Move over self- improvement. Let’s roll our sleeves and improve the planet.

shotinraww-267307-unsplashA day without posting on social media. A week’s dinner minus carbohydrates. A phone-less weekend. A TV-free month. Giving up the everyday elevator to take the stairs. Switching from 11am lattes to 11am coconut water. Trading three hours of the internet for three hours of a good paperback.

Let’s just say, the new breed is all about self-improvement.

What’s important to remember is that two steps ahead of self-improvement lies the improvement of your surrounding. Of the neighbourhood, of the streets you take to work everyday, of the city you live in, of the country, and above all, of the planet. While self-improvement can come from giving up TV or coffee, you can take a small step towards planet-improvement by giving up something that’s toxic for the planet.

No big steps, maybe your car, just for a day.

You might say, it’s easier said than done. And so, we decided to walk the talk and send one of our enthusiastic volunteers from Mumbai to Delhi for a meeting, and back – only through public transport. He jotted down his experience for our readers.

Here’s what he had to say:

“So the day had come. I left my car keys home, picked up my laptop bag and set off for my first bunch of meetings in Mumbai. I was excited at the prospect of travelling by public transport, through and through. Having said that, I realised how bizarre my excitement was – I mean, I had taken public transport for so many years during my college and initial days of working, how come it was suddenly a novelty for me? Outstation trips were no exceptions in the first few years of my career. My parents did the same as upper middle class professionals. It was odd to do this as an experiment. Nevertheless, I tried to cap my over thinking tendencies and put on my observational hat. I was set.

It was a nice breezy January-end morning. I walked to the Metro station close by and within the first few minutes of starting the experiment, I had a truly novel experience – I noticed the trees in bloom. I also spotted my favourite tree, Taman – called the pride of Maharashtra. Thing is, I was so used to sitting with my face dug in my phone during the car drive, I hadn’t noticed the changing seasons in years. I was already happy with my experience. I then took a metro to DN Nagar, hopped in to an auto for a lunch meeting at Prithvi, hailed in a cab with two colleagues for Bhavans college for a short workshop. After that, I walked to Azad Nagar; took metro to Ghatkopar, took central railway (first class coach) and got off at Mulund to take an auto home. So apparently, this trip cycle is common to 5 million passengers everyday. I was amazed to know that. The best part about using the train was that it exposed me to McDonalds, which was a change from my everyday Starbucks. A meal at McDonalds cost me 150 whereas I was so used to spending on Starbucks, a whopping 475 for a coffee and croissant. I, of course, didn’t to my usual business calls but listened to music and watched people around me. It was interesting to imagine people around work – stockbrokers, bankers, government staff, students.

After reaching home, I picked my stroller and left for the airport. I took an auto and enjoyed the wind-chill. And yes, also the bumpy roads. The entire city is dug up and so that took away from the charm of this experience. Having said that, I made the most of it, chatting with the autowallah who told me he was from Rajasthan and had just quit a job and bought an auto. He told me that he now makes more money (nearly 45k) and prefers this to working at the ‘Seth’s’ house. A ride to the airport also turned out a lesson in entrepreneurship, ha!

The flight was good and on the other side of Bombay, lay the Delhi winter and the Delhi public transport. I took the taxi from airport to my hotel in Janpath. Next morning, my meeting was in Old Delhi, and so I took the famed Delhi metro. I decided to walk to the metro in the morning, and took in the joys of Delhi winter. Once I reached old Delhi, I hopped into the cycle rickshaw (pollution free and environment friendly transport option) to my meeting. Thanks to not having a car, and thanks to being in a rickshaw, I maneuvered through the tiny lanes of Old Delhi with ease. I also enjoyed the culture and energy of his historic area. Post my meeting; the same rickshaw dropped me to the metro. I walked to the hotel from the metro station and then, took a taxi to the airport.

I finally landed in Mumbai, and decided to take a bus home.  Guess what, I got the window seat. Small thrills, eh! By the time I reached home, I was tired. But there was a deep sense of achievement about successfully completing the experiment. I had reconnected with nature, I had saved some money, I had discovered new things about my country and its people, but most importantly, I had helped improve the planet – even if that meant, just a wee bit.

The tea that evening tasted sweeter.”

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