Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Gods of Small Things

This post is inspired by Tejas's post here.
I have always admired the Indian attitude towards newspapers. I see all the newspapers being dumped in the recycle bin here. However there is so much character about recycling news in India. :). Whether it is bringing up an old piece of gossip to refresh public memories before talking about a new Bollywood linkup or just plain old recycling of printed news.
With a little help from Wiki (as usual), I found out that India is the second country in the world with respect to largest newspaper circulation. As a kid, it was entertaining to travel just from Pune to Belgaum via Kolhapur to find so much variety in the newspapers and the attitude that goes into them. People actually judge other people by the newspaper they read! So a Sakal reader would have his brow furrowed around a Samna regular.

What intrigues me however is how just like our age old philosophy states,
वासांसि जीर्णानी यथा विहाय नवानि गृहणाति नरोपराणि
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्यन्यानि संयाति नवानि देहि॥
(Like a person discards worn out clothes and gets new ones, the soul discards worn out bodies and attains new bodies.)

the newspapers in India have so many after-lives in different forms. The "lowest" birth a newspaper could get (being politically correct lowest being of lowest value in terms of use) is the birth as the humble brown bag's Indian counterpart. Or even the "disposable plastic plate's" Indian step-brother. You can see it in all the bhel-puri stalls. On days when an enormous ennui engulfs your soul in the middle of an engineering exam, this newspaper plate makes a good after-snack reading.
Then the slightly higher form is this.

Beautifully hidden behind the colorful coils, this is certainly a higher birth for the humble visitor that comes to us each morning. :)
Some stores like Either Or, have made shopping bags out of newspapers. I find that concept very appealing. Not just in terms of the low cost of production but also in the way where for a store like that it is also a style statement.
I thought this was one of the most creative re-births of Indian paper. Where old Bollywood movie posters are used to make bags and sold by children on the street.
Another "higher" birth attained by the Indian news is the skirt of a kathakali dancer. We used to have a doll long time ago that eventually gave in to the monsoon weather. I realized how meticulously the newspaper was packed inside to give it almost the look of painted wood. Some of the not-so-spectacular lower births include wrapping papers for laundry. I was pleasantly nostalgic to find a Marathi newspaper bit in a kurta I wore first time after coming back from India. Also interesting is the use of newspapers in the kitchens. To wipe mirrors in the bathroom, to wrap green vegetables so that they don't go limp in the fridge. Painters use it to line the metal before painting, fruit sellers have custom-made newspaper bags for grapes and figs. When I was in school, I also used newspapers to cover my books instead of buying a separate brown paper just for that purpose!

During Diwali, newspapers help soak oil from all the fried savory stuff. Not to mention they are also an integral part of the atom bomb! One of the annoying images of newspaper recycling is the "morning after" Diwali where all the streets are lined with bits of "exploded" newspapers from all the fire-works. I was surprised to see this in a small Hippie town called Malenie close to Sunshine Coast, Brisbane.
It was bangles made from newspapers imported from India!! They were sold for $3 a piece and people seem to really agree with them! I hope some of it at least went back to the artists who made it!
I think this could classify as a higher birth too.

And of course, perhaps the most insignificant reuse of newspapers is the cows on the street using it as a source of fibre. But hey! Wait a minute. They can actually use it as a source of energy! There you go, I think this is holiest point where this post can be concluded.
Although waste management in India is not something that any Indian would be proud of, I am really proud of my country for being so resourceful with newspapers. It is interesting to see how seemingly insignificant jobs can lead to so much diversity in the use of the same product. The rag pickers, the raddiwalahs, the bhelpuri walahs, the maids, the housewives, the artisans hidden in remote parts of Indian countryside are silently coming together to make such a big statement! I think we should be grateful for all these Gods of Small Things.


TeP said...

This is awesome. Just one kind of raw material, and how many uses! Policy level initiatives to promulgate and popularize this kind of endeavours are all we need today.
Well studied and written, this one, as usual! Keep the great work up. We need to talk more about this when (and if at all) we meet, right? Cheers!

PS I also like how you cite me! Thanks so much buddy!

meera said...

Thoughtful posts and beautiful poetry (in your other blog !) I am happy to have found your writings. Planing to visit regularly! keep writing :)

Jay Singh said...

Nicely connected article...u have linked up all the points correctly...and school children please take note.....u can use all these facts for ur school essay....hehehehe.....:)...anyways looking forward to more posts....

Saee said...

@ Tejas, Meera and Jay
LOL I thought so too after i wrote it. It looks more like a school assignment. But what the hell! I haven't done one of those in years!!

Pipa said...

Saee -- mine on recycling "Story Books"

sole post on this blog.

Pipa said...

Saee -- mine on recycling "Story Books"

sole post on this blog.