When 36-year-old Shine Varghese's car zooms past you on the road, it is hard to miss a poster stuck on the car's rear windshield that reads: "Shut down industries that discharge effluents to water bodies."
In the last two months since his black Wagon R has been displaying the poster, there has been innumerable instances when he was "chased" and stopped by people, asking him to explain the reason for the poster.
Shine, a native of Cherthala in Alappuzha district works at Infopark in Kochi and covers the 50 km distance from his home to work by car. Having realised that he has been spending considerable time on the road, Shine decided to make use of his four-wheeler to spread awareness on keeping the water bodies clean.
"For the past nine years that I have been working in Kochi, I have always driven to work. And what best way than to use my car to spread messages to people? If I post the same message on my Facebook profile, it would hardly reach a couple of my friends, who may or may not want to ponder over the thought. But as I drive on the highway everyday, I get to spread the message to people from across the state, who travel on the highway. And so decided to put up the poster sometime in March. I feel that this way, I am communicating much better," Shine tells The News Minute.
One of the pressing challenges that humankind now faces is the availability of clean drinking water, Shine points out. While people tend to discuss the need to conserve water when a crisis hits, they end up forgetting about it once the crisis is resolved. The discussion re-surfaces, once the water crisis is back and it's an endless cycle, he says.
"We have so much water, but is not able to make use of it for drinking purposes because it is all contaminated. Take the case of Periyar in Ernakulam, the water from which, is used by so many people in the district. It’s one of the highly polluted rivers in the world, with industrial effluents being discharged in it year after year. We are all drinking poisonous water," Shine says.
While he believes that sewage and disposal of bio-degradable waste to the water bodies might not do much harm, he asserts that the harm done by polluting industries is irreversible.
Although Shine used to temporarily put up posters on the car on a range of social causes, this poster is set to stay for a couple of months.
The poster written in Malayalam
"I have been putting up posters with social messages on my car for quite sometime now. But that was in my individual capacity. But this cause, to save our water bodies, needs to be a larger campaign involving more people," Shine explains.
In the last two months, Shine has had to stop his car several times to address the questions of people. While some people give him a "thumbs up" sign as they over-take his car, some others would shout out their solidarity at a traffic signal.
Shine recalls an incident from a few weeks back, when commuters in an Innova car did their best to convey their support to his cause.
"It was night time and initially I did not notice people in the car waving at me. As they were over-taking my car, I saw that the person in the passenger seat had opened his laptop, written a line or two on his laptop congratulating me on the initiative and had held it up against the window so that I could read it. As we stopped at a signal, they acknowledged me," Shine says.
It is this kind of responses from the people from different ages and walks of life, that has Shine believing in the power of his initiative. He feels that while people in India do not generally engage in individual protests, it is an idea that should have more takers.
A campaign on Save Periyar, held in March this year
"In developed nations, we see that the people are willing to express their personal views and protest in their personal capacity. We don't generally see that here and I am trying to mobilise people," Shine says.
It is Shine's 6-year-old daughter Annamma who made the poster, Shina proudly shares. When Shine gave her the line to write, Annamma neatly wrote down the line in Malayalam.
"My thoughts on working for the environment evolved over time. A lot of how we treat the environment depends on how we are brought up. And I am trying to educate Annamma on the importance of conserving the environment," Shine says.