Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Side of the Story: Plastic

“Say NO to plastic!”
“Plastic is a devil in disguise!”
“Plastic causes pollution; it’s an abomination!”

Seriously, people? You really need lessons in conveying messages subtly. I mean, “A devil in disguise”? That wins the prize for the bluntest and the most insulting anti-plastic slogan in the whole wide world.

Oh sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Plastic. (Duh. Guess you already figured that out from my rant.) I also go by the title of “Mankind’s Best Invention.” Versatile, durable, affordable, fashionable etc. are just a few among the long list of positive adjectives that are applicable to me. I know, I’m cool.

But you humans have to jinx everything. Look how fast I went from being the most-loved material to the most-hated one. One minute, I’m in the spotlight for being the wonder-substance and the next thing I know, I’ve made it to the list of “Top 10 things to be banned.” Credit to my persistence for holding my ground.

You guys have been going against me for more than a decade now, badmouthing me, branding me an evil creation that’s about to initiate the apocalypse. Talk about drama. Anyway, I’ve had enough of people dissing me. And now it’s time for ME to have my say.

First of all, I’d like to see you get through a day without me. Not to boast or anything, but mankind has never been, or never will be, dependent on an invention to such a great degree. Just look around, wherever you are, and count how many plastic objects are around you. I bet you’ll get at least five objects in one second.

I’m not exaggerating. From my simpler avatars like polystyrene to special-purpose ones like PTFE – that’s Teflon for you – your lives revolve so much around me. Day-to-day articles like carry bags, ball-point pens, toothbrushes, storage jars, water bottles, disposable cups and plates – okay, I’ll cut short – almost anything money can buy is made of me. Wait, why even bother with money? Even the ATM card you use instead of money is plastic!

So do I have to spell it out that I’m really I-M-P-O-R-T-A-N-T? For heaven’s sake, you guys even have terms like ‘plastic smile’ and ‘plastic snow’ to refer to anything that’s fake! And I don’t think all this recognition is undeserved, by the way; I have several qualities to my credit. ATM cards are way durable than those flimsy pieces of paper called banknotes. Plastic chairs are definitely cheaper than wooden ones. During train journeys, it’s easier to use-and-throw disposable plates rather carry around steel utensils… you get the drift.

Plus, I’m really adaptable. I have innumerous forms – I can come in different shapes, sizes and colours. My adaptability is one of my most prized and useful characteristics; it also makes me quite a ladies’ man. See, plastic is the perfect material for daily-wearable and affordable jewellery. (Gold prices are soaring higher than skyscrapers right now. Maybe I’ll end up being the favourite choice for ornaments in future weddings. Somebody start the trend, please!)

So, as I was saying, no matter how much hue and cry you raise, I’m here to stay. Okay, I’m non-biodegradable. I’m a menace to the environment. But hey, nobody’s perfect! Even the most revolutionary inventions have flip sides. But before launching a tirade against me and blacken my awesome rep, think again. Am I the one polluting the air, water and soil? Am I the one killing animals left and right? Am I really the cause of Mother Earth’s pain?

I take offense to the allegations. I am NOT guilty as charged. And don’t pull the faces of disbelief – I stand by what I said. I am not responsible for all this.

YOU are.

That’s right. YOU humans are the culprits behind environment pollution, not me. You throw me into water bodies, clogging them and killing aquatic life. You throw me on the roadsides, where I get eaten up by some poor stray animal and suffocate it. You choke the supply of rainwater to the soil by carelessly dumping me. You burn me and pollute the air. I am not wreaking havoc on the Earth; YOU are!

I don’t cause all the aforementioned problems, because I’m just a tool in your hands. A product of the servant you call ‘science’. But you have allowed the servant to become your master in the past few years, the motive usually being money, and leading to matters going haywire.

And then you humans foist the blame on science and its products. You blame the governments of being inactive. You blame others of being irresponsible where environment is concerned. You are too engrossed in playing the blame game to do something productive.

You can despise me, ostracize me, alienate me… I don’t care. But since you guys caused all this mess, you have to clean it up YOURSELF. Nobody else is going to do it. No divine force is going to help you. So what can you do?

I’ll be generous and give some words of wisdom for free: start at the basics. Certain situations are best tackled at the grassroots level. The problem with you humans is that you look for huge, grand solutions… in this case, wait for international conferences on saving the nature and all that jazz. Instead, why can’t each person just play his part and implement the 3R policy? (And no, the three R’s don’t stand for rap, rock and R&B. It’s “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.”)

Reduce use of plastic (It hurts to say that; but I have to work “for the greater good”) whenever and wherever possible. Reuse and recycle plastic to the best of your ability. Such seemingly insignificant and inconsequential acts can start a revolution. As that old saying goes, “Tiny drops of water together make a huge ocean.”

So what are you waiting for? Get off you lazy selves from the couches and get going! Stop the “let’s-blame-others” habit and get something done. You might be able to extricate yourself from the environmental issues and save the earth. Otherwise, it’s your and your kids’ future on the line.

On that happy note, I rest my case. This is Plastic, aka Mankind's Best Invention, signing off! Ciao!

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Tribute on Teacher's Day

Standing in the twilight of school life, I can't help but be nostalgic, especially today, September 5th - Teacher's Day.  I joined Presentation HSS, my second home, when I was in third... and still I am spending my life there. Naturally, all my recollections are of the teachers in PHSS, as I can hardly remember the teachers who taught me before. As one of my favourite quotes go, "Memories are like stone; distance and time erode them like acid."

The memories of my early days in PHSS are dim, but I do recall who my teachers were. My first class teacher was Miss Laila. (I just don't know where this "Miss" salutation evolved from; isn't the right word "Madam"? But years and years of mechanical repetition have forced the title of "Miss" upon my tongue.Whatever.) She taught me Malayalam, and she was a really nice teacher - not too strict, not too lenient.

But in the early schooling years, teachers are mere intimidating creatures to students. It is only later on they start assuming their multi-faceted role. I was no exception.

As the years wore on, I slowly began to find myself. Everything wasn't black and white anymore; I learned that things weren't meant to be labelled and organized into boxes. The world had ceased to be a simple picture - it was a complicated blur of colours. And it was in this phase of growing up that my teachers really began influencing me.

If you ask me which teacher had the greatest impact on me, I would answer without a hesitation, "Miss Leena." My class teacher in sixth standard. She taught English, which probably had to do something with her being one of my favourite teachers. But apart from being a good teacher, she had this special knack for finding out people's talents. She was the first one to encourage my writing talents, and it is for this I cherish her the most. She gave me tips to improve my works, encouraged me always. She was my best appreciator and my best critic.

When it was time for the youth festival that year, Miss Leena chose me to play an important role in the Malayalam drama. Me - a novice, a nerd, a so-not-interested-in-entering-the-limelight girl - for a drama. And the icing on the cake? The role was of a boy, and the whole thing was a comedy. She gave the role to a girl who couldn't joke to save her life. I was, naturally, stunned, but her faith and confidence was so huge that I finally gave in.

Our performance brought the house down and we won the first place. Though I didn't get the best actor award, I did earn a lot of praise and recognition (not that I was fully comfortable with it). I went on to win three best actor awards in my school career - in classes 7, 9 and 10 - all because one teacher took the pains to nurture my talents, however rudimentary they were.

There were loads of the same mould... My brilliant science teacher, Miss Brinda, who found time for giving extra info about scientific topics to interested students like me. Miss Sumitra, who despite her imperious manner, was a total softie and a really good English teacher. Miss Jayasree and Miss Usha, two of my maths teachers, who didn't give me up as a hopeless case (but I still dislike Maths). The fabulous Miss Ann, with her expressive faces and fun-filled classes. All the Malayalam teachers, especially Miss Vandana, who indirectly showed me their love by snubbing me for opting for Additional English as my First Language.... The list goes on.

On this day, I thank all my teachers, great or not, for just being a teacher. For leading me forward on the path of knowledge. For guiding me, inspiring me. For being the light in times of darkness. For giving me the courage to live my own life. For their care and concern whenever I fell ill (which was often). For encouraging my reading, writing and quizzing.  For being inexhaustible sources of praise and encouragement. For correcting me when I was wrong. For forgiving my mistakes....

... For making me who I am today. 

For making me Zainab Ummer Farook, a girl who wants to be a teacher when she grows up.