Thursday, 29 May 2008

Mr R C Upadhyay, the Convener...

We are glad to furnish below a verbatim of an article
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!)

- P.Aravind

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

At the Hair Dresser’s Saloon

It was just yesterday. I was sitting on the plastic chair in front of the hair dressing saloon named ‘Ideal’ waiting for my turn. I was told, “Just five minutes” which I took to be my waiting time. But it turned out to be one hour. Well almost. In the beginning I was going through the November issue of ‘Film Fare’ given to me by one of the boys. But I got bored with all the semi clad actresses and biceps exhibiting actors with in minutes. I started observing the happenings around me - my usual and ever interesting time pass.

It was becoming dark and the street lights came to life. The road was becoming busier with home returning pedestrians, cycles, motorcycles, scooters and cars of various sizes and colours.

A young lady of around 25 was parking her (or her hubby’s) motorcycle in front of the shop with some difficulty in balancing the vehicle. She helped her young son to get down from the motorcycle. She brought him into the saloon. One of the hair-dressers took charge of the boy and placed him on a chair for a hair-cut. The lady came out, went and stood in darkness by the side of the road. She was away from those who were eying her but at the same time for her to keep a watch on her son when he would come out.

I was wondering why the lady did not sit on one of the vacant chairs kept for the customers. Why was she reluctant? Was she afraid of the crowd of young boys who were also seated there in front of the shop waiting for their favourite hair-dresser to call them? Why in our country do the ladies not feel comfortable among strangers even such harmless group of people? Cultural or social or just traditional bias? And what was the husband doing? Could he not find time to bring his loving son to the saloon himself?

The thought took me back to my younger days. It was a real pleasure to take my son for a hair-cut. He would go up to the shop but not enter. He would look at me with tearful eyes. (My children never cried aloud.) Promises of chocolates, promises of outing by me and cajoling by the shop owner would place him on the chair. With all the assurances that I was there to ‘protect’ him he would allow the hair-dresser to touch his head. Then, when done with, with all smiles he would say that he was not afraid of the hair-dresser at all. He would then remind me of my promises of chocolates.

I also remember telling my children stories which I had heard from my mother when I was a child. Or reading fairy tales from books for them. With all the happiness. I think it is one of the reasons for the successful career of my children. It was enjoyable time for me!

Some movements by my side brought me back to the present world. Then I saw this young man, around 30, entering the saloon. He peeped in, came out and sat by my side. He was well dressed and quite handsome with a pleasant face. He did not look like needing a hair-cut or a shave. I was wondering for what he had come. For a head or facial massage? But he would be too well dressed for the purpose. While I was still wondering why he was there, he got up and entered the saloon. His turn would not have come that soon and I was still waiting for my turn. Out of curiosity, I just peeped in. I saw him standing behind a chair which was already occupied – by somebody I could not see. He was suggesting something to the hair-dresser or asking something of the person who was seated on the chair. It looked he had come to take the person back home after the hair-cut.

Should be his loving young son! So, it is not that only mothers care, there are fathers too who care their children!

I was happy.

Then they came out. It was not a child that the young man was helping him out of the saloon. But his old father or may be even his grand father (because the person was looking very old and was in need of help even to walk)! He slowly walked the old man home talking to him warmly all the way.

I was even more happier.

- P.Aravind,

(This article has been published in the June 2008 issue of "Dignity Dialogue")

Sunday, 18 May 2008

84 Years Young!

I almost missed it.
My neighbour Mr Sahasrabhojane, IPS (Retd), mentioned about his not being able to attend the meeting of the Senior Citizens’ Club.

I was just rusting for the past two years i.e. ever since I retired. Cursing myself for not being able to adjust to the life of ‘not-any-more-needed’. Not that I did not get any offers. Some offers came through the Senior Executive Forum of the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture where I was also a member. The Symbiosis Institute of Business Management offered me to be one of their consultants which I have accepted. But I was not very sure whether I would be feeling comfortable working for someone especially after being the regional head of the major office of the Bank. Hence the solitude.

There were articles in the newspapers about the Senior Citizens Club. I wanted to join them but did not know how to approach them. Thus when my neighbour mentioned about the Senior Citizens Club, I became excited. I had requested him to explain its activities, its membership details, location etc. But unfortunately his response was luke-warm. I did not know why. But he said that the next meeting fell on that Saturday and he would take me if I was interested. It was more than enough for me.

I went to the place where the meeting was held. It was a pure shock. They were all very old, totally bald headed, wearing thick specs, and a few covered in sweaters and woollen caps. I called my wife and told her that it was not the place for us as these people were very old. She said we were also old. And that made me thinking. Yes I might think that I was still young; but in others view I was also old just as any of them. After all I am 62 now. I thought I was still young compared to many of them. My neighbour introduced me to a few people and the committee members. They seemed to welcome me.

The deliberations started. A young man who was chosen by the Times of India as a Lead India Member was the guest speaker and he spoke about his views on the slum clearance scheme of the Maharashtra Government. Someone was celebrating her marriage anniversary and distributed sweets and snacks. Hot teas was served in clean cups. Slowly I started liking the atmosphere.

They announced a picnic on the next Sunday to a nearby Resort; a bus would take them at 8.00 a.m.; tea, breakfast, lunch and evening tea would be served and there would be a lot of games etc. I gave our names for the picnic.

My neighbour, his wife, and we left our home around 7.30 a.m. and walked to the spot where the bus would be waiting. He walked slowly. I cursed myself that in his company I could walk fast. It dawned on me that he was 80 years old. He was the Commissioner of Police.

We arrived at the resort and the activities commenced. The Convenor, Mr Upadhyaya. Assisted by his wife from a distance, he conducted the get-together very efficiently and nicely. He was looking quite young. But someone said he was 84. A Gujarati married a Tamilian lady fifty-five years back. They were the founder-members of the club. I asked Mr Upadhyaya how he was looking so young. He just smiled and did not have any answer. So I probed about his other activities. He was associated with old age homes, orphaned children, physically challenged children, persons of incurable diseases, arranging welfare activities, picnics, camps, food, monitory support for them and much more. The elixir for his ever youthfulness!

The treasurer, Mr Vakhi assisted by his wife, conducted the game of housie. He was very witty with his stock of jokes and well-timed comments. Very healthy and very active. I thought he would be of my age. But he was already a graduate when I had not even entered into the primary school. He was a Wing Commander in the Indian Air Force and now 82.

One Mr Zaveri, a tall handsome man, lived, studied and ran his own business in New Zealand had returned to his original native place Pune for settling at his old age. He was very healthy and quite active. He was 79.

There was a homeopathy doctor who wanted to become my friend. He continuously spoke of the wonders of the homeopathy medicines and wanted to show his clinic to me. He was a bit short of hearing. He was 84.

My wife became a hit as she was the only lady from Tamil Nadu who could prepare nice soft iddlies and well-versed in crochet, embroidery, knitting etc. Many wanted to become her students.

There were quite a few others – men and women - from Bengal, Gujarat, UP, Andhra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu apart from Maharashtra. There were widowers, single women, some living alone and some living with the grand children. They had retired from Geological Survey of India, Artillery Ammunition Factory, own business,Tata Motors, Army, Navy, Air Force, Police and others. Many of them were in the age group of 75 to 85. Very active and very much enthusiastic about living a full life.

Compared to their age, I was the youngest.
But I felt I was the oldest in the group.

- P.Aravind
(An edited version of this article was published in the February 2008 issue of "Dignity Dialogue" a monthly magazine brought out by Dignity Foundation, Mumbai.)