a good cobbler, and also sought the help of my dear ones in Bathinda and Chandigarh. I wanted an artistic cobbler who would repair with care – like the people who restore vintage cars. They are very different from car mechanics. In fact, I see one often, my 80 years old neighbor, 100 yards away from our house, fondly tinkering on his classic car!
I have to finish the story of my four footwears. The machine stitches on the slip-ons were damaged during repairing – like a patient getting a wrong incision from a surgeon during surgery. I could not muster myself to throw them away. I did not ask my sister-in-law as to what she did with them. Sometimes, you ‘liberate’ your pets too. We did it once in the 1980s to our younger daughter’s pet rabbit by releasing it in the meadows of UNLV!
The jutti and sandals are fine. But the job on the SAS casuals was shoddy that part of a heel came off from one edge. The local Las Vegas SAS store refused to undertake its repair! However, a high-tech shoe/leather garment repair shop (Italian) agreed to do it for $20. I will collect them tomorrow!
Repair Story #3 is of my two khadi (Gandhi’s gift to the masses) shirts and one pajamas. My skin and coarse looking khadi cloth are made for each other! After a few years, the elbow areas get holes. Instead of tossing them away, I like to have them adjusted to half sleeves. My pajamas needed re-stitching job at the girth and seat.The upshot is that in the US, such mending work is long gone. In India, the maids who do the house cleaning and cooking were my resources for getting this work done! But even they could not find a tailor who could flip the collar of my khadi shirt! The pajamas, like the US visitors to India, could not take the extreme climate, so it simply fell apart, and was left to be cut into rag pieces- useful in death!
Besides, these tangible stories, I re-connected with an acquaintance after 51 years, established ties with Gangtok and Darjeeling; an organization and two educational institutions. The three parties that I had them organized in Faridabad, Bathinda and Banglore were meant to fertilize the old ties and connect with the young ones. They were fun and very satisfying.
The measure of extending a life lies in its productivity- whether it is that of a human being, shirt, shoe, or a college. Attachment, be it emotional or utilitarian, is a sign of throbbing life. Any detachment to life and its accessories may make the Exit easier. However, everyone has to find one’s Golden Mean between the two. The bottom line of this reflective saga is that a repairable is life is a long life!
Professor,Department of Mathematical Sciences,
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3. Epsilons and Deltas of Life: Everyday Stories, Volume I
4. My Hindu Faith & Periscope, Volume I
6. Swami Deekshanand Saraswati: My Swami Mama Ji
10.Via Bhatinda: A Braid of Reflected Memoirs, Volume II