What a delight it was to sit through a talk on Mumbai by an environmentalist Mr. SunjoyMonga! An ecologist, a photographer and a writer by profession, I’m sure if asked what he did for a living, he would say, ‘I read, I travel, I love and I laugh.’ But then how do you earn your bread Mr. Sunjoy? The answer to that then would be ‘I work. But that’s not living.’
Discussing his latest book, ‘Mumbai Safari – Nature in the Extreme’ – A project supported by U.S.V. Ltd, he revealed to me, a born Mumbaikar, to turn around and look where I was. He made me think whether it was really necessary for me to google out remote places around my city to spend weekends at, when I was so blessed with a city so wondrously gifted with flora and fauna all around; screaming to be seen and heard above the cacophony of human life.
In spite of having the lowest per capita extent of open space in the world and being in fact one of the most chaotic cities chocked up with stone constructions, he explained how nature worked at every opportunity to thrive.
If as a human I was the greatest of the species created by God, then I felt I needed to be ashamed at my suffering philosophies, dejections and disrespect which finally drowned some of my fellow beings to disrespect life to the extent of finally destroying it. ‘Nature has an amazing ability to survive’, Mr. Sunjoy said and brought across a lesson for mankind to continue to never give up.
If certain habitat pockets were standing on their last legs, he asked if man was responsible for their pathetic condition. The naturalist then pointed out to all his common listeners the bhelpuri magic of the city.
‘In spite of drastic changes everywhere, the birds and the rodents had displayed a great strength in their ability to adapt’, he said.
As a young lad moving out from MusjidBundar to Kandiwali with a camera in hand in the 70’s, he surely understood the strength of nature’s attraction which of course reflected in his grades at school; but an understanding father had a great share in the making of this environmentalist.
Though a man with a camera in hand, Mr. Sunjoy continues to feel that probably the eyes of the common man are the best camera ever made, and his mind the best library where he stacks all the images to flip through time and again. His walk through nature can have in his head the stories and songs of the birds and the streams where a world lives in it in all its magnanimity.
To a city flooded with malls, coffee joints and ice-cream parlours trying to pull the nature of the youth to itself, away from the rain drops and the rivers and the mountains in nature, the environment continues to offer contrasting flavours of life where nature never stops surviving amidst the tall concrete structures.
Bombay Ducks in Mumbai.
Mumbai, an amazing city which revels in its uniqueness of having a fish called a duck, the Bombay Duck curry being the favourite of many over here; a city with its 13 acres of the Colaba Woodsbeing the priciest real estate area in the world and yet having a forest of green attraction regularly attracting school and college environmentally conscious students to it; a city with caves, even today offering the tourists lovely sites were once upon a time they served the purpose of rest for travellers and gave their artistic thirst elaborate expressions of creativity to look at. A city where the Tulsi, Vihar and the Powai lakes even today supply millions of litres of water to its people every day.
Mumbai I realized, thanks to Mr.Monga, is a rare place in the world which has its streets named after trees. Chinchpokli,where once there were trees of Chinch namely tamarind and Tardeo,which thrived with Targola trees, have people stamping their addresses without looking up to the foliage anymore.
With white salt mountains staring back at amazed eyes, the 5000 acres of salt pans still exist in the city.
The Skylarks and the Flamingos of Sewri would even today with the strength of their beauty, be able to attract a Shelly to write a new ode to the birds.
I sat through listening to the words of this wonderful speaker totally engrossed in the beauty of the place I was born and brought up in, remembering the vastness of nature my little mind often observed as I travelled daily in it.
The KabutarKhana, the hub at the Dadar station where the pigeons thrived being overfed, the crows at my window almost waking me up with their alarm like cawing, the bats hanging upside down at the India United Mills at Veer Savarkar Marg where a police van stands all the time worried about any disputes due to the worshippers of Dr. Ambedkar.
The peacocks I have walked past at the Doongerwadi, the resting place of the Parsee diseased at Malabar Hill, the sea gulls in early March at Marine Drive known as the Queen’s Necklace, where the birds get overfed by the rich Gujrati crowd of the place who generously share their jalebiphafdas with thespeechless species.
As I write this, Mumbai has recently immersed one of its greatest Gods –The Lord Ganesha, in her waters, and now the all-powerful goddess of wealth, prosperity and wisdom will soon go through the same rituals of men who will bring her idolised form, decorate it, worship it for nine days and then drown it. The rising waves then will whisper unfortunate stories of the human actions but the humans will move on with their daily chores after the festive season, hardly realising the harm they cause nature in the name and rituals ofreligion.
The great God being drowned in the Chowpatty waters.
An idol of the goddess Durga immersed in the sea.
In spite of being an environmentalist, Mr.Sunjoy doesn’t give importance to the Environment Day because he feels that environmental issues cannot be tackled by celebrating the beauties and the emergencies of the environment on just one day in a year, as attention to the environment must become a way of life.