Sabahat Quadri Works


Material World

I hate shopping. I’m one of those people who rushes through shopping malls with the wind at my heels. Before I leave the house, I have a list and I don’t make impulse purchases. The thought of roaming through shops and simply browsing or buying things bores me. The only shopping I enjoy is for stationery and art materials. I love the smell of paint, the texture of watercolour paper, the crumbling graphite of a freshly sharpened pencil. But take me to a shoe shop and I can’t wait to get out of there.

Going shopping with my friends—all of them, without exception, love to shop for make up and shoes—is often a chore, and they have stopped asking me to go with them. I am not a gracious shopper by any means. I don’t own more than five pairs of shoes at any one time (including sneakers). The only make up in my bathroom is lipstick. I don’t have curlers or straighteners, or even a hair dryer. Decorative pieces in my house are mostly gifts—I have very specific tastes when it comes to lamps and rugs and I hate clutter, so unless I find it extraordinarily beautiful, I won’t be buying anything. In fact, our walls and surfaces are pretty bare.

Despite my aversion to shopping, my husband, my three cats and myself generate a great deal of waste. We have a store full of empty boxes with warranties on them for TVs, DVD players, kitchen appliances, computers, air conditioners, phones—I often wonder where everything came from. Our pantry is mostly full, but I’m just as wary of buying food that we won’t be able to consume quickly as I am with makeup and shoes. And yet, and yet, all the trash cans in the house pile up quickly at the end of the day. Our trash gets picked up every other day and it’s rare that we don’t have garbage to be emptied.

Our monthly shopping lists are long, from food to toiletries to light bulbs and fuses. We buy paper and towels and sheets, pillows, cushions, cleaning equipment, medicine, stationery, books, magazines, water, drinks, glasses, silverware and dining ware. We buy cloth napkins and candles and incense, flowers and cute little bowls with marbles in them. This is all part of our collective life, and then we have our individual needs.

I’m a part of a material world that’s eating up this planet. I am part of the income bracket that measures success by the amount of buying power we have. I am one of the people who’s sole purpose in life seems to be the acquisition of things.


If I was one of a hundred people that lived on Earth, I could probably get away with living like this. But as part of seven billion, I am just weighing the planet down. I recently read an article in The Guardian that led me to the Global Population Speak Out website. They have published a fantastic book that scared the life out of me. I would recommend reading the excellent parable, Lord Man, that the book starts with:

2 responses to “Material World”

  1. Yup, we’re killing the planet and seem helpless to prevent it, despite all those dystopian novels pointing the way!

    1. Natasha Avatar

      Novels, movies, documentaries, poems, art, websites – so many forms in which we learn that the planet is dying. I really don’t get why the concept is so hard to grasp. I sometimes wonder if we only begin to recognize our actions towards the end of our lives. Each new generation has to start learning from scratch, by which time they’ve already added to the damage.

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