The Green Crusader

An 81-year- old lady, with the brightest smile is leading a green revolution with the message, ‘Your garbage is your responsibility’

Sudha Sarvotham Pai, a resident of Magarpatta City, is encouraging Puneites to lead a greener life. She often invites people into her home, which is a modern day green forest with mango, coconut, and fig trees rising high and many fruits and vegetables growing on the terraces.

Her garden boasts of flowers straight out of a fairy tale in various colours and hues. In a concrete jungle, her house is a gem, restoring nature one garden at a time.

“If you keep your mouth open for too long, Sudha will plant a tree there too!”, says her husband, Sarvotham Pai

“If you keep your mouth open for too long, Sudha will plant a tree there too!”, says her husband, Sarvotham Pai

What’s interesting is that this 81-year- old grows her garden in waste generated in our daily household! Not a single scrap of waste leaves Pai’s house. She uses kitchen garbage and forms the compost that house beautiful ornamental plants on Pai’s terraces. This compost does not smell and nourishes the plants a lot better than soil without fertilisers or chemicals. Her plants grow in old tin cans, soft drink bottles and even thermocol cartons. Pai uses three methods for gardening — vermiculture, bio-culture and EM (effective microorganisms) process, which is converting kitchen garbage to gardens. She’s now considered an expert on waste management and is invited by other housing societies and environmental groups to hold lectures and inspire others to engage in nature.

It does not just stop here, Pai writes about her gardening adventures in her blog Garbage to Gardens ( She lives and breathes nature, impacting the lives of her friends, family and neighbourhood to adopt more eco-friendly lifestyle. She said, “I write my blog to encourage people to work with nature, wherever you can, but more importantly, I want to get a response from the younger generation.”

She traces her green ideas to her childhood when she spent her holidays with her grandparents in a small village in Kerala. She said, “We lived in heaven, with green valleys. All our food was grown by us. Everyone lived in harmony without the tensions of today’s modern lives.” She grew up in Kochi and met her husband in the college where she was studying. They married in 1952, and moved to Dehradun as her husband was working in National Defence Academy (NDA). Her husband’s job profile moved them around the country, and she left a beautiful garden everywhere she went. Her husband, Sarvotham Pai lovingly said, “If you keep your mouth open for too long, Sudha will plant a tree there too!”. Every time he was relocated, his only request was for a house with a yard for his wife.

Sudha Pai calls herself ‘An observer of life’. “We do not have control over things. So whenever I can help something, I do it”, she recalled. Throughout her life, wherever she found space, she made a garden. On her adventures with her husband all over the world, she left behind a garden everywhere she went. “Working with nature is an expression of spirituality for me,” she said. “People my age look for god, in temples, churches and mosques. Only if they took part in nature, appreciated and worked with it, they would live longer, healthier and more meaningful lives”, she added.

It seems there is no stopping this green crusader, whose latest project has been converting the Destination Centre in Magarpatta City into a ‘No-Smoking Zone’. It was a slow process, but she has been successful! With the help of Satish Magar, Chairman of Magarpatta Group, she was able to put up some sign boards prohibiting smoking and creating a small smoking zone, however, that wasn’t enough. She said, “I started walking up to people, talking to them, requesting them to not smoke in public areas. After some time, every time they saw me, they put out their cigarettes. It has now disappeared completely.” Furthermore, she has been able to stop all shops in Destination Centre to stop selling cigarettes. Who can say no to this radiant face on a mission?

At the age of 81, Sudha Pai sincerely believes that we are all bound by nature. She added, “Nature has inspired writers, lyricists, artists; It inspires me to lead a healthy life, it is the secret of my energy and my drive.” Her message to the world tangled up in their busy lifestyle is, “Keep up with progress and be aware of your civic, moral and social responsibility.” She added, “There’s no point in complaining about the government or authorities, we need to address the root cause and go back to our ancient way of life living with nature.”

Originally published on The Golden Sparrow

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