July 24, 2017

For years my mother had been haranguing me to take her to the world-famous Lalbagh Flower Show. I am certain it started with gentle requests and pleading in the earlier years. But for far too long I had heard that it was over crowded and always had a ready excuse not to take her!

Then one fine day, August 15, 2015 I gave in, much to her delight, and I set-off, driver, Mom and my 6-year-old son in tow. The moment we arrived at the gates of Lalbagh, from the Double Road entrance, my mood changed from an indulgent daughter to a crabby Bhadrakali. There weren’t proper directions as to where to park; people kept saying ‘main gate’, but where was the main gate? There was no signage or parking anywhere - only loads of people creating jams and pleading endlessly with authorities to let them in to park in areas that were no parking zones.

Garbage
Bengaluru generates 3,500 tonnes of garbage everyday.

My suggestion to turn back was quickly ignored and we found the Main Gate – got our tickets and entered the gardens. Greeted with beautiful flower arrangements, we saw beds of delightful blossoms sharing equal space with plastic bottles, discarded straws, paper and plastic packets, Tetrapaks…the place was a mess to say the least.  

As we entered the Glass House which was teeming with people, I caught a lady throwing a used paper plate on the ground, and something snapped inside me. I told her curtly to pick it up and pointed her towards one of the hundreds of overflowing garbage bins. 

While Mom decided to brave the swarms of people and loud vendors to buy garden supplies with our driver, my son and I headed towards the bonsai garden. 

 

Bonsai Garden
The lily pond overflowing with used mineral water bottles.

That visit changed my life! At the entrance of the garden was a huge pile of rotting fruits and vegetables, mixed with all other non-biodegradable garbage. I found at least one pile of garbage that was 5-ft tall (the reason I know that is because that’s how tall I am). As my son and I strolled towards the center of the bonsai garden we found a little lotus or lily pond, with floating mineral water bottles. I had finally had enough. So, I enlisted my little boy’s help and got to cleaning the pond. I cannot say the public was helpful, neither was my plunging neckline, so there were some hoots and general ridicule but we ploughed on. An old guard came to stop us but when he realised what we were doing he let us do our job. 

 

Beautiful Bengaluru
Aparna Ponnappa (left) & Odette Katrak of #BeautifulBengaluru are on a mission to clean-up the city.

 

That was the start of our journey towards cleaning up Lalbagh. We have a very long way to go but we have now been working for nearly two years with the authorities to get the park clean, green and safe. I will be sharing more stories on this over the coming weeks…but our journey to make Bangalore Beautiful has to start with what I can do and not what you or someone else must do!       

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Aparna Ponnappa
Text and Images by Aparna Ponnappa

 

Aparna Ponnappa heads leadership consultancy REDD Network and is co-founder of #BeautifulBengaluru, an initiative that works on a clean, green, safe Bengaluru agenda.

Featured Image Credit: Asha Thadani