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Of Helmets and Condoms

January 14, 2019
WARNING: You can look at the image on the right only if you are over 18  and by looking at it you admit that you are over 18.


Old habits die hard. On my way home from office, I stopped at the provisional stores from where we buy our monthly groceries. As I entered the shop there was a huge notice proclaiming ‘CARRY BAGS NOT AVAILABLE’. A ban on single use plastic has kicked in from the New Year in Tamil Nadu. Usually I get a plastic carry bag for a small fee, of course, to carry the stuff I buy. Regular readers (are there any?) will know that I am still not rich enough to own a car and my commute is with a help of a motor bike. Obviously it is no go without a bag. That, looks like the end of ‘casual shopping’.   At least for now.

The next day as I started for work, my wife called out from the kitchen, “Don’t forget the bag. “ Don’t worry you know whatever I forget, I never ever forget my lunch bag”, I replied. “Arré buddhu”, she said in exasperation, “I didn’t mean the lunch bag, I meant the shopping bag and I wouldn’t care less if you forget your lunch. You can always come back and have it, for dinner.”  I have been domesticated well and hence the shopping bag will become a part of my office going paraphernalia very soon. It is a good thing really, the way we are abusing plastic especially the carry bags.  More noticeable when you travel by train. Heaps of plastic mounds, plastic bags covering every  streams, rivulets  and creeks, plastic bags flying about caught in a whirlwind on a hot summer day.

It would mean the return of the ‘manja pai’ literally ‘yellow bag’ but connotatively meaning something rustic or old fashioned or both. When I was a kid, going to the grocery shop mandated carrying the yellow bag. The items were packed in old newspapers. The manja pai offered a great space for advertising and were usually handed out by jewellery shops and garment shops. I am reminded of an incident when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. We had got a blue bag, I think, from a garment shop. My assumption that it was a garment shop is because it was school reopening for the new academic year. Probably we had bought school uniform material. Probably a management graduate had suggested they make a differentiation by offering a blue bag to their customers instead of the yellow ones that every other shops were giving away.

It was a time when schools just did teaching and had not gotten into the business of selling text books and note books. We had to buy the text books prescribed for a particular grade, on our own. So one evening, my aunty and I set off to buy books for me with the blue bag. New and starched. Half way through it started raining. Rather heavily. My aunty covered my head with the bag and hers with her saree. We quickly got into a cycle rickshaw (There weren’t any auto rickshaws then). At the first drop of rains, power got disrupted. It was totally dark. The rains lashed with great gusto accompanied by winds. The wind was bringing the rain into the rickshaw. I sat shivering leaning against my aunt, as lightning and thunder flashed and boomed. The rickshaw-wala was finding it difficult to pedal. He stopped under a tree and braced himself from the lashing rain, against the trunk. Thunder roared and my aunt implored the rickshaw-wala to move the rickshaw from under the tree, but he didn’t pay heed. Or he couldn’t hear her. More likely. The rain stopped as abruptly as it had started. It took about half an hour to reach home. Power had been restored. My aunt paid the rickshaw puller, something, which would look absurd today, for his efforts. The bag was still on my head for some insane reason. As we entered home my family burst into laughter. The bag had turned pristine white. And I had turned into Lord Krishna.  The blue colour had run all over my face. So much for differentiation.

So what is this about helmets and condoms? Implementation of this ban. So far the implementation has been good if not total. I have a feeling that I am seeing less plastic on the road, this past few days. Is it optics (a word learnt from watching too many news channels……wait, wait, I had a subject in Physics by the same name long long ago). Will the implementation peter down as it has happened to a host of other such rules, such as stopping before the stop sign at the signals, riding on the wrong side of the road, riding on pavements, riding on one way streets, no smoking in public places? All these are done now with impunity. There are not enough people to enforce them. Unless there is individual discipline none of these rules can be implemented. But because the High Court is behind the law enforcers, the police in this case, regarding implementation of mandatory wearing of helmets and seat belts, the necessary number of cases to satisfy the court are filed. More so for not wearing helmets than for not adhering to the seat belt rule. Why? There are 2 plausible reasons: 1. you do not know how important the person behind the wheel is or how highly he is ‘connected 2. Stopping a car causes a jam and a big traffic snarl, at least in a big city. Very discriminatory if you ask me. The fines or bribes in most cases have not deterred people from not following the helmet and seat belt rules. What needs to be done is hit them where it hurts most. No, I definitely did not mean their heads. Don’t settle their insurance claims, be it their vehicle insurance or mediclaim or god forbid their life insurance, if they are found not adhering to the rules. I think that this will ensure better compliance. These rules were meant to stop unnecessary fatalities. By the same token AIDS, is a big killer, you can’t have law enforcers monitor for people who indulge in unprotected casual sex (please note how cleverly I have brought casual sex and casual shopping together). By the way, are condoms bio-degradable? Or are they multi-use? Surely this is a case of one thing leading to another.

People are responsible for their own safety and that of the planet they live in. Hope better sense prevails and they make the implementation of the plastic ban a success. Without being fined or without being asked for a bribe. It is in our hands. Bag It. There is a documentary on our use of plastic, by the same name, the trailer of which you can watch by clicking the link below.

Image courtesy:

Video courtesy:

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2019 18:21

    “It was a time when schools just did teaching and had not gotten into the business of selling text books and note books.”

    Like the above, the plastic use also. Not wonly but wolso.
    I spoke about the efforts of the TN state today, in banning plastic. Very hopeful of that individual sense of discipline taking over our senses and becoming the norm. Well, one can hope, can one not.

    And yes. Your concern is very valid, reg. condoms. Now what, I wonder 😛

    Thank you Govind, it has been a pleasure reading from you!

  2. svenkataramana1 permalink
    January 20, 2019 11:43

    Super Sir. I loved your way of co relation & attempt to make us more responsible.

  3. Sandhya Kumar permalink
    January 31, 2019 11:55

    I see awareness about plastic is catching up. See the beach clean on Monday mornings too which was not till a month back.

    I felt the corn bag (bio plastic bag) at Ooty vegetabes in Besant Nagar. It is softer than the normal plastic bag they give. Might useful for condoms too:)

    • March 5, 2019 18:33

      Thank you Sandhya. The corn condom looks like a good idea, maybe there can be different flavours as well

  4. March 8, 2019 00:20

    Poster-pictures portray punny phrases
    In many matters, ‘Machandran amazes
    Yellows and blues
    Then lead to clues
    Withholding insurance to rule-breakers, the suggestion, raises!

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