Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eco Voice

by Lissa Chazot
As I walked by the crowded lanes of Kala Ghoda with deafening music in the background, I was amused by the sight of young boys wrapped with crimson red plastic strips gifting red roses to people. As the crooning and jiving continued in the backdrop, I inched closer towards the bemused crowd that had gathered around the boys and overheard them explaining with passion the pangs of pain they felt seeing the apathy of people around them towards the increasing litter, the abusive use of plastic in everyday life and its reckless disposal on streets. And then they dramatically offered those carrying Aplastic bags a red rose wrapped in plastic, the receivers either blushed or squinted with incomprehension (or shame?!).

But who are these young boys?

The conceptual artists of this installation performance are graduates of J.J. College, Mumbai. Rohan Panchal, Aditya Sakharkar, Sushant Pohekar and Pranav Dubbey felt strongly for the cause of environmental conservation. With the recent Copenhagen summit and the controversial comments of R.K. Pachori (IPCC), their loud statement about the need to limit our consumption of plastic is bang on. What jolted them into action with the hope of bringing more people to act on this pressing issue was the sight of narrow by lanes of Mumbai strewn with plastic bags everywhere, choking the gutters, feeding the animals and dirtying the area; Pohekar said, "the litter is repulsive and harmful for the ecological balance and during the rains, it throws up its ugly head…a cow at Bharat Mata was found with 70 kg of plastic in her stomach" since India is also fondly called Bharat Mata, they realized the reality of that lane held true for Mumbai and the rest of India! It was a clarion call… So on 8 February, they became part of the installation performance, with a sad smile and withering roses enveloped with a transparent plastic sheet, "it is a sweet taunt, you know" Panchal smiled. The title of this installation was also deliberately ironic, it was entitled 'Thank-you for your contribution'.

What was interesting about this installation performance was the high level of interaction it promoted due to its very nature. As throngs of people walked past, some inevitably stopped by due to the curiosity. Some asked questions, others sneered and walked away. But the dialogue that was created with the public was present at several different levels, for some it acted as a reminder, for others it worked as an awareness campaign. But there was communication, direct and passive. Jangoo Motafran, a peon for instance said he "had never seen something like this and was drawn to it due to the novelty factor", he added that he used cotton bags for shopping "since the government has banned the use of plastic" but in an aside, when questioned about the sustainability of such efforts, he said "plastic was very convenient so the campaign might not work." This throws up a few questions- Is this form of communication effective? Will it bring in change? Another by stander, Shivaji Kakde, a government official stopped by, his eyes gleaming with curiosity and asked whether this was "something related to Gutka promotion ?", Dubbey shrugged and said that the content of the red plastic was not meant to be part of the communication they were conveying! In his defense he said, this mode of communication was better than "banners which promote a passive reception of information and was not effective enough to get people to 'DO' something about the cause". Revathi Krishnan, a reporter for the online newspaper thought it would be effective as "Kala Ghoda attracted lots of people, creating a good platform for interaction to reach out to a lot of people". She however felt that "many people would not follow it by their own free will, it would require enforcement then only would it translate into action. Also exploring other modes of communication like cartoons would be effective. Cartoons invade the lives of young kids and if such awareness campaigns were taken up by the makers of iconic comic heroes like Superman and Batman then the message would be lodged in the minds of the future of the country, having a long lasting impact." Shabbir Beguwala, a liaison officer in a construction company however sneered at them and asked, "What are the alternatives available? Paper bags also disturb the ecological balance." Although this installation could have been more researched and organized, it remains an important effort in the larger cause of creating awareness about global warming that looms large over us.

"There is will be a time when silence will become a crime"

Martin Luther King's famous quote is worth remembering here. Although international board meetings are making a beeline to make a breakthrough in creating awareness about ecological concerns, the importance of individual participation for the cause cannot be underscored. Small actions sometimes speak louder than words. And given the urgency and enormity of issue at hand, we can no longer afford to remain silent.


  1. thanx for putting up all this......but i got few requests - can you please put some photographs would be great and i'll appericiate it.....and the second is, My name Is spelled wrong, its Pranav Dubey not pranav dubbey.....thanx....

  2. hey lissa thankz a lot...
    it wld be gr8 if u add few pics with this write up...its so nicely written..thankz ya