Green Bean

A musing and an update

grocery cart with item
Photo by Oleg Magni on

“So how’s your Zero Waste thing going?” a friend asked me over breakfast the other day.

My shakshuka started to churn in my stomach. How was my Zero Waste thing going anyway? Also, how did she discover my blog?

I needed to buy myself time to shape an acceptably committed answer so I countered her question with the latter.

“Well, it’s no secret. It’s on your WhatsApp status.”

I had nothing to report to her in response to her original question. No wait! I did. I actually did.

“I bought myself some of those beeswax wraps and they just arrived yesterday. They’re supposed to be really good and sustainable alternatives to cling wrap.”

“That’s nice…” I don’t think it answered her question. I wouldn’t be convinced either. Because it just sounds like buying more stuff in order to stop using stuff you don’t really use that much to begin with.

And it’s true, to an extent. I rarely use cling wrap. Once in three months at best, when I end up baking a cake or a pie and want to wrap the pan for transport. I also have little use foil. I ran out a few months ago and just didn’t see the need to buy any more.

I guess what I should have told her is that I’ve been pretty good at eliminating foil and plastic wrap from my life. But I got distracted from this at the thought of all the waste I was creating by ordering new things online that I justified for the Zero Waste cause. But I couldn’t admit it because I did realise that it’s counterproductive given how each item comes packaged tightly in things like bubble wrap, plastic labels, brown tape and cardboard. Things I just chucked into the dry waste bin feeling relatively good about myself because they were actually ‘dry’ as opposed to covered in sticky yogurt or slick oil.

I also cannot boast about taking my own lunch to work in a steel or glass lunchbox because I’m honestly too lazy to actually fill them up with leftovers from yesterday on my way out.

What all of this really makes me realise is that it’s sort of easy to go Zero (or low) waste when you’re actually living your laziest life possible. That to be a person who is mindful of spending right, eating well and living conscientiously while also championing the zero waste cause is really really hard.

It’s like working out a muscle you have never used quite suddenly because you know it’s the right thing to do. Except you sort of fall back a little because the first day has left your muscles sore and your ego bruised.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. I’ll be back soon with something more significant. Wish me luck!





Green Bean

On giving up toilet paper for the Zero Waste Movement

trash near door
Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas on

“What are you going to use if you get rid of toilet paper,” my sister asked me on our family’s WhatsApp group. I had just announced that the Jayapal home in Bangalore was going Zero Waste for eternity.

“Well…” It was a fair question. It shouldn’t have been awkward given that we weren’t always privileged to have toilet rolls in every bathroom. In the 90s, we honestly just washed and walked. No toilet paper. No hand (bum?) towels. No family rolls. In fact, it’s something we do even today in restrooms in public parks and during road trips.

However, it still felt awkward to admit to my sister that I would just be washing and walking even if she had experienced this herself just two decades ago.

So me being, well, me, I decided to use this incident to announce to the world (or at least my three dedicated readers, bless you all) that, “I’m Afsha Khan Jayapal. and I hereby shun toilet paper.”

Yes. I’m joining the Zero Waste movement starting first with my home and myself. It’s been on my mind for a few months. I’ve been harping on about this to people at work too. They seem to be very supportive and proud. Either that or they’re just humouring me to curb my newfound superiority complex and penchant to turn everything into a conversation about misshapen sea turtles and toxic landfills.

But I have to admit it hasn’t been easy. In fact, it has been so difficult that I’ve been almost tempted to lock myself up in the house and pretend that everything in the world is okay, because I am okay.

Two days ago, I was at a fancy supermarket with my son and was surrounded on three sides by sweet, smiling ladies giving out free samples. I usually don’t take free samples because I feel obligated to purchase everything I try. I usually just walk off saying, “Not today, thank you!”

But with a 3-year-old in my shopping cart, things don’t usually work out as per plan. And the sweet ladies, they’re actually quite calculating, know this.

“Here Munna! Try some chocolate bars.”

“No, no! Try these bread sticks with almond butter and chocolate (only Rs 500 for 100 gram tub, ma’am).”


So, yeah. We ended up buying the smoothie, which (oh gosh!) came in a plastic bottle. And a free Styrofoam cup on the side because my kid really loved the idea of drinking smoothie as shots (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree).

If this wasn’t against my new religion  lifestyle choice way of life, almost all the contents of said bottle (and shot glass) spilled all over his car seat at the first ditch (thank you, BBMP) leaving me with the guilt of having to find a roadside stall for tissues and… oh yes, a screaming toddler too.

So yes, being mindful about what to buy and remembering to carry an array of cloth napkins has been a huge challenge that has made me question how I am going to survive as a Zero Waster in the big bad world. Also, how I will miss toilet paper!

But everything comes with challenges, doesn’t it? I haven’t been inspired to write a about anything whatsoever since my last post in… when was it exactly? 2017? 2018? So maybe pulling through these challenged one by one and writing about them will keep me going. Who knows? I may inspire you to shun toilet paper too. Seriously! It isn’t so hard. Just wash. Wait. Wiggle, maybe? And walk.

It’s time to talk about toilet paper, people. Below is a link shared by a friend which shows you the devastating impact of using toilet paper, especially the cushy, soft, 3-ply sort. Yes, this particular article is set in the West. But let’s not pretend that you aren’t going for the imported sort of rolls over the ‘desi’ ones (are there even desi toilet rolls? Please, I don’t want to know). 

“…major brands’ refusal to switch to sustainable materials in toilet paper is having a devastating impact on forests and climate.”

Green Bean

The Green Bean: Plagued by periwinkles

Periwinkles! Periwinkles everywhere!!
Periwinkles! Periwinkles everywhere!!

I’m being followed by periwinkles. I just know I am. I can’t walk a minute without seeing them. In people’s houses, office buildings, in the supermarket and even along the sidewalk! They seem to be everywhere, it would seem. Everywhere that is, except in the murderous pot in my garden.

A month ago, I picked out two periwinkle plants at the nursery. They were both healthy and beautiful. They were also in full bloom! The first one’s flowers were a lovely red in colour, while the other one’s were white with a pink ring in the centre.

“Sadafule,” my dad called them by their Marathi name. “They’re in bloom throughout the year and are really easy to maintain.”

I like it when my dad suggests plants that are “easy to maintain”. It usually means that they need nothing but water, sunshine, and the occasional smattering of compost to be chillin’ like villains.

But within a week of bringing them home, both the periwinkle plants started to wither. First, their flowers started to rot and then the leaves and stems followed. I tried my best to save them. Ok, so maybe “my best” involved adding a dash of vermicompost and saying a prayer. But don’t forget, I ‘m pretty new to this gardening gig.

They died on a Tuesday morning as the sunny skies started to cloud over. Just like my soul.

“I did everything I could, Dad. But I just couldn’t save them,” I told my father over the phone. “The sadafule have died.”

“It’s ok,” he said. “Sometimes, plants just die. Maybe the roots didn’t latch on properly or it was just a bad seed!”

“Or maybe your dad is just being a good father and avoiding having to tell you that your ‘green thumb’ is actually black,” my husband chirped from the background.

I’m being followed by periwinkles. Plagued, more like. It’s like they’re pointing at me and whispering, “There goes the killer of our kind! Beware her touch…”

Seriously! I have seen these flowers grow anywhere and everywhere. Even on the rims of gutters tended by nothing but dust, pollution and the occasional sprinkle of dog pee. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But you can see why the unfairness of the situation has me worked up, can’t you?

“You could have another go at it,” a friend of mine suggested the other day.

“No, I really don’t want to return to the nursery again. It’s too painful. And far.”

“Or you could just take a cutting from one of the many periwinkles you claim to see like Hamlet’s father’s ghost and plant it!”

“Wait. You can do that?”

Apparently, you can! Who would have thunk?

“Any experienced gardener, or even a child repeating the 4th grade could have told you that….” My husband quips as I tell him about this revelation.

I guess I’m not being plagued by periwinkles at all! I’m being summoned by them, more like, to have another go. Maybe I’ll steal a stem of the neighbour’s Bird of Paradise too while I’m at it!

Green Bean

The Green Bean: A few words about worm poop


If only gardening came with the sort of results reminiscent of teleshopping channels. “If our worm poop doesn’t bring those periwinkles back to life, it’s mud!”

It has been a few hours since I went around applying an inch of vermicompost to all the pots in my garden and I can’t fight the urge to go see whether anything has changed yet. Have the lemons gotten bigger? Has the hibiscus bloomed? Have the periwinkles come back to life?

This is ridiculous, I know. More so when I confess that I haven’t been around on an inspection for a week. I have a bag full of excuses for this indiscretion, the most honest of which would be that I have been avoiding my plants because I’ve been afraid of what I will see.

But as I do intend to turn the corner, I decided to stop putting off their fertilisation needs any longer. This morning, I tore open that bag of vermicompost – 5kgs of Selli Vermi Vermicompost ordered online, delivered the next morning; could this city be any more convenient for gardeners? – and got right into it.

This was a bit of a challenge because the mud in all the pots had gotten so hard, it forced us to conclude, “They don’t sell mud here. They sell iron.” And it’s true. It never pays to be one of the lazy ones who picks up 10 kg bags of Mixed Matti for Rs 130 at the local nursery because it is just so much more convenient than buying (and more importantly remembering potting proportions for) cocopeat, mud and compost separately.

But it is what it is and if I can keep these plants alive until April next year, I promise to do a better, more thorough job at the potting and sowing process rather than go for the easy alternative of Mixed effin’ Matti – which may very well be stuff they scraped off the side of the road and weighed down with stones, for all I know.

We dug and loosened the soil as best we could and applied a layer of compost to it. This particular compost boasts traits like reduced requirement for watering (ahem), good nitrogen levels to keep the plants tripping and added nutrients to make the soil rich.

So yes, I guess now all I need to do is breathe and let my plants do the same. In a few days we’ll know how this exercise panned out.

In the meanwhile I’m going to keep myself occupied by reading more about caring for gardens. Maybe even getting around to finally learning the names for some of the flowering plants. I don’t think referring to them as “The purple one” and “The pink one” is going to fly much longer now that I’m actively trying to help them thrive!

Green Bean

The Green Bean: Green thumbs down


Bangalore is undoubtedly the best city for gardens and gardeners. So much so that it’s officially the city’s tag line, or something: Garden City. However, I have sold it as more of a ‘Beer Garden City’ to my friends, family and anyone who will listen, but that’s a sales pitch for another time.

I live in the best city in India to grow things. The sun is always shining. It rains on occasion. The temperatures are pretty balanced throughout the year. Basically, I have no idea what I’m talking about, just that if you plant things in Bangalore and care for them, they will grow. Really, really well.

So how do you end up torturing two tomato plants on the terrace and losing a baby lemon tree to weeds in the front yard?

I have a friend who used to say that before she decided to have a child, she would first buy a plant. “I will take care of it for a while, and if I don’t kill it, I will consider having a child.” I used to tell her this was a silly way to think it. You can’t compare a plant and a child. They’re both completely different things, not to mention their yields and maintenance are like comparing peaches and popcorn.

But having lost (interest in) the tomato plants once my Instagram ‘Likes’ reached double digits, I was made to feel very guilty on vacation recently, by concerned plant rights activists like my sister and husband.

“She doesn’t even water her own plants,” Sabaa stated my as she went about watering the dying orchids in her sun-deprived living room in Munich. “Her housekeeper does it for her! And if he sees something growing, like a tomato or a flower, he lets her know. Then, and only then, does she go up to the terrace to take a picture of it to post on social media.”

“Oh and she didn’t even use the tomatoes for in a salad or anything,” my husband chimed in. “She just totally forgot about them.”

At that moment, I detested the two of them for being right. I had let the tomatoes go. It was my fault that the mint – which, by the way, spreads like friggin’ weeds if you’re not a plant murderer – wilted. And where in the world did that lemon tree go to? Seriously?!

Gardening is hard work! Especially if you’re as slow on the uptake as I am. It’s just that all those growers, gardeners and green bloggers make it look so easy. But obviously it isn’t.

What’s more is that I now actually respect my friend’s decision to keep a plant alive before taking on the responsibility of nurturing a child. Of course, I’m hoping more than ever that my competency in nurturing one isn’t a reflection on how I will fare with the other. Regardless, as long as I have the intention to do better, be more hands-on, learn along the way and bear in mind that photos are merely the one perfect moment of a million imperfect shots, I should be golden. Or green. Or whatever.

So I have decided to stop being such a lazy person and really put my efforts into my little garden. You don’t have to believe me, really, even if I do show you the power point presentation I’ve made, chalking out my plans for a fresh start at a salad garden.

But I know that I am capable of making this happen if I really put my mind to it. It’s just a matter of hard work and determination. Actually, given my reputation across two continents, it is now a matter of saving face!

To add some accountability to my endeavours as an aspiring gardener, I’m going to post an update about my garden every Thursday! I’m calling this series, The Green Bean. It will document many of my own (mis)adventures in the garden and also feature tips, tricks and on occasion, solid advise from seasoned gardeners and friends.