Plastic was invented over a hundred years ago. It was a breakthrough invention that brought about a revolution in a wide variety of industries and made many improvements to our day to day lives. Today, however, plastic is seen as one of the biggest causes of pollution. Plastic waste is found in oceans, rivers, and even ice which damages the ecosystem.
It is important that we incorporate ways in which we can cut down on plastic use. One of the ways in which we can do it is to turn the lauki from our vegetable gardens into containers to store masalas, salt, and sugar.
Lauki is called muilok in the Kokborok language of the Borok people of Tripura. Till a few decades ago, the containers made from muilok called tuilok were available in every indigenous home. Today, very few homes still keep this remnant of a sustainable lifestyle intact. We had to visit Chailengta in Dhalai District to meet the woman, Laxmi Debbarma, who knows how to make a tuilok.
Laxmi Debbarma is a farmer and her kitchen is a stereotypical Borok kitchen. The walls are made of bamboo and the wood stove is made of mud. There are a few vessels for cooking and some steel plates and bowls for serving the food. Laxmi grows muilok in her backyard all year round. She plucks and eats most of the vegetables but she allows three-four bottle gourds to ripen on the vine. Ripening the gourd hardens the skin of the vegetable. After the skin is hardened enough, Laxmi plucks the vegetable and follows the following process to turn it into a container:
First she cuts a square on one of the sides of the muilok. The square should be big enough for her hand to enter the muilok.
She then digs inside and scoops out the seeds and fibres all the while ensuring that the skin is not harmed in the process.
Once the inside is hollow, Laxmi dries the muilok in the sun for two days. It dries out any leftover moisture.
Lastly, she places the muilok on the shelf above the firewood stove for a few more days. The smoke from the stove that is used twice or thrice everyday completely hardens the muilok.
The tuilok is ready after a few days and can be used to store salt, sugar, and even dry fish. Laxmi uses a banana leaf to cover the mouth of the tuilok when it is not in use.
This tuilok is very sturdy and can be used for 12-15 years without worry. It is an amazing alternative to plastic and should be used by everyone who wonders what they can do to reduce their plastic usage.
This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.