Starting today, a large part of the Indian community gets wired for the climax of the 2019 festive season. For nine nights, there will be celebrations in the form of dandiya dance parties, ladies visiting each other to partake of auspicious exchange of vermillion and turmeric and exquisite multi-tiered doll displays in many homes.
As with all things in Bahrain, the Navratri festival is a family affair and husbands and kids are a happy part of the visits which culminate in lavish suppers and thoughtfully chosen giveaway gifts for the ladies.
Unlike other festivals, Navratri does not result in too much waste of food because it does not revolve around dinner. Alas, like most celebrations, though, it involves a dramatic overuse of a more insidious waste – single-use plastic. Whether in the styrofoam food plates or the plastic cutlery, the plastic carry bags or the plastic decorations used, the planet is inundated with non-biodegradable waste over these nine days.
Once we finish Navratri, we will come to the epic celebrations of Diwali and plastic trash will once again pile up – and this time, food waste will also be added to the heap.
I have heard so many horror stories about food waste, especially around Ramadan, when Bahrain alone generates a staggering 600 tonnes of food waste daily – up by 50 per cent. Did you know that while world food production has reached record levels in recent years, one-third of the world’s food is either lost or wasted. Despite talk about food security, 821 million people went hungry in 2018 – that’s one in every nine persons around the world.
But I feel strongly that other irresponsible acts of waste and environmentally unsound practices fall under the radar simply because nobody has the courage to point out the poor practices. After all, I may refuse a plastic bag or box in a supermarket – will social etiquette allow me to do the same when accepting a festive gift (which, if I’m really unlucky, will be a plastic one, wrapped in a plastic bag!) or at a birthday party?
When I asked a friend to use paper cups and plates, she wryly quipped “Oh, chop a tree instead of choke a fish?” But a fish once choked is gone forever. A tree can be replaced with carefully structured planting and reforestation. Besides paper degrades and integrates with soil at some point – plastics just hang around to poison our great grandchildren.
Considering all our pious claims of festivals celebrating the renewal of our spiritual energy and our respect for Mother Earth, should we not be making an effort to show our respect by tuning into greener practices? There is a huge gap between what we say is our core value and what we actually practice. For example, the many fans of the Indian Prime Minister Modi who are quick to turn aggressive when anybody even whispers a not-so-positive observation about his government – should they not lead the fight against single-use plastic, now that he has declared his intention to make India plastic-free soon? I still bump into them carrying plastic supermarket bags and throwing parties in which disposable plastic cutlery is used.
It’s not about a particular country, you know. Living in Bahrain, which has given us so much, we must carry the no-pollution ethic into our lifestyle here too. We need to translate the freedom to celebrate our unique cultural identity into a movement to underscore our march to a low-carbon footprint. That’s always the best way to pay homage to our Gods and our heroes.