Sunday, December 31, 2006

Indians and plastics

And suddenly, one day, we got plastics! We see them everywhere, even in a remote tribal village that is cutoff from civilization without access even to a decent road. Plastics come in all forms- sachets, tubes, packets, rubber, polythene, etc. They are found everywhere- every field, every stream, every street, every neighborhood- almost every landscape is littered with shining plastic. We don’t know what to do with them. They never seem to go away. They remain the same, in the soil for years making the land toxic; they block the streams, canals and drainage to flood the cities during rains. Animals eat them, choke on them and die. We don’t know what to do with plastic water bottles or tea cups- they land up on the street. They are littered everywhere- whole of India is a grand garbage dump. We seem to produce tons of this plastic, and they have nowhere to go. They just land up on Indian landscape to adorn it. Soon it may be difficult to go to a place in India where the land isn’t littered with plastic.

Then we have another fascination with plastic- sitting on it. Many new Indians cars are adorned in plastic. The owners never seem to take them off, and like to keep the plastic on for a long time. According to them, it makes them feel like riding a new car. As for me, I feel like sitting on plastic- it’s slippery and makes weird noises when you move. Why would I pay few lakhs of rupees to sit on plastic sheets? Even if they do remove the plastic off the seats, or may be, it’s just got worn off after a month long wear and tear, they still keep plastic cover on sun shades and other accessories.

Some homes have all their new stuff still draped in plastic. Barbie dolls never come out of their plastic boxes. Some refrigerators and microwave still have polythene covered handles. Once, I went to visit some friends. I was watching TV all alone. The sticker on the TV screen was taking up a lot of space, so I just went ahead and removed it. When the owners came back they were shocked, dismayed and extremely annoyed that I took the sticker off. I got to know that they have been retaining the sticker since they bought their TV set almost a year ago. They wanted to believe it’s still brand new! Plastic helps them believe it is always new.

Technology without maturity

We have been given the fruits of modern science and technology without having to go through the pains of attaining it. It was first imposed on us, then we just inherited it, and now we borrow it. Technology is not a solace or answer to all our problems. It has its own byproducts which could be distasteful. It all depends on how we use it. To be in a position to use it appropriately, we need to be a mature country- that we are not! For example, you go to a movie theatre to watch a movie, and the cell phones keep ringing- it’s so annoying to everyone else. Some of them even pick up the phone and keep chatting. The glowing light from across the other guy is irritating and distracting. Some of them keep sending SMS. Another bad habit is picking up phone while having a dinner or a coffee with friends. Once, I saw bunch of friends all sitting across the dinner table, each one talking over the phone. Why did they come to dinner in the first place, to meet these friends who are across the table, or talk to others who aren’t there?

Plastics are result of modern technology. They are extremely useful. At the same time they pose a great threat to environment. It requires maturity to handle it and dispose it. While we have inherited these fruits, we haven’t got a chance to inherit the maturity. If only we could just buy a kilo of maturity in a nearby shopping mall!


  1. Seems like you are writing a lot of ANTI-INDIA and PRO-MUSLIM articles. You are either:
    1) A Pakistani writing under hindu name
    2) An Indian pro-terrorist muslim who supports killings of innocent people and the islamic cause of terrorist activities all over the world

    please use your original name.

  2. Sachin:
    I am not a pakistani writing under hindu name. I am an Indian Hindu living in Bangalore.

    I am not a muslim either.

    However if it makes your life easy to believe that way, please go ahead.

  3. Loved the bit about the car draped in plastic.

    Then the brand new car would get seat covers the first day. Allegedly to prevent the original covers from getting dirty. And what use are the clean original covers if they would never be seen throughout the lifetime of the car :)

    btw, why the comment moderation ? do you get more flames than you can delete ?

  4. Hi Anjali:
    Yes, I use moderation to be in a position to delete certain nasty comments.

    Some of my previous posts (on Kashmir, Reservations, Islam, etc) have invited comments from certain intolerant people who would not only revel in insulting me but also indulge in mocking my origins and my family. That's when I decided to moderate the comments.

    I prefer it this way now :)

  5. Nice post, Sujai.

    Yes, even the West is realizing the bane of plastic bags. The grocery stores encourage people to bring their own reusable cloth bags and give them 5 cents off for each bag. There is more awareness of the issues related to it.

    Kinda reminds me of my childhood in India when I would go grocery shopping with my dad - he always took 4 or 5 cloth bags with him for vegetables and grains etc. that were reused. And that was a common practice among all neighbors, not just my dad. And he still uses similar bags even today. Who says India doesn't have ingenuity and common sense? We had it, but then we lost some of it in adopting ideas from the West (like plastic bags) that now both the East & West are finding a problem. Looks like we will be back to the same place using reusable bags as was the norm 30 years ago in India. :)

    BTW, I don't think all plastics are bad as there have been many positive, life-saving inventions using plastics. This is specific to plastic bags.


  6. Awesome post. I read it only now, so my comment may be quite outdated. I think our thoughts resonate on this matter. Most Indians just 'don't give a damn' and are too insensitive and immature.

    I personally have a mild phobia of seeing plastics scattered around and floating in the open, and clogging drains. I just hate it!
    I have almost stopped using plastics for shopping, et al. and insist that shopkeepers use paper bags. I hope more shopkeepers and retail outlets provide large paper/straw bags and gunny bags

  7. The problem is not plastic, the problem is littering. If littering is eliminated in India, you will not see plastic lying around. Developed countries use more plastic than India but you do not see it on the street because there is not much littering.

    Nitin Bawa, MD, MBA
    Destin, Florida


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