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Bendy Straws



A tall glass stuffed with straws caught my eye as I was waiting at the bar counter for my G&Ts. There were all kinds of straws in it – colourful, twisted, straight, steel, paper – all bendy though. Bendy straws… ever stopped to think about something so inconsequential?


About a century back, when the only kind of straws that existed were straight, a man named Joseph Friedman invented bendy straws. He noticed his daughter was having trouble drinking out of straight straws as she couldn’t sit up at high tables and bend her head to just that angle required to drink out of one due to a disability she had. And so, he made a minor adjustment to an existing product to simplify a task. Random yes, but story, true.


Bendy straws were used first as an ‘accessible’ item at hospitals/homes…. before they became widely popular literally everywhere, for everyone. My mind drifted off to other such inconspicuous everyday items. Typewriters, 4-wheeled suitcases (!), audiobooks, I could go on; all examples of products created/adapted to make life easier for people with disabilities, but that are just so genius that they became fundamental for everyone. Is there even a world without these basics?


The bartender impatiently waved his hands in my face, snapping me out of my daze. My two glasses of G&Ts were ready to be picked up! Hmm, I could not see a spare tray to take glasses back in one go. I actually like ordering at the bar and bringing back drinks to the table for my friends, but if the scene is chaotic and there’s no spare tray in sight I dash back and forth carrying one drink at a time. Chaos was in the air on that day, and so I was dashing, one G&T at a time. Another seemingly insignificant object popped into my mind as I did so – coffee cup holders.


Most wouldn’t blink twice when they see it at a café, but my heart skips a beat. I love my coffee, and more so, taking one to go for a friend. It’s basic social manners to offer it and then be able to actually deliver on it. Usually, I would think about all sorts of logistics to avoid being an actual walking debacle – will let you imagine – so when these multiple cup holders became popular, I was hooked. Sounds dramatic, but the fact that I could ‘carry’ out a simple daily act with grace and confidence was pretty liberating.


I know, disposal cardboard coffee cup holders aren’t exactly modelling sustainable living. I’m on the market for a more re-usable solution (so holler), until then, I try to at least make it a zero-sum game. Anyway, I bet we all have these boring objects that we can’t do without and consider them life changing; in my case they often are life changing. Want some more food for thought?


Up until only a few years back, my kitchen skills included whipping up a cheese sandwich and excelling at making instant noodles. I blame my privileged Indian upbringing for it; growing up I never had to set foot into the kitchen. So, whether it was the pandemic or my 30-something year old self losing stamina to pull off all night parties, hosting friends at home became the new adult way to socialize that involved actually cooking meals. Honestly, I was loving the idea of cooking but it took me only a couple of get togethers to realize the whole process is a lot more than stirring, serving; and just how hard, and frankly a bit scary, chopping vegetables are.


Besides it being just plain dangerous, using a knife with one hand is extremely tough. I was also always afraid of being bestowed the responsibility of chopping vegetables. Cooking party etiquettes however, dictate to gracefully accept, or even offer, doing the scary tasks every now and then. So, the times when I’d insist on it, I’d end up with totally unevenly chopped onions, or after a few minutes of struggle, sheepishly handing the reins over to a friend. Either way, I’d feel stressed and disappointed for not being able to partake equally in this ‘new’ method of socializing.


Of course, on hindsight I really didn’t have to feel any of that. Did you know there’s a whole range of kitchen aids and solutions? I didn’t. And now I’m a proud owner of some aids and loving it – cutters, vegetable choppers (my fav so far!), even adapted curvy knives for sturdier grips. I do contemplate whether or not it’s polite to show up with my collection of aids when invited for a ‘let’s cook together’ party, but I have been surprised. My friends have been so understanding and nonchalant about it. Touché, they are my friends after all.


This unlocked a lot; from safely learning a rather important life skill to socializing without overthinking. It even allowed me to get nearer to my ‘zero-sum sustainable living’ target by reducing the purchase of pre chopped veggies wrapped in plastic! Winner.

In case you’re wondering, I’m really not being paid to market any of these items, neither am I advocating for more consumption or involved in a dare to write a 1000 words essay on random objects. I’m just doing my thing… giving you the angle I live and experience every day.


Anyway, this was just cooking. There’s a version of bendy straws available for almost all day-to-day activities. Another favourite for me are strap weights and yoga blocks that help me in the gym – will share more about that fitness journey in subsequent posts.


It’s taken me time, patience, and a level of willingness and courage, to discover these tools, test, and see what works – admittedly, I still have a long way to go. But the thing that’s been the most important in all this, is having a safe environment, for being able to openly do so without feeling conscious.


We all get so legitimately excited when Apple releases a new product because we can’t wait to see how that innovation will make our life simpler and more convenient. At the same time can’t help but involuntarily glance again at someone with a stroller for their laptops, or stylus for their phones, or braces for the body, or velcro on their bags or clothes. For example: I have found the topic of riding a three wheeled bike in Amsterdam, as an adult with no kids, to spark ‘interesting’ discussions. People are genuinely shocked to find out that I need an extra wheel to balance myself.


Why? Because these are life hacks needed by some people, not the majority, and thus carry a certain stigma around it. On the other hand, smart gadgets, voice assists, touchfree, etc. - ironically a range of innovations, inspired by the needs of the disabled, that reduce the use of our motor skills - are whole heartedly accepted with a mighty premium because they’re considered mainstream and in-fashion, and of course, life enhancing.


Innovations and life hacks – fancy or not – are there for a reason. As long as it’s doing its job to make life easier, does it then matter what was created and for whom and if it’s trending or not? With that, I’m inviting you all to think about bendy straws; let’s embrace it unapologetically.

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Guest
Jul 09, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great read!

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Guest
Jul 06, 2023

Witty, powerful and a brilliant read! Just love it 😍

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Guest
Jun 11, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Loved your article. You've brilliantly unearthed the unnoticed value of everyday items. It's a powerful reminder to appreciate the seemingly mundane things around us. I'm particularly struck by your personal journey with kitchen aids. It has inspired me to see things in a fresh light. Can't wait to read more from you!

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Guest
Jun 11, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

What a lovely read ! So engaging, informative with a nice flow ! Fabulous writing style whilst throwing light on lessor know facts ! Keep up the good work !

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Guest
Jun 11, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Extremely well written. Very interesting to read. Liked the way she took us thru thru the innovations and their usefulness.

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