February 6, 2010
Nearly 150 student volunteers from the Amritapuri campus got together this past Sunday for cleaning seva. Their goal: to clean a section of the main highway, over half a kilometer in length, in the neighboring town of Vavvakavu.
The Amrita Sanjeevani student coordinators who had organized the event went to Chancellor Amma, before and after, to inform Amma and seek her blessings. Amma gave the youngsters many suggestions on what they could do.
“We live in an age of imitation, where everybody is interested in imitating others,” Amma told the students. “If we do something good, people will imitate that also. We should spread the awareness that people should not spit in public.”
Amma told the students to inform the public about this activity. Several students went to the shops that lined that section of the highway and informed the shopkeepers. In addition, a rented car spread the message in the entire town, over a loud speaker.
The event was inaugurated by the president and the vice-president of the local Panchayat. “It is very encouraging to see young people taking this initiative,” remarked the president, Jagathamma, in her inaugural address.
Within four and a half hours, student teams had collected five tons of waste that was lying along the roadside. Several auto-rickshaw drivers from the nearby stands had also joined in with the students. A young man who was just passing by, inspired by what he saw, had joined in too. Protective masks and gloves were provided to each participant.
Amma was right. She had told the students that if they did something good, others would imitate them. And that was exactly what had happened. But Amma had also warned the students that some people might tease them during the cleaning-up operation and that they needed to be mentally strong to overcome that.
“We should make India as clean as Singapore. We should place trash bins along the highway and then clear them regularly.” Amma had given these additional pointers to the students. She had narrated to them how one of the Western visitors to the ashram had complained to her about the trash one could see everywhere in India.
At the end of the day, the collected waste was transported to the ashram. Here, it would be sorted, and recyclables separated from the non-recyclable waste. “We want to do more,” chimed in the participants. They have planned to clean up the Vallikavu boat jetty area next weekend. How did they choose the areas to be cleaned?
Inspired by Amma’s advice, and taking it to heart, students are putting in a lot of effort into the meticulous planning of what may well become a full-fledged campaign. A few days before they cleaned the Vavvakavu highway, they had scouted all areas in the neighborhood on their bikes. They had photographed the areas to decide which ones needed urgent cleaning.
May their efforts inspire many others! May India become known as one of the cleanest countries in the world!