At the Bank of Ganges. On the afternoon of 1st April 2014.
It was very hot to linger at the banks of the river. Other than the sleeveless t-shirt and shorts I was wearing, I just had a towel and a handkerchief with me. I wet them in the river and covered my legs to cool them down. The wet handkerchief on my head was a much needed relief.
It was still not good enough. I had to move away from the bank to a place just above the steps of the ghat. There was a large shade built for multi-purposes for protecting the visitors when the Sun is too harsh; when the rain is at its best, pleasant mood; when the wind is in Tandav Nritya mode (playing havoc like a dancing Shiva) and when ladies need privacy. Yet, you have a full view of the lively Ganges.
A simple looking gentleman came under the shade too. I noticed him sitting on the floor with a bag. He was busy in his own way and I was with my laptop. After an hour or so I looked at him. He had a small hand operated heater, blower, scissor and some reshaped empty mineral water bottles. His belongings made me curious.
I sat next to him and had to ask him what he was busy with. He picked up the reshaped bottle and said, “look, I have made Lord Ganesh out of empty mineral bottles.” He had indeed impressively done that by reshaping two mineral bottles.
Then he showed me a paper roll and started blowing it from one end to make a pleasant sound. It was made out of waste paper lying around. He had made a lantern by blowing out of another mineral water bottle. He had a nice strong shopping bag made out of multiple layers of raddi newspapers. He had a tennis ball with an elastic string tied in such a way that you could play tennis by yourself, sitting anywhere, indoor or outdoor. They were all biodegradable. No pins, no chemical paste were used for these items.
It was all amazing. I was curious to know who he was. He was 73-year old Mr. Iyer from Santacruz, Mumbai. He was tennis coach to National Champions like Gaurav Natekar and Asif Ismail. He trained 21 State level tennis players, attended 30 training centers and converted ball pickers to coaches.
Not just that. Mr. Iyer was a wizard in use of waste. He was holder of Limca Book of Record 2004 as “Recycle Wizard”. He was winner of national and international awards for import substitution. He set up world’s first “Best from Waste” museum in Mumbai. He has an exhibition hall where some of his artistic items are exhibited in Santa Cruz, Mumbai.
I thanked myself for having taken the initiative to inter-act with Mr. Iyer. Had I not done that, I would have missed out on learning some amazing facts about a person, who otherwise would have been for me, one of those men passed by. An extraordinary simple personality – Mr. Iyer.
A Lesson learnt. Never miss out on getting the details if one finds someone involved in a “different” unusual activity. There is always something we don’t know and can learn.