I am an Indian, living in the capital for the past four years. Today, the nation is 70 years old. I remember how in my younger days in school, one portion of our academics was dedicated to the freedom struggle. The dates, events, revolutionaries, leaders, the movement - all of it was incredible. Every time I go back to the textbooks, I see inspiration, the struggle, and the big fight to be free from the colonial powers. 

Chidren rise

My parents grew up in the 70s and 80s. I see their photographs in the Indian countryside, shot on film cameras, and sometimes end up asking them how it was during their growing up days. It strikes me every single time they say, “how ‘clean’ it was!” And this is my concern, do I have to spend my adult life living in pollution and garbage? Or do I constantly  try and escape from the claustrophobic urban jungle, mulling over ‘5 weekend getaways’ type of listicles? Away from the heat, trash, pollution and the traffic in general. I bet many of us have done that.

Every passing year, our cities seem to get better at competing with each other over pollutions of all kind. I don’t mean to dwell on this because, of course there are great things - history, diversity of culture and foodand people, but I don’t think I can separate the environment from the good things. Seventy years back we raised our voices against colonial powers. What are we doing today to fight something that belongs to us?

Polluted scenes of the Taj

Whether it’s the Chipko movement or the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the forest man in West Bengal or the activists fighting to save the Western Ghats, Indians have always shown the spirit to fight and rise. But what have we made of that spirit now? Taj Mahal in smog is not the same as Taj Mahal on a clear sunny day. It’s appalling how we’re living this, and not bothered to change it. So often we thoughtlessly trash, and pollute and show no consideration toward our consumption patterns or processes like recycling and reusing. Should we then go beyond just wanting and dreaming of a smart city, and actually acknowledge what really makes a city smart - clean energy, urban gardens, segregated and composted waste, good and affordable public transport and consistently work toward it?

Environmental values must dawn on every individual- the realization of the impact that might be left on the planet, most importantly the immediate neighbourhood.

Today we’re looking for weekend getaways that have trees and greenery, but tomorrow we may be looking for oxygen villas, places where oxygen masks and cylinders will be part of our getaway package! This does not seem that dystopian, does it? When Delhi recorded pm 2.5 levels of 999 last year ( for context: WHO permissible limit is 30, Indian permissible limit is 60), I thought well, we’re there already.

Patriotism and love for the country should be more than just respecting symbols and icons. Our freedom fighter’s every act of rebellion and courage has made a difference and we cannot forget that. They fought hard and dreamt of something worthwhile 70 years ago- a vision for India. The moment we stop acting towards that vision, the dystopian future will become closer to reality. I hope in the coming years we stop looking for the weekend getaway and actually create the getaway where we live.

Create, protect, impart, repeat.

Impact hand prints

Ruhie Kumar works in the communications team at Greenpeace India