I was about 8 years old, when I observed that our toothpaste was now coming in a user friendly plastic tube, instead of metal tube. I loved the new toothpaste packaging as it was convenient and retained its original shape throughout. It was quite a draw compared to the old metal tube that lost all its original glory with usage.
At that age, I believed that plastic ought to be the discovery of the century. With time, everything that came packaged, came in plastic. The colorful and light weight packages were the in thing. Even my parents stopped carrying ‘jhola/ thaila’ (a cloth carrybag) for grocery shopping.
‘They give everything in plastic bags these days.” was their excuse. Plastic bags became a way of life.
As I grew up, campaigns around hazards of plastic picked up momentum. A general environment against usage of plastic was created and emphasize was laid on recycling of plastic. But how did it affect me? Not in a way that I can be proud of. Same was the case with everyone around me including my family (pre and post marriage). I could say that my routine life continued in oblivion.
But things changed when Nik began his formal schooling.
One of the missions of Nik’s school is to make the students conscious about their environment and curb usage of plastic. Here’s how they do it –
- From the very beginning the students are taught to make paper bags.
- Students and their parents are requested to use these very handmade paper carry bags to carry anything to school and back.
- There is a constant reinstatement of facts about hazards of plastic to flora and fauna.
All of this though impressed me as a parent (after all who doesn’t like their kids growing up to be environment conscious citizens), but the implications remained limited to things and activities that concerned Nik’s school.
But something changed this summer.
One day while we were having our chat time, Nik started with a narrative,
“Mamma! The plastic bag we use goes in the river and then the fish swims into that plastic bag. It doesn’t know that it’s a plastic bag and keeps trying to come out of it. When it can’t come out of it for long time, it dies inside it.”
The way Nik made a production of the fish swimming and getting stuck and finally breathing its last, made my heart tug at how strongly my son felt for the fish. But it did not end there. Nik continued,
“Mamma! When the plastic bag is dumped in soil, the plants don’t find their way out of the soil and they can’t grow. If we continue to use and throw plastic bags, there will be no plants and trees in future.”
Now I was really impressed by my son’s capability to reproduce what he had been taught at school. But the real deal happened, when a couple of minutes later, my mom-in-law walked in with half a dozen plastic bags containing her grocery shopping.
“Dadi! You should not use plastic bags. They kill fishes and plants. Please carry paper bags or cloth bags to the market.”
My mom-in-law was taken aback for a moment, but sportingly agreed to stitch some bags soon. She was embarrassed the next day again, when Nik expressed his concern over her not stitching the bags rather dramatically. The third evening, Nik was outraged, when he saw his grandmother with another set of plastic carry bags in her hand.
The fourth evening, my mother in law walked into the house with a couple of plastic bags carrying fruit supplies. But sneaked into the kitchen and emptied the contents and hid the plastic bags before her grandson had another round of fit.
The fifth day, the grandson – grandmom duo set out to find out some discarded bed-sheets from the storeroom and stitched a couple of carry bags.
That day, my son walked upto me and reveled in his wisdom,
“See! Dadi also needs to be reminded things repeatedly. But finally she has understood that plastic is a bad thing.”
I looked in awe of my son who walked away with his head held high. But one thing was for sure, that my son had been successful in making a dent in the long held practices in our household.
A couple of other things that we have done on Nik’s insistence in order to curb use of plastic –
- We sent out Nik’s birthday sweets in newspaper pouches instead of plastic zip pouches.
- Incase we are not carrying our cloth carry-bag and the items are manageable with two hands, we politely refuse to take a carry bag from the shopkeepers.
- We do not throw any carry-bags in the dustbin. If they are soiled, we wash them and give them to our ‘Kabadiwaala/ Raddiwaala’ who can put it out for recycling.
- For things that need to be wrapped before being discarded, we use newspapers, instead of plastic bags.
- We have got metal water bottles for everyone to carry to work and discarded the plastic ones.
- We are looking for more ways to reduce usage of plastic bags and replace them appropriately.
‘The Child is The Father of Man’ appeared as a phrase in William Woodsworth’s poem “My Heart Leaps Up” in 1802. I wonder the back story that led Mr. Woodsworth to come up with this phrase. But over two centuries later, through my own experiences, I have come to understand and appreciate this phrase in its full glory. With his small initiative, my son has been successful in bringing about a radical shift in both our thought and action.
Every change begins with a small step, whether it’s a change within your family, or the whole country! India’s hero, Padman, had its digital premiere on ZEE5, on 11th May. Don’t miss this inspiring true-life story, only on ZEE5. Download the app and subscribe now. For every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.