By Asra Husain :
Pedalling a rickety bicycle loaded with heaps of eco-friendly banners and with a loudspeaker slung across his shoulder, 45-year-old Chandra Bhushan has a single mission in life: to ‘green’ the planet. Insults such as baawra (insane) are routinely flung at him, but that in no way deters this ‘eco warrior’ from fighting his good fight.
In fact, he quit his job as a teacher in Orissa to return to his “true calling” back home in Lucknow.
“I was a teacher in a government school in Lucknow, but was later posted to Orissa in 1993. The desire to launch a plantation drive in my home town kept recurring in me. Moreover, the letters sent by my students in Lucknow moved me so much that I decided to quit my job,” says this recipient of the Godfrey Phillips Bravery Award.
Supported financially by his wife, who teaches at a degree college, Bhushan embarked on his mission to plant more than one lakh trees in and around the city. Begun in 2006, the planting drive, called Vishwa Prakriti Raksha Jan Jagran Abhiyaan, has inspired many people to join in. Huge, fruit-bearing trees that also offer shade have been planted across the city.
“For me, it did not make any sense to just sit at home and crib. I believe not only in the visualisation of ideas but also their realisation,” he says.
From feeding stray animals and leaving jaggery for ants, to door-to-door campaigns promoting tree planting and distributing saplings, he undertakes it all with unbridled enthusiasm.Through folk songs blared through his loudspeaker in busy market areas, he educates shoppers against the use of polythene bags that are non-biodegradable.
“I distribute cloth bags and small seed packets together with a pamphlet that lists simple steps we can take towards making the planet green,” he says.
Lucknow is lucky to have not just one but two such eco-crusaders. Manish Tiwari, also known as ‘ped waale baba’, is a man in his late-30s who has renounced worldly pleasures to embrace the green cause.
A native of Tiwari Chakia village in Gopalganj, Bihar, Tiwari has lived in Lucknow since 1996. A graduate in political science and English literature from Allahabad University, he now leads the life of a nomad, planting saplings across the city.
“I do not have a family to look after. Besides spending my days at the residence of my friend, former BJP MLC Vrindhyavasni Kumar, at times I also sleep at the community centre. Whatever little requirements I have are taken care of by my friends and relatives,” he says.
Tiwari’s love for trees took root in his childhood, at his father’s village. He recalls how the other boys in the village made fun of him when he planted a sapling: “That was the turning point in my life. Something inside me grew all the more rebellious and, even at that tender age, I decided to devote my life to planting trees.”
Leading a frugal life, Tiwari does not have the money to support his cause. But he has found a way around this problem. “I don’t buy the trees that I plant, which is why I mostly plant banyan, ashok, gular and neem. These trees have a tendency to grow in the wild. I collect them during the rainy season from the streets and nurture them,” he says, and wishes us ‘Jai Vriksha Deva’ before mounting his cycle and disappearing down the street.
(Courtesy: The Hindu Business Line)