02 June 2014
Peaceful Forest Protest in India © Greenpeace
My name is Pyaare Lal Panika, driver of M.P 66C08A6 Bolero from Gram Raj Milan. My journey started on 12th April, 2014 when my Bolero was rented by the Greenpeace office and I was called to Waidhan. I didn't anticipate the kind of experience that I would have in the Mahan forest.
My life has been the same since the year 1998/9 where in I've been driving the Bolero and going from place to place. However, this particular journey left a lasting impact on my heart. After I got a call from Greenpeace, I went to the Bilaunji office and then I had to go to the Greenpeace guest house to pick up the officials and volunteers for their journey to Budher.
When we first entered the forest, I was anxious that I wouldn't be able to take my car inside. I had never ever been to such interior parts of the forest. After some cajoling from Akshay, the Mahan campaigner, I gathered some strength and went ahead. Still at the back of my mind, I wasn't really sure about my decision to have taken up this assignment. When we reached Budher, I was disappointed to see the state of the living arrangements. I really thought I wouldn't be able to survive for even a single day. It was only after all of us settled down and the volunteers started enthusiastically interacting with the villagers, that I slowly began to enjoy myself.
Food and tea was given to me on time, accompanied by enormous amounts of love from the volunteer team and the villagers. The best time of the day for me was between 11:30 and 3:00 where in, I got a chance to interact with the volunteers. I also learned some new songs and updated my playlist in the car, specifically through Ravinder's (a Delhi-based volunteer) help. Manoj ji, another Greenpeace Mahan Campaigner, used to crack jokes and share his personal experiences with me, which I will cherish forever.
Not once did I have any problem of any sort! I had an amazing experience after meeting this enthusiastic volunteer group. This was the first time in 15 years of my career that I had such an incredible learning experience. To conclude, I had such a great time that I never realized when the sun would set and it was time to end another fruitful day in the jungle.
Pyaare Lal Panika works with Greenpeace India in Mahan.