OF SEVERAL attractive faces that a cola floats in one’s mind – charming, effervescent and speaking about good times - one stands out in stark reality. That is of Sunita Narayan, warning about its harmful effects.
It might be a woman of Indian origin who took a cola to a new height, but one to take the fizz out of it was Sunita. Very much Indian, petite with bobbed hair in the simplest salwar-kameez she looks like the girl next door.
It is difficult to imagine that she is one of the most influential women of India. Of course, she will rubbish this idea; even allow her junior to bully her on deadlines. That’s her - unassuming and synonymous with the magazine she edits, ‘Down to Earth’.
She has come a long way from being a dropout of Delhi University, criss-crossing the sub-continent, treading mountainous paths and desert sand; studying land, water, forests and atmosphere to take over as the director of the Center for Science and Environment.
She began as an activist with Kalpavriksha in late seventies; joined hands with Anil Agarwal, who was advisor to erstwhile Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi, at CSE in the early eighties.
They worked from a very small office on the top floor at the crowded Nehru Place in Delhi. The studies and campaigns they conducted and detail citizens’ reports they brought out did a world of good to raise awareness on environment issues in India.
In Delhi’s much-commercialised Green Parkher residence is the leafiest and so is the four-storeyed office building of CSE at Tughlakabad. Sunita runs it with green hands, advocating conservation of natural resources, particularly water for the benefit of the poor. Not a drop of the rainwater falling on its premises is allowed to run off and the solar energy garnered from its rooftop goes to support the computer back-up system.
Delhi owes the disappearance of smog from its roads to Sunita. Her single-handed drive has pushed archaic taxies off the roads and infused CNG in the transportation system. The cola controversy has forced the Indian Government into working on the permissible standards of toxic substances in aerated drinks.
Conferment of Stockholm Water Prize is the recognition of her work in promoting decentralised water management. If Dr M S Swaminathan, father of India’s green revolution, can rely on her; or Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh trusts her to head the Tiger Task Force, it is not only her understanding but also her wisdom that they have their faith in.
Yet, not cowering under pressure, she can turn up in any of the departments at CSE with bowl of chow and laugh at the suggestion of a popular Bollywood movie inspired by her activism. Sunita will be in Indore on February 7 to deliver a lecture in memory of Om Prakash Rawal and Mahendra Kumar at Jall Sabhagriha at 6 pm. She will also participate in an interaction with youths at Kasturba Gram at 2 pm.