Aah! Another batch of young volunteers – these eyes have become tired from counting the number of people who have been coming to Mahan.
I wasn't too excited looking at these drowsy and tired kids, slowly settling down at 3 am in the Greenpeace guesthouse. But the next morning, they brought hope to my tired eyes. I heard volunteers talking about their objectives, explaining why they were here. There were people from different parts of the country, all united for one single objective. I made it my duty to encourage and support them at every step!
Once my journey began, I felt younger at heart by their sheer presence. I was responsible for the ground work help required for the logistics of the camp. I was amazed to find such young volunteers, completely energetic and wanting to learn more and more.
As soon as we reached Budher, the volunteers started working hard to set up the tent, settle down in the kitchen and understand and find their way through parts of the jungle. I knew it would have been hard for them, after all coming from different cities to such a different rural set up, I can only imagine how it must be! But I was pleasantly surprised to see that the volunteers were so open and accepted every challenge that came their way.
It was a challenge for me to wake the boys up. I used to keep the alarm set for 3.30 am every day. I knew the volunteers didn't like my voice or my silly jokes early in the morning but they were enthusiastic enough to wake up. The day started with tea and our morning circle.
One thing that made me concerned was the diversity in the volunteer group. Will they be able to feel the issue at hand? The villagers' plight? Or will they take it as an experience and forget all about it once they return to the city!
When I saw these volunteers interacting with the villagers and trying to be a part of their lifestyle, my anxiousness gave way to a new feeling of hope.
I fondly remember the kind of camaraderie the volunteers had between each other. I used to crack jokes trying to make them laugh to ease their stress. I knew I had to be the one who was responsible for all the small wants and needs of the entire group. We faced quite a few obstacles including the drunken village goon, Bhola Singh, who threatened us.
I have seen such activities closer at hand. However, I knew it would have been difficult for all the volunteers to adjust themselves within the restricted atmosphere of the camp with all the protocols in place.
All in all, it has been an amazing experience for me. I hope that all the volunteers go back and do their best to help the Mahan campaign. I would love to see more and more volunteers coming and working to save the Mahan forest.
Bas yahi aasha hai, zindabad!
Manoj Tripathi is an activist with Greenpeace India.