The Environmentalists

It was the third auto that I saw chugging past me on the wrong side of the road, when I made the move. I swung onto the path of the vehicle blocking any passage across.

He jammed the brakes or whatever you would call the shards of remaining metal on the brake-shoes. A typical auto-rickshaw is a living example that the need to weed out inefficiencies is not a fundamental human need. Well when the auto came to a stand-still, which it managed with some deft footwork from the driver, he poked a wizened head out.

Why, I looked at him curiously. Even, angrily. He looked exasperated. Even disgusted at my ignorance, but he drew a sharp breath and bode himself patience.

Nobody cares about the environment, he started. You see the road here, one has to circle out to over 2 kilometers and back every time. Consider the fuel spent, the quantum of toxic fumes released by every vehicle that circles around these 2 kms. Consider the loss to the exchequer on imported fuel. He continued to wax eloquence. The topics broached economics, environmental engineering, politics and fiscal prudence.

It was a different view of the world when he was done. When you notice the next vehicle driving down the wrong side of the road, remember not to get angry. Get respectful, even stand up. They are environmentalists. The whole lot of them.

It includes the lorry with only one headlight on, he is conserving energy for a few future generations, the speeding car overtaking you dangerously on the wrong side of the road has insights into the laws of physics that Einstein only had a faint idea of. The overloaded mini van or the dangerously super loaded truck or the congested bus, all of them saving that one trip back on that road that will let mother earth breathe cleaner.

Thrilled at India’s socially and environmentally responsible masses, I continued on with my merry journey. There was the minor inconvenience of a traffic red light. I stopped as usual.

Loud honks greeted my stoppage. I exited my car to absolve myself of increasingly large swathes of ignorance. “Yes, sir”, I greeted the tempo driver. Why may I know are you honking? Don’t you realize that noise pollution kills more people than stray dogs. (Unverified thoughts). Of course the mere inconvenience of a breach of traffic rules never crossed my mind.

The color Red is relative he preached. It just depends on the velocity with which you approach the signal. To me all signals look green, hence any obstacle is to be honked to extinction, he explained. It all sounded vaguely familiar. An old physics teacher’s drones on shifting color frequencies and dopplers breached my consciousness. It was all way too complex for me. Learned physicists on tempo’s, environmental engineers on one ways, the country was progressing rather rapidly.

My conversations continued. They included lessons on excessive exposure to harsh sunlight and its harmful effects, by a traffic policeman, to why speeding calms you down by a motorcyclist.

There is a lot to learn at every corner. Humility and a curious ear on Indian roads teaches you many a lesson. They are all environmentalists out there!!

Venkatesan Seshadri

20 years ago the author promised himself that he would take his writing seriously. So did his parents. They made him write exams of all shapes and sizes. Jokes apart, he loves writing, which he hasn’t been able to devote enough time to over the last 3 years or so. In addition to writing, he loves sports especially Cricket, Reading, Quizzing and Gaming. Whenever he is not working or traveling or stressed out (which is most of the time), he writes at his blog