He stands there with his pot belly, the mask hanging loosely from his ear, it was always meant to be just another piece of clothing. He likes to leave a mark wherever he goes, especially when he sees something beautiful and untouched, like a cliff facing a beach, or a vast blue ocean where there is no view of the land, he will leave a chips wrapper as a symbolic gesture. It is his art form. A secret trail into the inner workings of his mind.
He finds comfort in trash, if there is any place where there is not enough trash, it will simply not do, he gets anxious at the cleanliness of it all. He will immediately rectify the situation with whatever wrapper he has in his hand, if all fails, he will just dump his plastic water bottle, if even that is absent, he will find the nearest baby and dump its diaper.
I was walking alongside the beaches of Varkala, and spotted several species of the Indian trasher. All of them necessarily did not have pot bellies, and all of them were not male, but every other characteristic described above they shared.
When they looked at the ocean, they saw a giant trash can. Of course there would be the municipality workers who would plunge into the ocean to pick their sacred chips wrapper or maybe a turtle would hold the wrapper in its mouth and deposit it in the trash can, or maybe the ocean water was so saline that it would disintegrate the wrapper which then the phytoplankton of the ocean would feed on. It was after all art that was being created by the Indian trasher at several scenic spots.
All of us have encountered several such trash art forms, it ranges from diapers, chips wrappers, ice-cream wrappers to plastic bottles, all beautifully decorated around the coastline, and many more joining their ever-growing plastic family in the sea.
Banning Single-Use-Plastic is no challenge for the Indian trasher, because he will carry at all times his own set of snacks, and he would then share the snacks with the ocean, not the food silly, the plastic of course, because we all read while growing up that oceans survive on plastic, so many of us are over-feeding the oceans on a daily basis.
The very same Indian trasher if he finds himself in Singapore (Excluding Little India) will behave all prim and proper, he will give up his art form, as he understands the Singapore authorities do not have a taste for the kind of art he has to offer, and will pick up the trash obediently and place it in the trash can, for every plastic wrapper he dumps he vows to himself that he will make up for it in India, his mother land which is tolerant of his art form
These artists of course cause nausea, high blood pressure, a tendency for violence amongst the nature lovers and environmentalists, we are after all highly unappreciative of this art form.
So how do we make the Indian trasher see things differently ?
Banning Single-Use-Plastic is an excellent publicity stunt that never gets implemented in India, instead I would propose that the repercussions of trashing (Aquatic life choking on plastic Bags, sea gulls and other birds dying due to the plastic in their lungs, micro-plastic being discovered in placenta) be shown to these committed artists in a manner akin to drunken drivers being shown the dangerous consequences of drunken driving gone wrong. If these artists still would prefer to continue with their art-form of people appreciating plastic as art, I would suggest they start marketing plastic jewellery as a replacement to diamonds, because between a piece of plastic and a diamond, we all know which is going to last forever.
The icing of my trip to Kerala was in the airport, where I met several trashers, when the air-line staff was handing over the PPE kit to these travelling trashers, the expression on their faces was akin to a child receiving a set of crayons in art class, they chose several points in the airport to depict the art, although unfortunately for the artists there were some people who walked behind destroying the art within seconds of it being created.
I was also one of the destroyers, although I just stood gaping at one such trasher, who got queasy and picked up her trash. She had way more than just PPE, the flight delay gave her a chance to accumulate chips wrappers, tissues and an empty plastic bottle for juice. She had all intention of trashing it on the seat and walking into eternal sunshine, until I gave her an uncomfortable stare, I was willing to speak to her if my stare did not work, but she never gave me the opportunity. However, minutes later once she got her PPE kit, she used the opportunity to trash it on the chair, with the satisfaction that no one was watching, finally glowing in the discovery that she got to represent her art form away from the stares of the crazy woman.
Her persistence inspired me to share the story of the great Indian trasher.
PS: Trasher is a made up a word, and the English Dictionary does not recognise it, but I hope these artists get their fair share of recognition by having a word coined in respect of their great art form.