Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ever Lasting to Lasting as long as it does….

I recently read an article in the newspapers talking about the expansion joints on the flyover bridges in Mumbai getting worn out and not much being done towards repairs. While this is actually not a one off occurrence, I was a bit concerned as two of them were in around my home. Apart from the fact that I do take them often to go around, they offer a bigger potential problem of traffic snarls for me. (

So even though a part of my concern was the likelihood of inconvenience, it is also to be noted that the flow over at King’s Circle is just a few years old and with no real heavy vehicular traffic, this might actually be due to bad construction rather than wearing due to higher traffic.  Considering I have witnessed some of the flyovers for over 30 years myself and some in South Mumbai have been dated to far earlier, it just brought me to a thought- do we still believe in the ideology of ‘Built to last’? I mean, there was a time when contractors gave municipal corporations a guarantee on its construction, but I believe they don’t make them like that anymore.

But this change in attitude is not limited to large capital projects. I have a desktop which has been upgraded from time to time due to technology getting obsolete. My dad has been using an IBM Thinkpad for 8 years and except for its battery has never had a problem. So has been the case with all the mobile phones I used. Most have lasted 3-4 years and I was forced to upgrade rather than change as the phone I was using had gone bad. Well, that existed until very recent when my first smart phone lost its mind and somehow screwed the motherboard chips. While I’m comfortable with the idea of a new purchase, my parents are seeing it as a sign of splurging.

But that is exactly where the difference in ideology makes its presence most felt. My parents have grown with the “Built to last” feeling deeply rooted. Every bit of furniture used teak and meant to last two generations with minimal repairs until the design loses its appeal in total. That is where some cupboards designed for me as a kid became less of a use as I grew up and felt the space wasn’t designed for my growing and changing needs. And this is not just me; I do see study desks, book shelves and pin- up boards sitting idle that once were hot possessions for my friends and family.

As against this, a colleague of mine bought some very cheap furniture with composite boards last year with a very simple thought- “This will last a few years and serve well until then… possibly the needs with my kids in teens, I might have to redo the room in a few years and Mickey Mouse will be replaced by Miley Cyrus”. I did agree with his point and got a study desk and book shelf that flaunted books rather than hid them behind closed doors. Also, it gave me the chance to look for my room a few years down.

The thought that I am perplexed with is what is driving this attitude of short term planning and change- over of assets. My dad has a car that is a decade old and mine is under 5. But given a chance, I’m looking to change the car and my dad doesn’t even run the thought in his mind. My argument is the car gets outdated while his opinion is that the car should last 15 years until the RTO forces a replacement. Even for capital purchases, my generation seems a bit more comfortable replacing things; in fact if observed, the next generation has an almost instinctive buy and dispose cycle.

My argument got me a response from a friend saying, “You know they don’t make things like they used to make before”. Against it, my car mechanic or electronics repair shop often say , “Iska life ab khatam ho gaya hai sahaab- aur kitne saal ragadoge???”. It possibly is a reflection that idioms like my old faithful, built to last might have run their course. That old mechanical lift in a building in Fort draws an awe; a swanky automatic door lift in a plush new office complex somehow always has an odd shake in between to send down the shivers.

Though I’m tempted to say that possibly the boom of the “China ka maal” mentality has much to play with the change in attitude; one thing is for sure… We no longer crave for ever lasting; it’s now about compromising to enjoy the good as long as they last. 

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