Solar Project for Gold Award Participants- Spiti 2012
- Divya Hirawat, Gold Award Participant -
2012, sometime before I started with my travels: Say hello to the confused couch potato. If pandas were human, they would be me, just that instead of a bamboo diet, there would be more of carbs, MSG, sodium and fatty items involved along with high degree Television-mania.
Do keep this description in mind as I start off. I made various journeys this summer, each so defining that they were like individual chapters of my life. But, for the sake of some conciseness and specificity I will skip the how and why aspects of these travels, and tell you about one such journey only, and in what sense it was so rewarding. So here goes:
I got back from a really fun raft and trek trip on the 8th of June. This day is the 9th of June, and here I am on a bus to a cold-desert-cum-ridiculously-remote-high-alt-mountain-district in Himachal Pradesh that is Spiti. Some gumption I had, as with my practically sub-zero stamina levels and strength of a hamster, I was heading off to construct a solar bath that supplies hot water at a 5000m-altitude monastery, with just a 24-hour break after my previous trip. Survival is the key. Plus I needed to show all these people who thought I would fail miserably, that I could make it back in one piece. So you can clearly see that there’s really not much of an altruistic motive. So far. It was, to put it simply, for to-appear-cool reasons.
But then after I arrived at the Kee monastery, everything began to change. There was so much I learnt while residing there. Coolness quotient: Dwindling. Respect and altruistic intentions: Rapidly rising day by day. There were expected things like learning about a new culture, new language, working hard under the harsh UV-laden rays of the mountain sun, and simple, really basic food and living conditions. And then there were experiences like, learning to make an aloo paratha for 30 people in a monastery kitchen, waking up at 5 in the morning to attend prayers with the monks and then play volleyball with them later in the evening, visiting a local school to interact with smiling, happy, cute little children and besides, be covered from head to toe in eco-friendly wall plaster after an awesome ‘mud fight’, during solar bath work. How do you describe their worth?
You can only reflect on them, marvel at them and most importantly, learn from them. I can go on and on about how I learnt about balancing strength, discipline, simplicity and gentleness from the monks, the qualities of hard work and resolve from the Spitian people and that there was a place of such ethereal beauty and cultural richness right here in my own country. But then when I turn around and look at this experience from the perspective of a volunteer, I feel proud, that my work, my investment of time and sweat after travelling all that distance would be giving some people a warm winter bathing experience in this cold desert. My contribution would be saving so many trees from being turned into firewood and keeping the mountain air pristine and smoke free as it should be, and I was in my own way implementing and encouraging the need for sustainable energy, which you know, could save the world someday!
It is a small thing to offer in exchange of all those learnings and experiences, but it does bring immense happiness to the ‘citizen’, in me; that in some microscopically small but manifested way, I did help shape a part of my country. Ah yes, the citizen’s perspective. You can literally see that amazing sight of nascent progress right in front of you in those raw mountain roads, children in the remotest villages going to school, shops selling Nutella and slow, but existent internet and cable connections. It brings such an optimism about the future. Besides, it also really encouraged me to hope to be a part of organizations like Ecosphere that promote growth, sustainably in such growing, remote areas. The crux of the matter is, that it’s necessary to step out of your cocoon.
Volunteering helped awaken and define so many aspects of my character, and gave clarity to my vague aspiration of ‘helping living things’, someday, for example it helped me realize that I had great skills working with children and even animals! So it’s definitely something I will build upon, and I’m starting out by helping with some local organizations in my city. Essentially, volunteering awakens the bigger person, a person you might have never known, within you, who sees things from a larger, broad-minded outlook. If not for someone else, as a youth it’s important do it at least do it for your own growth, which if you see makes it a win-win situation for you and the cause you’re volunteering for. So why not give it a try? Hence, the next time a platform provides you with, or brings opportunities to your notice, do go ahead and like it or dislike it. But definitely consider it, because indifference would be a crime. It doesn’t help anyone. Not even you.