Eco thoughts from a girl’s basket of inspiring leaves…

by A.M. Vandana Aug 25,2019

When I started writing this, I happened to text my Dad – “Dad, you talk a lot about Tamil Nadu, the people, the food, the culture, and even the thorny fencing plants of this region. Now describe the River Vaigai in just a few words, not too many words remember as I get bored easily.” The only response I got was – “none has or can ever describe the river better than Ilango Adigal, the author of Silappadikaram”.

Vaigai and the city of Madurai as described in the ‘Puranceri Iruntha Kaathai’ of Silappathikaram (The Ankle Bracelet), The Vaigai River, daughter of the sky, wanders ever on the tongues of the poets, who sings the generous gifts she bestows on the land she has blessed. Most cherished possession of the Pandya Kingdom…

What is it that you can do for your own home; for your own river Vaigai; for your own city of Madurai?
Think, Talk, Act!

  • Ever heard this quote from Rudyard Kipling – Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
  • Just as drugs have the power to influence an individual towards addiction; your words have the power to influence individuals to perform actions that can help safeguard their homes, their ecosystems, and their city.
  • Think and act out of the box –
    • I sometimes love flaunting my feather of being a movie-buff… And it is with this fervor that I try delving into the movies that I watch –
    • If you have watched the movie Jolly LLB2, you would not have missed those peculiar moments when the Judge waters the plant placed beside the hammer on the table. Ever wondered what is being conveyed through these so-called peculiar moments?
    • It is the environmental consciousness of the judge… Even in the dingy courtroom atmosphere, the judge is maintaining his poise and is watering the plant at every such instance without fail with that small glint of hope that he might get some oxygen.
    • Such abstractness in your work will also leave imprints on the minds of the people.

Time to get back to roots!

India is a country, which is bound to leave you amazed. It has a bountiful to offer. From Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha to Dravida, Utkala, Banga… You get to experience a kaleidoscope of varieties – the richness in culture, heritage and ecosystems.

A large portion of my summer vacations during childhood was spent down south. Our first halt would be at the serene and green township of BHEL at Ranipet near Katpadi. And then switching between Salem, Coimbatore, Palani and Trichy and sometimes down Kerala. Trichy used to be one of our favorite destinations, the city being my Dad’s birthplace. Our visits to the Rock fort, the Srirangam temple will forever remain etched in my memories. Above all, what I liked more about Trichy and I still like is – it is one of the cleanest and greenest cities in India. The sense of belonging that you get when you associate with places such as Trichy cannot be expressed in words. And when I say I was born in Kanpur, I am grief-stricken. The WHO has listed the city of Kanpur as one of the dirtiest. Why cannot I nurture the same feeling that I have for Trichy, for Kanpur instead? Who is to be blamed for the anguished core that I have in me? Can I say it is me, myself? Or, is it the people, and why not the youth that is responsible for the name the city in which they dwell gets? Cities are not good or bad; it is the action of the people or the lack of it, which leads to such tags.

I find myself extremely fortunate when I write my entire schooling was in the charming city of Jamshedpur in Jharkhand, the land of forests. It is this city that made me realize – if you think you can do, you will definitely do it. It is not just the Tata Steel over there but also the people putting in efforts to maintain a swachh city. The tree lined roads, the paintings on the boundaries of school – showing the environmental consciousness of the students, the kitchen gardens at almost every household, the rearing of cows by both rich and poor, the making of cow dung patties and how these help purify the air when used; all this will surely leave you in awe.

This is how a typical house in Jamshedpur (the Steel City), in the heart of Jharkhand looks like.

And here I am amid concrete buildings in Hyderabad, once which was said to be the land of the Nizams…

Relating my experiences to the experience of the speaker in “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798.” I got my first jolt in 2007, of moving from a land blessed with abundance in nature to a land that was once rich with lakes but is now no more than a concrete jungle. The lakes, the reservoirs, the greenery have all become a part of History now.
It pinches to be a witness to this stark difference.

This is the Hyderabad of today. The urbanization has led to full-grown trees giving way to artificial ones.
Does this nostalgia serve any purpose here?
The nostalgic-sufferer in me feels the pain and is longing to return home. If I can’t return home, I must do something for the land I am in now; to make it feel like my home.

On a personal level, Hyderabad holds a very special place in my heart.

Even amid the concrete jungle, the kindred feeling in the people of Hyderabad is still awake.

The initiative by the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) of Hyderabad to help the poor and needy is an heartwarming one. Do the kiosks really serve a cause?
The kiosks do serve a cause. The kiosks made out of recycled bottles serve as open storehouses for books, newspapers, old clothes, furniture, and more. A commodity, which you might not find useful, can be used by someone in need of it.

The Google Local Guides have marked these kiosks on the Map. This is a step for the people to know about the presence of such places in their city. What someone does not or no longer needs might be a requirement and help for another.

I pass by the kiosk everyday on my way to work. It just looked like a normal shelter from day 1 to day 3 perhaps. On the 4th day, I got down from my vehicle, walked to the kiosk and saw the poor picking not many but a few things from it. They pick only what they need!

It is in Hyderabad I got the push, the motivation to not just remain confined to the academic books. It is this place where my first association with the Government of India and its various initiatives started; way back in 2007. I had only read till then that the government does encourage and motivate the youth to do something for the society and also rewards them. I got to experience all this at my own level when my association with the Government of India started. For a girl who didn’t know how to apply for a passport, the government seeing the zeal in me came all forward to expedite the process of not just getting the passport and visa but it also took care of even the small things. For a girl at 19, on her 1st international tour, the want to stay connected with your close ones is very important. I will never forget the calls I made to my family back in India with the calling cards procured for us by the people made responsible to take care of us by the Government of India. All that I had was 60 Euros with me and all that I spent was 2 Euros to buy foreign candies for people back home. I didn’t have to spend; everything was being taken care of. The guardianship by the Government of India was at its very best.

The reason why I am writing all this is for you to know, for the youth to know –

  • If you have the zeal, and are prepared to leave the safe harbors, you may very well find the positive channels and higher platforms welcoming your endeavors.

Starting with this global platform, I embarked upon rediscovering my own self and doing something for the people around, for the environment I am part of, with my active presences, like –

  • You would see me standing for the rights of farmers against the formation of a SEZ on their agricultural lands in a remote place far from Hyderabad.
  • You would see me doing gyanvardhak talk with children at government schools. As college students, we were made to share our knowledge with the less privileged in these schools.

What is the magic of being on your own?
I do believe that this earth is one huge interconnected ecosystem; all earthlings can participate in saving the earth. Can’t we initiate at our own level followed by the participation of our own community, our own society? Do we need people coming from far and wide? To be specific, do we really need foreign organizations to come and help us save our own ecosystems? Support is always appreciated. However, the magic of being on your own and doing things on your own is inexplicable.

I understand collaboration with foreign organizations is sometimes very essential to save today’s environment. But then, to what extent do we really need such collaborations? Often is it not something that we can do single-handedly? And when I say single-handedly, I am not pointing to an individual – “Oh X, you can do it all alone!!!”. What I mean here is what if you all joined hands together and started acting local; you could pitch in a few global ideas though. Do we really need offshore advisors to come tell you what you can do for your own home? How would it be if you had a nosey neighbour who would rush in at every instance and say – “hey dude, your house is not clean, let me help you clean the dirt”. Day 1, it would look nice, Day 2 too maybe… And then, the so-called charity neighbor goes around proclaiming to be the most benevolent soul around and how she helps some dirty neighbors clean their mess for charity reasons.

These are but just a few cues, hopefully inspiring, for you to know what it means to find the right platform and witness yourself delivering a propelling performance. Instilling an attitude of gratitude!
I am a mother to a 4-years old boy. He is naughty, he is bubbly, he is cute, he is smart… just like any other normal child. And, he sometimes throws tantrums when it’s meal time. He insists on eating only paneer for dinner on some days. Gosh, paneer is not available at home! The loving mother in me does not want to say NO. She wants to walk to the nearby shop, get the paneer and cook it for her son; because he wants it. I do not do this. Does this mean I do not love my child? It is because I want him to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. He should grow up counting his blessings. He should grow appreciation and gratitude for all that comes his way on a platter and still have no doubts that it is full of mother’s love and tender care. I deeply wish to ingrain in him that there are people who struggle to get even a single morsel.

This was just a small example of how you can create an attitude of gratitude for what you have. Then, can we also have an attitude of gratitude for what is around us? In the point of fact, let us consider how the people of Madurai are taking up initiatives to make their city a clean and green one. The people are coming to the forefront to voice their opinion for what they are thankful of. I am left with a sense of awe at how even the government is intervening with its different projects; the designing of Vaigai riverfront being one. A few years down the line, I can imagine myself walking on the beautiful riverfront interspersed with small gardens. I cannot help but be amazed about the meticulous planning that is being undertaken for the project. This is sure to regrade the mighty river Vaigai’s values.

I cannot help but admire how for the sake of their Mother River Vaigai, the citizens of Madurai come to the forefront to be part of a cause. What is the cause here? The cause is how to rejuvenate the river, which is the symbol of prosperity and natural wealth for the people around it.

I am deeply inspired by such overarching attitude of gratitude for what is being offered to people in the form of ecosystem and how they nurture it further.