There’s A Message In Every Bottle On The Beach


I love living on the beach. It is mostly about the wonderful connection I feel with the sun, the sea, the sky and the sand. For the most part, I am alone. Even when there are people around, they are fishermen and their families. Their livelihood depends on nature, as it exists around them, remaining intact.

So, while it still infuriates me to find the local men marking their lines in the sand every morning and afternoon with their bowel movements, I at least know that they are working the sea and for the most part, they are the first line of defence against our beaches turning into junkyards and party plots.

If you spend all that time, energy and effort to make the trip to paradise, why pollute it before you leave? Is that your way of saying thanks?

But then the tourists come, leaving their own telltale markings.

You see, we locals won’t come with plastic bags filled with litres of soda and beer bottles and packaged chips, consume them and leave the debris there. We locals won’t change our children’s diapers and then just leave the dirty nappies there.

People spend tens of thousands of rupees daily to come to the beach. Why do they come? For the most part, they do this to get away from the chaos of their daily life. They also come to get in touch with nature. What that permits them to do is to let go and be a little carefree. But being carefree and being careless are two separate things. If you spend all that time, energy and effort to make the trip to paradise, why pollute it before you leave? Is that your way of saying thanks?

I’m grateful that I live in a state where there are minimal shacks along the coastline serving alcohol.

I have nothing against drinking but I do find it rather lovely that the only voices I hear at the beach are those coming from the waves.

I also love the fact that the people there are achieving a natural high from one of nature’s greatest wonders. Do we really need to be intoxicated to enjoy the beach?

But while I may not have to endure the noise pollution, I do have to deal with the parting gifts left behind by tourists—in the form of glass bottles. These, of course, are easily recyclable.

Each day, I collect a few and pass them along to an elderly widow who collects them for a few rupees a day. I asked her once if her livelihood depended on it. Rather amusingly, she replied, “They come and trash my home, I might as well profit a little from this. I collect the money and donate it weekly to my temple.”

“They come and trash my home, I might as well profit a little from this. I collect the money [from selling bottles] and donate it weekly to my temple.”

While I have nothing against her temple getting funded by out-of-town drunkards, I thought I’d offer a new initiative. The next time you visit the beach and you find an empty glass bottle, pick it up, clean it with seawater and do one of following:

Take it with you and…

  1. Fill it up with sea water. Let it travel back home with you. Empty it out into a small tub and soak your feet in it. The sea salt and a bit of sand will be a perfect escape after a long day’s work and you’ll thank yourself for bringing a little bit of that wonderful memory back with you.
  2. Fill it up with sand. Keep it as a souvenir or pour it into a little box. Whenever you are stressed, rake it, hold it, and put your bare foot in it— whatever you fancy.
  3. Turn it into a piggy bank. Sure in the age of digital wallets and plastic money, chillar is disappearing but still nothing teaches kids the value of money more than a glass bottle filling up with money! Start with your first deposit at the beach itself.

Don’t take it with you, but…

  1. Recycle it. This is simple enough. Pick up the bottle and put it in a recycling bin.
  2. Be a collector. If there is no bin, gather as many bottles as you can find and put them all together in one place. Hopefully, a local will then not have to schlep up and down the coast to collect bottles. They’ll find them in one convenient location to recycle.
  3. Message-in-a-bottle it. Take a piece of paper and write the following message — “The only message here is: please recycle me.” Leave the message inside the bottle. The next person who finds the bottle will hopefully be excited by the message and then do the job you weren’t able to do.

I never really thought about all this until I moved here. But we have to do something, each one of us, before it is too late. So, let’s not have an app filter to remove the bottles from our beach selfie. Let’s do the responsible thing and then bask in the glory of hashtag #nofilterrequired.


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