Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lesson 21: The Plastic Suicide

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?


Care Bear said...

LOL its a funny write up. Went and read your blog too and good to find the same, i mean the laughs.And that which comes with a message too.Very nice.

I remember Kerala govt banning the use of plastic bags one fine day.And i witnessed people, after a heavy shopping at the grocery store,yelling at the store managers to give them bags to carry their buy.People were asked to come with their own bags.
Later paper bags were brought in which reduced the tension around.

No idea if the rules are still followed.Probably not.Thats us.We forget.We cant settle with change.

Naseeb said...

Everyone knows that if I'm around,throwing bottles/cans/plastic bags/chewing gum wrappers out of the car is asking for a whack..And I think now my friends throw out the occasional banana peel- the chlormint wrapper is either put in their back pocket or handed over to me-so I can stuff it in my backpocket which is overflowing with rubbish.

The thing is,one does come across the occasionaly wise ass who says, "We are giving employment to the rag pickers." Though, in some sense its true, it's not good enough reason. It's ridiculous,actually.
What I need is a good comeback..something to set em straight...anything???

sector7 said...

there was a plastic ban in Delhi many years back. i dont know whats going on with that (anyone?) plastic bags are used everywhere and in open.

if the big store are doing it, you should look at the innumerable "general stores" which give out such trivial items like candies wrapped in "pinnis". in my sector alone 10 shops selling atleast 100 items makes it 1000 plastic bombs per day.

its definitely not practical to carry your own jute bags wherever you go all the time. this primarily has to be enforced upon the people who are producing it and those who are selling it.

why isnt the govt. doing something about it? im sure oppn. wont oppose (no pun)
what does it take to stop this.... a petition or something? i dont know. im asking.

sector7 said...

edit: oh and i (we) drink beer. and old monk. and then make it a point to give it to sector guards. all happy! :P

J. Bo said...

@ Sector 7
WHY should the government do anything? For starters, they did ban plastic, but people insist.
WHY should it be tough to carry a jute bag around? Grocery shopping is mostly planned, which means you are leaving from home. You can carry a bag. Even otherwise, a jute bag does not take much space in your car boot, under your bike seat or the carrier of a scooter. I don't see WHY not being able to carry a jute bag should be used as a reason.

Naseeb --->
Just tell them that when they give employment to rag pickers, they are actually promoting child sexual abuse as 80 % those kids have been abused. Also, they are not allowed to keep the entire money either. SO they are simply adding to the growth of another mafia. And congratulations, though my friends do make a little fun of me, "Damn JBo's here, we can't throw anything outside," at least they don't throw. Haha, the side pocket of my bag is my portable waste bin. :) Join the gang.

Perhaps initiatives at store levels can be encouraged. Hmm. For instance if there's one shop in a colony, and it just does NOT keep plastic, but is provided with 20 jute bags, that they can perhaps make their regulars buy... Like if they refuse plastic bags and offer a jute bag at Rs 10, why should someone shopping for say, Rs 1000 mind another tenner? Hmm. Got to find out where these bags are mass produced....

Crimson Feet said...

may the goddess of cleanliness bless the spotless souls of J Bo n Naseeb... mortals like me get to keep the city, as well as their own pockets, clean! :)


I used to litter. I admit. Occasionally. Was concious but did not mind slipping once in a while. But have completely stopped since I joined Shitizen.

sector7 said...

>>WHY should the government do anything? For starters, they did ban plastic, but people insist.
The government should DO for the simple reason that its the government! if govt. is not acting responsibly, people take charge - RDB. if people are not acting responsibly, the govt. takes charge - iron hand. if no one takes charge - deadlock.

>> WHY should it be tough to carry a jute bag around?
because everytime i step outside i do not step out with the intention of buying something. mostly its a random purchase.

i've always littered. little here n there. never like those public park lunch mess. i console myself - "earth to earth, dust to dust, fade to black" just jokin. but plastic - STRICT NO NO!

Care Bear said...

The portable ones are everywhere, in every city.But we are a whole lot and just not enough back pockets.Much appreciated though.

If only we keep our streets and surroundings clean ... just the feeling of a clean India is so relieving.

Neither should we litter nor allow our children to.And children,if we teach them the importance of that,they sure will take it up to heart and will even suggest others to follow the same.

Shilpa said...

Point well made.

Forget the slum dwellers, low-class, lower middle class, etc, I was shocked to see 20 something software engineers from India's top colleges litter (plastic bags, cola cans, cola plastic bottles, tetra packs, etc) when we went on a team outing recently. And guess what, they have the cheek to say "It is anyways littered, I don't care. If you do, why don't you clean up the mess".

Well, a few of us did and I hope it gave them a neat little prick to thier conscience.

I remember, a few months back, Subhiksha had these ads going - "If you bring your own bag, you get a certain discount on the bill". It was all over the TV and papers. Not sure if they are sticking to it but I thought it was in the right direction.