The road reminds me of Pune’s roads. The three-wheeler is as noisy as any in Pune, and the road causes us to be thrown about every now and then. But all of this hardly makes an impression. That is because of the clean air and the green surroundings. The rocky hills in the vicinity remind me of the city of Hyderabad, though the two temples perched on top of the tallest hills tell me very clearly where I am – Sholinghur, about 120 km from Chennai. As I accompany my brother Balaji and his daughter Architha to her school, I could not help but marvel at the natural surroundings. What would I give to go to school in such a place!
The school itself is a masterpiece. True, I have spent only about five minutes here, and that too, near the entrance. This short stay is enough for me to experience what the school is all about. Spacious grounds, rows of trees, single-storied buildings that look like a row of cottages, no smoke, no fumes, no noise, only peace and quiet! And the motto: “Let the child blossom!”
I could not help comparing this with the schools in Pune – most of them cramped in multi-storied buildings, with no grounds, no trees, lots of noise and lots of pollution. Are we in the cities guilty of forcing our children to learn from the books in sound-proof rooms, instead of learning by observation? Where birds are only identified in colorful charts hanging on the walls of the classroom, instead of watching them flit from one branch of a tree to another?
I go to the factory that Balaji is in charge of. He shows me around, proudly pointing out how the access road is curved because they did not want to cut the trees, how they are “recovering” roughly 25% of the aluminum from factory waste, how they harvest rainwater in order to use every drop gainfully, how they evaporate the water from the coolant before disposing of contaminated coolant through tankers (thus saving on transportation – cost and pollution), how a major part of the real estate in the factory is dedicated to “greening” – the list is endless. Their policies are environmentally sustainable.
My mind could not help going back to Pune, where we destroyed a unique tunnel with deep archaeological significance on Senapati Bapat road to road widening, where the road widening on Nagar Road was achieved through the foolish act of felling trees that were decades old, where the hills are slowly being encroached upon by human habitation, where we have so badly used our water resources that either we have floods or we have drought – this list is endless too!
It won’t be long now, I think, when the people in the small towns of India will start barring us city folk from even visiting them, lest their children get contaminated with “bad” ideas. Maybe better education leads to wisdom too!