Green Plastic Buckets

Anjana Basu

Thereís a particular tint to the plastic buckets in Calcutta that you canít find anywhere else in the country. A green plastic bucket in Calcutta is not the same green that you will find in Delhi or Bombay or even Madras, close as the South Indians are to the Bengalis, brothers in intellect under the skin. Perhaps the light has something to do with it, the lush humid greenness that haunts the shanties of Bengal during the monsoons. Nothing else is so green, so bound around with thunder and cloudbursts and fretted with fungus. Some fortunate bucket maker took that colour and moulded it into plastic - the neon wetgreen sludge of the authentic Bengal curved round and handled with shining aluminium.

On the right day, a green plastic bucket can look like the underside of a curved palm leaf, every vein shining through clear in the sunlight. Perhaps maids clustered at tubewells hold up their buckets to the clear blue sky and the golden sunshine and think of the green roofs of their lost villages huddled forever under the dripping thunderclouds. Perhaps, in the right light, there is happiness to be found the moulded curve of a green plastic bucket of the kind you canít find in any other city in India. Happiness in the sweet non recyclable smell of wetgreen plastic. Plastic is sweet when clean and new, with the kind of no smell of a wet green leaf.

Itís strange how plastic green leaves can look when the sun catches them at the right angle. Anything with a shine can be faked at a distance from green leaves to plastic leaves to starched silken leaves. Itís odd how unnatural nature can be when you try to pin her down to it. I think that somewhere in the heart of Bengal lurks a manufacturer who will make buckets like green leaves, stiffly curved and effortlessly elegant as a leaf is. Thereís an aesthetic insanity about it that Tagore would have understood, standing in his rust brown robes in the dark green shadows of Shantiniketan.

You wonít find a plastic green bucket like this anywhere else in the country. Delhi buckets are heavy and fundamental, basically unimaginative. So are Bombay buckets, though with a little more luxe about them - you might find a Bombay bucket branded with a fake Cartier logo, impressive in its moulding, almost real, if there was such a thing as a Cartier bucket. But a green plastic bucket in Bengal is a different invention altogether. Everyone knows what colour you mean when you talk about a green plastic bucket in Calcutta. They nod their heads wisely and roll it down immediately from the furthest levels of their shelves. A child can roll a green plastic bucket like a ball and watch it bump and rattle down the stairs, laughing, thinking what a fun game and walk away without worrying about the colour.

I sit on a white verandah and the green leaves around me wave and shine and turn to plastic.

Anjana Basu writes stories, features in the newspapers, and poetry. Occasionally, she attempts to write novels. She has been published on the Web in The Wolfhead Quarterly, The Amethyst Review, Duct Tape Press, Kimera, Bathtub Gin, Recursive Angel, Conspire, Pif and The Astrophysicist's Tango Partner. She lives in Calcutta, India

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