Dew Drops

Reflections from the River of Life


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The Impact a Teacher Has – One Man Ten Million Trees

People fascinate me. Especially the ones that believe in action rather than mere words. I love listening to experiences of different people. My belief is every story helps you learn something and be a better human being. This post is about one such person I had the opportunity to listen to the other day during an award felicitation ceremony at the school my daughters attend. The theme of the program was ‘Paryaavaran Samrakshan’ which translates to Environment Conservation.

We knew the chief guest has arrived as we overheard one of the teachers. And then I heard the sports teacher instructing the guard that the van has some 300-350 plants which he had to get unloaded. And then I moved on and handed over both the girls to their assigned teachers in the respective classrooms. When the function started and it was mentioned that the chief guest was one Swami so-and-so, I lost interest. Why? Because I do not believe in self-proclaimed god-men. I do not believe in people who give lectures on how life must be led spiritually and then torture young kids in the disguise of being a swami. To me, the chapter was closed. Some swami will utter some nonsense and that’ll be it.

It was only after the cultural program that the chief guest was invited to speak. Speak he did. Inspire he did. Not just with his words, but with his deeds.

Before I get into the details of his talk I would want you to go through this short video.

Swami Prem Parivartan he was introduced as. But he is popularly known as Peepal Baba. In his own words, he has planted over 1.5 crore trees since 26th January, 1977. And over 1 crore 5 lakhs of those are alive today. He comes from a family of doctors and had joined a premier Medical College for a few months. But he quit that as he was passionate only about this one deed: Planting trees.

Why is he so passionate about planting trees?

He says his teacher, Ms. Williams, inspired him to start this journey at the age of ten in 1977. She had told her class that river Yamuna will completely dry up by the year 2027. And he had asked what he could do to save the river. She had told him that planting more and more trees is all that can save the planet. Something we have all heard from our teachers. Something we all read, listen and preach as part of our ‘Save the Environment’ citizen responsibility. But how many of us have actually done something to save the planet? I know I haven’t done anything. And this one man, all this while kept silently saving the planet in his own capacity. Ms. Williams told him that just planting trees was not sufficient, but taking care of them, naming them, coding them and maintaining a record was equally necessary. The garage in his parental house in Pune, India still houses the diaries and journals that have complete records of the trees planted by him while the vehicles get parked outside.

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All of the above might sound like something they say to inspire a toddler or a teenager. But, the facts and figures will alarm us. I’m sharing some of the important ones here.

  • Infant mortality up: 136 deaths in 3 mths – At least 70% of all children in Delhi suffer from pulmonary respiratory diseases. Nebulizers have become a necessity in houses with children below the age of 10. What we do not realize is that we are making our children inhale steroids. Yes! The Asthalin or Budecort respules that we confidently make them inhale because of the doctor’s prescription are nothing but harmful steroids that can affect their mental and physical growth. This is from my personal experience.
  • Will Delhi be Pollution Free: MODI OR KEJRIWAL– This was one letter that shocked every Delhite in the month of June. Harris quotes “nascent areas of research suggesting that pollution can lower children’s IQ, hurt their test scores and increase the risks of autism, epilepsy, diabetes and even adult-on-set diseases like multiple sclerosis”. Did we ever hear of these 20-30 years ago?
  • 80 People Die in Delhi Everyday From Air Pollution, Parliament is Told – Mr Javdekar said, “The studies indicate that several pulmonary and systemic immunity and damage to chromosomes and DNA and other health impairments are associated with cumulative exposure to high level of particulate pollution that increases the risk of various diseases including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.”

Peepal Baba (yes, I would like to address him as Peepal Baba instead of Swami Prem Parivartan) said that about 300 to 500 plants would produce the right amount of oxygen required for an adult per day. But it’s much harder to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide the plants absorb, especially if every time a person breathes out, they inhibit oxygen production. He aptly said that a tree is a natural ventilator with added benefits like fruits, nesting area, shadow among many others.

Amongst the other things that he mentioned, this one shocked almost everyone. If a nuclear war breaks, it will take at least 40 days for life on earth to be destroyed completely. But if we remove all trees from the earth, it will take just 4 minutes to destroy life on earth completely. Peepal Baba also clarified a lot of misconceptions that I had since I have an interest in gardening and keep some plants on my terrace. According to him, gone are the days where one person planting just one tree would have been sufficient. We have reached a level now where at least 50 trees need to be planted and nurtured by each one of us to neutralize the negative impact that we have been making on our planet. He also requested all the parents, teachers and kids to avoid using harmful pesticides and chemicals as it all comes back to us eventually.

As the program concluded, we were all requested to pick one sapling and plant it in a location and nurture it. I picked a Neem sapling because the firstborn has learnt a detailed lesson on Neem last year. Neem is a wonder tree and each of its parts is highly useful. It doesn’t rot easily as it is itself a disinfectant.

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Imagine the impact we can bring in if all of us join him in saving our planet. At least plant one tree a week, a fortnight, a month or a year. Why not pledge to plant and nurture a tree on every birthday in the house? That’ll mean at least four trees from my house every year.

For all those who are interested in volunteering, may join his Facebook Page : Give Me Trees Trust or visit his organization website Give Me Trees


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The First and the Best

Rekha @ Dew Drops:

The First and the Best man in my life.

Originally posted on Dew Drops:

He lost his father to double pneumonia when he was just 9 years old. Third of six siblings he is. An elder brother and sister and two younger sisters and a younger brother. His mother, a widow at 32, had a tough time bringing them up. Sleepless nights, empty stomach and a society that is not easy to deal with, she had. She struggled all odds to ensure that her kids did not get into wrong company.

Freebird by Bobinson (www.photoree.com)Freebird by Bobinson (www.photoree.com)

Playing with the bicycle tyres and umbrella made of palm leaves (ollakkuda in Malayalam), plucking and selling mangoes from the roadside mango trees to pay off his school fees, are some of his childhood memories that he has shared with me during my childhood trips to his village. The shorts he wore to school were made out of his uncles’ old trousers. They were so worn out that he…

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The Anklets

There on the table lay the admission letter from the most prestigious dance school in Thanjavur. My most cherished dream.

I held that envelope closely as tears rolled down my cheeks. They fell on the letters on the envelope and the ink spread out making the written word incomprehensible. Was it a sign? A gesture?

If Appa was here, he would have wiped them off saying, “Achu, these are precious pearls. My only asset. Don’t waste them over such silly matters.

I miss him every day. I have missed him all along. Every single day of these past eight years. But today, I miss him the most. If he was there he would have handled all of this beautifully.

This has been my dream ever since I was in school. And it is almost about to come true.

I scored well in my boards. But my heart resided in the beads of those anklets that I worship deeply. My anklets.

Ghungroo

But Amma…she never wanted me to wear them. She got furious whenever I danced. She has big dreams for me. Since the day the entrance results were out, she has been going around proudly announcing it to everyone from the milkman, to the vegetable vendor, to the temple priest to Nitya’s great grandmother. She has ensured that everybody in the village was aware of her daughter’s stunning performance.

She wants me to take admission in one of the most prestigious universities in India. Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU) in Hyderabad. She has been working really hard to arrange the fees and to get the telephone numbers of distant relatives who can be my local guardian in that new city.

But I have some other plans for myself. How do I convey this to her? Will she understand? Will she be heartbroken? Will she blame me?

I have spent an entire week thinking about this. But today the rain has somehow brought a lot of clarity about what I want from life. It is time that I face it. It is time that she faces it.

I slowly got up and reached the doorway to her room. Just when I was about to step in I heard her talking to someone. I peeped in. She was on the phone. She was telling that she would reach on time like always. I was curious. I rushed quietly to the living room and picked up the receiver of the extension. I heard him say,

Ambika, the customers are now fed up. They need variety. They don’t like plain, bland items. They need fresh products. Think about my offer. Bring her on. Abhirami must replace you. I’ll take her to her dream city Hyderabad. I promise.”

Amma’s gasps were audible from the other end. She begged him again and again. But he disconnected.

It was 10.30 p.m. and I was still walking up and down the length of my room unable to decipher what the conversation was all about.

And then I heard the horn of a car from outside our house. I was about to get out of my room when I saw a fully dressed Amma going out of the house. She was dressed in red instead of the white saree I have always seen her in ever since Appa’s death. She was wearing jasmine flowers on her hair. As she walked slowly, I could hear the sound of her anklets.

Amma returned by three in the morning. Just in time to avoid the early risers of the village. Her eyes were wet with tears. Her hands trembling. She entered her room and closed the door. I could not stop myself. I peeped in through the keyhole. Amma folded her hands and closed her eyes as she sat down on her knees. She broke down. “How can I let her get into this even for a night? I have suffered quietly for so long just to take care of her. Only so that she gets a good respectful life. And now how can I throw her in front of those lustful eyes? Tell me. How do I save her from all this?” She was speaking to Appa’s garlanded photo on the wall.

*********************

Dusk falls. I walked into my room. It is pouring. Must be His blessings. Or may be His tears.

The window is open. Tiny droplets of rain that are falling on the grills are getting splashed all around the room. Few of them manage to reach my hands that are shivering and my face that is engrossed in thoughts.

Should I or should I not?

Amma couldn’t stop her tears when she saw me dressed up just like her with my anklets on. She begged me not to do this. She kept repeating that she will find a way out. It was just for one night; I thought to myself as I entered the car that was waiting outside.

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