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When Your Push For Sustainability Is ‘Embarrassing’ And People Think You’ve Gone Cuckoo…

Posted: July 31, 2019

While juggling multiple roles, don’t forget you are important too.  Make yourself a priority because no one else will with #KhayaalRakhna

Being sustainable in a world gorging on plastics and unnecessary buying can mark you out as ‘that crazy woman’, but it is all worth it. Don’t you think so?

The other day, I went to the grocery store to buy a couple of pulses. So I fish out the drawstring cloth bags I use to counter the plastic menace and say – “Bhaiya dal isme bhar do” (please fill it in this). Before the words are out of my mouth the grocer, who could have beaten both Flash and Quicksilver in sheer speed, has already started filling moong dal in a plastic bag.

“Nahiiiiiiiin!” I cry with all the devastation of a woman who’s about to continue with “Yeh shadi nahi ho sakti” (this wedding cannot happen).

I have just sacrificed an hour of my time physically going to the grocery store (instead of ordering packaged grocery on Amazon) and I will not be thwarted by a plastic-bag wielding Flash. The grocer empties the plastic, keeps it back in his drawer and takes my cloth bag instead. The look on his face seems to suggest that I’m asking for his first-born son and not eco-friendly packaging.

My fellow customers stare at me – some curious, but most clearly thinking I’m a pretentious millennial touting another fad.

Fortunately, I have a rather thick skin and I sailed through the grocery debacle unassailed by embarrassment. My thick skin has held me in good stead at other occasions too.

Every evening, my husband and I take our toddler to meet a couple of stray cats. The moment I enter the cats’ territory I go into cat mode – I peer around at trees, under cars and ‘phisphis’ loudly, which is the standard way of calling out to cats.

Having been raised around various stray cats and dogs, phisphising to cats and making kissy noises to dogs is second nature to me. When the cats arrive, we pet them, feed them and head back, watering a tree on the way with my water bottle. My husband, although 100% on board with being green / helping nature, is extremely embarrassed by the whole business. He says I look like a mad woman and that people stare. Could I please be a little less conspicuous?

Another day my husband and I went to an upscale restaurant armed with three empty steel containers and a cloth bag. This was to parcel up the leftovers, thereby saving a couple of plastic takeaway containers. I started off by annoying the bartender who was frenziedly whipping up drinks. I was afraid my request for ‘No straw please’ would be brushed aside in the assembly line production of cocktails. So for every drink he made that looked anything like the mojito I had ordered, I jumped in to remind him about not putting in the straw.

Once again, I had managed to make a spectacle out of myself. I had no qualms about keeping up the spectacle either – by asking the server to parcel the leftovers in my own steel tiffin.

Phew. Doing good to the environment is not a lot of work. It is something we can all do. At its bare minimum Level 1, it involves bringing your own bag, refusing a straw, carrying your own cutlery, reducing, reusing and refusing. No it’s not necessarily difficult, it is just plain embarrassing. It requires one to go against the flow, to be okay with being stared at, laughed at, disregarded, ignored and generally made a fool of!

When you refuse to buy new clothes and repeat the same dress to multiple parties, people will call you uncool.

When you refuse to spend money on pointless toys for your toddler, people will call you kanjoos.

When you forget to BYO(Bag), still refuse a bag and go on to balance a large watermelon and a bunch of palak in your bare hands, people will think you are mad.

And when you reuse your sister’s sari to one of your own wedding functions, people just won’t get it! Why can’t you spend another ten thousand on a sari you’ll never wear again eh? they’ll say.

In the end though it’s worth it. Yes, I do lug around a bunch of uncool stuff, I do create umpteen scenes by standing up for the environment, and people probably think I’m cuckoo, but hey if even one aunty at the grocer’s begins to BYOB and says no the plastic bag, I’m gonna call it a job well done. Until then, well haters gonna hate and potaoes gonna potate!

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Yashodhara is a brand-new mommy, IT professional and cat lover who lives in Mumbai.

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