I connected Kathak with my concern for the environment: Arushi Nishank
Environmentalist, Kathak dancer and social activist Arushi Nishank, who is also the daughter of India's current Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, spoke about the Sparsh Ganga campaign, her interest in protecting environment and how rural women made Khadi masks in Covid-19 times in an Ek Mulakat session organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation and presented by Shree Cement. India Blooms correspondent Souvik Ghosh brings excerpts of the conversation
Would like to know how the Sparsh Ganga campaign started and grew over the years?
We had started in 2009 but not with not a very big number. The initiative had started in the beautiful valleys of Uttarakhand with the grace of Hema Malini (Indian actress-turned BJP MP), Dalai Lama (monk) and many of the dharam gurus (religious leaders). It had started with the pure concern about the environment, rivers, trees and the small things which we see but do not thank in our life everyday. Up till now, we have more than five lakh people associated with the Sparsh Ganga not only in India but in more than five countries also.
What is the unique thing about Sparsh Ganga?
The one thing which makes it different from other initiatives is that it has a weekly Sunday cleaning drive. The drive is never stopped because of flood or excessive heat (for any reason she meant). A lot of people go to Ganga and all its tributaries for the drive.
Tell us about the initiative of Sparsh Ganga of mass distribution of Khadi masks?
A normal human has a tendency to see a half glass either filled or empty. So me and my Sparsh Ganga team personally decided that in the Covid-19 time, we will be going to choose a positive attitude to look into the situation and help people. Khadi is a symbol of Gandhiji’s self-reliance and is environmentally friendly and in tune with the spirit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. Thousands of rural women who made these masks developed skills and are gainfully employed.
How can people support the environment during Covid-19 times?
First we should keep our families and the country safe by staying indoors and by maintaining social distance protocols. Second, we should conserve water. There is a water crisis looming over 22 cities in the country. About 70 percent of water used is wasted which we should find ways of conserving and utilising in a proper way like watering plants and so on.
You have also choreographed Ganga Avataran. How did that happen?
It's a very interesting fact that one inherits few things while some are developed from the environment and nature. So from my family values, we have always been very creative. I would be glad to take forward the literature and creative aspects of my parents and this is what exactly happened to me. I am a Kathak exponent and I have performed in more than 15 countries.
My thoughts always revolve around the environment and being a girl from Uttarakhand, it is my moral responsibility, than anyone else, to protect it. So that is how I had connected my two passions- Kathak and concern for environment- together. That is how we have created a Kathak Ballet which is called Ganga Avataran which was showcased in many countries.