Tag Archives: #lakshmipalecanda

2021 is A Hangover & We Are Facing the Repercussions

Hey, the New Year 2021 is here! Yay! There were a lot of private parties and a few public parties, with both masking and unmasking happening, for sure. A lot of cake was eaten and quite a bit of champagne was drunk. 

Unfortunately, the new year started with a heavy hangover from the previous one. What with the COVID-19 virus mutating and becoming even more contagious, there wasn’t a lot to cheer about. About the transition of power in Washington, the lesser said the better. In fact, why say anything at all here? We are all watching it on TV on a daily basis.

Where I live in South India too, the new year is beginning on a weird note. It is raining a lot, when it should actually be sunny but cold. In Coorg, Karnataka, where we have a small coffee plantation, people are very worried. The unseasonal rain is causing the coffee berries to drop and rot on the ground, reducing the yield. Those that have been picked have had no time to dry and may rot on the drying yard, if they aren’t washed away by the water, that is. Paddy harvest too may be affected.

Indians are certainly waking up to the unwelcome realization that global warming and climate change are no longer just subjects for scientific debate, but the reality on the ground. Farmers are seeing it first hand, while consumers are suffering when prices fluctuate wildly due to the unseasonal weather. Onions at Rs. 120 a kilo? Enough said.

Meanwhile, the United States is seeing its share of natural disasters as well. Forest fires decimating large swathes of land and swallowing up neighborhoods, and hurricanes and tornadoes wreaking havoc with barely a pause between successive ones, are impressing the concept of climate change among the people far better than any Government initiative to educate them.

However, the big question is: how are the two countries responding to it and trying to change their behavior? And what are individuals doing? Well, here is a layperson’s perspective.

In my decidedly uneducated opinion, both the US and India are responding identically to the climate crisis. They are spending billions of dollars and rupees having conferences and putting out white papers and other colored papers on the subject. But not one of them is doing anything real or major on the ground that may have the slightest effect on reducing emissions, reducing dependence on fossil fuel, and cleaning up the environment that they have laid waste. 

In India, new cars are flying off the shelves. All the money that couldn’t be spent during the lockdown days is being splurged on new and fancy cars. So much for reducing dependence on fossil fuel. 

Public works are still being conducted for the welfare of PWD contractors and not the public – in short, resources being wasted on shoddy work, such as water pipes that break and bleed hundreds of gallons wastefully into the earth. Water wastage and electricity theft is rampant, and there is no earnest effort to clean up invaluable water resources, even after the shocking water crisis faced by Chennai city. 

And forest management is absolutely non-existent. If you are a wild animal, or a human whose land is being encroached by wild animals (many parts of South India are seeing an unprecedented number of people being affected by the entry of elephant herds into cultivated land), or a tribal whose very livelihood is at stake, you are on your own. Meanwhile, blocks of flats keep appearing and land is being cleared to build new townships. 

In short, very little is happening on the ground to actually combat the climate crisis. 

As for the trend in the US, I had an opportunity to observe a few things when my husband and I visited the US this August. And what I observed was shocking, especially after having become used to the Indian way of life.

Again this is my humble opinion, but I think the US is seriously over-consuming. During our stay, we were stunned by the amount of trash we ended up generating each day…and this was mostly non-recyclable stuff. We stayed at a motel for an extended period, so we bought a bunch of silverware and some microwavable plastic and porcelain dishes. We had to depend on microwavable food from grocery stores, as eating every meal at restaurants was neither to our taste nor feasible due to COVID. We found that the frozen dinners were packaged in plastic that was of such durable quality that we actually washed a few and reused them as microwave bowls. 

Every store used plastic bags. At large chain stores especially, they would literally put just a pack of socks in one bag and a t-shirt in another. It was as if they’d never heard of limiting plastic. I dearly love the US and am nuts about the stores, but I wanted to weep when I saw the sheer amount of plastic waste that was being generated.

In India, plenty of plastic waste is generated too, especially with Amazon, and Flipkart, Big Basket, and Swiggy, Zomato, and other food delivery companies. But a lot of it does get reused at least a little. Plastic containers are washed and used to store food. Many use cloth bags for shopping, and as for the plastic bags that are used for things like rice, dhal, etc., they get reused too. Small kirana shops use these to package their goods. Milk covers are given to kabadiwaalas who resell them to recyclers. Newspapers are also sold to recyclers, or used to package things or used around the house, or even to wrap used sanitary pads before discarding. 

Some cities like Mysore where I live also force citizens to segregate their waste into dry and wet waste. Some apartment complexes like ours have their own composting units, and give only their dry waste to the municipality. 

Of course, in India, we have the overwhelming problem of public cleanliness – what garbage we have is usually in plain sight. Now after COVID, there might even be less will to clean up the country. Everyone feels that it was our daily exposure to all kinds of pathogens bred in our own neighborhoods that gave us lower susceptibility to COVID-19 virus. So God knows what will happen to the Swachh Bharath initiative.

The New Year has dawned. We’ve had to change a lot of our habits and behavior last year. Hopefully, we will change our behavior regarding many environmentally-sensitive practices so that 2021 will see a healthier planet emerging from shadow of COVID-19.


Lakshmi Palecanda moved from Montana, USA, to Mysore, India, and inhabits a strange land somewhere in between the two. Having discovered sixteen years ago that writing was a good excuse to get out of doing chores, she still uses it.

Corona Chronicles

I have a confession to make: secretly, I was kinda happy when India went into a total lockdown on March 25. Come on, I was feeling only what your average overworked, stressed out middle-class working woman felt. The disease was bad, but I was happy to take my staycation.

But I was not going to laze through 21 days. I had plans – house cleaning, writing, being the light of my family, getting lighter … all that good stuff. 

Day 1: Woke up with a sense of awe. We were witnessing history! Realized that there was no newspaper. Worse, no housemaid. For 21 days. An icy hand clutches my internal organs. A week, I can get by, but three weeks? 

Upside: Had a nice long nap in the afternoon. Felt really rested.

Day 2: My mother was absolutely right – housework never ends. No point in slaving, you have to do it all over again … in an hour’s time. New rule: no one allowed to walk on the floor or change clothes. And if anyone wants to eat the rice, sambhar, rasam, veg fry, and curds, they could use their fingers and palms only – no plates allowed. 

Upside: Have started watching re-runs of re-runs old shows.

Day 3: A day of realizations.

  1. My neighbor’s baby has colic. My neighbor has a baby. Really? Just exactly, who is this neighbor?
  2. A family that stays at home eats too much. I have to cook often and in large quantities. Ergo, more dishes. Aaarrrrgggh!
  3. Love my family. I just don’t want them around all the time.
  4. Eating healthy when confined to the home – an oxymoron. Also, how long will my stash of snacks hold out

Upside: Discovering the joys of binge-watching.

Day 4: I hate housework. I-HATE-HOUSEWORK. Once this lockdown is over, I’ll burn the house down. Finding it hard to binge-watch Friends and Big Bang Theory while wondering – ‘Who the h**l is doing their dishes and cleaning their apartments when they are at that d***n coffee shop or the Cheesecake Factory?’ This thought sucks the fun out of watching the shows.

Upside: Begun reading a book … more than a page at a time!

Day 5: Going to commit murder. A man in the next building keeps singing off-key and loudly along with his stereo. Hoping his family will do him in themselves. If they can’t, I volunteer.

Hearing about immigrants in cities trying to go home. Terribly sad for them. Okay, I’ll admit – my suffering is small potatoes. By the way, do I have enough potatoes?

Upside: Gave myself the day off. Read a wonderful thriller.  

Day 6: Dying of housework. Wiping all the torches, electric lamps and burned out bulbs, even gas stove – but no genie. I now know who I love the most – the maid. If anyone offers to bring my maid back in return for my family … well, I guess that’ll never happen (sob).

Sick of Friends. For just how long did this show run?

Upside: Today, a resident set things up so that we get veggies and milk packets every morning. Yay! 

Day 7: Today, my husband went out, as a volunteer for shopping for our apartment complex. I suspect he was just itching to get out of the house. When my hunter-gatherer returned from the mythical land called Outside, I made him give a step-by-step account of the entire half-hour trip. It took 45 minutes. A highlight of today.

Huge Upside: Husband took over the dishwashing duties. 

Day mmm-hmm: Missed a few days of journaling. Hell, missed a few days of life – got my dates wrong. I cheered when I found we had a couple fewer days to go of the lockdown. I have gone from being merely grouchy to being depressed as well. 

Upside: ?????

Day something or the other: Today, my husband got another chance to escape … needed salt! Bit down hard on a pillow and stay that way to prevent myself from asking him to buy a ton of snacks. 

Day sometime-during-week-two: Am all weirded out. Vocabulary stunted as we use only the words Corona Virus, Covid-19, lockdown, self-quarantine, shut up, and how the hell should I know. Still hate housework, but we now have a truce going. I’ll sweep, but the corners have to fend for themselves. If my boss can’t deal with it, she can do the work herself. Oh, wait, I’m the boss. Dang it.

Upside: All of us are healthy. We are all home, we are together. Watching TV footage of all the migrant laborers trying to get home – heartbreaking. Hunger and uncertainty in the camps – scary. And sick people in overflowing hospitals and the deaths … at least we aren’t going through that.

Day end-of-week two: Identified new syndrome – Lockdown-Induced Writer’s Block. Wonder if people will still be interested in the same things post-COVID. Still can’t get over the unreality of the situation. Is this lockdown a waste of time, or the best idea ever?

The mood around town is strange too. Most people are taking it as a time to relax. Some are going out anyway, once or twice a day. There is some seriousness but it’s not all gloom and doom. 

Summer is in full swing. The heat is killing. It’s enforcing the lockdown better than the fear of Coronavirus.

Upside: Birds are singing like gangbusters. We’re seeing bulbuls and parrots far more than before.

Week 3 beginning day-(Name starts with M or something like that): Conflicting feelings:

Happy because I’ve Corona eyes – dark circles are completely gone.

Upset, because I’ve Corona hair – shaggy and roots are showing.

Day Wed/Thurs. Week 3: Yay, only one more week to freedom. I am feeling far more upbeat than before.

April 15: India’s lockdown extended until May 3.

Hell, I’m putting all activities on hold as I concentrate on saving my sanity.

Good luck to you too!

Lakshmi Palecanda moved from Montana, USA, to Mysore, India, and inhabits a strange land somewhere in between the two. Having discovered sixteen years ago that writing was a good excuse to get out of doing chores, she still uses it.