In one of my research projects a participant recounted an incident of her life that lends itself well to this blog. She described to me how she had worked hard for her semester and was waiting for a perfect summer vacation. She had meticulously arranged every detail that would make it an vacation enjoyable. For this escape, she would be travelling to her grandmother’s village which she had last visited when she was only five years old. When she thought of her grandmother’s village, many picturesque memories would float in her mind—the green forest cover, the wide village roads, the rice, maize and wheat fields, the fruit laded coconut, mango and guava trees, and the friendly banter of the village folk who were aware of every new face visiting the village, through the gossip that filtered through the common spaces like the health center, market days and village squares. In this delightful setting, Mini (name changed), now 18, had planned to spend her well-deserved break.
The day finally arrived. She boarded the bus, took her seat, and in a minute, was on her way. As she left the concrete of her city behind, she maintained her gaze outside the window of her bus to delight her eyes with every green scene that she had missed in her city. As she neared the village, what she saw would further strengthen her conviction to be an environmental hero.
From her window, she observed some village folk chopping down a tree…a full-fledged tree in a nearby field. She was disturbed. There was a conflict in her mind. Conflict between what she stood for in her college groups that worked for safeguarding the trees, her convictions about saving the environment, her carefully planned vacation, and what was unfolding before her very eyes! But her convictions got the better of her. She launched herself into an ‘activism’ mode.
She inquired about the exact location of the spot from the bus driver. If she got off the bus and tried to stop the chopping, would the consequences of her opposition to the tree felling act be detrimental to her wellbeing, she questioned and feared. She decided not to leave the bus. Also, she had her vacation to look forward to and her grandmother was waiting for her. In that situation, the only way she thought she could stop the environmental destruction happening before her eyes, and yet enjoy her time with her grandmother was to reach out to her mobile phone.
She grabbed her mobile phone, dialed the emergency number, got the reference of the forest department, punched in the number of the forest department, placed a complaint, gave her details and the location of the illegal activity, took down the reference number of the complaint, and the name of the recording officer. She felt satisfied that she had done her duty. But she was uncertain if her complaint would be acted upon, and if the tree would be saved. The bus was speeding away, and the time was short. Every tick of the clock was shortening the life of the tree. Mini began to lose hope and thought of forgetting the entire episode. Ten minutes into the journey, she heard sirens from the opposite direction. Two forest department jeeps were driving in the direction of the location that she had provided. She turned back to see as far as she could. Meanwhile the bus sped ahead and Mini hoped that her efforts would not be in vain.
The next day she read a report in a local daily of how the forest department had protected a tree on receiving a tip-off from a phone call made by an unknown college student. The news story encouraged others to be such environmental heroes. Mini in her heart felt a sense of happiness, achievement, and fulfillment.
A week later she was on her way back to her city. She noticed the tree still intact, and cordoned off by yellow tape and marked, ‘Under Forest Department Protection’. In a crucial moment, her mobile phone had assisted her in saved a tree and had made her an unknown hero.