As a teenager, my parents used to send me on shopping errands. The list would vary from provisions from wayside kiosks in the neighborhood, groceries from larger grocers’, vegetables, fruits and perishables like meat, eggs and fish from the local market or Hawaiian footwear from makeshift retailers operating illegally on footpaths.

 Whatever was purchased would be weighed and meticulously covered in old newspapers. The plastic wrappers in which the stuff brought is covered in these days were conspicuously absent.  If the merchandise wasn’t too voluminous, the newspaper would make way for thicker pages of old magazines. The newspaper and magazine pages would then be secured with jute twines, the ends of which would be twisted to ‘tighten’ them, a maneuver which always failed to win the shoppers’ confidence!

Meat and fish would first be covered in a big leaf before being wrapped in paper to minimize seeping of blood and fluids.  It used to be a challenge to carry the stuff purchased, (none of which used to be packed in plastic covers, and handed over to the customer in plastic carry bags like these days).

It was easy for the precious purchase to break free from their rather loose packaging to lie scattered on the road, or roll away to some dingy crevice, or even into the dirty drain beside the thoroughfare. Eggs invariably would be history, should they decide to free themselves from the wrapping. Should such a calamity happen, life still used to go on.

  It therefore was my duty to have the stuff purchased reposited safely into my mother’s delicate hands, who would place them in their designated places in the kitchen or the refrigerator.

It used to rain heavily in days of old. In fact heavier than it rains these days. But, floods causing large-scale devastation, loss of life and property were unheard of, unlike these days in which destructive Floods are an invariable accompaniment of seasonal monsoons.

image courtesy India TV News

The difference between the monsoons of my younger days and as an adult is the bio-non-degradable plastic, which chokes drains and canals, two very important channels which drain copious rain water away from dwelling places ultimately to the sea. Plastic carry bags that hung from trees in Kerala indicated the height to which flood waters rose to swallow life and property in the deluge of 2018.Forests and picnic spots spewed plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps, carry-bags, plastic ice-cream cups and plastic-coated disposable plates and glasses into the flood waters that rushed by that year. This plastic ‘remains’ were promptly deposited on bridges and roads that stood in the way of rushing flood waters.

image courtesy India Today

f there’s anything to be done to prevent floods from being an annual ordeal in the country, it is to uncompromisingly ban plastic, irrespective of its micron specifications, and to return to the good old bio-degradable paper wrappings and jute twines that used to secure them.

To trade the ‘inconvenience’ of having to carry material purchased from outlets unpredictably wrapped in paper and secured with twine, for preservation of the environment from ravages of non-degradable plastic.