Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Recycled Series - I

Recycling or reusing is in our blood. Firstly an Indian and then a Bong, we recycle almost everything. Take a look around home and you see reused stuff here, there, everywhere. In a Bong household, you see Horlicks and Bourvita bottles made into containers of ‘shorsher tel’ (mustard oil), Kwality Walls Sundae boxes made into tiffin boxes (yes, you read it right; there’s nothing called lunch-boxes in a Bong household), old vests (read genji) used as rags for dusting. We use ‘mishtir hari’ (earthen pots from sweet shops) to grow plants, we use Vodafone sim-card holders as key rings, visiting cards as book-marks and CDs as coasters. Our mothers teach us to open gift wraps slowly and neatly and hoard them under mattresses with a view to use them on subsequent birthdays and wedding invitations. Old toothbrushes are reused for cleaning combs and washbasins, old saris given to ‘bartan-walis’ in exchange of stainless-steel utensils. I do not know of a single Bong family who would buy rubber bands; they are meant for recycling and reusing on a give-and-take basis. While eating in restaurants (which Bongs excitedly refer to as ‘Hotel’), we secretly pick up extra toothpicks and sauf, get them neatly wrapped in a tissue paper and bring them home for future use.
A generation ahead we think a little differently. Yet, we can’t get over the recycling factor (minus the ‘bartanwali’ and ‘genji’ part, of course). When I travel in Indigo, I get happy at the thought that food wouldn’t be provided. I buy those 50-rupees-oatmeal cookie boxes and bring them home to hoard my earrings, rings and safety pins. They are also excellent for storing biscuits, sugar, milk powder etc. (completely air-tight; tried and tested). While travelling, the same cookie-tin can be a ‘god of small things’….nail-cutter, band-aids, keys, gem clips, shampoo sachets, lip balm and so many other tiny things fit in perfectly.
From restaurants, instead of those extra toothpicks, I have picked up stirrers once in a while (try Smirnoff ones, they are good). Stirrers are excellent jura-pins. Roll your hair, make a bun and put a stirrer. It holds your hair perfectly and often more effective than pencils. (you are free to unfriend/ block/ report abuse me after reading this).
And then those white plastic boxes that come from take-aways and restaurants. We don’t throw a single of them. On birthdays and anniversaries we send extra food to relatives in those plastic boxes once the party is over. On a day when we have tried a new form of aloo-posto or dhokar dalna, we send it to our next door neighbour in the same dabba. So, you see, parting away with your priceless stainless steel Tiffin-carriers (with the anticipation that it would never come back) has vanished phenomenally with the advent of these containers. Oh, we often use them to store fish and chicken in deep freezers, as well.
One thing that deserves very special mention here is recycling gifts. There are certain bed covers, cups and saucers, pearl sets and sarees which are gifted during your weddings for the noble cause of recycling and hence you do the honours without feeling guilty (just like your mom, grand mom, aunts, distant aunts did).
In my household, I have noticed that the thing that’s recycled MOST is a bottle. I am not exactly talking about the Coke pet bottle used to store kerosene oil in a Bong kitchen. I mean the aesthetic value which bottles add to our daily lives by virtue of reuse. Here are some of them made into use either by me or people I know. Most of them are alcohol bottles for their sturdy glass-build, different shapes, sizes and memories they are associated with.

1. Tailor-mate: Yes, being the very friendly person that I am, I have befriended many people from many walks of life. My tailor is one of them. One day, I chanced to see this huge packet full of bits and pieces of clothes being thrown away. These are left over fabrics which he was cleaning out of his shop. I asked for it. He readily handed it over to me.

My brother-in-law’s friends had come over for the Pune-Kolkata match. Empty Beer-bottles collected thereafter, cleaned and a handful of stuff used from that ‘huge packet’ my tailor gave me.

Snippets from a stranger’s kurta and left-overs from a fantastic Kolkata-win now adorn my window pane..

2.   Old monk in a new bottle: I had this eternal debate within my mind as to which alcohol bottle is the most beautiful..Antiquity Blue Bottle is stunning, Glen bottles have their own old-world charm, but the Old Monk emerges as a clear winner for me. Its stained glass exterior is a perfect surface for glass painting. But, I tried something else on it giving it an almost-retro look. For daaru-parties to come, I am going to use it for storing water.

I found the cap an eyesore. I covered it with jute threads. Those who thought that the bottle was the only thing recycled, here’s a small piece of information. Calcuttans who live on floors above the ground floor receive their newspapers every morning on their balconies, rolled neatly and tied up with jute strings. A bong mum-in-law never throws those strings away, so that her daughter-in-law could use it later, for her creative ventures ;)

Cheers to our eternal favourite OM2/ OMTU (a.k.a Old Monk with Thums Up!!)

3.  Let there be light: This Glen bottle was a gift from a very dear friend. I am too fond of the friend and his gift to throw it away or sell in along with beer cans and Breezer bottles in the local market at 40 rupees a kilo. So I took it to an electrician, got a cork and bulb fixed, put marbles inside and made it into this. And, gifted it to another very dear friend on his birthday.

Alcohol does make you light, what say?

4.  Message in a bottle: Are January rains special?? I didn’t think so, unless it started raining and I realized it was the first drizzle of the year. Yes, one year back, on a chilly mid-Jan evening, it started pouring. Like the rains, ideas keep on flowing too..on happy days.
We were eating out; not exactly in a position to collect the rainwater. I quickly rang up my best friend, asked her to keep a bisleri bottle on her roof top, get it filled with rain. She followed.
On the hottest day of summer, I bottled the rain water and penned down OUR favourite Mohiner Ghoraguli song on it. It was a no-occasion gift for Mr. Mostly-Right.
You tell me, is love only about getting drenched in the downpour or being each other’s raincoats??..Is it not the promise that “I assure you a cloudburst even on the most scorching day of the year”…?

5.  Shishey se shisha takray: Glass bangles, like promises are made to be broken. We break them during unmindful moments… by dropping them, by trying smaller sizes or while making love. The bottomline is they BREAK often and instead of throwing them into dustbins, you can put them into use by combining them with a Breezer bottle like I did. Let light fall over it and see the result. The multihued ‘shishe-se-shishe-takaray’ effect is vibrant!    

FYI: I know, none can have so many broken bangle pieces in ‘put-to-use’ mode. When I was running short of them, I took a few from my bangle stand, broke them suo moto and used them for this noble activity (not waiting for other “nobler activities” which can break bangles too ;)…)

6.  Glass painted: This is one of the gifts I received on my last birthday. A very talented aunt had painted a whisky bottle with glass colours and made it into a flower vase. I use it to grow money plants. (The last sentence sounds so f***ing awesome!! I wish it was literal).

7. 'Absolutely' light: A very close friend one day showed me this photograph of his sister’s bedside lamp and I was awed. The aesthetically enriched girl has used the Diwali rice-lights and an Absolute bottle to make this absolutely beautiful light. What a wonderful idea of putting to use the rice-lights which just after Diwali finds its place in the store room and remains untouched for a whole year. The translucent surface of the bottle does the rest of the magic!!

8.  Papercup: Last but not the least. In the span of these 28 springs that I have crossed, I have come across a number of super-talented people who have impressed and inspired. One of them is a little sister-cum-friend who runs a label called “Papercup” along with her friends. In their last exhibition, they showcased a wonderful collection of flower vases made out of alcohol bottles, wrapped in colourful threads. A flower or two tucked inside to jazz up a corner of your drawing room or coffee table. You get to see their vivid collection (which includes more of these stuffs) on their Facebook page.  Please visit.  

Photo: Owner's own


I can blabber unstoppably on how things can be reused or recycled. And I will in days to come. Watch out this space for more.



  1. Vibrant and colourful writing, just as you are.
    Keep writing more and more while we "watch out this space for more".

  2. Lovely work! Such creativity! I'm inspired to collect bottles from friends to drink just to try out your ideas. :)

    Your blog is wonderful and I really enjoyed all the posts. Btw, I landed here from FB and I'm Mr. J's class mate from Hyd. Tell him he's one lucky guy to have you! :)

    1. hi Kavs (this must be a shortened form of your name), thank you so much! do message me on FB and we can have a chat. I was reading your blogs too. they are awesome. you are wonderful with words. much love, parama

  3. Touche. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the great effort.
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  4. wow! u are immensely talented! i chanced upon your blog and got totally blown away! love it, keep writing! :)

    1. Thanks thanks thanks Apala. You just made me so happy. Hope to see you in this space, more often. much love.

  5. Mohin on that bottle? wow!! blew my mind away! Eto shundor lekho, aanko...okaloti koro- Seriously awe-struck!!!
    I just discovered that we belong to the same profession also, though I doubt whether I am a misfit or not! :) Keep scribbling!!!!

  6. Dude! one big puccchhhhhiiii and hugggiiiieee for you. Its liek you name it and I have it.
    Superb job done !
    Loved all of em. high time i do smthing to my khaali baatliesss ;)

  7. it was lovely thanks for giving me a tour back to my childhood days i was completely lost in your description and your way of thinking is lovely....

  8. Thanks heaps, Mohit :D **big grin**