Monthly Archives: October 2019

Are You Listening?

When I was in London, there was one topic that would come in almost every conversation – Greta Thunberg. Who is she you ask? She is a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden. She is fighting for a normal life for her generation and the generations after hers. She wants the planet to be alive when she is in her prime. Is that too much to ask? Check out her Wikipedia page – at the very least to get to know her. It is her solo strike that resulted in millions of young students striking this year. 

I feel ashamed that I have contributed to climate change – I am guilty of trying to look away from the climate change because selfishly I knew I wouldn’t be alive. Greta’s talks make it hard to look away. And I understand that my level of connectedness and consciousness is not yet high enough to go to even carbon-neutral existence, but I have accepted my part in it. And awareness is the first step. The first step is to intellectualize it, and then it becomes a part of who you are. What am I going to do about it? This blog is one of the first steps. I know other ways to contribute will arise, I will be ready for them and hopefully have enough courage to act on them too. 

We are exploring solar panels, going fully electric, be more conscious about recycling, reducing plastic/paper bags usage, volunteer to plant trees/clean parks. These are some of the ideas – I will keep you all posted in blogs like this.

In one of her talks, she says, she does not understand why people ask her, ‘Why are you so passionate about climate change?’. For some reason, that statement hit hard. Imagine, you are on a boat, and it is sinking as there is a hole in the hull – and you are the only one on the ship who is baling water out. Imagine someone comes to you asking why are you so feverishly baling water out?

When I say the word – Long term planning, what comes to your mind? Five years, ten years, twenty-five years. In Japan, long term planning is a hundred years. Most of us live in a world where we are unable to look beyond the petty incident where your co-worker tried to undermine you, or a car driver cuts you off in the morning commute. Unless we rise beyond our petty personal problems, how can we even think (forget act) on what kind of planet are we (yes, each one of us) leaving behind for the next generations? 

What is sad about this is that we are the most evolved species on the planet. We are the first in line who are destroying it. Even a lowly cockroach lives within its carbon emission limits. We humans are not even aware of it. And even sadder is we refuse to take responsibility for it and instead desire after the next promotion, phone (me included)

The problem may seem significant, but each one of us has to start somewhere. Stop taking plastic bags, talk to a tree today, express gratitude to nature.

Will you play your part to do what is right?

Be Surprised

I was a little down when we were leaving London – it is almost a physical tug on my heart. It gets harder and harder to leave London, much like India. Such is life – and we ordered a Uber to get to the airport.

I got into the cab all prepared to dwell on the sombre feeling of despair as we edged towards the airport in grey London weather. And before I could fasten the seatbelt – Adam said, ‘Hey, look he has the new Prius.’ Adam and I drive Prius, which started as being a cost-saving option but now has become a way to reduce our carbon footprint. I was super excited to see the Prius dashboard and how it could connect to the phone so seamlessly. I expressed my joy in so many words and that got our driver Piotr (from Poland) to start the conversation. He even paused and reversed the car to show us all the features.

And then we got talking – first about how easy it is to be a Uber driver in the US when compared to the UK. Being MBA students, we ended up doing a back of the envelope math on how much a Uber driver will have to earn in the UK to break even. And then the conversation drifted to how he goes home to Poland, and with all the relative hopping, he feels like he needs a vacation when he comes back to London. How expensive it is to live in London but he cannot go back to Poland because his kids are English. We spoke about driverless cars, insurance, Brexit, climate change and before we knew it, we were at the airport.

And I enjoyed the conversation – the conversation was no different from what I would have with any other dear friend of mine from London over tea. The topics – home, longing for home but not being able to go, climate change, Brexit, voyages were all something that I relate it. Mind you; this was the conversation I had with my Uber driver. How often does this happen?

London as a city invites people or rather sculpts people into this mould because the city encourages discussion, openness. Once you cross the local – petty personal problems – then we can see that there are bigger things in play. The diversity in London makes us look beyond borders. What is the point in fighting over a silly line which we call a country border when the planet might not even survive in fifty years? What is the point in investing millions of dollars in the new technology when we will be having a bottle bath in a few decades? And we don’t even use 10% of the technology we have today – do we use our iPhones and Androids to their full capacity. We all have more computing power in our wristwatches these days but do we understand our carbon footprint on this planet?

This blog took its meandering path from a lovely conversation to awareness of our planet – making the title of this blog apt.

How are you going to surprise yourself?

Home Away From Home

I have talked about this topic in a few of my previous blogs. But every time I am in London, I am reminded of my global nomadic tribe despite living in Columbus. I cannot deny the almost visceral feeling that I am home while in London. Every fibre of my being relaxes knowing it has arrived – what is it about London that makes me feel at home.

Well, partly, it has nothing to do with London. It is the fact that I have moved around so much that I feel at home only when I don’t belong anywhere. And where else in the world would that be possible except in London.

When you land in London – you are welcomed in a dozen languages at the airport itself. You only have to step outside to hear all the multitude of languages that are being spoken around you. If you were blindfolded and dropped in London, you wouldn’t be able to identify you were in London just by listing to the languages around you. Different accents, Different looks, Different nationalities – THAT IS HOME for me.

I have walked on the streets of London for long enough to make them my home. The pure nostalgia of walking down the old paths and hanging out at the old haunts – makes me feel like I could go back to my old flat in Cleveland street and be back in my good old London days.

Another aspect of London is the proximity to Europe. This time in less than seven days I had visited Paris (for a day) and Spain (for the weekend). The pure joy of listening to french in the day and come back home to the Italian-English accent of the Uber driver in London feels home to me. Because honestly, that’s how I grew up in London, trips every weekend. Within 3 hours you can immerse yourself in the Spanish culture, eating dinner for three hours and have a nice long siesta and then be back in London for work.

And it is always nice to know that I haven’t lost touch with the ‘Things Londoners Do’ – get irritated at people who stand at the left side of the escalators. I had just gotten off the airport, and I was back in the element – mentally willing the tourists in front of me to shift to the right side so that I could zip down the escalators. The way a true Londoner sidesteps around the tourists, politely smiling at their awes. I used to work at British Telecom, conveniently located in st. Pauls – joke around the office was that we were probably in a large number of photos around the world than in our family albums.

London welcomes diversity with open arms and love. That is what this world needs right now – not divisiveness of Brexit or not – but pure love which you cannot take out of London. I am grateful for the fact that you can take a Londoner out of London but not London out of them.