In the summer of 1992, late at night in the basement of the then rented office space of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the editorial team of the Down To Earth (DTE) magazine had a very long hot and tiring day putting together their very first issue. Anil Agarwal, the founder editor, was busy scurrying around excitedly as he wanted to take the freshly printed copies with him to the famous Rio Earth Summit which was going to be held in June that year.
Barely a week into the first job of my life, the anxious 24-year-old in me was desperately coping with the anxiety of having been thrown into the deep-end of journalism. Anil poked his head into our editorial-design room and asked me rather nonchalantly, “Ice cream khaaney chalogey (Wanna come have an ice cream)?” Did this rookie have a choice? Off we went into the streets of East of Kailash in New Delhi looking for an ice cream vendor, driving in his dinky red and rusty old Maruti 800 car.
Bending his slight frame over the steering wheel he muttered, “You know, I have this idea of a Bollywood masala film script that tells the story of political ecology of our country…” I knew then that I was in for a very creative ride in this job.
On another occasion, while helping him sort out some slides (photographs!) he picked a picture he had taken in rural Rajasthan, held it up against the light, and exclaimed, “This is the culture of India!” It was a picture of cow dung on the ground with a stone in the middle. “This means the cowpat is taken and now belongs to someone. Others cannot claim it. People respect that. Amazing, isn’t it?” he said, almost talking to himself. “The use of ‘Gobar’ (cow dung) in India encapsulates many environmental principles.”
He then confessed that he actually wanted to call DTE as the ‘Gobar Times’. Obviously, none were amused by the thought back then!
A few years later, he and Sunita called me into their room and spelt out a task, “Can we create something for children on environment?” Gulp! “Err… like what do you have in mind?” They both looked up at me, “Something that provokes, entertains and educates! By when can you come back and show us what’s possible?”
And that is how Gobar Times came to be. A bunch of creative and passionate people wanting to communicate complex environmental questions using wit and humour. That adults began reading Gobar Times underscored the point that people are hungry for such information that addresses serious and wicked problems we face then and today.
May Gobar Times continue to provoke, entertain, and educate us—young and old alike.