Its 3 am in the morning. As our car passes through the famous sea link I can see the 7 billboards that are to be occupied. They are tall imposing structures of 80 feet each.
Our mission is quite simple: Set the place up for the climbers to occupy. A team of 10 reaches the venue at 3.30 am and we quickly unload the gear and drums required for the setup. That's when I realize that we are going to be running the clock down for this one. The task list was simple: set-up banners, get drums up on the billboard, set anchor points for climbers and get their hammocks up. But multiply that by seven and presto, we've got a job to be done in record time.
The place is an open field right next to a slum area and reaching the billboards was a task in itself as the place was full of landmines or in other words the open field was a battleground where people come to perform their morning ablutions and we had to be careful not to detonate any of the mines. Phew! Talk about early morning welcome.
Quickly each of us got down to our assigned roles. A group of 4 got their harness and ropes on and started climbing the structure to set anchor points for the climbers. Two more team members and I started getting our hands dirty with the drums, trying to put rods inside the barrels by first boring holes in the drum and then hammering the rods inside.
Another two started getting the banners up and running and that's when we realized that we also need to modify one of the banners. Talk about last minute work!
The whole place resembled a factory and trust me one look and you can feel like an industrial revolution coming in the area. With people going hammer and tong about their job at hand.
13 August 2014
An activist on Bandra Reclamation Road.
The banner team quickly got the banners up in no time. It was time for us to get the barrel up. We made a rope and pulley system to get the first barrel up. The twin barrel design looked nice on paper but the first barrel needed 4 people to pull it up. It was really exhausting getting 40 kgs of hulking mass 80 feet off the ground. After the first barrel we realized that we need to make some modifications and decided on the design of a single barrel with more ropes and pulleys to share the load.
It's 8 o'clock already and we only have three hours to go. While we were modifying barrels, we heard that one of the guys is stuck on billboard one as he is too tired to get down. We needed all hands on deck and we had a man down. Without speaking a word, two other activists got on the harness and started with the task of finishing anchor points for climbers.
Short of men we continued with the barrel work. Pulling them up with every last reserve of strength left in our already tired bodies.
At 10.30 am, we got everything up. We took a break and a team huddle to assess the work, and that's when someone pointed at the hammocks.
Great! We need to fix 6 hammocks at a height of 50 feet above the ground. With a sigh, SK decided to divide the team and he asked out loud, 'Who has the energy to go up with me?' A few hands were raised and they were chosen, while the rest of us decided to head back and take some much needed rest.
Both our bodies and minds were tired but once we saw the climbers up and enjoying their hammocks a few hours later, we knew it was a job well done.
We braved the alternating rain and stinging sunshine and we rejoiced despite the exhaustion. We did all this in the belief that our tea which we enjoy every morning will soon be free of pesticides and taking a cue so will all our food products soon. A wise man once said, 'You are what you eat' so if we are not pests then why have pesticides every morning.
Lets Clean Chai Now!
Shiwang Singh is an activist with Greenpeace India.