During my stay in Ahmedabad, the fantastic (I’d really recommend a read of his blog) designer Sahil Thappa took me to see some of the repair culture in Ahmedabad Old Town. One place that I particularly remember was a building, four or so stories high, of mobile phone repair shops. The middle was open with little walkways so you could see all the tiny little shops on the other floors. Sahil described it as an “ecosystem”: within this building new phones are bought, broken ones repaired and old ones dismantled. Components and tools are traded amongst the different vendors as are recommendations and advice. The building functions as a complete system with each individual vendor working in complement to the others.
In a lot of ways, this description can be extended to much larger parts of India, or the India of the past. Repair and re-use is everywhere and trading is built upon personal connections and supporting each other, each village acting as its own ecosystem. Despite this, Sahil told me that there is a big push from above for India to trade internationally. Placing value on massive trade deals and the global distribution of each different element of manufacture and making. This is creating the opportunity for India to place itself as a key member of the global market, and through this increasing their GPD and international standing. Ghandi spoke extensively about the moral and political obligation to buy local, but is a self-sufficiency focused India now simply a romantic ideal?