Mark your calendars. For your sake, and for the sake of the planet.

blog 14Facebook reminds us of birthdays while the office bulletin board or radio ads tells us about important holidays and festivals. But there is very little that happens, on an individual level, on the days and dates dedicated to the betterment of the planet.  The media and concerned NGOs raise awareness across various touch-points but there is no way things will change if they do their bit, but we don’t.

So pull out your iphones, androids, laptop widgets or pocket calendars (if some of you still have one) and mark the following dates. Closer to time, share it on your family whatsapp groups and social media walls.  If the entire country comes together to make a small change even on a single day, 100crore actions can surely change the destiny of the planet.

Ready to make a note?

 World Car-free Day | 22ndSeptember

Q. What is it?

A. World Car-free day is an annual, worldwide event, which urges people to support the planet by leaving their cars in their garages and using public transport for a day. People are encouraged to walk to shorter distances, take the public transport, cycle to work or even taxi-pool to their desired destination. In some countries, work-from-home is permitted on this day. The primary goal of celebrating this day is to reduce the number of cars and the traffic on the streets and give the earth a day off from breathing toxic gases. This noble day is celebrated in 46 countries and over 2000 cities.


Q. How did it originate?

A. The people of Netherlands and Belgium were the first ones to leave their cars behind to celebrate car-free Sundays way back in 1956. For two months, no one drove their cars on Sundays.  Later, however, instead of it being a weekly event, the Car-free Day evolved into a yearly programme. It is now celebrated on September 22, across the world.


Q. How can you contribute?

A.This one is a no-brainer. You can simply leave your car behind and take the public transport. Alternately, you can spread the word among your friends and family and encourage them to do the same. While a dedicated day in a year is a great idea, you can also use this day as a starting point and pledge giving up your car on the 22d of every month. Everyone deserves a day off in a month. Be it your car, or the planet.


Earth Day | 22ndApril

Q. What is it?

A. One of the more popular days, Earth day is celebrated to support and protect the environment. Unlike No-car today, this one is not marked by a single act but comprises of various events across the world in more than 193 countries, all revolving around the cause of the Earth. Besides events, demonstrations, conferences and awareness campaigns that are done on a large scale – individuals too celebrate the day in their own way, through little acts of awareness towards the planet. The day, now being celebrated for a long time, pumped by media campaigns has slowly penetrated into public consciousness.


Q. How did it originate?

A. Earth Day was US Senator Gaylord Nelson’s brainchild and it came into action on April 22, 1970. On this day, 20 million American citizens turned into planet activists, took to the streets and spread the message of a sustainable environment. Colleges and universities did their bit by raising their voice against the consistent damage to the earth. These were joined by emerging environmental activists who were already fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife. A revolution of sorts, Earth day slowly spread across the world and today, is celebrated by more than a billion people every year.


 Q. How can you contribute?

A. You can simply spend the whole day in awareness of the earth; with an intention to ensure that every action you take is in favour of the planet you inhabit. Small things like closing the tap while you are brushing your teeth, not taking the car to work, choosing an organic salad over a burger that carries not just extra mayo but also huge carbon footprint, saving electricity by unhooking the plug when your phones and laptops are charged, purchasing a small plant on your way back from work, giving up TV for a day, and doing a twenty minute cleanup to ensure your home is plastic free.


International World Bicycle Day | June

Q. What is it?

A. World Bicycle Day recognises and celebrates the bicycle as a clean and environmentally fit mode of transport – one that is not just conducive to health but is also friendly on the pocket. Its sustainable nature has earned it a day of honour and on this day, people across the world can be seen riding this great example of urban mobility and putting a day’s brake on pollution.


Q. How did it originate?

A. Professor of Sociology and advocate of issue related to the environment and climate change, Leszek Sibilski led a campaign to promote a UN Resolution for World Bicycle Day. He gained support from countries across the world, which eventually led to the United Nations General Assembly declaring 3 June as International World Bicycle Day.


Q. How can you contribute?

A. In 2018, Delhi and Bangalore celebrated this day which huge enthusiasm. While the national capital saw a sea of cyclists (about 10,000) take to the streets on the Sunday morning to mark this important day, Bangalore wasn’t far behind. The Bicycle Mayor of Bangalore, Sathya Sankaran led the way with 100 cyclists covering 10km on their cycles. This year, you can either look up major city events or bring out your bicycle and explore your neighbourhood – the choice is yours.  

Earth provides for them and they return the favour. The good old sustainable fruit and vegetable cart.

blog 15Shyam would stop his cart or thela under an old lady’s home in Delhi every single day, singing names of fresh vegetables. Rhymingaaloowith kachalu,gobi with mooli, creating his own unique jingles. The old lady would come into the balcony and drop a basket attached to a little rope from above. She would tell Shyam what she wanted, he would measure the vegetables while engaging in loud banter, after which she would pull up the rope.  It always looked like she was pulling vegetables out of a well. After checking the vegetables, the old lady would drop the basket again; Shyam would collect his money, and push the basket back. He would leave, singing names of fresh vegetables. Pushing his cart through the narrow lanes.

The interaction between the old lady and the cart puller not just makes for an evocative anecdote but is also a window into time, place and culture. Revealing how the not-so-hyped up fruit and vegetable cart has been such an important part of our lives, living on through generations and decades.

Indian villages may wake up to the sound of the rooster but big and small cities have, for as long as we can remember, woken up to the sound of the vegetable or the fruit seller advertising his fresh produce in his hi-pitched voice. With the class divide in India, this sort of scene is more common in intimate neighbourhoods and not exclusive localities. Come to think of it, the mobile cart is actually the original version of home-delivery, way before the app rhyming with a dance step was even conceived. Most importantly, this mode of transport is pollution free – in that sense, it is not just a source of nutrients for people but also supports sustainably of the planet.

So then, why is nobody talking about such an important mode of transport?

We decided to initiate a conversation on the subject and conducted a bunch of interviews with fruit and vegetable cart-owners on a spring afternoon, during their down time. In return, we got free apples and a few priceless answers.

Read excerpts from one of the interviews conducted with Moin from Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. He is a fruit-cart owner and lives in Mumbai.  The Hindi interview has been translated for the benefit of a larger audience.

Q. Moin,do you know what is sustainable transport?

A. No, I am not aware.


Q. Your fruit-cart is actually sustainable, which means it is planet-friendly and doesn’t pollute the environment. How do you feel about that?

A. I didn’t think about it but now I feel good. I also must tell you that since the plastic ban, I have actually been spending a little extra and buying these bags instead. [shows bio-degradable bag].


Q. How many kilometers do you travel everyday?

A. I walk about 7kms everyday.


Q. Do you have a formal parking policy for you thela? Where do you park at night?

A. I park my thela inside my house and a lot of my friends do the same. No, there is no formal parking space for our vehicle.


Q. Do you get any kind of right of way in traffic?

A. No. Only the ambulance gets it. (Laughs)


Q. Do you feel you should get some preference since you are carrying nutrients?

A. Yes, I should. And some people are helpful too. For example, if our fruits topple over, some people help us pick them.

[Another cart owner interjects]

But some taporis (ruffians) also forcibly take our fruits and while manhandling, if the fruits fall, they don’t even pick them up.


Q. What do you do with fruits that don’t get sold?

A. After two-three days, we sell them in cheaper rates to chawl dwellers and hawkers who sell fruit juice.


Q. How do you manage life around your thelasaround monsoon and hot summer months? What about weather protection?

A. In summer months, we mostly sell mango so it’s not a problem. For our own protection, we use umbrellas. On the other hand, during monsoon we take shelter under shop roofs and cover our fruits with plastic sheets. But now with plastic ban, we’ll have to see.


Q. Do you know it’s possible to convert your hand thela into an electric one? If yes, are you willing to invest in something like that?

A. I didn’t know about it but if another cart owner tries and it works for him, I am happy to invest. But not on my own.


Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the politics of cart-owners – do you have to come and take control of the space first, is there any hierarchy?

A. Where will we go if we fight with each other? No point harbouring envy. We all have an understanding towards each other and we all have our designated spots.


Q. Since everyone’s cart looks the same and the fruits are more or less similar – how do you advertise / market/ attract the customer? Is it about personal relationships?

A. People begin to recognize our faces and our designated spots and that’s how they become regulars at our cart. Rest all is luck.


Q/ How does having a cart as opposed to having a shop impact your day’s business?

A. A proper shop is definitely an advantage. People prefer buying from a shop, there is a trust factor involved. Moreover, people believe that if they don’t like the product, they can always go back and return. With a hawker, there is no such guarantee of finding him again.


Q. As a mode of transport, tell us a little bit about the maintenance of your cart.

A. We don’t own these carts, we rent them. So the carts are maintained by the cart-owners.


Q. One a lighter note, what is your favourite fruit and why do you like it.

A. Custard apple. I like the taste.


Q. As we conclude – tell us about our dreams, aspirations?

A. My only dream is to make sure that my parents, wife and children are happy.


When you are out to buy fruits and vegetables next time, support the cart over a shop or mall – it’s one of the ways of supporting the planet.

Public transport is in the favour of the planet. Public transport strike is not.


blog 13Question.What’s worse than a terrible nightmare? Answer.Waking up to the news of a bus, train or an auto rickshaw strike. News of this nature is always followed by panic and while we are unable to look beyond our own inconvenience on that given day, fact is – a public transport strike effects everyone in its own distinct way. From a house-help to a peon, from a young corporate worker to a retired old gentleman, from the roads to the planet – nobody escapes the repercussions of this shutdown. While it’s not new to read about such strikes in the newspaper and make eleventh hour arrangements, what’s bothersome is the current frequency of such halts. We can blame the constant occurrence on the advent of ride-sharing transport companies or the mismanagement of the government – either way the common men, women and children suffer.

In this piece, we take stock of how a bus or a train strike affects the day-to-day functionality of a city and provide suggestions that could alter the situation in the future.  Hope lives on.


 A Traffic Jam of Problems

  1. A strike has the potential to burden the planet: Frequent strikes create the desire in people to own their own private vehicles. This tendency poses the danger of overburdening, an already crumbling planet.


  1. A strike creates lack of empathy: Apublic transport strike especially affects people who live in the outskirts of the city or areas that may be affordable but not very well-connected – for example, a junior executive from Nalasopara, Mumbai who wants to reach Juhu on a day with no buses or trains on the road. Chances are, he might receive little empathy from his car-driving bosses for arriving late and if he can’t make it at all, he could also risk losing a day’s salary.


  1. A strike causes major inconvenience and expense:The support staff community, like the house help or the security guards of a building have the hardest time during strikes. While each neighbourhood has a network of such people and most of them live at short distances, a bus strike means that they either walk to work or spend their hard earned money on a rickshaw. A weekly strike, therefore, can either dig a hole in the support staff’s shoe or their pockets.


  1. A strike adversely affects health:Some people lose a day’s wage, some get screamed at by the boss for arriving late, some have to bear overcrowded trains while some are unable to make it for business meetings and sometimes, lose business. Sudden disruption in important plans are a huge cause of anxiety for people, a strike by that logic, is a recipe for ill-health


  1. A strike is fodder for harassment: When buses or taxis are on strike, the auto-wallahsacquire the position of privilege and hike the rates immediately. This is also the time when ride-sharing cabs bring out the surcharge.


A dialogue towards solution:

Before we move forward, we’d like to familiarise you with the Essential Services Maintenance Act. Interestingly, this act by the Parliament of India was established to ensure the delivery of certain essential services, which, if obstructed, affect the normal life of people. This simply means that each times a bus, train or auto rickshaw announces a strike, and a parliamentary act is being violated. Having said that, it would be futile to point fingers and perhaps constructive to offer a bunch of suggestions for future:


  1. The matter should be handled between the policy makers and the transport unions intelligently, without it becoming a nuisance for the common man.
  2. Since most strikes are borne out of discontent towards unfair remuneration, a transparent trajectory of compensation should be chalked out.
  3. A three to five year blueprint must be established at the very outset and followed through the period.
  4. It’s important to look at a solution-oriented and pro-active approach so that the policy makers and equipped to handle the roadblocks.


The implementation of these suggestions may take time but if there’s one thing we’re ready with, it’s the hash-tag against strike, towards a better country and a healthier plant.