Rejuvenating Rio

A trip to the delightful city of Rio de Janeiro made Anoushka Gupta realize the immense potentialities she could do with her life . In fact, meeting a Serbian journalist inspired her to create and maintain her own blog

A piece of Rio de Janeiro was unraveled from the airplane itself, when I caught a glimpse of the Atlantic coastal forest! The view of the verdant forest from above was exhilarating. It was delightful to see patches after patches of lush green. It was equally disappointing to be aware of the fact that it was entirely possible that the end of those verdant forests was near and it was us humans who would be responsible for the destruction of such an essential part of any ecosystem. And so I began my journey to the cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city) of Rio de Janeiro with the hope of ‘making a difference.’ The perfect blend of natural beauty, the numerous favelas that somehow looked more picturesque than any other slum I have seen, and the city’s bright lights made Rio an extremely alluring and gorgeous city.

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I was in Rio as a youth representative to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, better known as the Rio+20 Conference because it was being held 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit in the same city. At the many events I attended over those two weeks in June, I had the privilege of meeting people from all parts of the world, to understand their problems and to try to unite as one common force, fighting against climate change and towards a more sustainable future. My interactions were mostly with people who were quite a bit older than me and were vastly more experienced in this field, but this only helped me to get a better understanding of where each and every person was coming from. I came to the conclusion that in order to ‘save the world’ it was important to be dedicated and to have unity.

Attending a number of side-events on various topics that are extremely relevant in today’s context also helped me, personally, to come closer to a decision as to what I wanted to do with my life. Many of the events were extremely interesting and were very good learning experiences. One of my teachers once told me that a good learning experience leads to motivation and that is exactly what Rio de Janeiro did for me. Meeting ambitious and inspirational people turned out to be a very stimulating and enriching experience. In fact, my meeting with a Serbian journalist, Sanja, led to the creation of my very own blog through which I wished to express my views and experiences. Sanja wanted to get an understanding of youth perspective and so she decided to interview me! It was fun and I told her about the various issues that had an impact on India such as serious forms of gender discrimination, nonsensical practices such as sati, the concept of ‘honour’ killings etc.

Sanja invited me to go with her to the delegates’ lounge. I felt extremely honoured as only VIPs and VVIPs were allowed to enter. At the lounge, Sanja escorted me to the room of the Serbian delegation. Over there, I got an opportunity to interact with top officials. They were very generous and even allowed me to interview some of them. I even asked them their personal feelings towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Rights. They were very diplomatic, though one of the officials bluntly told me he thought most people should not indulge in it. Though if they did, he did not have any objection. He made me think there was a desperate need to change the thought process of people, especially when it came to how most people perceived the LGBT community and their rights.

The ambience of the conference venue gave a very positive feel. Apart from many of the government representatives and members of the official delegations from their respective countries, most of the people gathered at the sprawling conference venue were frustrated by what the world was coming to. Despite that, I could feel the positive energy and zeal within many of the people who were present at the conference. Their determination and love for our planet had driven them to this important United Nations conference. The sense of urgency and the will to ‘be the change they wanted to see’ was evident on their faces. It was exciting to be around people who had as much enthusiasm and concern for the cause as I did.

One person I was fortunate to interact with was a representative of an organization called Plant for the Planet. The NGO’s mantra was, ‘trees for climate justice.’ They believed that by planting trees, all of us could play a major role towards a more sustainable future. What was so distinguishing about this NGO was that they firmly believed that action did, indeed speak louder than words. So at the Rio Conference I collaborated with Plant for the Planet and we planted two seedlings at the venue to serve as a reminder of what we were doing to our planet, and that we could genuinely make a difference by planting trees. Not only was it fun to get my hands dirty, but it also made me feel really happy that I had done something positive for Mother Earth, that I had ‘made a difference.’

I would like to conclude by quoting from a song by R. Kelly called ‘I believe I can fly.’

“If I can see it,
Then I can do it.
If I just believe it,
There’s nothing to it.

I believe I can fly.
I believe I can touch the sky.
I think about it every night and day,
Spread my wings and fly away.
I believe I can soar,
I see me running through that open door.
I believe I can fly.”

The secret lies in realizing our potential and believing in our ability to do anything we put our mind to, even if it includes ‘changing the world.’

(The writer is a student of the Shri Ram School, Moulsari Campus, Gurgaon. She can be contacted at anoushka.234@gmail.com; www.anoushkagupta.wordpress.com ( her blog ).