Bengaluru-based Sandeep Anirudhan in 2016 created Aikyam, a volunteer-driven community that aims to find practical solutions to living sustainably in an urban setup.
How does one live sustainably in an urban area? What does it mean to be sustainable while leading an urban lifestyle? What constitute as earth-friendly choices in such a set-up?
Aiming to answer these questions and find practical solutions to living sustainably in an urban setup, Sandeep Anirudhanstarted Aikyam, a volunteer-driven community.
Making the shift
Sandeep began to realise the impact and gravity of his lifestyle after a painful experience. This made him realise what Thoreau summed up aptly about man’s folly and his unsustainable habits that have put earth in peril.
Sandeep, who calls himself a student of sustainability, experienced a period of introspection. He asked himself: “What is really valuable to me and my life? Do I know it? Have I been pursuing them?”
The answers were quite unsettling.
Sandeep, an economics graduate from St. Joseph's College, Bengaluru, chased the dream of being an entrepreneur for almost a decade.
My father’s death proved to be a catalyst in many ways. I had already been seeking ways to reconnect, and this incident accelerated that search! I started to reconnect to everything around me, to the planet, to the universe, to my inner self and more.
Soon, he quit his corporate job in Dubai and returned to India to live with his mother.
“This presented itself as an opportunity to take a break, and to re-examine my priorities. I set out on several explorations, both outwards and inwards. I developed spiritual friends who directed me to introspect on my time on earth,” Sandeep says.
Sandeep, who kept getting drawn into issues of sustainability, chanced upon Bhoomi College in Bengaluru. The college served as a centre for learning for those who wish to walk on green paths, and those who wished to live with an ecological consciousness and achieve personal fulfillment. He went onto do a course on sustainable food and farming.
“The course was less about food and farming, more how we see things and what the reality is. It helped me recognise the disconnect that seems to have affected us, in all areas of our life,” he says. “During this program, I learnt to look under the skin, and recognise the ‘disconnects’ that drive our unsustainable lifestyle, and then connect the dots, on how it could be sustainable again,” Sandeep adds.
After the course, Sandeep began to ponder how to bring his sense of realisation to reality. The first thing that came to mind was to create awareness among citizens about the current environmental crisis. He wanted to devise a platform that would discuss the choices we make as individuals and would begin a discussion on actively leading a sustainable life in an urban setup. All this culminated into the setting up of Aikyam in March 2016.
On March 12, 2016, Aikyam held its first event - Earth Friendly Choices. Speakers on different areas of sustainability were invited for this.
It was instantly popular, especially since it addressed diverse subjects such as food, handloom and gardening. This set the mould for events of the future and we have always had diverse topics at every event to drive home the message firmly that sustainability is ‘about everything’, Sandeep says.
A series of workshops explored ways of living in balance with the planet and helped urban folk explore how they can work on “being at one” with everything, and choose to care, belong and sustain each other. The very first event began with a session on gardening skills to help dwellers grow their own food in their backyards.
Further events followed in the form of talks and discussions. Experts and citizens came together for discussions on sustainability, storytelling sessions, awareness on food and lifestyle, horticulture workshops, stories of urban sustainability, ways to preserve lakes and green spaces, waste management and fair trade practices.
We organised ourselves as a Facebook community and discussion group. In a year, it has grown to over 2,000 seekers, and 400 plus enthusiastic volunteers registered.
“Before we knew it, we were near our first anniversary. We realised International Women’s Day was around the corner and thought ‘why not celebrate the anniversary with an ode to women in sustainability’? Why? Because, in the course of this journey, we had noticed that a majority of the champions in sustainability efforts happen to be women. What better way to celebrate itthan to devote an edition of Earth Friendly Choices, to celebrating Women in Sustainability?”Sandeep says.
The event showcased 17 women who have gone against the grain and worked towards preserving the earth. These change agents were instrumental in building more sensitive neighborhoods and communities.
“Their remarkable life journeys, inspirations, brilliant insights and dreams enthralled and inspired everyone,” Sandeep says.
The most regular event is the Earth Friendly Choices series that takes place on the second Saturday of every month, at Atta Galatta. Aikyam brings experts on all areas of life to provide insights on how to be sustainable in the choices urban dwellers make.
Aikyam also organises outbound activities to sites that deal with cultivation, sustainable construction and organic farming, so members can gain a better understanding of leading an alternate lifestyle. They’re hoping – as we all are – for a sustainable future.
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