This is a matter-of-fact recital about 2 strangers. Doing very strange things. Like protecting the earth.
Stranger number 1 is a pani-puri wala in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa. He rolls his golgappa trolley in every evening for a few hours and stays put outside Mehers, a famous sari shop in the city of temples. He mixes and stuffs delectable alu batter into perfectly fried and crisp puris. Dips them into a not-too-spicy-not-too-sweet-just-right (and hygienic) pani and serves them to a fairly long line of regulars and irregulars like me alike. He hands them one after another in the most adorable donnais*, sized for one puri and no more.
The pani puris are delicious.But there is nothing to beat the aftertaste. Right about the time you are opening your mouth wide open for the last puri, he politely points to a dustbin tied to the front of his cart and says “Dustbin”, gesturing to the now-empty natural leafy miniature bowl in your hand. He need not do this. The donnais are organic and compostable. As is the case with most of us ‘litterati’, these donnais even when dropped on the ground would be at best, just an eye-sore.
But here is this young chap, showing the utmost courtesy to his planet by serving food- and cleaning up after himself.
Stranger number 2 runs a popular stationery store in Chennai called Anandhas. Artists, harrowed parents of artists, stationery aficionados and hoarders generally find his store packed to the rafters with the most desirable and functional stationery and art-related products.
His new store on L.B Road is very big. When done shopping,customers may lower their gaze onto 2 things- a notice pasted on the billing computer which informs people bags will be charged. It has a disclaimer saying proceeds will go towards a cause. If the eyes shift focus, they will see a hundi** of sorts with a picture of a cow. For customers who ask for bags, they are first asked to deposit Rs 5/10/15 into the hundi. Then help themselves to a cloth fibre bag. (Anandhas have stopped stocking plastic bags for a while now.) The money goes to a goshalaya in Neelankarai, on the East Coast Road for the upkeep of the cattle there.
The owner and his family apparently have been contributing to the goshalaya for several years And then thought of paying it forward by getting some help from their customers. If nothing else, his customers may pause to think about getting their own bags, or about cows which die while eating the plastic junked on our roads.
May these strangers’ tribe increase.
* Cups/Containers made from dried banana leaves
** Donation box