WHEN JUNK HAS IMMENSE VALUE

When I started driving, I would stop at the turn, look this side and that side, then take the turn. I was told if I continue doing this I would never reach the destination. It took me some time to unlearn this practice. I used this car for five years, without any major problem. Then I moved to another city in connection with another job. This job provided me with a company car. Despite this, I brought my old car with me to the new place. There were so many emotions attached to it. I was not using my old car in my new place, but from time to time I would fill petrol, check the brakes, tyres, and batteries. Since I was not using it, I gradually started neglecting it. I was not so careful about its maintenance, and after a couple of years, I decided to sell it. I found a buyer. I had almost handed over the car key to this gentleman, suddenly, I felt sad for the car. I felt as if the car was telling me, “Once I was part of your family. Now you want to get rid of me for a few rupees, simply because I am old and not useful.” I felt as if I am asking my father to leave home because he has become old. I had tears in my eyes for a non-living thing. Science says, the image processing of living and non-living things take place in different areas of the brain. But at that moment, I could not distinguish between a living and a non-living thing. I told the gentleman, “I am sorry. Just now I have decided not to sell the car.” I felt very much relieved when the gentleman left. When winning comes from losing, it makes one doubly happy. My car was with me for more time. I wonder if it was junk or garbage?

A junk is different from a garbage. The rubbish we keep is junk. The rubbish we throw away is garbage. Junk is what was once useful. Junk occupies unnecessary space and has no value. Yet, we don’t want to throw it. There are many reasons for this. Sentiment is one. Imagine you are in a far-off place from your home. You receive a box of sweets from your mother. The sweets are over, but you don’t want to throw away the box in the garbage bin. You want to keep it. Some may say, it is cheap sentiment, but you don’t care. You just keep it. Let that junk occupy unnecessary space. If there is a need, you are ready to throw away something useful to accommodate the junk.

Take the appendix. It presumably doesn’t have any function but it exists in our body. Is it a surplus? Perhaps, it is there because it has some function, and we don’t know what that function is, or it is there as an investment for the future. Such “vestigial traits” persist because they are neutral, or because there hasn’t been enough evolution to eliminate them even though they have become disadvantageous. Says Sydney Brenner, “The excess DNA in our genomes is junk, and it is there because it is harmless, as well as being useless, and because the molecular processes generating extra DNA outpace those getting rid of it.”

Junk that begins to smell is garbage. My old car was not garbage for me. It was also not junk. It had value like that of a butterfly. A butterfly has neither weight, nor usefulness, but it spreads colour and happiness. My old car reminded me of my good old days. My old car gave me a different kind of sense of fulfilment. I am happy that my car was part of my family.

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© 2017 by Dr Purnendu Ghosh