It is difficult to miss the brightly lit food stall outside the closed gates of Kendriya Vidyalaya in Janakpuri, New Delhi. The Indra Devi stall serving hot cooked south Indian food was started in 1992 by Rajendra Shiv Chandran, then a migrant from Tamil Nadu.
Today it is run by his son Shiva Chandran and daughter-in-law Jayantika. The stall which operates from 5 pm till midnight sees large number of customers each day – anything between 150-200 people, Mr. Chandran estimates. But what makes this stall unique is not just the freshness or taste of the food they sell.
In times when most roadside stalls have shifted to disposables, Indra Devi continues to serve its customers in steel utensils. From storing food in steel, to serving hot sambhar in steel bowls and steel spoons, Indra Devi continues to be pleasantly old school in its ways.
But how do they manage to wash the utensils, with no apparent source of water around? “We bring water from home containers, Mr. Shiva explains as he points to a cart with two filled containers in it.
While for most of us, steel is a conscious and not always an easy choice we make in our fight for the environment, for the Indra Devi team, the decision is a part of good business practice.
“We did experiment with disposables some years ago, but our customers were not happy”, Mr. Chandran recalls. “They would find it too inconvenient to carry the sambhar and heavy dosas. And then cleaning it all up was too much for us”.
“Some customers do ask, why don’t we use disposable plates, spoons, but they are few, and we don’t want to make it inconvenient for others just because of them.” he adds
Indra Devi stall employs an extra person to do the dishes. But the amount spent on his salary is offset by what would have been spent on purchasing new utensils each time.
Plastic litter from take-outs, including plates, cutlery, cups, is a prime source of estimated 269,000 tons of plastic pollution currently floating in the world’s oceans. These plastics cannot be recycled, thus they are either incinerated or end up in landfills and our water bodies.
Small businesses like Indra Devi are preventing large quantities of non-recyclable plastic waste from polluting our environment. It is now upon other businesses- small or big to understand that a switch to reusable utensils, containers or cutlery does not necessarily mean inconvenience or extra cost in the long run. It just shows that they are on the side of the planet to fight plastic pollution.
The photo story is a part of the campaign #PlasticUpvaas by Chintan and Canadian High Commission in India. The campaign aims to tackle plastic pollution by encouraging consumers to reduce their plastic footprint by giving up one single-use plastic. December 12 was observed as the #PlasticUpvaas Day when participants were encouraged to live without single use plastics for a day. They could, then, choose to entirely give up one single use plastic of their choice thereafter.
To join us in this fast, take the pledge here: https://plastic-upvaas.jhatkaa.org/