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Updated on: Tuesday, May 28, 2019, 11:48 PM IST

Carol Andrade Column: Of diapers and common sense, for baby’s sake

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Listen, just 35 years ago in India, brand new baby in my arms, if you asked me what I absolutely desired, the answer would be disposable nappies.

Relatives would be met at the airport, wearing resentful expressions that you noticed only when you rapturously received the huge packages of Pampers they carried.

And suddenly, going out with the baby no longer required sophisticated logistics involving bowel movements and constant little fountains of pee. You just shoved him into a disposable diaper and forgot about his nether regions and your silk clad lap for the next three hours.

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That’s the thing, isn’t it? Once you got home, it was back to soft cotton diapers. At night your hand wandered constantly over a wriggly bum to ensure there was no telltale wetness. You attended immediately to a change in diaper and bed clothes. Sure we grumbled, but we also knew that disposables were not the answer. It was too hot, the baby’s skin was too delicate and hygiene was everything. Even though you had a cupboard full of contraband that you were saving for “good occasions”.

By the time this appears, 100 mothers and their toddlers (who naturally couldn’t care less) will have pledged to using diapers “mindfully”, which apparently means going back to cotton. This is their contribution to saving the planet and as part of a global diaper change movement. Now you need a global movement to push you back on the path to which we used to keep out of common sense. And they will have done this at a city mall, bolstered by a corporate endorsement that manufactures (what else?) cotton diapers.

So what the hell happened to make young mothers responsible for piling up our landfills with 3.5 million tonnes of diapers in India? Have we completely given ourselves over to so-called modern conveniences that we keep our babies in disposable diapers as a matter of course? What has happened that we need to be re- introduced to the good old cotton nappy and literally coaxed into using it?

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Certainly we don’t deserve such conveniences if we do not adhere to rules of disposal. How quickly we forgot the state of our sewers and storm drains, a result of the indiscriminate use of plastic bags.

A decade ago in the UK, fatbergs had become a plague. Huge bodies of non-biodegradable matter mixed with cooking fats that were clogging up Victorian sewers. Some were as big as a small whale, others were bus sized, others as big as a football field, all were dangerous and required specialised equipment for removal. And many were caused by the indiscriminate use of and careless disposal of stuff like wet wipes (another staple for baby’s bottoms) and suchlike stuff.

So far, we haven’t heard if fatbergs in India but just hang on. As we race to catch up with Western ishtyle, fatbergs will chase us, and change those dreams of convenience  into nightmares.

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In the Philippines, that madman President Rodrigo Duterte, has been threatening to go to war with Canada over the dumping upon his country if 100 containers of garbage.

It was supposed to be mainly plastic stuff but was revealed to be household trash that also contained huge numbers of adult diapers. Since 2013, the country has been fighting to get Canada to take it all back but arbitration continues and now Duterte says Canada has a week to pick up its own garbage sitting in a landfill in Manila. Else he will return it forcibly.

Now Duterte is not one of my favourite people. Wrought by the creator in the mould of an extreme Trump or exactly like Putin, this foul-mouthed politician is proud of his bloody hands and bloodier heart.

But when he talks about developed countries actually paying developing nations to take recyclable garbage from them and then palming off plain old, environmentally hazardous rubbish upon them, I have a sneaking sympathy for his country.

Closer home, not so much. What’ s the matter with us? When did washing a few nappies each day get to be such a chore that child and environment alike have to suffer?

(Former journalist, now media educator, still curious about everything.)

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Published on: Sunday, April 28, 2019, 06:15 AM IST
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