It is fashionable nowadays to talk about ‘Sustainable living’ and only a few of us actually convert our talk into walk. We spend endless hours on conferences and debates but do very little at the individual level to address concerns affecting our unsustainable ways of living. I have had the privilege of meeting people who neither carry a banner about their personal efforts nor hesitate to live and practice what they preach. They express their leadership in their own quite ways and all of them are role models for the rest of us struggling to live upto our ideal of leading sustainable lives.
I have known Ramesh Kikkeri for several years now and he has been a staunch believer in himself and his way of sustainable living. Whether it is his own house with water being fully recycled or minimal waste being generated or capturing rainwater and storing it – he has first done it and now is a committed evangelist. He travels around the country helping people set up solar power systems, rain water harvesting structures, fuel efficient stoves and Dewats (Decentralized Wastewater System) units. Apart from SVYM, he has worked with several organizations across the country. And he has been doing all this pro bono. From teaching students to take this message forward, he has been quietly leading change – by becoming the change that he wants to see. His belief in himself and his cause is so strong that he never hesitates to call a spade a spade. I have been a witness to his confronting the host in marriages and public functions deploring their use of plastic or their guests wasting the food served to them. His views are simple and clear. People need to be exposed and shown how their small actions will affect the environment in a large and invisible way. And like Hillel the famous jewish Rabbi mentions, ‘if the time is not now, then when? And if it is now me, then who else?’ Ramesh’s conviction in the cause, his unhesitating desire to be the change and his courage in reminding people around him of their individual responsibility is both impressive and inspirational.
Another person who in his own quite way taught me a lifestyle lesson is Ajit Vishwanath who till recently was associated with SVYM. One day, he was trying to explain to me the nuances of social media and how the same could be constructively utilized. As he stood up to leave, the pyjama (loose trouser like Indian dress) that he was wearing got caught in a nail in the chair and ripped. My immediate reaction was that he needed to change this torn old garment and buy himself a new one. Without much ado and with simplicity and spontaneity, Ajit was categorical that the pyjama was not yet unusable. He was clear in the fact that he could have it stitched, and it would be as good as new. Affordability or the age of the pyjama was not his concern – what mattered to him was its utility and the sustainability associated with it. In his own simple way, he was doing what he could do best. Live a lifestyle that took little and tried to conserve as much as one could do. While several people proselytize about ‘Refuse, Reuse, Recycle’, here he was quietly living the same. Leading oneself and making these difficult but necessary choices is not easy indeed. For many of us driven by the pressure of time, status, visibility and travel; leaving a larger than necessary carbon footprint is becoming the only way to live. We seldom realize that making small changes to our lives – whether it is vegetarianism, or having a minimal set of clothes or reducing all unnecessary travel, the use of plastics; all this can contribute in a significant way in reducing environmental degradation. What we need is the discipline, determination and the desire to make a difference. And this is what leading sustainability is all about.