“It takes three months to design an ad, but two or three seconds to turn the page and forget all about it. I felt that I needed to reach out to the younger generation because their minds are still fertile. Children can get an idea faster than adults because their minds are not conditioned.”
So Vinod wrote and illustrated two picture books for children: Let’s Plant Trees and more recently, Let’s Catch The Rain .
Both books, published by Tulika, have created waves. Here’s why: “On a whim, I drew some doodles on planting trees and sent them to Tulika. They liked it and decided to publish it. I told them I like action, I don’t want to concentrate only on theory. So I suggested we stick seeds in the books, and they readily agreed.” Every copy of Let’s Plant Trees has pongamia seeds in it.
Let’s Catch The Rain shows various interesting ways that children can collect rain water, from bottles to coconut shells. Vinod came up with an ingenious idea for Let’s Catch The Rain too: He decided to create an interactive game. “For children today, it’s ‘A’ for ‘app’, literally. If you have to talk to children, you need to talk them in their language through latest devices. You can write a book, but a game or app is far more effective. The production cost tripled, but the team at Tulika were extremely supportive; all credit goes to them. We met Anirudh Goutam, a Bangalore-based app developer, who agreed to create the game.” Vinod argues that all useful ideas are simple. So why do adults complicate simple solutions? Vinod candidly says: “As soon as transactions and commerce are involved, issues are complicated and multi-crore projects are developed.”
He breaks down the concept of global warming to offer a simple explanation. “What is global warming? There’s too much carbon dioxide in the air. Why wasn’t there any global warming earlier? Because there were enough trees to absorb carbon dioxide. Trees were felled and there was more carbon dioxide in the air which led to global warming. What is the solution? Put back the trees and we would be heading towards the right direction.”
A single seed contains infinite trees. To elucidate Vinod narrates a personal experience: “We had a lotus pond, on our rooftop, from which I collected seeds and popped them in one drying lake at Vidyaranyapura. About a year later, I went back to see what happened. A lotus had bloomed, spreading over one acre of the lake and retained the water. And this was in the peak of summer. There were different kinds of birds, snakes etc. That’s the power of one seed.”
Vinod also plans to set up live installations on how to ‘catch water’ in the city. He has even designed some websites such as lessplasticmorelife.org and catchtherain.org.
“I chose .org over .com because the latter stands for commerce. The focus is on the cause,” Vinod specifies. Another one of Vinod’s initiatives are a poster campaign that he put up in schools in Bangalore to raise awareness about water.
There are captivating posters with messages such as: “The heavens open up more than enough, it’s our minds we need to open up” and “Ironically, the same forces used to encroach lakes can also be used to create new ones.”
Bangalore can do a lot more, Vinod contends. He speaks of a TED talk given by Anupam Mishra on water harvesting. “He said Jodhpur, the most populated city in Rajasthan, gets the same amount of rainfall in a whole year that Bangalore gets in a couple of days. But in Jodhpur the whole city comes together to collect the water, every single drop, in vessels and sumps. Mishra said we have more water to give than any other city. Look at the amount of rainfall Bangalore gets, and yet we face water shortage! More water is used to wash vehicles! Ideally, every basement in apartments should not be a car park, but a place to catch water.”
McCann has also done all the creative initiatives in the city’s biggest waste management expo: Wake Up, Clean Up Bengaluru , a BBMP initiative, that will be held between February 3 and 10 at Freedom Park.
“We have designed many advertisements. 50 garbage trucks, for example, will carry the message: 'This is not a black hole'. It is perhaps one of the major projects on waste ever undertaken in the country.”
While States and politicians engage in arguments over sharing water and academics debate over the interlinking of rivers, Vinod and others who share his vision soldier on to put effective, simple ideas to work. There is hope for the environment.
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