OFFBEAT With public transport in hand and determination in mind, ad professional Hari Chakyar and filmmaker Anthony Karbhari travel across India to plant saplings and create awareness among students
Hari Chakyar, an advertising professional, wanted to plant saplings throughout India. And so, on a Che Guavara-esque journey through the entire country with his filmmaker friend, Anthony Karbhari, he did exactly that. Project 35 Trees began on October 10, 2012 and ended on January 19, 2013.
“I have been planting saplings for about four years and wanted to do it on a much larger scale. That’s when I hit upon the idea of doing this across all the States and Union Territories of India. Anthony, my friend from college, suggested that we do an India tour, and so, in 102 days, we toured the entire country and planted 195 saplings,” says Hari.
Hari and Anthony chose to travel by public transport, and experienced the local culture wherever they went. “We used trains, buses, tuktuks and so on. To begin with, we had to find hosts in every place we went to, to help us cut down on costs. We didn’t want to spend our crowd-funded money on hotels. Moreover, living with local families meant we could get a taste of local food and culture,” he explains. “Simultaneously, we had to find educational institutions too, because, through our project, we also wanted to encourage students to start planting saplings, and get them to think about what environmental problems surround us. It is necessary for the next generation to feel for the environment since we depend on them to protect our natural resources.”
Hari and Anthony would take less than an hour in different schools, showing films and talking about the importance of planting saplings. “We went to 37 educational institutions, mostly schools. There, we planted about five saplings, along with the students, in their compound. It was important that we planted nearby, so the students could water them and take care of them every day,” adds Hari.
And the number 35? It stands for the number of States and Union Territories in India; they couldn’t make it to Arunachal Pradesh and Lakshadweep. “In Arunachal, the students union had elections, and they had called for a bandh both times we tried going there. As for Lakshadweep, someone from those islands has to invite you to get a visitor’s permit,” he explains.
Back in Mumbai now, Hari feels the journey has helped them know about the many problems from the grassroots level. “We have also learnt a lot about our country. While it is too early to say if something has changed from our journey, we hope our efforts have inspired at least a few students and that they will take care of the saplings they planted,” he says.
Hari is currently chronicling his journey. “I am writing a book,” he says, before adding, “It’s not much of a book actually, but I had been taking notes on the journey, and I just want to compile it. It will be an e-book, of course! It doesn’t make sense if trees are cut to print a book about planting them!”