appeared in the August 2005 (Volume 1: Issue 5) Edition of
How Green is his Valley!
A retired gentleman and his supportive wife make laudable efforts
to improve their neighbourhood.
If your idea of a retired person is one who sits back and watches the world go by, you’ll have to do a rethink when you meet Rajnikant Upadhyay! Take a walk through ICS Colony off Ganeshkhind Road early one morning, and pass through a small gate into the premises of the Vaikunth Mehta Institute. Walk upto the lower slopes of the small hill that’s the part of the University campus and you’ll see the enthusiastic gentleman inspecting the rows of saplings he’s recently planted in an effort to green the hill. “This is my favourite,” he says, gently touching fresh green velvety fronds of a plant that’s obviously thriving under his ministrations.
Settled in Bhosale Nagar after working abroad for several years, Upadhyay and his wife Sujata used to be regular walkers on the private Vaikunth Mehta Institute road, along with several others. Unfortunately, the University authorities decided to block the access to the hill one day to discourage labourers from a nearby site from misusing it. Upadhyay and a bunch of walkers got together and requested the University for permission to continue their walks. “A few days later we saw that the fence had been reopened,” says a grateful Upadhyay, “and we decided to do something for the University in return.”
While an earlier initiative BY Prof. Marathe and students from the University’s earn and learn scheme had resulted in the greening of a part of the hill, the other side was completely bare in summer. Under an informal organization called Friends of Trees, Upadhyay garnered support and raised Rs. 20,000 towards beautification efforts for the hill. “We have already planted 150 plants in three rows along the lower slopes of the hill, and will maintain them for two years. We also want to beautify the road and have planted flowering shrubs along the roadside,” informs Upadhyay. A gardener spends a couple of hours maintaining the plants every day, and water tank has also been installed to facilitate watering the plants in the dry months. Already the plants have perked up thanks to the rain and the hill is a sight to behold in its varying shades of green.
One of Upadhyay’s earliest efforts was to start a senior citizens club in the area. It began with just six people and today has more than 135 members who meet regularly to interact with each other and listen to guest speakers from different fields. Throughout the year picnics are organized for members, and the club also make efforts to raise money for various deserving causes. Like Upadhyay, his wife Sujata is also a concerned citizen, determined to do her bit for the neighbourhood. Recently she rallied round her neighbours and formed a Citizen’s Mohalla Committee that is all set to tackle issues affecting the area.
If you’d like to contribute Upadhyay’s efforts or join the senior citizen’s club contact him on 25537801.
The Indian Express in its Pune Newsline issue of 21 May 2007 also wrote:
HE spent his life training people in the field of insurance, but R C Upadhyay had never expected to spend his days as a pensioner, saving trees and fighting for them. Having spent 35 years in Africa, Upadhyay probably thought of coming back to Pune in 1990, to live in peace in a city that was ……….. oneday while gazing out of a window from his friend’s apartment in Bhonsle Nagar, life gave him another ambition. “I could catch sight of the University hill, which was barren with a few trees.” And that is when he resolved to change the foothills of the hillock. Upadhyay worked undeterred for two years and the thickets surrounding the base of the stand proof of that. “It started with gathering a few friends who eventually vanished,” he recollects. But Upadhyay was not someone to give up. He adopted a different strategy and approached strangers by circulating pamplets regarding his ………”…… was soon collected and were christened Friends of Trees. Gradually people even started funding the purpose,” he says. “Unfortunately people have only a temporary interest. So I have employed two people at Rs. 20 per hour who come with me at 6.30 every morning to water the plants,” he says. The group has planted about 150 trees there till now.
Upadhyay’s work that began with watering six neem trees on the hill, has today assumed greater proportions, extending to voicing his opinion against attempt to cut down trees. Six months ago when a boundary wall was being constructed at Vaikuntha Mehta University, meant that a bulldozer would run over some 40 trees, Upadhyay and his wife complained to the garden department and got a panchnama against the contractor. “Where there is a will there is a way,” says Upadhyay. “A wall could have been built even while the trees were saved,” says the man on the green mission.
(I am also a witness to the efforts of Mr Upadhyay while I have been on my daily morning walks on the slope of the said hill. Thank You Mr Upadhyay, the club is proud of you!)