In 2016, when Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar for The Revenant and gave an impressive speech on climate change with his words, “Climate change is real. It is happening now,” - it sounded important, magical even, that it was collectively believed that he deserved another Oscar for his speech.
Strangely, when my Mother and Mother-in-law have been repeating pretty much the same lines over last few weeks, the magic appears to have gone!
Let me explain.
DiCaprio explaining, “Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow. Climate change is real. It is happening right now.” Applause!
As opposed to Mother worrying, “The Garden City is no Garden City at all. The old mango tree in the neighborhood that was home to birds and squirrels and gave us enough mangoes for jars of spicy pickle has been chopped down, an apartment is being built in its place. It rains all day, yet water seems to be a year-long problem. As for the cool climes, its gone. Climate change is real, can’t we see it happening all around us?” Sigh!
Or my Mother-in-law living in Kerala explaining the horrors of a rainy night, “It was sweltering all day and late in the evening there was this fierce wind, so fierce that I thought it would blow the house away. There was thunder, lightening and relentless rain all night. The climate here has become extremely unpredictable,” Sigh! Sigh!
You get the drift.
That evening as I sat sipping on a bottle of sodium-free, alkaline water that I had bought on a whim, I tried explaining to both my children the woes of climate change and the uncertainty it posed, adding in the conversation with my Mother and Mother-in-law. While Little Princess wanted to know if the ‘naughty’ virus had something to do with climate change and if a mask or vaccine could fix it, my son, Sid, wondered how old would we each be, if our age was to be measured, not in the number of years lived, but by the number of plastic bottles we used.
The question was like a slap across my face. Where did that come from? Children these days had a way with questions, a problem that I am quite sure, our parents did not face, thanks to their authoritative parenting. Yet, not one to back down, I first closed the bottle of water and kept it aside (as far as my hands could reach), cleared my throat while two pair of eager eyes waited for an answer.
“Luckily for us, we have been using RO water for a while now. We even carry our water flasks when we step out. That would not make us very old, would it?” I managed throwing the question their way.
“Would we be older than Ammamma and Achamma?” my daughter wondered, referring to her grandmothers.
Now I knew for sure, I was in a dangerous territory. They were both well aware that my mother has very reluctantly managed to progress from the old steel filter to a water purifier and save for the bottled water during her occasional travels when she didn’t carry her own, she detested bottled water. As for my mother-in-law, bottled water was non-existent in her world. For her, drinking water has always been sweet well water spiced with cumin and brought to a rolling boil, the first job she undertook every morning.
“That would make us all older than them,“ I agreed, “and this last bottle that has made me a year older will be safely recycled,” I assured, resting my case.
Now, dear readers, that brings me to a question (and a reminder) for you – If your age was measured by the number of plastic bottles you used, how old would you be?
— Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha