Peter Van Geit

Cleaning Adyar River on a Margali Morning!

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Does that headline sounds different from “Visiting Temple on a Margali(Considered to be Auspicious Tamil Month for early morning worship) Morning”? I will tell you why. When the alarm woke me up at 4:30 AM today morning, I wasn’t able to get up from bed due to severe cold and cough that got accumulated the previous night. My body sounded very tired with slight temperature and I had a thought that I would not be able to join the Adyar bank cleanup planned for this morning beside Surya Nagar Slum in Kotturpuram. Even though the body rested,my mind wasn’t asleep and wanting me to get going for the cleanup event on Adyar Banks. Finally that early morning “Bed to Bathroom Phobia” was won over and I was up around 5 AM and got ready to drive to Kotturpuram.

December breeze was chilling cold outside with empty roads, few early morning risers, few runners and very few cyclists flocking the OMR. I reached Kotturpuram Signal next to Anna Centenary library which was the assemble point and was all set for “Ainthinai-Chennai Trekking Club’s (CTC) 7th Phase of Adyar River bank cleanup beside Surya Nagar Slum” By the time I parked my bullet it was around 5:45 AM and was able to find group of CTC volunteers who were having tea and chatting in the Tea Shop opposite to the signal. We had 7-10 regular volunteers who have been representing themselves for all the cleanups planned after the recent Chennai floods by CTC with few new volunteers who joined the cleanup today. For the next 15 mins we had few more volunteers joining in and we were now a group of 20-25 people. We decided to move to the cleanup point which was approx. 600 Mts away from the signal via Ranjith Road. Reaching the Ferry road end we parked our cars,bikes and cycles on the banks of Mighty River Adyar (?).

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As we got down to get set our cleanup, morning sun was up slowly with dense fog, mixed with smoke from the garbage thrash that was set to fire by the locals.

It all started 5 weeks back when CTC’s founder Peter Van Geit along with CTC volunteers, started the cleaning and rehabilitation efforts at Surya Nagar Slum in Kotturpuram which got devastated by the recent floods as it was located very close to Adyar River bunds. We started to clean up the slum streets from the debris left over and now came till the Banks of Adyar river which got piled up with Polythene Papers, Thermocol, Clothes, House Hold items, Wooden and Leather wastes, Glass wastes, Electronic wastes, Human and Animal waste and what not. The water level on both sides of the river bund raised upto 12 feet high during the floods resulting in huge deposit of garbage debris making an unhealthy appeal of a perennial river with unfit conditions to live and breathe.

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What runs as Spine River of Chennai is the place of dirt and debris breeding mosquitoes and housefly’s. Adyar river is a classic example of how human race have exploited a perennial water source and made it unfit for any living organism to live aside and inside.

Our goal is to clean the 1 km stretch of Adyar river bund aside Surya Nagar Slum making it a model hamlet by deploying dustbins and implanting the cleanliness and nature friendly living among the community people who live there. Today’s cleanup was our 7th such consecutive cleanup effort which we conduct twice on week days. In the ongoing process of cleanup, CTC also has plans to develop a model plan to convert Surya Nagar Slum into a healthy rehabilitation setup ensuring a nature friendly and healthy living.

We had around 40 volunteers by now for whom the gloves and collection bags were distributed. I gave a short brief to the participants on the need, to clean this hamlet and updates on past cleanups. We ventured into the sloppy, dusty and debris filled banks of Adyar to pick up the garbage deposited and to pile it up to dispose it safe. The cleanup started sharp at 6 AM with lots of energy and enthusiasm.

Volunteers picked up the trash debris along the sloppy banks and lifted them up using collection bags to the bund road piling it up. As time passed, the local kids from Surya Nagar Slum joined us followed by their Mothers. This is the vital change we saw from Phase 5 of our clean up. The local community watched us for 4 times, 4 days and 5th time they came and took the gloves and thrash bags, started picking the deposits.This is the impact of change which we wanted to induce among the local community to let know them how important their environment is.

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Some of the volunteers went up, dipped their gloved hands inside the dirty black water and removed the polythene and debris which clogged the drainage water passage. We were able to make way for the stagnated water to flow free letting the drainage channel cleaned up.

Adyar-Cooum: The rivers which irrigated State of Madras and served as mode of transport during early 18th and 19th Century is now filled with debris and black deposits. River banks are considered to be the birth banks of Heritage and so are called as life lines of Human Civilisation. I am sure we all have had a chance to cross Adyar and Cooum Rivers on roads and yes we close our nose to avoid the dirty smell. Have we ventured closer to see how dirtier our Adyar is and more dirtier after the recent floods? The Mighty River equal to Thames of Great Britain has lost all Her purity and pristine due to Rapid Urbanisation and our Rush to so called Development (?!). Even after such devastating floods which over flow the Adyar-Cooum Stretch could not clean up and the water beds remain with dirt and breeding place for mosquitoes with mix of human and animal waste.

Venturing closer to Adyar and dipping the hands into dirt requires high spirits of “Selfless Volunteerism” and such volunteerism is a viral impact as one learns from other and one get inspired of other and inspires rest. That’s how today morning was. It was an ultimate exhibit and feel of high energy with bunch of volunteers who stood by Humanity and Care towards Our Environment.

At 7:30 AM sharp we were able to pile up half truck load of huge garbage debris with high sense of satisfaction and a satisfied feel of contribution towards humanity and environment which incomparable. At the end of today’s cleanup, we washed our hands and grabbed some quick cookie bites and  gathered together for a group snap and clapped hands for our today’s efforts.

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When we left the place we all could feel the thankfulness and gratitude of Surya Nagar people along with the Silent Smile and Thankfulness of Adyar River.

Please do participate in CTC’s efforts to contribute just 90 Mins of your early morning on week-days so that we see the shine and smile of People and Environment.

Be The Change You Want to See In the World – JaiHind !

Photos: AR Dilip Srinivasan





Sholavaram – A place of Run, Rain & Red Soil | My Journey with CTC’s 2nd Edition of Trail Marathon

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The blog tracks back to Saturday, Oct 19th, 2013. I was all prepared during the day adding fuel to my body by having enough hydration drinking plenty of water for every hour, bananas and fruits along with carbs to avoid cramps while running and getting the stamina built. This was for the most awaited event for me, one of my fitness goals I had for the year.  I had a brief chat up with my fellow CTC mates at Hablis hotel at Guindy in the evening, when I went to collect my BIB and Tshirt. There was an undying enthusiasm and passion among the CTCian volunteers who took up various tasks for Chennai Trekking Club’s 2nd Edition of Trial Marathon. I made my little volunteering contribution with my fellow CTCians and left home on Saturday to rest well for my next day run.

On Sunday, 3 AM as I looked through my house window, the cloud was pouring torrentially like an express train with no signs to stop. All that stood in my mind was to have this dream run accomplished. Come what may, I decided to get ready with the rain gear and ignited my Royal Enfield to drive to the Northern Outskirts of the city for my Half Marathon Run in Sholavaram.

I started around 3:45 AM from Velachery and drove through the Northern suburbs of Chennai. The rain did followed me all along the way with heavy pour. Reaching the NH5 road and navigating the GPS, I managed to find the direction and successfully reached the mudroad that lead to Gojan School of Business which was the gathering & start point for the run. By the time I reached the race venue it was 5:00 AM with continuous drizzles of rain that refused to stop.

I came to know that the race timings was postponed an hour due to heavy rain to accommodate all the runners reaching the venue and also be prepared for the pre-run & post-run support. The momentum was slowly catching up among the runners and the volunteers as the race was close to commencing. There came the black Toyota Fortuner with 2 inspirations at 5:45 AM, one was our man (Extra “human” though J ) Peter Van Geit along with second inspiration, the ace athlete, Neville J Billimora who was there to preside and inaugurate the marathon.

Ace Athlete Neville Billimoria who inaugurated the event & CTC Founder Peter Van Geit

With the inspiration of Neville and forewords of Peter, CTC waved its 2nd edition of Trail Marathon event at 6 AM starting with Full Marathon runners. The clouds continue to drizzle and all the runners including me were eager to run the muddy trial alongside the green forest which was sloshed with water.

Half marathon got flagged off at 6:30 AM along with the drummers and cheering crowd followed by 10 KM Run and the Kid Run. Having run 2 half marathons in the past, I was so enthusiastic and passionate to run my 3rd Half Marathon with CTC.

Take a Bow – Peak of Inspiration

As I marched along with the co-runners, the sun started to show up its presence slightly but the strong rainy clouds still dominated the weather. It was drizzling all through with the rainy clouds under which the runners exhibited their spirit and cheer all through the trail.

The whole running trial was a 10.5 KM loop which was rotated accordingly for Full Marathon (42 KMS), Half Marathon (21.1 KMS), 10 KM Run and Kids Run (500M, 1 & 2 KM).The initial trail was super sluggish and it was mesmerizing when we crossed the eucalyptus forest along the sides of the 1st part of the trial. The legs kissed the red soil filled with water and the lungs begun to breathe the primeval form of air. As the trial proceeded, we had a little slope up that started the 2nd part of the trial which is Sholavaram Tank Bund. My eyes could visualize the vast spread waters of Sholavaram which opened-up its majestic water wings all over. The ears could sense the calmness and pristine form of nature at its purest form. Running along the tank bund of Sholavaram dam was amazing experience. The run trial remain to be filled with water, but our legs marched forward with the essence of courage. As we ran through the tank bund trial we climbed down the 3rd part of trail which was a tar road now.

I too did it – An exhibit of blooming power

The tar road trail went along the villages of Sholavaram where we could spot people with simplicity and rejoicing us as we ran along their roads. Villagers and kids were so enthusiastic to see us who passed us displaying their happy smiles all along the small roads.

Now the 4th part of the trial opened up with red soil again, clubbed with greenish vegetation on both the sides. The mud was awfully sluggish and our shoes and legs turned out to be in love with the soil ending up in red patches of soil all over. The trial continued along the red soil lands which was an uneven terrain now with inclined uphills and sluggish downhills. As we ran through, we could see small and large water logs along the sides of the terrain which was serene. The red soil trial continued and ended in a very small, one legged, bushy trail which we thought would open up into another forest.

Full Marathon Senior Citizen – Lady of Courage,Cause & Endurance – The man of Will Power

But the 5th and final part of the 10.1 KM run loop raised the green screen along flat black tar roads with placid, ever green, water mirrored rice paddy fields. When our legs started to feel the pain, our eyes could digest the beauty that propelled every runner to clock more miles. The tar road along the paddy field was curvy and as we ran through small segment of village, a big banyan tree that ended the final loop of 10.1 KM in a water pond. Half & Full Marathon Runners took the “U” turn at this loop to track back the beauty to encounter and repeat the WOW factor.

All along the run track, one could not forget the cheer and motivation of CTC’s volunteers who assisted at refreshment points with electrolyte, water, sports drinks, bananas, volini & oranges.  There has been an immense support by CTC track marshals who volunteered and supported the runners all along the running track by biking and cycling. The memoirs of running, efforts and pains got woven into impactful pictures by CTC photography team who put their eye catching efforts with their lens equipment inspite of rain.  The Physio team’s pre-run warm up & post-run cool, transportation, food management, crowd management, banners, track marking, vehicle management, front desk, baggage management, medico’s first aid, medal & logo design, medal distribution, eco-warriors cleaning the run track after the event and what not, every activity on Oct 20th at Sholavaram run track had the sweat and efforts of Chennai Trekking Club’s volunteering team who took equal effort as a full marathon runner to make this cause happen.

Rain,Run & Red Soil – We run for joy !

All along the running trial, I could spot the fellow runners who cheered up for each other to make the miles move. We took a bow when we found senior citizens clocking the marathon miles. Every runner on the track was an inspiration to the other, running for the spirit of running, running for a cause, running to exhibit strength & endurance & running for fun. We just did not run, but was encountering bliss with run, rain, red soil alongside of nature’s best.

On spotting the finish line, every runner felt the sense of accomplishment and there was tremendous sense of satisfaction as our legs leaped the lines. It was a happiness of running along the nature, a trail filled of energies & efforts (Runners & Volunteers), legs and shoes soiled red, We all flew through the muddy trial, gushing the morning breeze, up on the rocky inclined slopes, glided in the continuous rain in the arms of nature. The marathon medal for the runners was dazzlingly designed and was carved with care displaying the strength as same as the runner.  Yes it’s a game of mind over body. It was Tougher & finally “We all emerged to be the Toughest”.

The Team that moved the cause – Saluting the Spirit of Volunteering

Sholavarm – At the end of Oct 20th 2013, remained as runners’ ecstasy, recording the foot imprints and sweat of 1000+ runners, spirit & tireless determination of selfless CTC volunteers & support of the sponsors who labeled & fuelled the cause.

Chennai Trekking Club made it’s yet another milestone in its fitness & awareness journey, making the cause to stand tall echoing billion gallons of energies.

Big cheers to my fellow runners & my fellow CTC volunteers. Let’s keep running!

That’s me – Author of this Blog – Proud Runner & a Very Proud CTC’ian 🙂