Do you recycle?


If yes, then great! If no, then join the club!

Mumbai is a city that is littered with tons of plastic; plastics of all kinds, from bags, bottles, boxes, to containers and cartons. It is incredible how much plastic is consumed and wasted on a daily basis. The concept of recycling is just a concept; there is no reality to it. In a city where millions of people use plastic, it is saddening to note that an efficient “recycling program” is not in place. This is even more surprising in a time when the whole world is making a movement toward a “greener” landscape. Why isn’t India on board?

This morning I went for my daily walk and was mesmerized by this wondrous sight: people from the municipality cleaning up incredible amounts of waste from the creek. I imagine this is all the plastic that has been washed up during the high tide:

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If you look closely, you will find the BMC (municipality) workers raking plastic and other such trash and dumping them into the truck. By the way, this truck will dump its possessions in another landfill and will add to the already increasing amounts of garbage that is taking over the city.

Every time I step out of my house, I am guaranteed to either find plastic bags and other similar waste, strewn around the neighborhood, or I can be sure of encountering areas that are piled with trash – a very sore and unpleasant sight.

The government has and is still trying to take a stand on this matter, urging and maintaining complete bans on plastic bags that are beyond “50 microns”. But this is Mumbai, and even Satan can get away with murder! Vendors and shop keepers still use bags that are banned. Some shops do charge customers a minimal fee for giving them plastic bags, while others do not keep plastic bags at all. Either way, there is no uniform system in place and the menace of plastic bags continues to remain just that: a horrible menace, a phenomena that the city may never be able to deal with, unless every citizen makes a conscious choice and effort to participate in endeavors for a greener Mumbai.

It is a fact that most Indian cities seldom have a recycling system or efficient system for the collection of household waste. Instead, it is not uncommon to find low-caste scavengers or rag pickers looking through the garbage in search of items such as plastic or glass bottles, and other such material that could be sold for a minimum price. Outside of India’s big cities, rubbish is simply dumped on vacant plots or in nearby fields or forests. Have a look and be amazed:

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In 2005, Mumbai witnessed one of its most devastating floods in July, where hundreds of people lost their lives. The Mumbai municipality has determined that plastic bags was one of the major culprits that clogged the cities drainage system, resulting in the over flow of water back into the arteries of the city instead of the drains.

It really makes me sad what we are doing to our environment, especially in a country where, traditionally, we are supposed to be in unison with nature. Now, we don’t even give her a second thought. However, there are many people in the city who are conscious of reusing plastic and carrying their own plastic bags to the market. So there is some hope.

I am hopeful that each Mumbaiker will do his/her best to eliminating the curse of plastic. Otherwise, we will be in even more trouble than we already are in. See the picture below:

s many little water channels!

Plastic clogging one of Mumbai’s many little water channels!

 

Notice the rodent prying into the red/white plastic bag.

Notice the rodent prying into the red/white plastic bag.

India witnessed her last Bubonic Plague in 1994, where 5 major states were affected. The next one may be just around the corner, at this rate!

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Are you secure from the Evil Eye?


For a modern and cosmopolitan city, Mumbai certainly has some eccentricities that cannot be ignored. One of the most interesting things I have noticed, time and again, is that most cars and shops sport the nimubu-mirchi garland (lime-chilli). This garland literally consists of several green chillies strung together, with a yellow lime hanging at the bottom of it. Most taxis and rickshaws in Mumbai will purchase these contraptions, for a mere Rs. 10/-, and will hang them either in the rear view mirror or in the front of the vehicle. Children will be selling these on the streets and will mainly target taxi/ rickshaw drivers and people who own fancy cars (Audis, BMWs, Mercedes, etc). After all, own the top line cars is no small thing in Mumbai (where you pay 100% in taxes). Owning such a car, the, would surely attract the envy and scorn of the common man/woman.

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Here’s one that is hanging in the front of the taxi:

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The lime-chilli garland is actually believed to ward off the “evil eye” or, what we call in Hindi, the buri-nazar. Every culture and country has their version of the evil eye, and Mumbai is no exception.The garland is also known as the nazar battu and traditionally, has 7 green chillies and one lime strung together. It is popularly used amongst the Hindus and is believed that the contraption has the ability to “absorb” and contain and kinds of jealousies or ill-feelings that people may have about someone’s success and happiness, be it in the realm of family, business, or a new social enterprise.

The mythology that surrounds this contraption is as follows: While all Hindus welcome and cherish the presence of the Goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth and auspiciousness), they are also sure to keep her jealous sister, Alakshmi, away from the homes and business. Alakshmi is believed to bring poverty to a person’s life. Alakshmi is believed to like sour and pungent foods.Thus, the lime-chilli contraptions are hung at the every entrances of houses and shops, with the belief that Alakshmi will attempt to come into these dwellings, will stop at the entrance and consume the chillies and lime, will be satiated, and will not cast any misery that was originally intended. The contraption is meant to satisfy the malevolent desires of the goddess and also appease her. how clever!

Modern or not, Mumbai is a city of strange beliefs and practices. I am sure there are many such beliefs that cloak this city and are endorsed and utilized by all classes and castes in Mumbai. I was pretty amazed when I was wandering the hallways of the Taj Hotel over the weekend, and found that one of the top establishments in Mumbai, Ravissant, had the nimbu-mirchi garland hanging right outside its shop:

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I was a little stunned at seeing this ultra-modern, ultra-chic store sporting the medieval garland, thereby publicly declaring it’s embrace of the supernatural and all beliefs attached to it. I guess the more prestigious you are, the more protection required from the evil eye? Go figure!