I have begun to enjoy my walk through the slums. Sounds strange, doesn’t it ? I just can’t seem to resist pots of green peeping out. Be it in old car batteries, old paint cans, and a few plastic bottles and earthern pots, chipped or whole, as long as they add life and colour I am most happy in this Maximum City that throbs with diverse life forms. You will find nothing exotic in these pots – some good old tulsi that possibly goes into a prasad or into a concoction for an irritating throat, the money plant defiant in its anti-g avatar and perhaps lending itself to an anti poverty solution , the kadi patta, the lemon grass luxuriant against the sun, the rugged shoeflower and the periwinkle and yes some jamun saplings too. Don’t forget the papaya popping out suddenly from a rubble. I wonder how it got there, perhaps someone just threw it , and it got pollinated by a fruit bat. All these totally desi and rough and tough , endemic to Mumbai whether you live in a high rise or in a slum- Nature has a way around all of us.
The joys galore, be it of a germinating seed, when children carry proudly the methi / wheat / mustard they have sprouted, or the butterfly that visits us from time to time and the sparrows and the bulbuls and the magpie robins all in our own backyard are a pretty sight. And the tambat pakshi – going clang clang as though a blacksmith took his tongs and was hammering someone to shape (Tambat in Marathi for the Coppersmith Barbet.)
Our city is this and more: roads with towering peepals, the rusty coppershields, the banyan ,the jamun , and the mangroves and the most beautiful Nature Park- the SGNP right inside the city. How many cities in the world can boast of such a park ? And the Maharashtra Nature Park created from a garbage dump- all because a teacher dreamt! That teacher none other than the venerated and gentle soul, the eminent ornithologist Dr Salim Ali.
I must confess that I do not know much of Biology or Zoology or Ecology but just one simple thing I believe- I own a piece of this Universe. This land and air around me and the waters are all mine. And what I own , I cherish, and what I cherish I protect. Just like my name. And in my own little ways as a teacher I shall try.
Maybe have creepers in my classroom, seed banks like coins and stamps to exchange with friends, bookmarks from old cardboard cartons with my own art and poetry, stories and songs of Keeda and Makoda, putting off the fans and lights when not needed, use one sided paper, make my own compost, gift seedlings, celebrate responsibly the festivals that dot the calendar every month: an Eco Ganesha, Holi Colours with vegetables and flowers, put down the volume of the celebrations , walk quietly in the woods and listen to the birds and keep my tone down, pick up that one bit of plastic and throw it in the bin and leave the place a tad more enjoyable than what I found it to be, a walk by the beach and listen to the waves or stop by to smell the earth and look at the awe and wonder there is in Nature.
And make this our class signature song – It took one seed to make a difference.