The empty nest syndrome, a phenomenon in which parent’s experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home, affects different people in different ways. For Renu Gupta (63), a resident of Delhi, her children moving on to set up their own lives meant more time on hand to devote to causes she believed in.
Over the last decade and a half, she has silently worked towards transforming little pockets of spaces into beautiful green patches near her home in Delhi. When I asked her why she keeps going, she says, “It’s so much fun – to see this transformation come alive right before me.”
A will to make a difference
We, at The Better India, often write about administrative officers who have done phenomenal work in transforming a river, or even in cleaning up a district. Renu is an example of how one need not occupy any position of power to make a difference. She says, “Early on I would drive around and identify a particular spot that was in desperate need of a clean-up or just some sprucing up. I would get down to it and start the work. Before I knew it, people would gather around and offer help. This is how I have carried on for all these years.”
While she makes it sound terribly easy, her daughter, and perhaps one of her loudest cheerleaders says, “She works terribly hard. Not one to give up easily, if she has decided on getting something done, she will rest only when completed.” Adding to this, Rashi says that even the coronavirus pandemic has not slowed her down. “One big reason why I sometimes get miffed with her is because of how she wants to continue her work through the pandemic,” Rashi adds.
A dirty, empty plot that needed some work
“I often visit the Nanak Piao Sahib Gurudwara in North Delhi and while once inside it is always peaceful and clean, the sight just outside was not so pleasing to the eyes,” says Renu. One thing that you will always find if you were to peep into Renu’s car are various tools to help her clean-up and start planting saplings. “I started by approaching the Gurudwara committee and asked if I could clean-up and take charge of the area,” says Renu.
Once she got the go-ahead from the committee, there was no stopping her. With her trusted aide, her maali (gardener) and driver for company, Renu set up on mission clean-up. “With the independent charge given to me, working became so much easier. In about five months, we were able to completely transform the area.
We used materials that were readily available to us or things that people I knew were happy to donate,” she says.
Here’s a look before the transformation.
A storm in Delhi that had led to a huge neem tree falling helped because the barks were then used in the plot. “Another neighbour was getting some renovation work done at home and had some spare tiles, which they happily gave us. So, bit by bit, we collected materials and worked,” she says. Putting in her own money, Renu took on the work of changing the area.
“It looks like a lot of money has gone into all this, but honestly, it all just came together,” she says.
Here’s how it looks now.
“I do not feel old or weak, ever, only because I have so many things to do,” she says, as we conclude our chat.
If you wish to make a difference, the only way to go about it is by doing the work. Renu is a stellar example of that.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)