The post is contributed by Citizen Mads, one of our 'Mumbai shakha', as she calls herself
Me, average middle class Mumbaikar. It means I travel by train, eat vada pav and call onions, kanda. I’m proud of my city. Come flood, riot or blast, Mumbai gets up, dusts the seat of its trousers and moves on. But I have a problem. I hate the anti-Mumbaikar. No, no. Not the one who’re against Mumbai and all. That one I don’t care about. I mean the jis thaali mein khaate hain, usi mein… type.
Let me introduce you to Her. (It’s going to be Her because I travel in the ladies’ compartment, go veggie-shopping, use the women’s loo, etc.). She’s this nice, god-fearing woman who does her puja everyday, handles all the household chores, balances home and work. Nothing wrong with that, eh? Now this goddamn woman travels by train every morning. I meet Her everyday in some or the other avatar.
The first time I saw one I couldn’t believe my eyes. Just as the train moved from Bandra towards Mahim, she braved the crowds and slithered through to come to the entrance of the compartment. She stood on the edge with folded hands and a resolute look on her face. “Is she going to jump?” the mind questioned.
And behold! Come Bandra creek and she throws a huge plastic bag right into the water. And before the dropped jaw could come back in place, she disappeared into the crowd.
The puja ke phool, apparently, have to go in the water. Else, you go to hell. Fair enough.
I make it a point to stand at the entrance and meet the anti-Mumbaikar everyday. I request her to throw just the flowers without the plastic. “Try using newspaper,” I suggest. “Tu (not even tum) apna kaam kar na!” she retorts, “shaani banti hai.” (Why don't you mind your business and not try and be a smartass?)
She also frequents the veggie market. I meet her on most weekends. You could recognise Her by her conversation. “Bhaiyya, thaili do na.” There she goes again! My blood’s turning to steam now. She takes plastic bags, one for each sabzi. “Bhindi alag thaili mein daalna.” I’ve lost it completely. “People are dying every year because this city’s clogged with plastic bags.” With a sneer she looks me top to bottom, looks at my shopping bag teeming with newspaper-covered vegetables and says, “Toh mai kya karoon?”
Whaddya mean main kya karoon? You’re the one who’s strangling my city with bare hands. Strewing plastic left, right and centre. You’re the one who’s drowning all our people. You killer! I want to shoot her at sight. But she’s got so many avatars. What to do? (….)
PS: (… and 'where to start?') That’s another Yamuna story happening in Mumbai. A common myth is it’s the slum-type and slightly better-than-slum-type colonies that contribute to ‘dirtying’ a city. Those mentioned in Mads’ post are not even slum dwellers. Research by The Hazards Centre, New Delhi, headed by Anuvrata ‘Dunu’ Roy shows clearly that at least in Delhi, the slums on the Yamuna flood plains contribute to ONLY 0.08 per cent of sewage to the river. The rest of it is the imported-car driving as well as the DDA housing-society-living type. You and me. Please look at the picture of the day again. The blue plastic bag has WESTSIDE written on it. Westside is one of the big garment store chains in the city. So are Lifestyle, Shopper’s Stop and a whole lot of international brands that have entered the market. Most of these stores give out plastic carry bags in various sizes. Point to be noted here, there ARE stores that give out handmade-paper bags as well as bags made of linen. Om Book Store for one, The Shop (Connaught Place) for another; and there are more. If these guys can do it WHY cannot big stores, which obviously have the money not invest in biodegradable packaging as well? Hmm. I am going to find out, will perhaps try and rope in the Centre for Science and Environment as well. Let’s see.
Meanwhile, for those who drink beer:
If you break the bottles on the sideways and throw them behind bushes, it really does not help anyone. One, you are dirtying places around you and two, you are preventing those cans and bottles from being reused. What I don’t understand: WHEN you can carry 12 full bottles of beer in your car, why cant you carry 12 EMPTY bottles back? Now you can even stack them roughly as there’s no fear of spilling or breakage. Just bring the empty bottles back next time, instead of aiming to see who throws it the farthest or who can break his bottle into the bittiest pieces.
I will use newspaper, disposable bags and linen shopping bags instead of plastic. That will be my contribution today. Yours?