The Yellow Bag

It is 7.00 p.m. and my thoughts are already on tomorrow’s things to do list. I click in exasperation, as I realize that I need to dash to the supermarket for some essential supplies.

I quickly pick up my wallet, take my cloth shopping bag and rush out of the house. This cloth bag has become an integral part of every shopping expedition. Easy to carry, and eco-friendly too!

During my childhood, most shops – especially garment and jewellery shops packed the garments and jewels – that customers bought – in bright yellow bags that had the name of the shop printed in bright red letters on both sides of the bag.

One simply couldn’t miss these bright yellow bags. They were made of cloth and were well-suited for heavy-duty wear and tear. My mom carefully preserved these bags, and used them to send stuff across to her friends, or to go shopping with.

But my siblings and I, and most other teens I presume, were mortified to be seen carrying these bags. They were not ‘in’, they were loud and attracted attention. They did not go with the cool, smart teen images we had of ourselves; and we weren’t going to go anywhere with a bright yellow bag accompanying us and thereby reduce our cool quotient!

We tried reasoning with our mom, when she argued with us that it was just a cloth bag, a very useful one at that, and that there was nothing wrong in using it.

The yellow bag or manja pai as we called it was ubiquitous at home, in shops and on the streets – flashes of yellow and red, faithfully carrying money, vegetables, books, and everything else that people needed to carry on with their everyday lives.

We, on the other hand, wanted plastic bags, and paper bags…or trendy looking bags in lovely shades that suited our cool personas.

And then, time flew by – and our streets and shops were flooded with plastic bags – light to carry and easy to use – or so we thought.

And slowly, the yellow bags faded away.

Plastics took over our lives, and with time, lots of plastic bags were found in the bellies of fish and other sea creatures, plastic bottles floated in the sea, plastics were everywhere!

With the passage of time, awareness came to people.

And now, cloth bags are back. And I suddenly feel nostalgic for those yellow bags, and for those simpler times, when our planet was greener, where we were probably helping the planet, one yellow bag at a time.


The ‘Let them be’ Box

I confess. I have Obsessive Compulsive Cleanliness Disorder (OCCD). I have this insane urge to fix wrinkles in bedsheets, correct tilts in wall pictures, and swipe at imaginary dust.  You get the drift.

However, as a mom, I have this one space, a box, which is the antithesis of ‘clean’. This box is what I call a ‘Let them be’ box. 

As any mom with school-going children knows, creating school projects overnight can be daunting. Not that schools don’t give parents enough time; just that I tend to put it off till the last minute. And if it were not for my ‘Let them be’ Box, my poor kids would never submit stuff on time.

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So this ‘Let them be’ Box is a treasure house of miscellany. From colourful buttons to cake boards, from twine to used gift-wrap paper, from thermocol beads to bubble-wrap, from old erasers to aluminium foil, from colourful threads to craft paper, this box has it all.
When it comes to the rest of the house, I clean and recycle ruthlessly; however when it comes to this ‘Let them be’ Box, I am a hoarder. I can never get myself to throw any stuff, always sure that it will come in handy for some project or the other. So I just ‘Let them be’,  and this box of clutter has been my saviour on more than one occasion.

Do you have a box or space like this at home? Would love to know.

When kids say the most unexpected things !

Recently, I was involved in a project, whose focus was on the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.


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The stall that I manned was for the recycling and repurposing of old CDs. 

Being a movie buff, I had a whole collection of old CDs that I had taken  with me for this recycling project. My teammates and I planned to demonstrate how one could use these old CDs to make candle holders, coasters, wall hangings, and the like.

Due to the limited time available, we could only demonstrate our projects, and could not get people to try them out.

People came in batches to the stall.  While we were busy, a little boy asked me, “Could I have this CD?”

I was happy to see his keen interest and said, “Sorry, this is only a demo piece and I cannot give this to you, but now that you have seen how it is done, you can try it out at home yourself, hmm?”

He replied, “No, not that CD. I would like that CD.”

He pointed to one of my old movie CDs and said, “Can I have that CD (pointing to a children’s animated film).  I haven’t watched that movie yet.”

I smiled. The things kids say….most unexpected too!

The Recycling Men

During my childhood, every Indian street had a ‘raddhi wala’ – meaning the ‘man who collects old newspapers’ from one’s home. They exist even today in many parts of India.

The raddhiwalas usually had a shop in the town’s main market –  a small shed stuffed to the brim with newspapers, tied into bundles with coir ropes.

We usually called the raddhiwala once in a quarter. He usually came with a simple balance for weighing, and an assistant to help.

My sisters and I helped carry out the newspapers. The raddhiwala usually sat at the entrance, near the porch, weighing, and loading the paper into his gunny bag. After the newspapers and magazines were weighed, the bargaining for the ‘per kilo rate’ would commence. Back and forth, back and forth till both parties pronounced themselves satisfied.  My mom usually made tea for the raddhiwala and his assistant, after the job was done.


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The raddhiwala exchanged small talk with my grandma and parents, sipping his tea and smiling at us, asking us our names.

Sometimes, when the newspapers were being sorted, we found some long lost treasures such as drawings that we had made or bits of craft paper that had hidden themselves snugly  between the folds of the newspapers.

The raddhiwala’s shed was always overflowing, and we often wondered what he did with all the newspapers. My Dad told us that he sold them to other businesses.

The other important ‘recycling man’ was the plastic man, as we called him. He usually came during our afternoon siesta, calling out loudly, “Plastic, plastic.”

This man accepted anything old that you wanted to throw away – from clothes to old pots and pans to newspaper  and books. He accepted all kinds of old material and would assign a value to them. He would then allow us to pick out any plastic item from his bicycle, such as buckets, mugs, cans, boxes etc, for the same value.

All the women were happy. It was a win-win.

These were the two ‘Recycling Men’ from my childhood.

Recycled wisdom

When I was growing up, every Sunday, at 8.30 a.m., either my elder sister or I had to accompany our Dad to the vegetable market.

We usually took turns. The trips to the market had a fixed beat. We would set out with two big wire bags. These bags, one a bottle green, and the other a navy blue with pink, were so big that one could fit the entire market in them.


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First, we went to the coconut seller, then to the lemon shop, and then to the bakery, then to the English vegetable market and then to the local vegetable market.

These same bags were used to carry our school books from the bookshop at the beginning of every academic year.

In addition to these two behemoths, we had two smaller ones, one red and white, and the other white and red. These two served as our school lunch bags.  My sister and I carried our steel lunch carriers and water bottles, and a fruit, in these bags.


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These bags were designed for rough use, and for wear and tear.  They lasted  from Grade 5 through high school.

The speciality of these wire bags was that all of them were hand-made by our mom. My mom bought plastic-wire bundles of different colours. After finishing her numerous chores, she would sit down in the afternoon, to weave these beautiful wire bags. When any of these bags had to be replaced, she would start working on a new one.


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There were other smaller ones – one for the milkman, and one that my grandma used to carry to the temple everyday. 

These bags made trips to the hospital when my aunt gave birth, witnessed our family picnics, brought back crisp, ironed clothes from the laundry and carried lots of things over many, many years. They witnessed our growing up years, mute spectators to blossoming friendships, school graduation, sibling quarrels and lots more.

I remember how we eagerly waited for a new bag to take shape. At some point, all of us learnt how to create those rows of flowers using wire.

There were no plastic covers or bags then. So, these bags went with us everywhere. Little did we realize that we were reusing and doing our bit for the environment.

When I see the number of plastic bags we use these days, I realize the value of what we had. Maybe I should get my mother to teach me how to make one.

Actually,  when I look at them now, they look quite cool and trendy!