By: Radhakrishnan S, Freelance Cinematographer & Volunteer of Anala

Going back two decades, he and a few friends used to gather during weekends and go cycling to Gandhinagar from Ahmedabad. These outings in the nature made him realize his liking for nature and Environment. He quit his job and did his Post graduate studies in Development Communication and also a post graduate diploma in Environment Studies from Delhi.

In 1985, there was a proposal to build a five-star hotel inside a lush green municipal park opposite the Ellisbridge Gymkhana. Those were the days of moral resentments and he being a member of the ‘angry young men’s group, could not tolerate the idea that the authorities have allowed some private businessmen to destroy the small pool of greenery and the biodiversity that it sustains, in the middle of the city, for a five-star hotel which can be built anywhere else as well. The youngsters put their heads together, roped in some like-minded people and sought the help of a few voluntary organizations to fight tooth and nail against the proposal. Processions, slogan shouting, demonstrations, leaflet distribution… they tried all the tricks they knew. To cut a long story short, the hotel-proposal was dropped. At the end, the Nature won the battle. And we these youngsters lead by Madhu could enjoy the taste of success.

To keep up the efforts, to prepare for such struggles in the future, and wanting to spread the mantra of environment conservation among their friends and the general public in all parts of the country, he and his friends formed Ahmedabad Nature Lovers’ Association(ANALA). For the purpose of legal validity, it was later registered ANALA as a Trust and a Charitable Society”.

In India, it is no secret that there are a number of so called voluntary organizations working in the field of environment education, formed for the exclusive purpose of collecting grants and donations from all possible sources. ANALA, as a matter of policy does not apply for grants from any funding agencies or the government. It even declines donations from individuals. The aim was to incorporate true Voluntary culture and has successfully inspired people from various walks of life like Students, Professionals, Doctors, Teachers, Journalists, and Government employees etc to join the environment awareness movement as volunteers. The idea was to target the youngsters to inculcate the values of saving and protecting the Nature that is disappearing at a very rapid pace.

For the three two decades, ANALA is a familiar name to leading schools of Ahmedabad and other cities of the state of Gujarat. ANALA is popular among school students too. Those who participate in the camps of ANALA, return home with everlasting memories of the wild.

They learn to live in adverse climatic and physical conditions. In addition, they develop courage, self-reliance and qualities of leadership as a result of their camp participation.

Living in tents for one or two weeks devoid of all luxuries of city-life, sticking to a daily disciplined time-table and tuning to the melodious bird calls and the symphony of the crickets, you learn a lesson or two – lessons that are never taught in class rooms, lessons you can never learn by watching your favorite television programme.

You learn to love everything around you; the animate and the inanimate. The living and the nonliving. Unlike children who go on picnics, ANALA campers do not feel fatigued even after going through strenuous physical exercises like river crossing, repelling and rock climbing. Having had the opportunity to see Mother Nature eye to eye, having been in the lap of the Mother Nature, they return home with renewed confidence, with a boundless zest to protect this world from the negative forces, at any cost. Then, they share their experience of the new learning among their friends, parents, teachers, journalists and readers.

There are more than a thousand students now, who, after participating at ANALA’s nature education camps, spread the mantra of environment conservation among their friends and the general public in all parts of the country. Madhu Menon reckons this to be the most important achievement of ANALA.

Anyone who is interested can participate. However, He says that students of schools and colleges are the major target group. We have had eight-year olds to eighty-year-olds in our camps. If you have the will and the determination, almost everybody can do all activities that appear at first difficult and dangerous. Students join in groups organized through schools or colleges. Elders can make a small batch of 20-25 persons and participate in ANALA’s outdoor programmes.

Madhu says the outdoor Camps are conducted In various Geographical Environs, like, Hills & Mountains, Forests and Sea & Sea-shores, making it important in Understanding the importance and uniqueness of the flora and fauna of these different geographical regions.

There is a battalion of sincere volunteers and workers behind the popularity and success that ANALA enjoys today. Coaches who had advanced training in mountaineering, from reputed Mountaineering Institutes, friends from the fishermen community who have mastered the art of capturing fish, octopus and many other water animals without causing them harm, the forest dwellers who know the jungle trails and the moments of the wild animals.

Madhu Menon summarizes that his efforts with his band of Voulnteers would make a difference in the future. As the saying goes