At Our Disposal

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Disposing of two things are not easy where I live. It is painful to see these two lying about on the streets, in the park and in other public places.  While one is considered holy the other is a taboo.  The very fact that I am bringing these two things under one umbrella could be considered sacrilegious by many.

So these two things are: used/broken idols (holy) and used sanitary towels (unholy). The former is purposely kept, under a holy tree while the latter I happened to see when I saw two stray dogs dig them out from the public bin in search of food, and many times even after that.

So what are the holy idols, that once adorned the little temples in the houses of many, lying in dust under the trees in the public?  I fail to understand the way many people dispose of the idols when they are done with them or when they are broken. Idols which are mostly made of stones are breakable and they do break. It is considered wrong to keep a broken idol at home (and why would you keep something broken anyway?), hence one has to dispose it off. But where? You certainly can’t even think of throwing them in the bin. That is an absolute profanity. Some people, including my mother, take it to a local temple and keep it under the tree there. What the local priest does with it is something I don’t know. Some people go miles to a water body and submerge it.  Immersion of any thing in River Yamuna has, as I noticed a month ago, become a concern for the local government as there is a warning board prohibiting one from throwing anything in it. So where do you then dispose the broken/used idols ? As I have been noticing for many years, the best spot is under a holy tree – a peepal tree usually, never mind where the tree is- it could be on the corner of the road, in a public park, outside a temple or just anywhere.  So a nice, eclectic collection of idols had been lying under the peepal tree inside my local park where I jog every morning. Nobody had touched them, mostly out of superstition or fear of being reproached by someone, for a long time till one fine morning recently, the park gardener, who must be an octogenarian and looks as if he can’t be bothered by the worldly issues and havoc one little thing/action can create, transferred the idols from the ground to the bench which is just outside the park. The bench still is under the same peepal tree as the tree happens to be just at the entrance of the park.  I continue to see the idols every morning seated on the bench. The same idols to which we all genuflected to when they were respectfully placed in our houses. Now we just walk past them. (See picture above).

Moving onto the sanitary towels now. For many years I have faced this trouble on a monthly basis on how to dispose of the used towels. It was easy in the girls’ hostel where I spent 5 tormenting years as a teenager. The administration took care of the disposal. All we had to do was dispose it of in the bins. It was only after I had left the hostel and started to live with my parents that I realised it was a big problem. No wonder you have big notes in the ladies’ toilets in public places warning you to not to flush the pad in the bin as it would only block it. So I never tried flushing it. It was an embarrassing subject to be even discussed with my mum. I remember taking the used towels wrapped in the newspaper and throwing them sometimes over the wall (ours was a corner house then) or even in the public bins when I made sure that no one was looking around. But this was more than a decade ago. As a middle-aged woman I have become smarter now, at least that’s what I think thought I still have to dispose them of using some discretion.

Only recently I realised that this continues to be a social problem even now and in many other houses too including in my area – a somewhat plush locality. Many stray dogs, birds, monkeys and even peacocks look inside the lid-less public bins for food regularly. A particular green bin in the corner of our next lane is quite a mess. So the other morning while on my way to  jog I happened to notice two stray dogs fighting over something. On a closer look, it was a used sanitary towel that they had dug out from the bin. It looked as if they had found some treasure! They had a good time tearing it apart and fighting over it while the other used sanitary towels, from the same common bag, lay near the bin. The fact that you have to get out of our house to throw them in a public bin means we haven’t made much progress socially.

Another time, while I happened to visit my father some years ago in a different city (and when I didn’t think on this subject then) I noticed a used towel thrown (three days continuously) from one of the floors of the building  to the ground floor. I used to look up but to no avail. So this girl/lady found this method of disposal as an easier option. Just throw it down from the bathroom window! With hundreds of people living in the building who would know who has thrown it! In all likelihood, it could be another young girl or a lady, educated yes as I would imagine all to be living there, but shy to discuss this topic at home and with men around. I am glad that some sort of revolution is taking place in the country and in the world, where the subject of menstruation is being openly talked about.

My solution: an openly designated space/box for each in the areas we live where we can respectfully and with no embarrassment dispose them off.

Of egg trays and recycling

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A life-size dinosaur made entirely of I don’t know how many thousands of egg trays by an artist in collaboration with an event management company (see collage; bottom right) caught my attention at a popular mall recently. I was immediately under its spell. It reminded me of the Jurassic Park movies. However, instead of just taking a panoramic shot of it (third time successful) I decided to also read a bit about this artwork which was mentioned on a small pink board placed nearby. It talked about recycling and how we should pledge to recycle, reuse and reduce (I can never remember the last R).

Something was not right here. The message and the artwork were not in harmony with each other.

How could this enormous, awestruck artwork be an example of recycling? I can’t see how I can re-use, reduce or recycle an egg tray or even a carton in my day-to-day life! These wastes are merely good for art and craft activity. I do remember my daughter making a caterpillar of one of the egg trays for a school activity when she was five or six (which must be gathering dust somewhere in the store-room along with her other such activities in the name of recycling). I am not undermining the achievement of the artist. It is certainly a feat but not in the context of recycling. It is purely art for art’s sake.

Recycling (as opposed to reusing and reducing which are still practical and I think one and the same) at home is nearly impossible unless you have a scientific bent of mind and you can change the ‘parent’ waste to some other useful form. In the UK (since I have lived there and I know) every house is given more than one big bin to throw their wastes in – one for general waste, one for recycling, and one for the cut grass and other greens which then gets weekly collected by the council (municipality) who then perhaps have a system of handing it over to recycling industries. The council  is very particular with its definition of a recycle waste and how the recycle waste shouldn’t be just thrown into the recycle bin after solving its purpose to the mankind. For instance, the used bottles and cans needs washing, caps need to be separated from the bottles, etc.

We have a somewhat close arrangement here in India, albeit private, with our ‘kabaadiwaala’ (junk collector man) who appears in our area announcing his presence aloud in a strange not-to-be-missed tone. He comes on his cycle attached to a cart. However, you really need to expend not just your precious time but also your energy as haggling with the kabaadiwaala requires these both in abundance along with the art of haggling (which is just not my cup of tea!). And he is more interested in collecting your junk (as his work title suggests) than your egg trays and cartons. He is happy with newspapers, books and bottles though.

Art is art and I believe, it should be left as it is-for the eyes of the spectators to soak in the awe and splendour. A better idea would be that concerned NGOs, government ministries, estate developers (who charge good amount of tax) start a collection service of recycle wastes instead. Now that would be a practical initiative.

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The picture on the collage’s topmost corner right is of another artwork made of waste paper (I presume) seen in the same mall on the same day but at a different spot. I found it equally interesting but could see no information on it.

And of course that is the egg tray on the left which I had kept to inspire me while I wrote this. 🙂