I come from a small town in Kerala where, growing up, the only “Greenpeas” most folks knew of was of the edible kind. But I also grew up in a world where activism was still not looked upon as a dirty word. Kerala was the messianic land of conscientious and vocal activism.

On days when I missed the school bus I would end up going to the main square in my town where I would see activists protesting Neo Imperialist actions across the world, standing up for tribal rights and the rights of the underprivileged and the working proletariat in our own country. Standing up for issues the rest of the world would barely care to think about. And then the late 90s and early 2000s happened. The neoliberal wave changed a lot of things in India.

I was sucked into a world where personal growth, competitiveness and achievements were valued over being decent human beings. Doing the right and decent thing became an afterthought rather than the core value on which people based their decisions on. I myself witnessed the ravages of the nouveau rich consumer driven demand, which was devastating the environment we lived in. The landfills were sky high with waste; woods near my house where we would see foxes as a child were now housing concrete monstrosities; the sight of the Malabar pheasant (greater coucal) which I loved whilst growing up was a forgotten memory. And then I ended up in the picturesque hilly district of Wayanad where I witnessed the real estate boom, which is literally ravaging most of the Western Ghats.

How long does it take for one to wake up from his slumber? A few hours? A day? Or a lifetime?

In my case it took 24 whole years! 24 years to shake off my complacency with the ‘status quo’ish nature of my earlier life and to move from merely caring to actually acting. And that’s when Greenpeace happened.

Greenpeace campaigners questioned Delhi Electricity Regulatory Committee over their inability to implement an effective renewable energy policy at the DERC public hearing, June 2013. © Greenpeace India

I joined Greenpeace India in April 2011 as a tele-fundraiser. We used to start our day at 9 am making hundreds of calls to supporters. Our main intention, as we were reminded daily, was to create awareness about the issues we were working on- asking them to support us financially was usually secondary. I have had hour long conversations with supporters and ended calls satisfied that even if I’ve not gotten the person to make a monetary contribution, I’ve at least made a dent by creating awareness amongst them on the issues our country and planet are facing.

The most frustrating part of the job was having to talk to people who felt that the environment wasn’t really worth taking the effort to protect- and yes, we did speak to quite a few of them.

But I have to admit that even when opportunities presented themselves, I was really hesitant about asking for monetary support in my initial days. Once I ended up speaking to a lady for almost twenty minutes and finally as I was about to hang up she herself asked me why I’m not asking her for a contribution- and I was also awkward about asking them for higher amounts. I asked her if she would like to contribute 250 Rs per month and she asked me if should just pay the whole amount in a single go. I believe she gave a cheque of Rs 8000.

Later, on introspection, I realised that maybe inhibitions have a place if you’re looking at self-preservation and fulfilling personal desires and aims. But when you are asking for support to make the world a better place, there is absolutely no shame in being honest about the requirements of the cause. This held me in good stead in the few more months I spent with the team.

I still remember a retired gentleman from Navi Mumbai with whom I spoke for 45 minutes on our work without expecting any monetary support but being pleasantly surprised when he later sent us a cheque for Rs 1000.

Later, after a few months, I got the opportunity to work with our field team for a month and it was amazing. We would head to areas like electronic city in Bangalore commuting, at least, four hours to and fro daily and spend time doing awareness drives amongst ordinary citizens. A minimum of eight to nine hours would be spent on the streets walking up to people and talking to them.

Greenpeace activists demand Sheila Dikshit introduces a solar power policy for Delhi citizens. ©Greenpeace India

On an average one out of every five people we approached would stop to listen. And we would end up speaking to at least 10- 15 people in a day. Imagine the number of people we would have approached!

This is how Greenpeace India raises its money. We were out in the rain and the sun carrying our folders with information about the campaigns and it made us proud that our organisation was principled enough to not accept easy money from corporations and governments. It only drove us harder to raise funds for the organisation.

Greenpeace India is a legally registered society, with FCRA status – as confirmed by the High Court of Delhi. Over 68% of our total income comes from the 77,768 Indian citizens who chose to donate to the society in the tax year 2014-2015. Unfortunately the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has chosen to freeze those donations based on absurd technicalities and the facet they don’t like what Greenpeace India has to say.

Please sign our petition to stop the MHAs attack on freedom of speech and to demand they unfreeze our Indian bank accounts.