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Skandagiri Or Kachragiri, The Choice is yours

It all started with a night trek at Skandagiri in mid 2014. The freezing cold, endless jokes around the campfire, new friends, not-so-properly cooked maggi, the mind-blowing sunrise in the morning, the ‘we-are-above-the-clouds’ feeling made it an unforgettable experience. Since that night, I have been there 4 more times, as the place keeps calling me back again and again.
However, ever since I started doing day treks there, apart from the mesmerizing beauty of the hill, the increasing number of garbage caught my attention. I tried to overlook it as much as possible but a thought kept on bothering me: ‘what would happen to this place in the next few years if the garbage keeps on increasing exponentially’. The majestic Skandagiri will soon turn into Kachragiri!!!
The same question must have bothered a lot of people. Hence finally, BTC came up with this great Clean up Drive! Almost every weekend BTC organizes trekking events to at least two or three such places. I know a lot of people, including me, who look forward to these treks the entire week so that we can spend some time with nature and de-stress ourselves. And Mother Nature has never failed to fulfill our wishes. Hence, it is almost impossible for us to turn a cold shoulder to the increasing quantity of garbage being thrown at her on a regular basis.
Before I share the events of the day, it would be unfair if I do not touch upon the backstage activities a bit. The most amusing part of this entire event was that anybody could freely throw trash while trekking, however, if (for a change) you wish to clean it up, you have to go through a long and painful procedure of getting permission from the officials. Hence, the organizers Viru and Channa had to go through the ordeal and visited the forest officials several times, explained them what we are trying to do (I’m sure they do not get such requests frequently), gave several presentations and finally, finally BTC became the 1st organization after 8 loooong years to clean up the place!! 
It was decided that the clean up would be done on 4th Jan 2015 which was BTCs 2nd birthday.  We were a group of 32 BTCians. Most of the participants had two/four wheelers and the remaining less-fortunate ones (like me) relied on KSRTC. The organizers were already there and greeted us with idly-vada. There were a lot of familiar faces and the usual leg pulling-n-pushing started immediately. Post breakfast, we were given gunny bags, a face mask and a pair of red coloured gloves. 
The method of operation was like this: We were divided into three teams. Team 1 and 2 were to head to the top directly and start cleaning the peak while team 3 would clean the trail as they move up slowly. Within each team, pairs were created who would collect 3 different things: Plastic/polythene in one bag, paper/cans in another bag and glass bottles in a separate bag. Dr Deepthy joined team 1 & 2, while Dr. Rohith stayed with team 3 for any medical issues. Further, there were three photographers assigned to each time. (In short, the organizers took care of everything). And thus, 32 highly enthusiastic BTCians set out for another fun (and garbage) filled trek! 
Being in team 2, I started climbing the hill with the rest of the group. Unlike the usual treks, we did not take a lot of breaks and tried to reach the peak as soon as possible. We met a lot of other trekkers who stared at us with wonder (as were wearing masks, gloves and carrying bags). Some even inquired whether it was a part of the ‘Swach Bharat’ initiative. We replied ‘it’s a Bangalore Trekking Club initiative’ and marched ahead like proud soldiers! Along the way we saw crazy amount of trash (and thanked god for not letting us be in Team 3 who would clean up the trail). Poor us! We had no idea what was waiting for us on the top…
The plan was to take a small break once we reach the peak as were feeling kind of exhausted. But the ugly mess we saw made us forget our tiredness and suddenly we all became charged up. The battle was about to begin. We were ready with our swords (the gloves) and our shields (the life saving mask)! We discussed among ourselves who would fight from which area, wished each other good luck, took our positions… and attacked!
The first 30 minutes was fun. We quickly picked up all the wrappers and cans scattered all over the place. Plenty of jokes were cracked with respect to the alcohol bottles like ‘Bhai dekh le thoda bacha hain ya nahi’, ‘Yaar Magic Moments kaun peeta hain! In logon ka koi choice hi nahi hain’…and so on and so forth. We took several before/after photos of the places we cleaned. We got few scratches here and there and felt like wounded yet proud soldiers! Soon first level of cleaning was done and now it was time to go deeper into the battle field. 
By this time we again started to feel a little low on energy. Most of us ventured into the thorny bushes and were surprised to see huge amount of garbage inside the bushes! We cursed, ‘kachra fekne ke liye yehi jagah mila tha in kamino ko?’ (An extremely polite version of what we had actually said :P). Anyway, we cleaned it up slowly. Just when I thought I had finished cleaning up a particular place, I found several new plastics lying a few feet away. I went into the bushes again, cleaned it up, looked on the left, same view of colourful wrappers, cleaned it up, looked on left, same view, cleaned again, looked again, same again, cleaned, looked, same, cleaned, looked, same…aaaand I lost my temper!
How could people do this? Don’t they have any common sense? Beep beep. What am I doing? Am I beep beep? People will never understand. People will never change. People are beep beep. Garbage will keep on increasing. Should we keep on cleaning garbage for the rest of our lives then?? What the beep!! Is this the solution? Is there any guarantee that people won’t throw garbage from tomorrow onwards? Why am I doing this? Why should I clean other’s trash? Why didn’t I watch PK today? I’m such a big beeeeep!!!
Hundreds of questions were hitting me. I felt tired, dirty, thirsty, hungry and angry at the same time. So I decided to take a break and enjoy the view for some time. Nobody was cracking jokes anymore. I could feel the beep-beep going on inside everyone’s mind. I turned my head to the other side, and the view was spectacular as always! I have always loved the poles at the peak. Memories of previous Skandagiri treks flashed in my mind- the kung-fu poses and other balancing acts on the poles, hilarious dumb-charades sessions, never ending jokes around the camp fire etc. My mood uplifted, I felt better and calm. I looked at others. Even though they didn’t look happy, they were still silently and patiently cleaning up. And, the peak now looked really REALLY clean! 
Suddenly out of nowhere, a new series of thoughts appeared in my mind– “If everybody felt the same way I did and stopped cleaning, what would happen? Would Skandagiri really become Kachragiri? Who would clean up the place? Somebody has to. Somebody should. Why not us? Why not me? Yes, half of the people are beep-beep and they will continue to throw trash but, what about the remaining half who calls themselves ‘nature lovers’? If we do nothing about it aren’t we beep-beep’s too? May be this is not the final solution to this never-ending problem. May be tomorrow there will be fresh stock of garbage. But at least, we have removed a major chunk of it. Had we not done this, the garbage would have doubled or tripled. It is not possible to clean up 8 years of trash in few hours. It’s a painfully looong process where apart from cleaning, we need to spread awareness, use dust bins at some places, come up with other new ideas to deal with the problem. It’s a long, long process. And today, it’s the beginning of that long long process…
Drowned in fresh waves of positive energy, I went back and started cleaning up the remaining places. Soon we ran out of bags and decided to call it a day. One by one we tied up the bags properly and started the downward journey. With no water and a huge gunny bag, it was my toughest descent ever. The places along the trail where we had spotted trash earlier were now absolutely clean. We knew Team 3 had done a superb job! And finally, we reached the base. It was such a happy and dirty moment for BTC!
After washing our hands for like 7 times, we had lunch followed by cake cutting (BTC B’day, remember), regular and irregular varieties of chips, soft drinks in chai cups and lots and lots of photos with 250 kgs of hard earned garbage (total 35 bags).
Now as I said, cleaning up Mother Nature is a long long process. It cannot be done by you, me or BTC alone. It has to be a collective effort. And that my friend, is the ulterior motive behind writing this blog. On behalf of all nature lovers and BTC, my sincere request is that you (yes, you!) join this movement and spread the awareness. It does not matter whether you are a part of BTC. As long as you love nature and consider yourself to be a responsible citizen, please do not throw garbage at random places. Please. 
In the coming days BTC is going to organize several clean-up events and your presence would be highly appreciated. I am 100% sure that a time will come when you will go through the same ‘beep beep’ phase I had gone through. And when that happens, take a deep breath and relax. Do not stop yourself there. Remind yourself that you belong to the other side. Remind yourself that you (yes, you!) vote for Skandagiri and not Kachragiri!

Written By     : Sreemoyee
Organized By : Channa & Virander
Date of event : 4th Jan, 2015 (BTC's 2nd Anniversary)
Place             : Skandagiri
Photos           BTC Facebook
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