I grew up with a love for nature and all that it has to offer. Living near Aarey colony in Mumbai, spending weekends catching crabs and taking walks with dad through the greenery left with me a deep appreciation and connection with flora and fauna. It was only a matter of time then; Anand and I were destined to cross paths.

The first time I met him, we discussed a dozen birds that I had photographed during a recent family vacation to Binsar, Uttarakhand. Anand swiftly retorted with their scientific names, their peculiar characters and by the end of the meeting I was already completely in awe of him. While I had studied agriculture and was familiar with some plant species, but seeing Anand’s grasp on concepts and the wisdom he was imparting, I realized I had a lot to learn from him.

Anand during a beach clean-up drive in Mumbai, after Ganesha idol immersions.

Over the years, I was fortunate enough to attend expeditions, bird watching sessions and even trek through the Himalayas with him in Uttarakhand. During the trek, while many were competing with each other to reach the campsite first, a few of us flocked around Anand, like bees gravitating to a flower. We soaked in the knowledge he was sharing with us, developing a new perspective of looking at something as ordinary as grass, a tree or an insect.

Sometime later, while I was engrossed in my routine of working with a corporate in Mumbai, I recall Anand telling me how he doesn’t use tissue papers or disposable bags. I remember how much of an impact that left on me. The seed his thoughts planted definitely found fertile ground and I see myself walking that path today, with a long way to go.

 

In the age of digital activism and even slacktivism, seeing someone with as firm a commitment as Anand has, towards safeguarding the environment is nothing short of inspiring. While living in a city where the majority migrates to fulfill their monetary dreams, Anand has gracefully, yet perseveringly shone the spotlight on the biodiversity of Mumbai through his work. His Mumbai Biodiversity project chronicles the amazing flora and fauna that most of the 21 million people living there fail to treasure.

Anand interacting with activist Medha Patkar during his annual Earth Mela, an eco festival.

His passion project, God Save the Ocean is an antithesis, coming from a nonbeliever like himself. After organizing beach cleanups after the 11 day Ganesha festival for years, he started an initiative to make clay idols of Ganesha with ingredients that are non-detrimental to fish and other aquatic fauna.Not only did the campaign, which was designed by O&M, an advertising firm from Mumbai, win several awards, but also put this humble friend of mine on the radar of environmental activists across India.I wish that he continues his work with much fervor and educates a lot more of us on this beautiful environment of ours. This video tries hard to highlight his work and accomplishments and is a small glimpse into his awe-inspiring life.

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