“Everyone usually tries to get internships between the 10th and 11th grade to add to their résumé and I was no different. I started interning at an NGO called Swades and for the first few weeks I sat at my desk and assigned self help groups — it was boring and monotonous.
One weekend my colleague was going to a village called Khamgaon where our volunteers often visited and asked me to join him…I immediately agreed! When I went there, I was blown away. The students I met were intelligent, educated and motivated but their confidence was at an all time low because they didn’t know English— they felt small and inferior. Something in me shifted and I decided that I wanted to make a change — these were people from my country who were so ashamed, all because they didn’t know English…I felt responsible to do something for them; for a better India… no matter how small the step was.
I reached Bombay and asked the CEO of Swades to let me go, stay in their village and attempt to teach them English. She said she’d never done something like that before…but she wanted to give me a shot. I reached Khamgaon without any other volunteer from Swades and stayed with a local family who welcomed me with open arms. It’s like what you see in the movies… — houses made of cow dung, a walk to draw water from the well, green fields and exceptionally tasty chapattis.
Swades had a sewing class for women at the centre, so I made it a point to go there the day I arrived and tell these women that I was here to teach them and their children English. I then went door to door, introduced myself in Marathi and tried to break the ice. The first few days I started off with one student, then two but one week later the entire sewing class of women showed up to learn English! Slowly but steadily I had 3 different batches running through the day — of little children, women and college students. Everyday, I would think of new ways to challenge them, to teach them and to help them string sentences together word by word. A few weeks later, when I was at the market I overheard two of my sewing women students talking about which vegetables to buy…in English! I was delighted!
Everyday after I would return home and help Naitri Tai make dinner, my little students would come to me with questions… ‘Didi, how can I use this noun? or ‘What does this word mean?’ — they were thirsty for knowledge and I was thrilled that I could be the one to give it to them.
I didn’t realise when 2 months passed, but on my last day the entire village came together to give me a ‘bidai’. They planted two trees in my name, but the gift I got afterwards was one I’ll never forget all my life. My little students came in front of the audience and gave me a farewell speech…in close to accurate English! The last line they said was, ‘Thank you Didi, for changing our life’ and ’till today, I get goosebumps every time I think about it.”
Even at 76, Pradip Burman, the zestful chairman of Mobius Foundation radiates a contagious enthusiasm when he is talking about sustainability. The environmental crusader, better known to many as the great-grandson of Dabur founder Dr S.K.Burman, has devoted substantial attention towards promoting the concept of sustainability in all aspects of life. He refuses to conform to the convenience and comfort in today’s world which ultimately adds on to the adverse effects of climate change.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Burman emphasised why sustainability as a concept is indispensable for us. “We ought to be aware of what lies ahead of us. Soon we will finish the oil, iron, tin, and coal, and our next generations will be left with nothing. Recycling, banning plastics, stop felling trees for paper… This should become a part of everyone’s lifestyle,” he urges.
Traditional wisdom and modern research
A mechanical engineer from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, Burman had always nurtured a keen interest in helping the society, as evident from his graduation project of designing a sonic aid for the visually challenged, which detected obstacles in the way using ultrasonic wave signals.
As an executive for the nature-centric company Dabur, Burman has always opted for natural alternatives to solve his everyday problems like taking Ayurvedic medicine to cure his Arthritis. He later launched the veterinary wing for Dabur – Ayurvet – which provides nature-friendly solutions for animal health care.
A patron of the ancient scientific wisdom of India, Burman always hailed the confluence of “traditional knowledge and modern research”, which he advocated as the Ayurvet motto.
As part of the CSR initiative of Dabur, Pradip Burman founded SUNDESH (Sustainable Development Society) which has been tirelessly working for last 25 years in remote villages for uplifting the rural communities in an environmentally sustainable way.
An advocate of sustainability
Burman believes that sustainability is the indispensable mantra for the world at present. Due to uncontrolled utilisation of the planet’s resources by human beings, the world today stands at a juncture of destabilisation. Today the human race has reached the pinnacle of progress but the advancement is happening in a very unsustainable manner.
Through energy-efficient use of everyday essentials like transport, communication, altered habits of diet, clothing and daily living, some crusaders of sustainability try to reduce their carbon footprint. Pradip Burman’s Mobius Foundation is one of the forerunners toward sustainability goals.
Mobius Foundation aims to change the sustainability dynamics
In 2015, Burman paved the way for the start of Mobius Foundation, focused on sustainability. Named after 18th-century German mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius, the famous Mobius strip has an important philosophical significance. The extraordinary shape symbolises balance and union.
Similar is the essence of Mobius Foundation which wishes to enhance the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” principle to a widespread basis in India, helping generations to come.
Founder Pradip Burman wishes to achieve notable development in education, population stabilisation and renewable energy projects.
A dream school in the making
At Coorg, Pradip Burman’s Mobius Foundation is constructing the World Environment School, Coorg (WESc) where the curriculum will surpass the boundaries of books and classrooms, with a special focus on hands-on learning in close collaboration with the environment. Amidst the pristine natural beauty of Coorg, the school will nurture young minds to grow up into future green leaders. As of now, the school will be open to teenagers, welcoming students from standards 6 to 12.
Needless to say, World Environment School will be the first-of-its-kind not only in India but also in entire South Asia. The school is expected to start from March 2020.
The school promises to nurture the responsible behaviour of citizens of our future.
The Sustainability Conference of 2019
In 2019, the Mobius Foundation has planned an international conference, on the lines of the celebrated earth summits over the past decade. The 2019 International Conference on Sustainability Education (ICSE 2019) aims to bring together environmental activists, practitioners of sustainable development as well as climate change experts to help develop a sustainability-focused curriculum.
It is surmised that the conference will give a platform to innovative concepts of Sustainability Education including an essential change in the existing education system ensuring a wholesome personal development for a student.
The Sustainability crusader
The Mobius founder strongly believes that it is high time to sprout sustainability awareness among a society drowning in consumerism and unknowingly doing irreparable harm to the planet, every second. The best way to achieve this goal is through education which is available to all. At present, the education system is predominantly career-oriented, making the learners a victim of materialism, and thus, their dreams are also outlined in those colours.
Living beyond the limits
When asked about his wish to attain the age of hundred, he strongly asserts that more than becoming a centurion, he wishes his life and work continue to better the society even in his absence. “I have lived my life. I wish that whatever I start before I go, will continue – for the betterment of my country,” says Mr Pradip Burman.
He is also a trustee of the Climate Reality Project – India (affiliated to Mr. Al Gore of the Climate Reality Project Foundation, USA). Climate Reality Project, India, has been actively engaged igniting the spark and spreading the message of climate change amongst educators, policy makers and civil society. The India branch looks after more than 500 trained Climate Leaders, and more than 900 volunteers spread all over the country.
In his journey, Pradip Burman has been a beacon of hope for millions, motivating many to join the movement for sustainability. We wish he continues his tireless efforts for promoting sustainability awareness and inspire generations to come.