Fiona Fernandez: Why we need more young eco warriors

Apr 23, 2018, 06:14 IST | Fiona Fernandez

We need to nurture our children to be compassionate to the flora and fauna around them. It's a wise investment for a city that's fighting hard to protect its environment from all quarters

Fiona FernandezWe had just wrapped up a summer workshop for a bunch of kids, a group that ranged from impatient eight-year-olds to inquisitive 14-year-olds. It was for an NGO that looked after the city's stray animals. Using the virtues of the average stray who is able to survive in big, bad Bombay, we egged [or at least we tried to] these little aspiring journalists to think out of the box and push their boundaries by probing their minds to ask the right questions. And ask they did, with no fear or trepidation, and certainly no hesitation when it came to questioning right from wrong.

A few lingered on at the venue after the session as they waited for their parents. In these moments, we chatted up with one of the participants, a shy, seemingly reticent girl who had asked all the right questions in her reporting project. Even the resident stray doggie who dropped by the session [clearly the showstopper!], seemed to have taken a shining to her.

Naturally, talk veered to if she had adopted or had any strays as friends in the neighbourhood. And that's when we were introduced to her [tame] menagerie. The 13-year-old, we learnt, had five rescued pets at home; she shared this information rather matter-of-factly in her soft, halting voice. Just as we had recovered from the number, her mother joined us. Five minutes into the conversation, and we figured where she got her wings to fly. "She seems to have this uncanny knack to attract injured animals who are in need of a caring hand. All we do is to provide a safe, warm home for them," quipped the mother. For the next ten minutes as the two waited for their Uber to arrive, we were agape as her eyes twinkled each time she rattled off about her many rescue missions - from egrets to cats and dogs - all from around her residence. It read like a laundry list, actually. And she was all of 13.

For this little Prabhadevi resident, caring for the homeless animal was second nature. And her exploits seemed to have made quite the impact on her impressionable friends too, which was another assuring layer to her story. It was time for the mother and daughter to take our leave, not before she told us that she was going to add to her rescued pets, of course with the approving nod of her mum. "Remember, we have to stop by that tree near our building gate; there's a parrot that needs help," she reminded on their way out.

Earth Day was observed yesterday, and as a run-up to it, mid-day had featured quite a few green warriors who are battling the odds to do their bit for the city's environment and its flora and fauna. Some of these were young, like the 13-year-old at the workshop. It warmed the hearts, bringing relief to our somewhat doubting mind, coloured by the barrage of negative news that surrounds the city's daily fight to protect its green cover.

It was turning out to be a green-happy weekend. And how often can we boast of such a high! We are pretty sure that given the right direction and guidance, the city can truly become a haven for young, bright environmentalists and animal lovers. Give them the wings to soar, and Gen Next can become the guardians for a greener Bombay.

mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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