By Tara Narayan
NOT joking. Some time ago at my local store at Tonca I got carried away by some good looking choota rice for sale and bought some. The rice was nicknamed Chandni! It was selling absurdly at `40 or so kilo. I should have known better! After one cooking I realized the rice tasted more like plastic pretending to be rice…and it could have been plastic rice. My nazaron ka dhoka was that it look beautiful, exquisitely cut, ivory in colouring… too good to be true but dumbo me bought it anyway. Same time I heard a rumour spreading in the market that plastic rice was coming into India courtesy where else but China! Only the human of the species can be this vile.
Well, I put two and two together and chucked the rice after one cooking and made enquires at the store but it had vanished. Shyamrao at Jack of All at Tonca told me forget it, it was not good rice, some unbranded rice, he decided not to stock it. The truth is our civilization is so callous in its usage of plastics — and yes, single-use plastics — that in the last 20 years micro plastics are creeping into our food chain.
This should be a matter of serious concern to us and our Food & Drugs authorities if they care. On one hand it is the chemicals and micro plastics food scare which is driving the small organic farming movement, whereby we’re all seeking organically cultivated veggies, fruit and food; on the other hand the urban takeaway food business is booming and contributing big time to the mountain of one-time use plastic packaging. Every small food retailer is using one-time use plastics. One-time use plastics are not just flimsy or not so flimsy poly bags but also all the itsy bitsy designer drinking straws, swivel sticks, cutlery, containers, pocket platters in which caterers are tucking away food for a customer to take away to eat at home in peace in the company of friends or family.
We are up to our gills in the menace of plastics whether we realize it or not. The plastics menace in our life is real and ugly because even the most educated patronize it. Plastics are presumably also such big returns for various politicians that they will forever keep vacillating about whether to ban plastics in toto or not. Prime Minister Narendra Modi backtracked after announcing a ban on plastics! Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant said, okay, maka naka plastic in Goa but this was only for one-time use plastics…and the very next day the ruling was squashed! Such vile hypocrisy on the subject of plastics is unwarranted and yes, unless manufacture of plastics is banned people will not on their own stop using plastics…Mother Earth is cursed by human civilization.
Oh, we will make fancy statements and organise small local tamasha of distributing cloth bags now and again but soon it is here we go again — pernicious one-time use plastics are everywhere flooding our homes, roads, gutters, in landfills breaking loose, in water bodies…has anyone done a study of how much food is sold in deadly takeaway plastic containers?
Hey, I’m no saint. I often buy back food and yes, it comes packed in fine poly containers, the chutneys, the sambar, entire mini meals in pocket platters (which are a big hit and offer little value for money but a steal for busy caterers making a killing on takeaway food). I do carry my own bag, stainless tiffin boxes from home, but forget oftentimes and succumb to the temptation of plastic container takeaways — when I don’t have my dibba with me, hate myself of course afterwards.
Funny, the world managed very well for thousands of years before the 20th industrial and food industry boom and colonial time empires hit us, redefined our lifestyles of never ending gratification and comfort. Now we seek mindboggling comfort as also fighting fit health…such a contradiction in terms if you sit and analyse it. Our degenerative diseases are linked to the sedentary, lazy, vile-thinking lifestyles we patronize!
As far as maka naka plastic movement is concerned I do think it has to start in every home with you and me. For some time now social media has been flooded with graphic video documentaries of how the world’s foul plastics are disintegrating into micro or nano particles and invading our water bodies, choking marine life, infiltrating into our earth, our food chain – it is contributing big time to global warming because at the same time we’re destroying huge forests which keep oxygen levels balanced in our environment (e.g. read up Amazon forest devastation), water is running away into the oceans and oceans are threatening to drown us (remember how vulnerable the triangular Indian sub-continent is). Think what happened in Chennai, what is happening in Bihar currently, what is happening to the Indus delta, the Bramaputra delta…China meddling with the mountains of the Himalaya and trying to take over all mountain country in its zeal to rule the future. It is our so called natural calamities which are sparking off human migration patterns.
Add to the environmental tragedies all around us of mind and body, heart and soul. Everything is very finitely linked and we just have to make the connections if we have time to stop having so much fun and do some sombre thinking of what kind of future we are leaving behind for the younger generation. I think Goa can very easily do it, be a plastics free state. Let the government go to hell. The bottom line is money, the government won’t ban plastics but each of us can take a resolution to first minimize our own personal use of plastics usage and purchase of anything coming in plastics.
In Germany and some European countries increasingly the young generation is refusing to buy things in packaging, they want toothpaste out of fancy plastic box and raw naked soap wrapped in plain paper. Old fashioned mom and pop grocery stores are opening up where one may take one’s own bags and containers and stock up on groceries, oils, whatever rations required to live a minimalistic lifestyle.
All this because they care that something like 200 species are varnishing in the wild daily! What’s the point of being so pious and religious when we Indians cannot even stop vissarjan come Chovoth or Durga Puja and every now and again for some reason or another, we flock down to the beaches to pollute, contaminate, poison the very things we offer prayers too in our scriptures…make the connections, my friends and say maka naka plastic in a myriad ways from today.
I’m giving it my best shot. Run competitions for homes without plastics, offer awards for those who consistently take their own dibba out for buying home food from restaurants. Make this a fashionable niz Goenkar celebrities movement and include our politicians – Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, AYUSH Union Minister Shripad Naik, Waste Treatment Minister Michael Lobo and a slew of Congress politicians, folk from the Konkani literature — Damodar Mauzo, Prince Jacob — can set the flags flying for a kinder alternative maka naka plastic lifestyle, for a plastics free Goa….come on, come on, wake up, the bells are ringing a ghastly end to our civilization!
AT the three-day mega naturopathy mela just over in Panaji I was shocked anew by how much organic health supplements are packed away in plastic containers. Hey, you cannot be organic if you are not eco-friendly too. All naturopathy products must come in eco-friendly packaging otherwise it’s just a lot of hypocrisy we practice in the interests of commerce. The best commerce must always come in leaf, jute, cloth, glass — anything eco-friendly. Let’s return to pre-plastic times as soon as possible in Goa and set an example to the rest of India!