There was a certain point in my life, when I’m pretty sure movies took over my world. It happened probably 6 years back, when broadband was installed on my computer and as a small innocent child, I was exposed to the vast, virtual world of cyberspace. I could see myself transforming into a new being as I sat in front of the computer day-in and day-out, like a toddler obsessing over his new plastic toy, chewing on it all day long, figuring out the infinite ways in which it could be broken apart, not fully understanding it’s potential or the endless possibilities.

Unknowingly, I was becoming an anti-social, technologically-obsessed victim of the corrupted internet: what Kitchi (Editor’s Note – Krishna, from ROB) would refer to as a “Closet Geek”, cause I did appear pretty normal on the outside. After years of prowling over chatrooms, forums, fansites, million dollar ideas, social networking sites and meeting fellow hackers, geeks and weird stalkers who wanted pictures of my teeth for dental projects (No, seriously), I realized that there was actually something that one could learn from all this.

Apart from the fact that I was failing at school (Except math, I love math), the internet never ceased to amaze me or educate me: Until of course, it fell victim to piracy (which is a good thing) and now, I was head over heels in love with it. After that, my daily routine went something like this: Movie, IMDB, another Movie, IMDB, 2 more movies, bladder check, Refill Popcorn, IMDB, Sleep. I was addicted. I became a part of a new generation of men raised by IMDB.

Living in a delusional world abundant with hackers, crackers, technopaths and movie-addicts, cleaning up the beaches was never on my schedule for the weekend. This was before Archanaa and I met Siddharth Hande, Srikrishna “Kitchi” Sekhar and a whole bunch of other people who were ready to get their hands dirty for the sake of the entire world. Yeah, sort of like superheroes. In fact, we call ourselves the “Super awesome cool” clean-up committee (along the lines of “Justice League” or “The Avengers”).

ROB has completely taken over my life since then. There is a perpetual urge to be involved in all of our activities: pushing me every single day to answer my e-mails, update the website and bunk college to attend meetings. ROB became a drug and I was addicted. I was transforming yet again, but this time doing some good along the way.

Gradually, I was spiraling into a new kind of obsession. Saving the environment became a day to day activity and I was actually having fun while doing it. Over the course of the past 3 months, I’ve come to learn so much about our environment, what’s causing its destruction and what the possible solutions to it are. What I refused to learn from my textbooks at school, I learnt from ROB.

Meeting a lot of new characters along the way, ROB has also shown me a way to socialize with the right kind of people: ones who care about the environment and would be ready to do anything to save it from destruction.

Looking back, I am only able to see bits and pieces of all our times together. Like the time I taught Hande and Kitchi how to play the Guitar, or the time I took all those pictures of the Beach and Arun Pandian conveniently took credit for it, or when I taught Anjana to make all those decorations for all our events at SPACES. It’s sad to see people steal credit for the stuff I do, but I guess that’s one more thing that I am ready to sacrifice for the sake of ROB.

From where I’m sitting, I see a group with a lot of potential. I see in ROB, a fire that will burn for a long time to come. We will not rest until the beach is rid of all the sewage, plastic and garbage. We won’t stand by and watch our very own beach ruined in front of our eyes. We will fight towards reclaiming our beaches. But always keep in mind what Archanaa said – “Have fun, responsibility”.

If there’s plastic on the beach

we’ll clean it

if there’s dirt of the ground

we’ll sweep it

we will not stop,

until we get it all.

We’ll get it all!

Cheers,

Kau,

ROB

Sangeetha-the Restaurant is planning on opening a new outlet at Broken Bridge.

Or so we’ve been led to believe by the truckload of their personal property that’s there.

Our story begins (or began) when Sangeetha hired a man who had hired a flat in the Urur fishing hamlet, to take care of their trash. The mountains of rubbish that hundreds of hungry Chennai-ites help them generate everyday. When the contractor took on the contract, like most people with a job to do, he wanted to do things the profitable way e. i.e. By giving Sangeetha maximum satisfaction at minimum inconvenience to himself.

So the trash was sent to Broken Bridge. Whole plastic bags, torn plastic bags, tattered plastic bags…all leaving a trail of this noxious insides behind. An entrail trail, actually.
That was how the residents of the Urur Hamlet came across it. An emergency meeting of the Hamlet was called and the contractor was arraigned before the panchayat. In his defence he did not have much to say and he was ordered by the panel to have the beach cleared of the trash in 2 hours.

ROB volunteers are currently gathered at the Broken Bridge taking photos and estimating the amount of filth generated. Archanaa Sekar, a ROBber was unsettled at “the amount of trash one restaurant generates in one day”. She said there was every possible type of waste out there- dry waste, wet waste, organic, inorganic, bio-degradable and stuff that would outlive us by a couple of centuries.

But while the trash is worrying, the current concern is getting it off the beach. When Sangeetha hired this man to do a job, they should have followed up HOW he was doing it. With their experience, they should have been well aware that most contractors would follow the ‘no pain, loads of gain’ principle. The trash they generate is theirs. They cannot disown it by handing it over to someone else.
While the contractor is responsible for the litter landing up on the beach, as one ROBber argued, how is he worse than the normal litterers who come by and drop off little gifts of gutkha packets, cigarettes, spoons and tins..etc..? True, he was making a profit. He was taking advantage of being situated near the Broken Bridge to use it as his private dumping ground. But what’s also true is that he is, in essence, doing what every other litterer does.

The only additional problem he caused, as yours truly sees it, is he put the Hamlet at stake. While the people of the hamlet know that the man isn’t a resident, proper, there most outsiders would view this as the ‘hamlet’s new dumping ground’. Fingers would be pointed to the hamlet, filthy aspersions would be cast by thesaintly middle and upper classes at the hygiene of the hamlet- people would use this as an excuse to further dump on hamlet ground. ‘After all, they do it why not us?’

And coming down to the basics of course- where was the Corporation in all of this? While they had no part of the deal between hotel and contractor, surely they should be alert to what is happening on Corporation land? The Broken Bridge falls under their watch. And when the trucks rolled in, the Watch was asleep.

ROBbers on the beach right now are awaiting the finale to this morning’s episode. Cameras, phones and pen and paper are noting various details that the corporation or Sangeetha are likely to miss.

Update: Two ROBbers filed a complaint with the police who sent in men. A case has been filed against Sangeetha.

The beach has been cleaned up. Again.

Ussayale…

February 1, 2010

As part of Sunday night’s programme, the Ussayale dance was performed.

The Ussayale dance, really.
Orchestrated by Kaushik and Ashwath of ROB, the dance snakes way back towards the duo’s schooldays where they performed it countless times for the school. The Ussayale dance, the 12B dance, as it became known, turned out to be famous enough to appear in two movies- one home produced by 12B, the other produced by 12C, spoofing it.
Never did a single song inspire such cheering in an audience as The Ussayale has done for years now!

And Sunday night, when Kaushik and Ashwath danced, reunited on stage together after nearly 2 years, there was not a single silent soul spectating. The audience, especially K and A’s schoolmates were screaming themselves beyond hoarse as the duo, with Arun, Srinidhi, Deeptha and Charanya from ROB rocked the stage.

As K and A’s schoolmate, watching the dance brought back an insanely giddying wave of happiness. It reminded me of school, of happiness shared, of mad pranks and silly jokes- it brought back that certain quality we call innocence which cynicism seems to destroy so easily as you approach 20.

To most people it was a fun, enjoyable dance. To me and to my schoolmates, last night was a return to a place of unassailable happiness. If the ROB weekend was double chocolate, choco-chip ice-cream, this was the cherry on top.

Monday Morning

February 1, 2010

Monday morning, another week dawns. Another weekend has ended.

But what made this Monday seem to rival anything Garfield’s ever seen, was that it followed such an amazing weekend! Saturday morning, the ROBbers awoke by 5. By 6 all the volunteers were on the beach, stall set up, loudspeaker squawking and general goofiness being passed around. Yours truly was at the registration desk, gloating at the people lining up. Really, it’s incredible how many people want to clean the beach! I thought most would give the clean up a miss and come the next day. But apparently I grossly underestimated Madras’  enthusiasm!

The clean-up went off quite marvellously (though this eyewitness had departed early on) and the results could be seen that evening in sparkling clean sand.

As to how much trash we collected…*gulp* If you really want to know, the most conservative estimate is 200 bags. Of trash that is. Fantastic, fabulous, outlandish trash it was too. The sort of thing you collect and gawk at. The kind of thing you want to show people. Which of course, is exactly what we’re going to do!

The next day began…well the previous night really, with the Turtle walk, followed by a know-your-beaches walk. There was cricket and football on the beach. And painting and essay-writing for the landlubbers. Thakli making annd composting- two activities that seem laughable, perhaps. Unless you’ve sat and watched Gautam anna from KFI ‘spin the yarn’. I was dragged back to my volunteer duties kicking and screaming, so engrossed was I in the mystery that was unravelling in front of me.
(For those of you who missed those awesome puns, ‘thakli making’ is spinning thread from cotton. Now go back and laugh, do.)

And that evening..oh! That evening. We began with Sid and Krish, our own, home-grown talent, opening for many, many other acts. The MSSW singers and dancers had the crowd  cheering and hooting, as did the Guru Nanak college students with their incredible energy!

The two surprise elements of the evening though were Antony Ala and Haemesh from Urur Village. Antony’s dancing/singing/mimicry show had the audience gasping and cheering in awe. As for Haemesh’s Michael Jackson impression- Ishwar’s heartfelt, “Michael Jackson isn’t dead and gone…he lives on in Haemesh” was no exaggeration. His moonwalk received ‘once mores’ and a standing ovation.

Then of course, *ta da* you had the ‘Ussaile’ dance from the ROB team. And the ROB song. And then the ROB volunteers performing, not missing out on the bharatnatyam recital by two young ROBbers, early on!

All in all, as I walked back home, my head was spinning a bit and I was grinning at random strangers. What an evening. What a weekend. Who knew Beach Clean Ups were so much fun?

Now if only we can do away with the Clean ups and just have the ROB concerts more often!

Akhila, ROB

Pondy

January 26, 2010

Pondicherry beach…doesn’t exist. In the general sense of the word.

You have the pavement and then you have a small wall of rocks and then- splash! Waves crashing against them and sending up a delightful spray onto your face.  Or you falling off the rocks and into the sea. Either way.

The Pondy sea-front is stunning. Not just beautiful- but so calm and serene. Even when there’s a rock concert on, like this weekend.  Of course there are crowds. Of course there are people selling things. But you don’t feel like you’re in a mad rush of humanity as you often do in Madras on the weekends.

Almost no vehicles, no speeding maniacs, no random screaming and hooting- and surprisingly small amounts of litter. (As far as I could see and memory guided me). All of this is made easy of course by Pondy’s size and by more than half, if not all, the sea-front being owned by the Ashram.

Here you have an ‘organisation’ that believes in simplicity, cleanliness, beauty and quiet. And they own your sea-front. What more could you want? Alas! That Madras belongs to the people.
Or is that what we’re going to change?

Akhila