...and a few thousand volunteers gathered at Versova Beach last Saturday for a bit of corporate pep talk, a short three k run on the beach and then an organized beach clean up. A lot has been written about the man behind this effort @AfrozShah1, the young lawyer who together with a neighbour began cleaning up the garbage filled beach behind his apartment building. A five foot deep layer of garbage got cleared over several years but that was as it turns out only one half of Versova Beach. Today was the day to start on the second half, part of #RunForTheOceans and co-sponsored by a sports goods company.
Afroz was there, wedged in between a corporate type who was still passionate about Mumbai, despite having moved to Germany for his employer, a VJ (let's put our hands together for MALINI!!), an actress (let's put our hands togetha for Gul Panaaag!!!), a perky Australian fitness instructor who took a few thousand people through their warm up exercise and the predictable announcer himself (come on Mumbai, let's make some NOISE!!!).
For a South Bombay resident to get out of bed and to Versova by seven a.m. takes an hour of travel. Afroz Shah and his army of citizens dedicated to cleaning up this city's beaches and rivers do this every single Saturday. Versova has become their backdrop now, their weekly work goes on at Mithi River, which they're trying to clean of plastic
Here we were, most of us first - timers, cleaning up bits of the beach. Every mound of sand revealed layers of plastic bags and clothing. Everyone's energy was infectious. There was seven year old Anshu, a portly young boy dressed in a bright red t - shirt and shorts who refused to go home. His father's repeated, "come on Anshu, Mama is waiting for us", had no effect as Anshu's eyes were focused on the next bit of garbage that he could wrest from the sand and throw into collection bin.
There were students from local colleges, housewives, and members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, who had signed up en masse.
These are baby steps and Afroz and his team are under no illusions that it's going to be easy. Apart from cleaning they're trying to get the surrounding communities to buy into the circular economy and stop participating in the throw - way single use economy. Let's see. If one man can get us to this level imagine what a few thousand of us can do.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.