23501566.jpgHanging out of the over-crowded auto-rickshaw, I was brainstorming on what to write for on the subject, environment. But then just like that, it struck me. What does the environment actually mean to all of us? I wasn’t looking for a Webster’s definition of the word, but wanted to know how we associated, related and even comprehended this critical issue.

So I embarked on a journey, to understand what the environment meant to the people. With the last bump on my head from the dozen speed-breakers on the road, I decided who would my first contender be. The driver didn’t seem to care about anything else other than reaching his final destination on time. But on questioning him, what he said startled me. He said that every one must do their bit to conserve the environment and his way of doing so was by consciously using CNG to fuel his vehicle. Though only 10% of the local auto-rickshaw drivers had installed the environment friendly kit, he ensured he was one of them. The hour and a half ride had left me physically exhausted but my spirits were pumped up and I was ready to wander into the nook and crannies of my neighborhood to find my next contender.

My journey took me to a construction site where in a three foot high dilapidated hut I saw three children playing with their mother who was preparing the evening meal. Although I was welcomed in, the family looked at me askance. I began with my repertoire of questions. Did they ever recycle? Were they aware of Global warming? My questions were received with a blank look. So I decided to put away my book of questions and involve myself in an informal chit –chat. While sitting there for half an hour, I felt both surprised and ashamed of myself. Surprised to see that the mother after preparing her meal would collect metal scrap from the site, hammer and flatten it out and would use the metal sheets to make household utensils. The children were involved in watering the makeshift kitchen garden with water left over from their bath. The father, a frail man, was involved in planting a neem tree, reverence to their forefathers for providing them food, shelter and a happy family. And it was then that I realized, that these people were not aware of the technicalities of environment conservation, neither did they know anything about global warming, but in their very small way had contributed towards the protection and conservation of the environment in that half hour. Something which I had never done in my entire life, and I felt ashamed of myself. So I left their humble dwelling, with my head bowed down.

On my way home I realized something which I hadn’t in my entire lifetime. We ‘city’ people were capable of writing articles, delivering lectures, carrying out rallies on conservation with little or no results, and here were these people, unconsciously making a difference, contributing their bit to a greener tomorrow, cleaning up after us , and yet oblivious to what dangers plague the environment. They do their bit, irrespective of the fact that global warming has reached an all time high or that carbon dioxide emissions have reached life threatening levels. They recycle; not knowing the nitty-gritty involved in it. They plant trees, even though it is out of religious reverence.

It was then that I sat down there in the middle of the garbage strewn ‘gully’ and realized how true my initial thoughts were. It was how we related ourselves to the environment. It was how we interpreted it. It is when we realize its importance, that we shall make an earnest effort to conserve it. Documentaries have been made and the director’s even felicitated, rallies carried out ending in violent ‘lathi’ charge’s, books have won their awards, but how do I, how do we relate to it. The environment. My environment.

Amanjit Singh Khanna