“I am sorry… Tried my best and I failed… Forgive me my ocean and my country.” With these words, Afroz Shah suspended the Varsova-beach-clean-up drive 110 weeks after he first started it… Alone, that was!

But, has Afroz really failed?

Not in my view. 

To me, Afroz is a winner… an inspiration… a true hero.

I have always believed in Afroz’s kind of initiative, his kind of ‘social change’. “Don’t ask what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country.” I was in ninth standard when I came across these inspiring words of JFK’s speech in our English text book. This was how Mahatma Gandhi, (Afroz’s inspiration) carried out his mighty movement of social change: “Be the change you wish to see in this world”… Yes, don’t wait for the authorities and others to do it. You do it… Start from you and others will join you. This was precisely how Mother Teresa went about carrying out her mammoth mission: “I alone cannot change the world; but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Actually, almost all of us wish to contribute towards the social change. But, then, we have no clue how to go about it… where to start from. We look at the problems before us and simply get numb: “We just can’t solve these problems,” this is how we react, feeling overwhelmed by the abnormity of the problems. That’s when a hero like Afroz enters with a simple message: “Do what is possible… what is within your reach.” Stephen covey had put across this message through his famous phrase - ‘Be Proactive’. The habit of being proacitve, according to him, was one of the seven habits of highly effective people… Focus on the area within your reach. The more you focus on this area, your power of influence grows…

And, that’s how young Afroz, a High Court lawyer and his 84-year-old neigbour, Mr. Mathur, went about cleaning up the colossal mess piled up on the Varsova beach which was right outside their windows They bent down and started picking up the plastic mess first, on that Sunday, in July 2015… and a sea of about 1,500 volunteers slowly and steadily swelled around them over the next 109 weeks – in the process, inspiring the world around and igniting authorities. It, certainly, could not be an easy road as they did not rely upon any political or institutional support. In fact, Afroz is unique, because he simply does not believe in complaining, blaming and accusing. He simply doesn’t believe in doing things for ‘show’ or some ‘mileage’… He believes in doing what is within his reach and doing it well…

One afternoon, a man was walking along a beach. The water had receded due to low tide and thousands of tiny starfish lay there on the hot beach-bed. As he walked, the man bent down, picked a starfish, took a few steps forward towards the sea and gently hurled it into the sea… He kept doing it one starfish after another.

Another man, who was watching this, was amused. “My friend, there are thousands of those starfish lying on this beach,” he said, “Tell me, what difference does your act make?”

The man bent down, picked another starfish, took a few steps forward towards the sea, and replied with a smile as he gently sent back the starfish to its home, “It does make a difference to this one.”

The starfish on the beach in this story and plastic mess on the Varsova beach… yes, to me, they are only the metaphors of what you and I – as ordinary individuals – can or cannot do to ‘make a difference’ in this world…

So, dear Afros, you have not ‘tried and failed’… You have ‘tried and succeeded’… You have cast the stone across the waters and created ripples, as Mother Teresa said…

And, yes, as your idol, Mahatma Gandhi, said, you have been that change you wished to see – ‘THE COCONUT LAGOON’ - outside your own window!


Pics. and Video: CNN-News 18


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