Interview with Primla Hingorani
Deepika: I first met 75-year old Primla Hingorani, at a beach clean up at Versova Beach in Mumbai. She introduced herself to me as Aunty 72 because that’s when she opened her Facebook account!
The clean ups were started by Afroz Shah in 2015 and has been recognised as one of the biggest in the world. She is one of the long-time volunteers.
What struck me that first time I met her was her energy- it was infectious. Beach clean ups are physically challenging work but there she was with everyone else, sleeves rolled up, picking up waste. In the two hour duration of the clean up, she had young people come up to her to take selfies, regulars going up to have a chat. Watching her, I was curious to know what brings her out for these clean ups.
Convinced that I had to meet her again, we exchanged phone numbers. When I was trying to schedule a meeting though I realised just how packed her schedule is—she runs marathons, goes dancing, volunteers to teach children. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Having finally found a spot in her diary, I got a chance to ask my questions.
So here’s Aunty 72.
Primla: This is Primla Hingorani now well known as Aunty 72. All senior citizens who have retired and are having good health they should come out of the house and volunteer for the good cause. I was staying very close to the beach. My house was just opposite Versova Beach and that time it was quite dirty.
It is more than three years that I’ve been with Afroz Shah and my first experience when I saw him himself cleaning I said, oh my God if he can do it, why can’t I? So I started on that moment only I started cleaning Versova beach. We were all scattered all over Versova beach which is more than 3-4 kilometres in the length. And now in three four years I have seen so much change that I am not going to take a backseat.
And now he has involved so many people all over India: students, college students and so many banks are also involved, corporate volunteers also involved. So I love to be with them. I get to learn so many things from these youngsters. So I feel proud that my health is permitting me so that’s one reason I am with them.
My family always supported me because they knew my children are married now. My husband is sometimes with me and sometimes he wants to be away on his own work. So I never had any opposition from my family, but my friends some of them, I don’t want to name anybody, they keep criticising even today: yeh hamara kam nahi hai. This is not your job to do at this age and then you have better things to do. But I feel no – everybody has to give something back to the society. So I’m one of them. If they want to come they are most welcome to join.
Any level these kind of cleanliness is going to make a difference. Youngsters are going to learn, Elders are going to learn, students are anyway learning, working class is learning and seeing other people doing it you get tempted – if she can do it, why can’t I? So it’s like a chain now. We have formed a chain to clean all the beaches in Bombay.
Youngsters keep pampering me, I swear I love the pampering and I get flattered. When youngsters they see me, so they they feel: Oh my god, if aunty can do why can’t we do it? So it’s one way of inspiring youngsters and sometimes they don’t allow me to go in the water or near the water. So I look after their belonging that is also one kind of volunteering I do. Or I offer them water or offer them tea which Afroz Shah sponsors. So I enjoy doing that also. It is a volunteering. Taking care of the volunteers who are really doing a dirty job to make India better place to live.
I would tell everybody just like you want to look beautiful yourself. Like I am but looking beautiful at 74 + 1 or 72 + 3. I want everybody to make India beautiful. It is better India that we are working towards. We should not leave dirty India for the future generations. Just like these Metro lines are coming up, it is for the future. So now Afroz Shah has started such a good work. We should support him and it’s not supporting Afroz Shah, we supporting our own self to live in the clean atmosphere and clean environment.
I wish everybody gives one hour every day for exercise to remain fit and one hour everyday for cleanliness. We do cleaning of our own house. Why can’t we clean the outside? I wish that I see beautiful India when I breath my last.
Deepika: One hour every day. When she puts it like that, it pares down what taking action and community participation looks like. What is so inspiring about her is that she embodies change. Her status as a senior citizen is something she wears easily, and it attracts young people to her because innately, she displays a certain youthfulness of manner. Here’s to you and your ilk, Aunty 72 and we hope it attracts many more to join clean-ups and keep the ocean safe.
Outro: If you found this episode interesting, do share it with your communities. To join clean ups in your city, visit our website http://www.thecuriocitycollective.org for a list of people and groups who are leading efforts to reconnect with our natural world in Mumbai and in other cities.
In our next episode, we’ll travel to Bangalore to meet the Founder of Daily Dump, Poonam Bir Kasturi, who is working to change the way we engage with waste and to point to solutions we can start with today.