It was the summer of 1969. I stood leaning quietly against the poorly cemented wall of my terrace, brooding on the intricacies of my insignificant existence. I was disheartened and plagued by loneliness. It was that unfortunate phase in my life where I sensed that God had wantonly abandoned me. I kept an eye open for idly gazing at the buzzing market scene below. It appeared somewhat similar at any length of the day as if ignorant of the sweltering weather that made me so uncomfortably hot.
In that sleepy state of mind, I lazily tried to decipher the various people. They seemed only concerned with their own petty affairs of buying or selling goods, mostly fruits that could no more be seen in the hot baking afternoon heat more than the tiny black flies that covered them. The fruit sellers could not have appeared more unbothered, fanning their perspiring brows as they sat squatting in their khadhi dhotis that must have once been of the color white.
Next to the fruit stalls was a tiny repair shop- if you can call it one- of four bamboos loosely tied to the ends of a cloth of the color of the sun. The cloth roof sheltering from the direct blistering heat drooped down as low as to almost touch the head of the figure working beneath it. A young scrawny boy with dirty slipshod hair who looked no more than seven was absorbed in his work of thread and needle. It was if there was no life outside the universe of his shabby yellow shop and sewing served the sole purpose of his life. His small brown hands kept at his work with such cleverness that it was a while before I could notice the beautiful lady towering above him. I was that engrossed.
When I say beautiful, I mean that hers was an unearthly presence in that ordinary third grade place where the air is always putrid and everything appears to be rotting. Her dark brown curls were cozily cushioned against the sides of her silken cheeks. Her taut velvety skin was delicately wrapped in a blue sleeveless cotton dress that came to just above her knees. As she laughed at something the boy said to her as he held outright her pair of silver heels with his two bony fingers, she straightened the light brown straw hat that had been drooping to the right side of her lovely face. I caught a glimpse of those hazel eyes that saw the world around her only through the light shades of innocence.
It was a sign. I had seen an angel fallen from the sky. Her name was Hope.
The heat suddenly felt unbearable, and I felt a burn forming on the sides of my cheeks. I shut my eyes briefly for a few seconds to drink in as much of her as I could. In those moments she vanished, never to come back again before my eyes.
That was a good twenty years back, and the sight of her altered the course my life would have taken if I had wasted my youth any more on those dreadful thoughts. Here I am now, laughing and reading bear stories to my four year old daughter. She will have a good night’s sleep because her daddy takes care of all the boogey monsters. Her curls often do remind of the summer noon that was.
The Conundrum of Recycle, Reuse or Ban
Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) is well on its way with its imposition of ‘the ban on the manufacture, use and sale of plastic carry bags’, a change that would affect each module of our community; be it vendors, manufacturers, traders, retailers, malls, consumers, rag pickers or recyclers.
We have confronted similar attempts to manage waste before; but why do these laws fail to implement in action? Is a 100% ban on the use of plastic mandatory?
Corporate firms that manufacture plastic argue that plastic is recyclable, and hence a ban on it is unnecessary. What they don’t mention is that 40% of the total plastic waste is non- recyclable. Plastic is of various types, depending on its composition. Metallized plastic, like the cover of Lays is completely non-recyclable. How then is recycling an environmentally viable option in this case?
They go as far as to propose energy generation from plastic. What they choose to ignore is the release of dioxins during the process. Plastic emits toxins when it is burnt, and a range of chemicals are released as several colors are added to it. So while we try save the environment, we destroy it much more in the process.
You might be familiar with the term downcycling. It describes the interminable deterioration of plastic each time it is recycled, constraining its incessant reuse. Also, segregation is a necessary foreplay to recycling as similar kinds of plastic are recycled together. Sometimes, this segregation can be extremely cumbersome in practice. Some objects like the tube of toothpaste constitute of four different plastics, and so only the cap of tube is recycled.
If we consider other obstacles to plastic disposal, plastic burial leads to toxic leaching, is life threatening to stray animals and is a menace to aquatic life once in water. It also takes very long to decompose. Finally, its basic resource is petroleum, which adds to the amount of carbon.
In the recent meeting on the ban on plastic bags held at Open Space,
This is why environmentalists request a complete ban on plastic bags, with subsidies for cloth, paper or jute.
While Pune already has a law against the usage of plastic below 50 microns in order to prevent flying of plastic, that law hasn’t reduced the quantity of plastic waste, as the manufacturers now produce plastic of thicker density. However, with extinction of plastic below 50 microns that was held responsible for many floods, the frequency of floods has reduced. But as plastic destruction still remains difficult, favor seems to be extending to implement a complete ban, so that the facet of density is not raised.
On one side the manufacturers and recyclers clearly object to this ban, whereas the vendors appear to be stuck in between the pros and cons. While the prospect of not paying for the extra carry bag along with the purchases of the consumer appears profitable, the consumers are too habituated to take carry bags from the shops and hence threaten to not buy from that shop if a carry bag is not supplied along with the purchases. This induces them to break the law.
The question that becomes important to ask at this point is whether it is the responsibility of the consumers to adapt to the change and welcome the idea of a new generation where cloth bags become as precious as mobiles to be clung on to. Or is it the retailers responsibility to not provide even on demand? But perhaps the world never did function without symbiosis. We together need to brush the planet clean in order to paint change.