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Lending the Midas touch: The Chetna

Nandita Kumar's journey started when her artistic bent of mind sent her perfecting the world around her. She didn't stop at the interiors of her house, she extended it to her immediate neighbourhood and then to the outer circle of her realm which was not easy but as she puts it 'there was no looking back'.

Nandita Kumar, a mother and a housewife, has given her best to all the roles in her life and when put on a pedestal to elevate her environs, she delivered there too unwaveringly. Being a perfectionist, she dabbled with different forms of art at her home and it shows in various specimens adorning the walls at her home and that could be the reason she was chosen to lend the same effect to housing complex. "I was an introvert and very sensitive so when I was forced into the welfare committee I was a little sceptical but this was a moment of self-realisation for me". I laboured religiously on improving the interiors of my society but it was the outsides that really concerned me. Vaishali was in a deplorable state; its dividers a dumping ground of litter and the market place unsightly and neglected.

The real sightless are the ones without a vision
Nandita transformed her neighbourhood with refuse that we relegate to the junkyard; she uses broken chairs, ladders, beer and plastic bottles, rusted bicycle and broken guitars. She used them as planters and for demarcating boundaries in the green patches. She says it's all common sense and would occur to anyone who cared to reflect and spare the time and effort.

The state of our government bodies is not an inspiring one but Nandita collaborated with the same authorities and enabled them to see her vision and rubbed shoulders with them to bring the change she wanted to see. She approached the designated officers in her region and shared her progressive ideas with them. Sometimes it's our reluctance and perception that keeps us from seeking help from the concerned departments and as Nandita showed the way, Asha Sharma and C P Singh from the municipal commission, lent her not just manpower but monetary support to aid her mission. They helped with paint work, repairs and the plantation drives that she conducted in her vicinity. In coordination with the authorities, Nandita has materialized garbage disposal plan and composting projects in the area. Nandita has an eye for creativity and her vision makes it easy for likeminded people to follow her lead and extend their support. The officials supported them with lorries to carry out the rubble, water tankers, gardeners and other labourers to help them with the huge task.

In her first year as the RWA member she concentrated on cleaning her neighbourhood and in the second year she increased the green cover around her housing complex. Next she pushed the boundaries of her mind and mission to extend greater benefit to bigger grounds. It is hard to believe that the attractive road divider facing the front date of her apartments was once in shambles.

Having started with the castaways in the basement, she liaised with the junkyard dealer and got jam bottles and oil cans which she used with paint and ribbon to create a visual delight.

This make-over is a show stealer
Nandita didn't shirk away from reaching out to more and more people to keep the exercise sustainable, she reached to the neighbouring RWAs. Today she has a group of 70 volunteers who are just as enthusiastic as Nandita and they engineering the world around them. Her Neswarth team printed and distributed pamphlets to raise awareness and seeking participation for the plantation and cleanliness drives. Her work merited the attention she deserved, even the mayor of Vaishali graced the inauguration of the divider. Today the Neswarth team and the other RWAs in the area are working on more dividers and parks. She now has vigourous participation in huge numbers from the residents.

Shaping the vision
Nandita and her group sensitized the shopkeepers, sweepers and drivers to cleanliness, urging them to carry cloth bags and curtail usage of plastics. They created awareness around the key areas of cleanliness, increasing the green cover, and basic sanitation in public areas. She is actively working on building a cow shelter in Vaishali to utilize the food leftovers meaningfully. It not only keeps the cows away from the roads but provides a home for the strays. She has also set up a composting plant and she hopes to invigorate the efforts to ensure sustainability on all the issues she supports.

Nandita seeks her inspiration from campaigns like Safai Express and others. She insists that when you put your mind to it, a lot can be achieved and things literally start shaping up and there is no dearth of means and resources. You can go on making excuses and stumble over hurdles along the way but it's your personal drive that'll help you overcome all challenges. "Time management has been my biggest asset. If I hold a post I will do it justice and turn things around, come what may", she adds.


Vandana Verma

Vandana Verma

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