I went to the local market day before yesterday, for some grocery shopping and light snacking (read ‘golgappas’). While returning home, we stopped at the roadside permanent cart of roasted-corn-on-the-cob seller. It is quite cute, and I don’t use that word randomly. He has a metallic mesh balanced on bricks, on which he puts oddly shaped pieces of raw black coal to roast the corn on. He has a small red-colored two-blade toy of a plastic fan, that he has made into a working model, which blows over the coal, for faster cooking. There is the usual pile of uncooked corn, and few limes and masala on the other side and discarded leaves of corn in a small heap on the road side. There is a funny sign with a picture hanging over the cart, stuck to a tree, that reads “Punjab ki mashoor ret ki bhuni hui chhalli. American sweet corn.” (Roasted corn from the land of Punjab)

After the usual exchange of words, he asked me to select one corn ear. I chose the sweeter “American” variety, that actually comes from the state of Haryana and was sold at 20 Rs, while the other “Chinese” bland variety was sold at 10-15 Rs. He begun with the roasting, occasionally turning the ear of the corn and systematically moving around the lumps of coal on the darkened wire mesh. The silky hair on the corn burned away and the beautiful golden seeds charred on the surface and cooked, while I discussed why the locally grown maize was costlier than the other variety. Once done, he generously spread the masala with one half of fresh lime, and asked if I would prefer to eat it there or take it away.

I chose the latter as it was for my mom (she LOVES it) . He promptly wrapped the cooked corn in its own leaves and placed the wrapped corn in a transparent little polythene bag. I said, in a rather high-headed manner, “Plastic bags are banned.”

He looked at me and mockingly said “If they were truly banned then where would people like me get these from?”


That one straight smart reply, from a simple man making an honest living without fancy certificates and education but armed with plain common sense, knew the answer to the constant woe of mounting non-biodegradable waste. The government keeps egging people to stop using plastic. They have “banned” plastic bags but yet there are factories that are still manufacturing these. Shouldn’t the ban actually be imposed on the manufacturers, rather than the  consumers? If there is no supply then wouldn’t the problem get nipped in the bud?

It made sense to me. What about you?

This uncommonly common man's name is Sushil and hails from Banda, a district that lies on the border of a state, Uttar Pradesh, in India.
This uncommonly common man’s name is Sushil and hails from Banda, a district that lies on the border of a state, Uttar Pradesh, in India.

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