Austerity cannot be practised without some pain. The pain, although, can be enjoyed if taken positively. ‘Austerity measures’ are adopted by governments across the world. It has become popular with multi-national companies too. Using solar energy and riding bicycles are some of the popular measures taken to practise austerity. But, most of these measures turn out to be symbolic, to earn cheap publicity, especially in Asian countries. The more the stature of a person, the less the term austerity is applied to him or her. Most of the world leaders, who talk about austerity, move in chartered planes burning fuels that could fly hundreds of others.

Technology often comes in the way of austerity. Take the example of air conditioners (AC). An AC-fitted car was a prized possession till a few years ago in India. Now, almost all variants of all models of any car come with AC. Having AC at home was once a bizarre idea even for the upper middle class. It’s not so now. Even the small grocery shops have AC, for comfort. The use of ACs is so rampant that they even made inroads into hill towns like Shillong where some people still wear sweaters round the year. There are many government offices where officers cannot tolerate the slightest bit of heat during the two-three summer months and use AC even while wearing blazers and sweaters. A small court room in the Meghalaya High Court has as many as three-four ACs running! The amount of heat generated inside the court room due to presence of people could easily be reduced to a great extent if the big windows were kept open. But, the windows are for passing the light only, not air! The reason could be that with air comes the dust, not seen much in Shillong, still known as ‘Scotland of East’. Astonishingly, there is no fan, which consumes much less energy than the AC. The fan, may be, out of fashion!

People take resort to technology to reduce their pain caused by natural phenomena. It’s a different matter that people’s own activities are behind most of these pains – increasing heat, dust, flash floods etc. To practise austerity, we need to tolerate some pain, which is often beneficial for our own health. If your office is a half-an-hour walk from home, you should take the walk and not manage just 5 minutes to be there by your car. Switch off the AC, if the heat is not unbearable. Let some dust bother you, take a bath at home, clean the car interiors after a week. You will save a lot of energy and, above all, win mental satisfaction, the mantra for keeping in good health.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on July 5)