It takes conscious effort to realize that we are all small parts of a larger whole. It sometimes takes a lifetime to understand that it’s the little things that we take for granted, that matter the most. In a world that’s increasingly disconnecting people with virtual links, we need explicit reminders that our very survival depends on what surrounds us.
There have been a few instances that have highlighted this thought. One such was when I watched a Veritasium YouTube video by Derek Muller, which attempted to answer a simple question: What was the cause and substance for the bulk/ matter of a tree? Was it the soil or was it the copious gallons of water that the tree amazingly managed to move up it’s height, over and over? Or, was it the minerals dissolved in the water?
The surprising answer was that while the soil and the water helped, the essence of the tree was the air it breathed! More specifically, the bulk of the tree is the element Carbon. The source of that Carbon is the CO2 gas that’s abundant in air! Perhaps it’s because it’s ‘just there’, that we dismiss it as a candidate for the source of the tree’s strength. Our first votes would usually be for the more tangible soil and water while it seems that 95% of its bulk is literally: thin air!
So you see, the trees and the plants are amazing naturally occurring devices that can suck CO2 out of the air and turn ‘em into multiple other complex molecules, marrying the Carbons off with Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms, all powered by the energy captured from the sun! We puny humans live off one of its byproducts, called Oxygen and (in no small measure) give out CO2 that the plants recycle again. Yes indeed, all of this is elementary science that we learn in school and conveniently forget as we grow old.
Insatiable as we are, serious effort has been invested in mimicking these processes synthetically. So far, none of our ‘solutions’ are even remotely close to reaching either the efficiency or the elegance of its natural counterparts (think: solar power or our attempts at carbon fixation).
But that’s just some background information for what I really wanted to talk about. I spent about a decade working at Eko. After spending many years at its garage-office in Delhi (I guess only the founding team would recall our offices at Mandakini Enclave and Uttam Nagar :), we decided to move to a ‘proper’ office in Gurgaon/ Gurugram. After a few missteps (perhaps story for another blog), we finally got a place, and dang! what a place it was! We ended up working out of a LEED certified green building in Sector 44. Perhaps the only one there.
Sehgal Foundation's headquarters "green" building in Gurgaon, Haryana, was constructed according to the Platinum…
The building and the campus belonged to the Sehgal Foundation and was designed by the award winning architect Ashok B Lall (whom I had the privilege of chancing upon once there). If you are interested in sustainable buildings, do watch his videos, like this one.
It sounds unreal when I talk like this about a mere office space. I have pleasant memories of my time there.
Among the sparse but consistent row of plants totting its inner perimeter, I have spotted many a rare bird! Bulbuls, Thrushes, Sparrows, Babblers, Robins: Bang in the middle of the concrete jungle part of urban Gurugram.
Some of us have laid down on its side lawns and gazed at the clouds (yes, in the middle of a work-day). I have spent hours sitting on its grass and watching with fascination, the creepers that covered some of its walls with glorious green.
Pure nostalgia. But I digress a bit here. I would only like to point out a fact that we all seem to ignore.
We spend over two thirds of our ‘active’ day in an office; much more than we do at our homes!
What made our work-space really pleasant was the green wilderness that Pooja, our people person had been able to cultivate inside the office. We had a web of money plants hanging all over us, a plethora of succulents and potted plants whose names I still have no clue about. Living within concrete blocks these little cues to nature did seem to awaken one’s senses a bit.
Here’s the interesting bit. We do have a few plants inside our home in Bengaluru now. But despite our efforts, we have not really succeeded in making them grow as wild as we’d have wanted to. I realized once again that what actually makes these plants grow is you and I. The plants in that office grew up on molecules that all of us breathing in there had collectively provided. Perhaps it was because there were so many of us there in that confined space, that it was all greener? I can’t help but think so :)
I realized then that we are all air-bound in this marvelous circle of life. It changed my perspective a bit. To know that the mute plants around us become an aggregation of each one of us (and the animals around us). Someday they wither and die and then carry a bit of us down to the soil as well, but until then, they give us something in return- our very breath.