It was in 2010 that I last visited the island of Bintan, Indonesia. My memory of staying there in the villas, the relaxing time I had prior to an upcoming solo exhibition that year, is full of lovely beach and swimming memories. We visited again this long weekend, this being our fourth visit and this time too the company we had made the trip just so worthy of memories. Yet there was one dark patch.
I tried swimming in the beach waters and was thoroughly disgusted with the rubbish that was in the waters. Of the many previous visits I remember seeing fish swimming around us. This time however all that we had wrapped around our feet was a lot of wrappers, plastic bags and loads of plastic bits and pieces poking us. At one point I managed to move my son away, from a drift wood piece that had metal bits and nails stuck on it. It was just not funny how many plastic wrappers of chocolates, chips and other such garbage that were in the waters. I know I know, your response would be swim in the hotel pool. Well, I did not travel go to a beach resort to swim in their pool, when I can do that in the comfort of my residence.
I was saddened by what we humans are doing to the aquatic life and the planet. Our constant need for material goods, commodities and entertainment is costing the planet. I decided to not just write about it but do my bit with my son. While the beach cleaners of our resort very diligently cleaned the beach every morning for a few hours from the sea weed that came adrift, they did not seem to be interested in the garbage that come afloat. Along with my son and soon my husband joined us too, we stood in the waves and let the rubbish come to us and then collected them and put them, in the wheel barrows that the cleaners were collecting the rubbish in.
It was my wee bit of seva (service) that we could indulge in during the getaway. I did feel the Universe was sending me an important lesson. I spoke with my son about the choices we make. We did think carrying more home cooked food for the trips and the voyage would reduce a certain amount of plastic. These choices matter and making the younger ones aware of these choices also matter. As an artist the irony of all this not lost on me. Yah I was not about to gather all the garbage to make a statement art piece or an installation out of it. It was more about what choices I make as an artist. No, I do not use disposable gloves for each artwork I make. We can’t call ourselves concerned and not look into the processes we involve ourselves in. It made me re- think of a lot of things I could do different and trust me those will go into effect as I type this note. However, I did not think my action on the beach went in vain. My son joined me in my effort and we had a discussion about our choices. My husband who was first amused and then bewildered at my actions soon joined me when I said “beach seva”, a true AOL person he is :D Lastly the cleaners realised that they should pick plastic and other rubbish too apart from the weed. Most importantly it just made me feel good about bringing alur dum and luchi for all of us, (a yum Bengali treat, unhealthy for normal days but holidays are for indulgences, so they make great voyage food) and the fact that it was devoured makes it have a repeat factor.