Shelf Life: 500 Years

I pull open the produce section of the fridge and start to shuffle around for capsicums. There are many, many layers and coatings of plastic bags containing an onion there, a piece of ginger here. I get frustrated after a while and start emptying the bags into one big pool of misshapen veggies and apples and kiwis. My fists fill with clenched, transparent empty polythene. And, pretty soon, I have to turn around and dump the plastic on the black granite countertop behind me.

I find the things I need for my stir-fry. The plastic lies crinkled and lazily stacked in ill-fitting layers. I sigh and start to grab them one by one to smooth them out and stack them compactly.

Grab, smoothen, place. Grab, smoothen, place. It was a sad rhythm and I sink into a trance where those actions were the music my hands worked to. Soon, I had a transparent-turned-opaque pile of ethylene chemically treated to clump together and create these indestructible beings.

I wonder what to do with them. Did it really matter, though? I couldn’t be there to care for more than 5 decades; they’d a much longer way to go.

As I lock away the glossy column of bags in my storeroom, I think, wish my capsicums lived a comparable fraction of that time. But, that was a stupid thought- as many that tend to cross our minds throughout the day- as then, we wouldn’t be hungry for years as the food would never break down, but our taste starved tongues would crave fat, salt and sugar which would lead to overeating and…

You know what, maybe scientists are working on the capsicums after all, my thoughts race on.

Photography by Steve McCurry (1950- ), Cambodia, Angkor Wat.

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