Earlier in the summer there was an event organised by Hasiru Dala centered around waste narratives. I wish I could have gone, but I managed to get a copy of Mridula Koshy’s novel Bicycle Dreaming, who did a reading at the event. Hasiru Dala offers a number of services, especially for those seeking either apartment/building/community recycling solutions, event management waste solutions, and various gardening assistance. They also run a blog called Waste Narratives that focuses on the lives of waste workers.
Koshy’s novel is a great read for any age, although it’s definitely a terrific book for middle school children. The story focuses on thirteen-year-old Noor, whose father is a kabadiwalla, and she wants to follow in his footsteps by becoming the first kabadiwalli in Delhi. The novel is not didactic, although there are some moments where one gets a sense of the ways in which a family like Noor’s gets trapped in a particular cycle as a result of her father’s profession. But there are moments–like when Noor envisions a letter to the Chief Minister about the problem of waste (mostly because wet and dry waste are not segregated) in her neighbourhood or the time that her classmate thinks they should stop using plastic–that Koshy compels readers to think about the consequences of their action. The most disappointing part of the story is that there is no similar critique of Noor’s friend Haseena once she reaches menarche: on more than one occasion we are told that she just throws her sanitary napkins out the window, of course adding to the smell and eyesore of the garbage surrounding their neighbourhood already. It would have been nice to have an older female character in the story share her method of making old saris into menstrual pads.