Be The Change

Exactly at what point do we transition from feeling sorry about a problem and become a part of the solution?

This was running through my mind after having participated in a business meeting that contributed about 300 plastic bottles to our environment. This number is but a drop in the overall 100 million bottles that we thrash globally every single day. It’s appalling, to say the least!

Usually, I would feel bad about an incident like this, crib about it to family / friends & forget about it in a few days. This time it was different.

Soon after, I identified a series of events that generate a similar number of plastic bottles every month into the environment. I suggested to my colleagues that we ought to stop this & switch to a better alternative. Most of them supported it whole heartedly. And thus, we have collectively initiated a change.. a change for the better.

Why did I deviate from my usual routine to do what I did. A big part can be attributed to a social media post similar to this by someone I admire. That post was on top of my mind & when an opportunity cropped up, I took action.

Hence this post. In the hope that it will inspire & prompt some more action. It’s a complex issue & needs a lot more of us to be a part of the solution.

DID YOU KNOW

  1. It takes at least 450 years (& up to 1,000 yes) for a single serve plastic bottle to decompose
  2. A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute – which breaks down to 20,000 plastic bottles a second
  3. Less than 6% of bottles are recycled globally
  4. Bottled water can cost 10,000 times more than tap water to manufacture
  5. Making a plastic bottle uses 2-3 times as much water as fits inside the bottle
  6. Research has found that 93 per cent of bottled water brands tested contained some sort of microplastic.

Team MOTR on Trail (Part 2)

In Jan 2015, I successfully completed the Oxfam Trailwalker challenge along with Team MOTR. As a team, we walked 100kms within 35 hours. This series (Part 1 | Part 2) is a coverage of our walkathon with pictures, learning & tips.

IMG_0510 IMG_0769A concoction of almonds, raisins, cashew, jaggery & walnuts had worked wonders for our calorific needs during practice walks. The Chawla household’s hand prepared concoction remained as effective. We went through our stock in no time. 

IMG_0770This was our checkpoint before the night walking began. The drones were still out creating buzz. This next stretch was supposedly the most scenic. But due to relaxed stops at checkpoints, we were now doing the most scenic part after sunset.

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IMG_0777Night walking was one of the most anticipated parts of our adventure. And we weren’t let down. It had cooled down & a canopy of bright stars beckoned us into the dark stretches.

IMG_0780A famished lot, we were hoping for a repeat of pongal for dinner. And we were not disappointed. Freshly prepared pongal & vada disappeared in no time. In preparation for the long last stretch of the night (about 16 kms), we took our own sweet time at this checkpoint. Re-taping, massages, stocking up on refreshments & a lot many deep breaths meant that we spent about 90 mins here. 

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Due to an elephant sighting, we had to take a detour in this stretch. After 16 hours on the trail, these next 3-4 hours of walking felt the most arduous. Few words spoken. No pictures taken. Walking the trail felt like serious business.

Pappu Can’t Dance Saala. But when charged, there is no stopping Pappu. Amidst the tiredness & ebbing spirits, we got to see an amazing show of hope & stamina – hitherto unseen throughout the day. It was as if someone ordered an energy boost off Flipkart!

By the time we reached out next checkpoint (@ 12:30am), we just wanted a flat piece of ground to crash on. Though Satya, the fittest in the team, proposed that we continue walking through the night, he was out-voted. We slept in the open in whatever little space we found. What we had not bargained for was the dip in the mercury & the fog. We woke up within 3 hours due to cold & dankness. Walking was a better option.

If we were to do this again, we will be better prepared with sleeping bags & warm clothing for the night.  

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IMG_0514The first stretch of the morning was one of the most difficult. We had 5-6 km on a road under construction. The small rocks made for difficult walking. And the dust storms raised by the various support vehicles moving fast on the mud road made for a very unpleasant stretch. We also had the second incident of getting lost – this time, it cost us a couple of extra KMs. As you can see in the pictures above, the tough stretch showed on our faces.

IMG_0790Not for long though. After a hearty breakfast & a well deserved rest, Team MOTR was ready to rock the last two stretches.

IMG_0793Phew ..that was a long climb. The penultimate stretch required us to conquer a couple of hillocks, that made for good photo ops. It was even more interesting to view the support vehicles – especially the smaller hatchbacks – make it through on all fours.

IMG_0800We met a lot of locals along the way. This particular bunch – we were very amused with. Our uniforms were uncannily similar.

IMG_0515We fell short of our 30 hour BHAG by 15 kms. What kept us from achieving the BHAG was our primary goal of all of us finishing the 100 kms on our feet. This led to longish checkpoint breaks from the very beginning. In hindsight, considering the strong finish we had, I was left wondering if we could have easily gone after the BHAG.

Then & NowLook what 64 kms of walking does to you. After 31 hours of walking, 89 kms were done & 11 left. We were now looking forward to every KM covered. Just one more checkpoint & it was the final stretch. 

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IMG_0822Thankfully for me, the blister issue surfaced only in the penultimate stretch. While I had taken care to tape myself appropriately the first day, I took it lightly on the second. I had let the novices manning the medical tents do their own thing with taping. This led to five of these beauties adorning my feet. A couple of them popped on their own – best thing to happen. Another two had to be popped – next best thing to do. But one of them persisted through the last stretch & made walking very painful.

IMG_0809Team MOTR at the final check-out. All set for the assault on the final stretch. By this time, Roshan’s (untrained) knee was screaming in protest of the assault it was facing. If he was so willing to do this without much training, we (with 3 months of training) just had to do smile through it. It was inspiring to have Roshan persist through the last 40 odd kms. 

34-56Team MOTR was finishing together & finishing strong. We dashed through the last couple of KMs to beat the 35 hour mark. We were tired, but not out. Mission Accomplished.

IMG_0825Ahh ..the sweet feeling of achievement …a successful culmination of a 3 month adventure. Health. Cause. Friends. Challenge. The Oxfam Trailwalker had all the ingredients for a memorable phase in our lives. 

The award ceremony was also a humbling reminder of the fact that there were 800 other individuals who had taken up the challenge for a cause greater than themselves.

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Related Posts:
~ Team MOTR on Trail (Part 1)
~ Time For Personal Bests
~ 10 Questions That Questioned Us Into A 100km Walk
~ Progress For Team MOTR

Team MOTR on Trail (Part 1)

In Jan 2015, I successfully completed the Oxfam Trailwalker challenge along with Team MOTR. As a team, we walked 100kms within 35 hours. This series (Part 1 | Part 2) is a coverage of our walkathon with pictures, learning & tips.

The culmination of 3 months of preparation came up fast. Training for Oxfam Trailwalker had become a permanent fixture over weekends. Now as the finale approached, it was a blend of excitement & anticipation. And not surprisingly, there was also the “What Next?” feeling.
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IMG_0500Roshan started off as our remote support team from Singapore. He had been encouraging us, giving us training tips, contributed to the Oxfam cause …and when the opportunity presented itself, jumped in with his pants rolled up!
IMG_0501Once bitten, twice shy. We had one bad experience of doing a long walk on empty stomachs. It had left us tired & dispirited. This time, we took our tapering & carb loading very seriously. Dominos, Mast Kalandar and our host Chitra’s kitchen – all contributed on the night before.
IMG_0518Selfie time! Presenting the starting six of Team MOTR – (L to R) Yashu, Shub, Satya, Ram, Vivek, Roshan. Literally hours before the start, Yashu adopted us into his support fold. And just like that, we had a support team. To think we were planning on doing it without a full fledged support team …
IMG_0725It was a pleasant morning when we finally got going on the d-day. With so many teams there, it took us a whole minute to cross the starting line after the 6:00am official start.
IMG_0502We started with a 100 kms in 24 hours goal. But 30 hours sounded less daunting & a more realistic stretch goal. We settled on the later as our BHAG.
IMG_0519The setting of the trail in the initial few kilometers was as idyllic as it could be. I also realized soon enough that posting snaps as we progressed through the trail was going to be impossible – network was slow, signal strength inconsistent & the trail needed more of my attention than I had imagined.
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IMG_0730Across the starting point & the various check points, we had hovering drones for company. These devices created quite a buzz with the participants & the local populace alike.

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IMG_0735As expected, the sun was one of our biggest obstacles on the trail. Caps, goggles, sunscreen & appropriate hydration were critical equipment that is highly recommended.
Evernote Camera Roll 20150127 033211 The scenery upgraded to include hills & made for pretty picture opportunities. The sun notwithstanding, the spirits continued to be high.
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Evernote-Camera-Roll-20150127-033604Very soon we got hit by a harsher part of the trail. Stony, rugged, full of ups & down – the ultra flexible running shoes are just not made for this. Such sections (of which there was about 20kms across the trail) warranted better support & protection for the feet. Entry level hiking / trekking shoes would’ve served us better.
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The quality of markings along the trail was of the highest order. There were markings to ensure we stayed on the trail, markings to announce distance covered (after every kilometer, no less), special markings to highlight the trail in the dark and markings on rocks, trees, road, electrical poles, etc. Kudos to the pre-event volunteer team on a job fabulously done. 
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Evernote Camera Roll 20150128 223710Keeping in mind the issue of sun, we had planned to take a long break at CP3 (after ~30kms / 7 hours from start). What we had not anticipated was the issue of finding a place to rest at the check point. The CP was overflowing with walkers!
Support team to the rescue. Yashu, KK & Sarayu found a quiet corner for us to rest in, prepared the place for us to settle down in, collected our lunches in advance from the CP …. what were we thinking when we planned to go without a support team!! They rolled out the red carpet (literally too), pampered us with support & ensured we spent the down time on rest, recovery & medical attention (where required). If there is only one tip we can give anyone doing the Trailwalker – get a support team like the one we had. Period.
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IMG_0761The trail meandering through agricultural fields, along water canals & the sight of a dam made for a scenic walk just before dusk.
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The villages were lined with sericulturists and their tools of trade. Sericulture is the rearing of silkworms for the production of silk. India & China apparently account for 60% of the world silk production, and the region we were walking through produces as much as half of India’s raw silk production.  
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Related Posts:
~ Time For Personal Bests
~ 10 Questions That Questioned Us Into A 100km Walk
~ Progress For Team MOTR

 

10 Questions That Questioned Us Into A 100km Walk

  1. Normal & more of the same, or scary, new and exciting?
  2. Are we doing / giving enough to a bigger cause?
  3. Is it ever too late to get healthier? 
  4. Why not surprise a few people with our choice?
  5. When is the last time we did something for the first time in our lives?
  6. Do we want to just “chill n hang out” or do we want to do something memorable that is worth reminiscing (not to mention boast value)?
  7. When is the last time we stretched out of our comfort zone?
  8. Why not do something that might inspire someone else to go beyond the ordinary?
  9. Is it possible to combine health, good cause and continued good times together?
  10. Isn’t it time we overcame the fear of the different, new and failure, to focus on the right thing to do? 

Picture courtesy Tim O’Brien.

MOTR_Seperator_thumb[4]MOTR_FB_Cover4[1]Mocha On The Run (MOTR) is our initiative to raise funds for Oxfam India by undertaking the Trailwalker challenge – a 100KM walk in 48 hours. Support us & Oxfam by making a donation here.

Oxfam India’s vision is ‘Right to life with dignity for all’. Oxfam works primarily through grassroots organizations to bring about deep rooted sustainable changes in people’s lives through long-term development programming linked to positive policy changes at various levels.

By supporting a Trailwalker team, you are making a significant difference to the lives of others. The money you raise builds the lives of some of India’s most disadvantaged communities but people you support don’t want to survive on aid and assistance forever. They have the right to lead a dignified independent life.