Anuradha Majumdar was a dancer and choreographer before she started writing books like Refugees from Paradise and The God Enchanter. She has published short stories and poetry, often contributing poems for art installations and choreography projects. She has participated in poetry festivals in India and in the Focus India event in Rome. She lives and works in Auroville and can be contacted at http://www.anumajumdar.com.
In her latest book Infinity Papers, we meet Marina, Gautam, Tenzin, and Spark the parrot who embark on an exciting adventure to the magical lands of Infinity. This piece explores an instance that occurs after their adventures in the Infinity Papers.
Marina, Gautam, Tenzin, and Spark, their parrot, have just had the most mysterious and nerve racking adventure. They recovered the lost Infinity Papers and put a stop to the Dargate’s dangerous plans. Now in Dharamsala for a short holiday, they join their friend Nina for the India Cleans Up workshop.
INFINITY KIDS AT INDIA CLEANS UP!
A bright green parrot was watching four kids make their way up the hill, talking all at once. Spark was no ordinary parrot. He had followed Marina, Gautama and Tenzin to the lost island of Infinity and had just helped them stop the Dargate’s plans so that new and path breaking Infinity research could finally take off. Spark knew a thing or two about the world, but most of all he liked what he knew about his three best friends. Spark scratched his head quickly and flew down to investigate.
Tenzin was thrilled to be in Dharamsala at last. He had walked around the Kora that morning. Now he was pointing out things to Marina, planning what to visit and who to meet, but all Marina wanted to know was where they could get good momos for lunch. Too good ya. After all that they had gone through the last few days, Marina deserved the best momos. Spark shifted his attention to the two others walking just behind. He liked Marina’s friend Nina a lot, but Gautam was such a peanut. Anyway, it was because of the stupid peanut they were all heading uphill and there was great stuff happening up there.
People were gathering quickly in the large open field on the top of the hill where a green and white banner greeted them. INDIA CLEANS UP! START NOW. START HERE.
Yay! Gautam looked around excited. He had been waiting for this for years. A thick pine forest circled part of the field. The other part opened on the magnificent Dhauladhar mountains. Gautam spotted someone he knew, a little further away. It was Vik, his friend’s older brother who now went to college. Meanwhile, Nina was saying hi to every single person they crossed.
“You know everyone, Nina, or just showing off?”
Nina’s curly hair bounced with annoyance. “I’ve done this workshop twice, Gautam, plus all the summer events in Dharamsala. We get people from different schools and so many from TCV. Look there’s Kalsang and Dawa, you met them yesterday. They’re with Tenzin and Marina, good!”
“It’s the first time Tenzin has Tibetan friends his age, Nina. Look at his face, he’s wearing his new Free Tibet t-shirt and he’s in seventh heaven.” Gautam turned around and waved to Vik.
“You know Vik?” Nina was impressed. “He is one of the organizers and he’ll do the first workshop with us, he’s very good.”
“Oh look, here come Mita and Anita!
Gautam shrank at the sight of two girls screaming uphill.
“I’m getting out of here. You go play with your screechy friends.”
“Uff, don’t be silly, Gautam!” Nina grabbed his hand and started to run. “The workshop is starting. Come on, we shouldn’t miss the introduction!” Nina waved to the two plump girls puffing up hill. “See you later!”
Not one peanut, Spark decided. Two! Too good ya. The green parrot sailed up cackling in the sunlight. “Peanuts!”
The introductory session with Vik and Norbu was fascinating. Marina had run ahead to keep a place for Tenzin, Gautam and Nina. Tenzin counted forty-eight participants as he walked into the tent, mostly kids from Dharamsala schools and about a dozen from outside. So many Tibetan faces, it felt fantastic. After the first session they walked around the field going over barrels and bins as Vik explained segregation of paper, plastics, metal and glass as essentials along with kitchen waste. Each thing had to be dealt with separately in order to reuse and recycle them well. Gautam was all ears. This had to happen all over the country!
Next, Kalsang and Dawa were invited to present their school project. They took turns to explain how huge amounts of plastic being trashed across the world was like cancer for the planet. Fortunately, research had begun on how plastics could best be used for things that needed to last longer and endure, and not for things that had to be chucked away, literally millions of tons of it, every single day. That was welcome news but Gautam still looked unconvinced.
Marina knew that look too well. She was glad Nina had managed to convince him to come for the workshop. Garbage on the streets and people who chucked things around without a care always made her older brother boil. How could people walk out of their houses into trash filled streets, how could they spoil the most beautiful places on earth with junk and just not notice the flies gathering?
‘What does it take to change that?” Gautam was asking, impatience and frustration written all over his face. ‘It’s not just the poor who are trashing Dharamsala but all those with money to spend on chocolate and chips and water bottles!’
Vik and Norbu burst out laughing.
‘Why do you think we started India Cleans Up? It’s going to take all of us to make the change and more groups like ours for things to improve. It’s our generation that’s going to do it Gautam. So patience and stick with it!’
‘Right,’ Gautam blushed. ‘Thanks Vik.’
‘Hey Gautam,’ Nina tugged his sleeve, ‘when we get back to Chennai we’ll start a group there!’
‘Absolutely.’ Gautam and Nina high fived. ‘Yay!’
‘Too good!’ said Spark. The two peanuts were doing fine.
‘Okay everyone, get together in groups of four, quick!’ Norbu called out. ‘Pick up one bag and a stick each, we’re going to clean up the tourist road!’
They collected the bags from Norbu and sticks from a heap beside Vik. Half a minute later Marina, Nina, Gautam and Tenzin were racing down the hill together followed by Kalsang and Dawa, all talking away.
‘Great presentation, Kalsang.’ said Tenzin.
‘Thanks,’ she said. ‘Garbage in the tourist season is so terrible that we decided to join.’
‘Just like Gautam,’ Marina remembered.
‘How do they deal with garbage in Infinity?’ Dawa asked. ‘You were both there, Nina told us.’
Tenzin grinned at him. ‘No garbage out there!’
‘Why not?’ Dawa demanded.
‘It’s as though they can make and recycle anything and everything as they need them,’ Marina said slowly. ‘There’s no waste at all, but not as we understand it. It’s…’
‘It’s more advanced.’ Tenzin broke in. ‘They seem to have a very different science, Dawa. Almost no machines. Compared to that, we are still barbaric.’
‘Did the place remind you of anything?’ Kalsang asked as they neared the clean-up spot.
‘Yes.’ Tenzin said softly. ‘Of Tibet… I met someone there who knew my father.’
A shout went up, a little ahead and bags began to fill up fast. Plastic bottles and bags, banana peels, batteries, magazines and endless junk had been tossed carelessly over the beautiful hillside. A big air-conditioned car slowed near the turn where Gautam was stuffing a bag with Nina. A window rolled down and a nattily dressed young college student chucked out an empty chips packet along with an empty bottle of Coke.
‘Hey!’ Gautam grabbed the window and stopped the car.
‘What?’ The young man took out his iPod earplugs annoyed.
‘How dare you litter the road?’ Gautam hollered. ‘It’s not your dustbin.’
‘Watch what you’re saying, you little twit!’
‘Watch what you’re doing big dude,’ Gautam shot back. ‘Kids from all over the country are cleaning up the road today because people like you junk it.’
‘Come on,’ Nina urged him, ‘step out of your car, pick up the packet and drop it in that dustbin and we’ll all cheer for you.’
The kids had surrounded the car. The young man got out, very red in the face, picked up the packet and the bottle and walked straight to the bin. A cheer went up as he dropped them in and many grinning faces came forward to shake his hand.
The young man looked at them amazed. ‘Can I have a t-shirt like that?’ He asked Gautam finally.
‘Sure,’ Gautam pulled out the spare t-shirt from his rucksack. ‘Come and join next time.’
‘Hey, thanks!’ his face lit up. ‘I definitely will!’ The young man shook hands got back in his car.
‘Too good ya!’ said Spark.
‘I’ll second that,’ laughed Marina. ‘Well done Gautam!’