It was a day of happiness in the entire hamlet. The old sound systems boomed and tapes played Hindi songs from actor Govinda’s movies. Meri marzi, mein chahe yeh karu, mein chahe woh karu, meri marzi! (I will do this, I will do that, I will do whatever I wish!)
It seemed as if the song added wings to the naughty children. “Your examinations are around the corner. When do you plan to study if you spend your days bouncing around from here to there,” screamed Ghanshyam’s mother, whom he lovingly called amma. Hearing amma shout, Ghanshyam shouted back with the lyrics to the song playing in the background, Meri marzi, mein chahe yeh karu, mein chahe woh karu, meri marzi!
Amma was now furious. She picked up a stick and ran after Ghanshyam. But he was quick. Ghanshyam ran in full speed and vanished in front of her eyes. Amma clenched her teeth, muttered something in anger and returned home to set out food for the cows.
On the same day, Malti, Mangal Prasad’s daughter was getting married. Malti’s home was four-five houses away from Ghanshyam’s home. The entire place was in full celebration on the occasion of the wedding. The tape recorder was placed at the threshold of the house and around it were scattered tapes of filmy songs.
The house was done being freshly painted. Two boys made a brush out of bamboo sticks and used it to paint and decorate the walls with phrases from the Ramayana. They finished it off with wall art of peacocks and beautiful flowers. Such artworks during weddings are quite prevalent in the villages of Bundelkhand, a region spread across the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
The number of guests slowly increased in the house. A temporary kitchen was set up in the neighbourhood where six-seven young boys from the village were making round sweets called laddoos with dedication. Fried bread or puris were in the pan dancing in hot oil.
Children were strictly prohibited in the kitchen. Baldu kaka was placed in front of the kitchen with a stick in his hand to keep an eye. All the work in the kitchen was under the supervision of Baldu kaka.
Baldu kaka was well-known in the village as a famous chef. Whenever there would be special events such as weddings, Baldu kaka’s demand would increase. He never took any money for this work. After the wedding would get over, people would go to his home and give him grains in gratitude.
“Tell your brother Chunnu to get some leaves from the pond,” shouted Mangal Prasad. By leaves, he meant lotus leaves that were used in weddings to serve food on. The fried puris and dried vegetables were served on lotus leaves and vegetable gravy was served in bowls. These bowls were also made of different leaves. The idea behind using lotus leaves was to save money because the leaves were easily available and one could arrange them by just asking a few boys from the village. The boys would get on a boat and within two hours, would collect a whole bundle of leaves.
“Why are you still running after lotus leaves? Why don’t you ask somebody to get some plastic plates from Ram Khilawan’s store?” said Pyarelal, Mangal Prasad’s brother-in-law who had come to attend the wedding.
“No, dear. The boy’s family has especially asked us to serve food in lotus leaves and bowls made of leaves. The boy’s uncle is an environmentalist and 15 days ago when they had come here, they had made this request. He said that plastic is detrimental to our health and the environment. Animals may eat the plastic waste and die because plastic takes ages to decompose. The boy's maternal uncle told us that a lot of cows had died in the cities after eating plastic. The drains and sewers also get jammed due to the plastic waste. Keeping the situation in mind, plastic has also been banned in Delhi and some other states,” said Mangal Prasad explaining the dangers of plastic.
“His uncle is right,” said Pyarelal who understood what his brother-in-law was trying to explain. In fact, even Pyarelal realised how much he enjoyed having his meals on lotus leaves. The lotus leaves were washed before eating.
When the water ran over the leaves, they formed small drops that danced when one would slide the leaf. Pyarelal now knew the harmful effects of plastic and swore to never use plastic plates again. He smiled and said that he looked forward to enjoying delicious meals served on lotus leaves.
Original story by Bhagirath, translated by Shrutikantha Kandali