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Styrofoam or Thalis?

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
May 2013
Styrofoam or Thalis?

with PostModern Gandhiji (PMG)

An advice column offering the Mahatma’s perspective on modern dilemmas


Dear PMG,

After taking a course on the earth’s ecosystem, I swore off eating from anything that is not recyclable. This has become a bit of a problem since my family has long gone to this great South Indian restaurant which uses not-so-great Styrofoam cups and plates. Fortunately it’s easy to find a lot of other good restaurants which use plates that are washed and re-used.

However, my dining situation gets a bit trickier.

Unfortunately, many of our family friends prefer the convenience of using throw-away plates and “plastic-ware” from Costco to washing plates after a big party. Also, our local Hindu temple has long served meals on Sundays, but this prasad is always served on Styrofoam. I really don’t want to switch friends, and I really do enjoy the preeti bhoj after doing pooja.

Any suggestions?

Dear Friend,

(M. K. Gandhi’s few possessions)

While the tone of your query is light, the implications are substantial. You get at some important questions: (1) Can we vote with our feet by walking away from places—such as eco-unfriendly restaurants—that don’t value the same things we do? (2) Must we privilege values over friendship? (3) Can one balance compliance to places of worship with individual beliefs? (4) Is it possible to be a minimalist in a world of increasing materialism?

Each of these questions is worthy of a column-length response, but one of the charms of Satyalogue is its word limit (question included). So here are the concise responses: (1) Yes, and think of this kind of voting as an opportunity to educate the market rather than being socialized by it; (2) Yes, and since staying true to your friends is itself a value, find a way to cherish your friends by explaining why you civilly resist a throw-away society; (3) Yes, and keeping one’s balance is a significant part of one’s spiritual life; and (4) Yes, and recognize that Gandhiji owned few possessions, including a small bowl and plate.

And, yes, the quote is missing from this Satyalogue. In the spirit of minimalism, this column has elected to replace the memorable Gandhian quote with one photo of Gandhiji’s personal effects—a photo that’s worth at least a thousand words.

As you can infer, “yes, and” is a useful construct in dialogue. It allows one to understand what one’s conversation partner is saying, while sharing reservations one might have. Another construct is to answer a question with a question. Thus we end by asking, “What impactful message do you think you might convey if you took your own bowl and plate to your favorite restaurant, your friends’ parties, and your place of worship?”

[Dr. Rajesh C. Oza serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at]


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