One with nature, mountains and words
Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Ushaprabha Page, Batch 2000-01
Humans of Ecological Society Pune
Over the last 40 years, 76-year-old Ushaprabha Page has been helping people make friends with nature through journalism, mountaineering, involvement in multiple NGOs, and her sheer enthusiasm for life. The time she spent learning at Ecological Society, and her association with ES founder Prakash Gole, only served to amplify her environmentally conscious lifestyle.
The 2000-01 batch was officially the first batch of Ecological Society’s course Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and Nature Conservation, where Usha tai and her seven batchmates got a new vision towards the 'भवताल', the surrounding. Since the course had just begun, she remembers it being more fluid. It was Usha tai’s friend who introduced Prakash Gole and his wife Dr Swati Gole to Chakrata, which became part of the field visits for the course. Usha tai was among the group of people who visited Chakrata for the first time with Gole sir.
Through the entire course, Gole sir showed them the connections between nature and economy. She remembers how he used to be updated about everything, and how his teaching was never one-sided. “He had multiple intelligences - he understood birds, animals, ecology, environment, and he had a good understanding of economics,” said Usha tai.
The batch visited a beautiful waterfall when they had gone to Bhimashankar. The students climbed down to reach it, while Mr Gole sat at the top. Usha tai reminisces, “I can still see him sitting at the top with an umbrella. He was a personality in himself.”
By the time she and her daughter joined the Ecological Society course for the 2000-01 batch, she had been regularly discussing environmental issues on Akashwani, Pune. Usha tai, a Ranade Institute alumnus worked in All India Radio for over 37 years, and was the station director in the last 17 years of service. In a time when the Agriculture University, Pune and most farming experts focused on chemical agriculture, Usha tai brought natural farming to her listeners. The Ranade Institute alumnus retired as the director of Akashwani, Pune. All through her tenure, and even since, Usha tai has used traditional media platforms like the radio and newspaper to speak about environmental issues. You will still find her articles in the Marathi daily Loksatta.
Meanwhile, she believes that the media is not doing enough to highlight environmental issues. “Many journalists today are not even aware of these issues, they don’t know what the real problem is. So there are no ways to verify what reporters or writers are writing - the newspapers print everything! All journalists must learn about the ecology.”
Usha tai’s latest book "निसर्ग मैत्री - चिरंतनाकडे नेणारी वाट is a compilation of her articles about over 25 women who have spent their lives working on environmental issues. She writes lucidly about Rachel Carson, Sunita Narain, Vandana Shiva, Pune’s Shailaja Deshpande and Aditi Deodhar, and other inspiring women.
Usha tai believes that women have a very important role to play since they are more concerned about the environment than men. She says firmly, “The environment will be safer in women’s hands. No one can understand the connection between livelihood and sustainability more than women because they are the ones raising children. Politics and policy-making need women, and when that happens, we will have a better Earth.” Usha tai is also an active mountaineer. Her love for mountaineering began when she was 26, at a time when it was a male-dominated adventure. But this gender imbalance was of no concern for her; she knew immediately that this strenuous activity was her cup of tea. She has since climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2017, been a part of over 12 mountaineering expeditions, climbed into the Himalaya ranges multiple times, and scoured the Sahyadris. Even while talking about mountaineering, Usha tai is mindful of the need to minimise the impact on nature. She is actively involved in mountaineering activities for children as well as adults which mix mountaineering with awareness about and friendship with nature. All these activities are done through the club she established with her friends in 1982, called Giripremi. She also established the Nandu Page Smruti Granthalay, a library in the memory of her late husband, which now has over 5,000 books on mountaineering. You can visit the library at Giripremi, Asmita Apartment, Apte Road, Pune - 04. Usha tai’s love for mountaineering inadvertently brought her closer to nature. Along with writing and mountaineering, Usha tai is one of the founder members of Jeevitnadi, the Pune-based river research and action organisation.
While living as simply as she can, Usha tai accepts that it is difficult to minimise one’s ecological footprint while living in the city. She says, “If you have to deal with the modern society, it is difficult (to maintain a low footprint). People must look at their lifestyle consciously and decide how much they must increase their needs. But ultimately, nature takes its own course, it takes care of itself. Humans won’t survive, nature will.” Even then, Usha tai continues her writing, mountaineering and volunteering.
Photos: Tushar Sarode