When you are able to go beyond your daily mechanisms to create something for the benefit of thousands of other people, you are definitely doing something heroic. This month’s Highway Hero on GHP is 36-year-old Sandeep Athalye, creator of the butterfly garden in Aarey Milk Colony.
What was once a barren land inside the Aarey envrions, is now a lush patch of green, attracting more than 10 species of butterflies. What began in May 2016 as a sort of family activity has culminated into an impressive ode to biodiversity, for thousands to be inspired by.
Modest and sincere, Sandeep inherited a passion and gratitude for nature from his father, Shri Vinay Athalye. “My father used to visit Aarey every day as a part of his morning walk. He believed that we owe something to Nature, for all the healthy air, sustenance and beauty that it provides for us.” The gentleman began a tree plantation in the year 2000, literally adopting a barren patch of land. He rendered it into the mystical Panchavati – with 70 varieties of trees numbering almost 600 today.
A special mention should be made of the Nakshatra plantation, also done by Vinay Athalye – featuring specific trees like Peepal, Kadamb, Mango, Palash, etc., planted in as per stellar alignments and directions. To me, this is a profound act of communing with the universe, acknowledging and paying obeisance to the relation between man and nature.
The butterfly garden is far from a manicured, structured landscape. Sandeep prefers to let the plants take their own shape and size, in keeping with the general forest feel of Aarey. Plants like Lantana and Blue Jamaican Spike, known to attract butterfly species with their nectar, have successfully attracted winged miracles, especially the Grass Yellow and Common Tiger variety.
Joining Sandeep in this paternal tribute is his family – Varda, a HR manager and his son, three-and-a-half-year old Malhaar – and many more relatives and friends.
Sandeep engages the local tribal people to help in nurturing and protecting the butterfly garden. Much work is involved, from ensuring proper soil, water, weeding and warding off insects and other threats. A flower fence of bougainvillea will form a vibrant periphery to the garden. Towards winter – December or January – is when this verdant tribute to his father will be ready. Already attracting several visitors and volunteers via systematic plantation and follow-up drives, Sandeep is looking to engage students, green enthusiasts and horticulturists in his efforts.
Playing dual roles – of a champion for urban biodiversity and a key account manager for modern trade in south and west India for a telecom giant – sure makes for tremendous fortitude and determination. What Sandeep requires is more support and contribution to ensure that his efforts can be strengthened for the future. Let’s do that by attending the plantation drives and spreading the word.
Visit the Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Aarey-Dairy-Butterfly-Garden-In-memory-of-Shri-Vinay-Athalye