Ar. GAURAV SHOREY – THE INDIAN MEDIUM
As a country which was subjugated for centuries by the British, our idea of modernity has been to go to English medium schools, speak perfect English, wear western clothes, eat international cuisine, holiday abroad, study in foreign colleges and even adopt their ideas!
The truth actually is, that India is totally self-reliant to fulfil all our needs, be it material or spiritual. The question however is, how well do we know our own country! The vastness, the diversity, the richness, the culture, the languages, and everything it has to offer, in all its true essence?
Gaurav Shorey can offer us some revelation. An Architect by education, Gaurav is the founder of Swaraj, an NGO and firmly believes in the deep rooted culture of sustainability that has always existed in India. Perhaps it just needs to be brought to the forefront once again.
“The agenda of Swaraj is to document across 155 soil types, the system of 5 Bs – bhasha, bhojan, bhesh, bhawan and bhajan and present them back to the people of India. All these are born out of ‘Bhoomi’. If we don’t do this, we are fuelling the migration problem from villages to the cities.”
“What we are taught in architecture and engineering colleges about climate zone map of India is an absolute lie! There are not 5 climate zones in India. There are 155 soil types and 1600 languages. That is only possible if the soil changes. Every part of India has the ability to self-sustain.”
Swaraj holds workshops across the country for students and professionals to raise awareness on environment consciousness and leading a sustainable lifestyle by reminding them of their roots through our culture and its connection to the environment.
“The biggest problem that our country faces are NRIs who settle in villages and start preaching what to do. Who are they to teach? It is the villagers who have a wealth of knowledge and can offer them some insights that can changed the world.”
Gaurav was introduced to the term sustainability while studying architecture at the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi which opened a whole new world for him.
“I had never heard of the word sustainability until I read more about it and realised that the best example of real sustainable architecture can be found in the slums where they use genuine recycled materials with bare minimum resources and space.”
One of Gaurav’s professor, an econometrist at SPA also reinforced the concept in his mind, earlier more popularly known as Environmental Impact Assessment.
“For the first time I got to know, that the families displaced during the building of Bhakra Nangal Dam have still not been compensated. In fact, all dam projects in India have a great social and ecological impact on communities who are never able to recover the loss of their habitat and livelihood after they are uprooted. Compensatory land can never be the same thing.”
Gaurav soon realised, sustainability is the future and built the narrative around it throughout his time in college and eventually his career too!
After working for The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) where he was a member of the founding team of the home-grown green building rating system GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat System), Gaurav started the green building consulting firm PSI Energy.
He may be a green building consultant but Gaurav doesn’t propagate the concept of rating system to his clients in order to be green. The award winning Krushi Bhawan in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa is one such project his firm worked on which is 100% naturally ventilated with no air conditioning and used local materials and arts and craft.
Gaurav remains fiercely true to his values and ethics, be it professionally or personally. A big role in that was played by the Landmark forum which taught him the idea of completeness within.
“You will keep trying to change or fix yourself. You will keep trying to get more and more degrees and keep going for promotions not realising you are perfect the way you are and the way you are not. When I heard this at Landmark, what played in my mind was ‘Purnamadah Purnamidam’.”
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते ।
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Gaurav is a strong advocate of the local Indian languages and the importance of its inclusion in the education system as the foundation. He shuns the notion of the English language as a definitive tool of success.
“Why does Hindi or a local language become an option after 8th class in school? We are told, if you learn English, your life will be made. It is the same as saying, get an MBA degree and your life will be made. If that were so, there wouldn’t be 40,000 unemployed MBA graduates in India. The statistical reality is that only 4.96% of India is fluent in English.”
“If we go towards local languages, we would have localised farming and social systems, traditional weaving systems, alternate livelihoods sustained since several generations and transferring of knowledge to younger generation. If you teach English to people, they leave villages and come to cities”
“My daughter goes to a Hindi medium school. If your grounding is in the mother tongue, your ability to absorb multiple languages become very easy.”
A professor from IIT Hyderabad who Gaurav met at a conference backed his claim from his own experience. He studied in his mother tongue till the 9th class. Later it took him only a couple of months to pick up English and eventually other languages such as Kannadda and Telegu.
“If you notice, any white yoga instructor in America worth their reputation, they have a section in Sanskrit on their website. They believe, one cannot understand yoga’s philosophy without understanding Sanskrit. Every Sanskrit word has its own consciousness”
“Why does Sanskrit have the lowest cut off marks for admission in colleges? Why do we seek a new way of thinking in English? Why not our own language?”
Gaurav’s actions aren’t restricted to the language when it comes to ‘Made in India’. He makes an effort to wear traditional local weaves. He has even gone to the extent of wearing kora khadi which is unbleached and undyed and therefore better for the planet.
He even quotes different religious texts and scriptures, all of which talk about the importance of nature.
“It is very easy to become self-righteous about our religion without realising our climatic context. Understanding that, will bring some degree of peace to the world. We need to have a little more love and harmony among religions. Organisations like Green Faith in America are attempting to unite people of different faiths towards the environmental agenda.”
“If you look at English speaking countries, they’ve been successively struggling with sustainability and achieve no outcome. Their state of environment is worse than ever.”
“India needs to start leading the way for climate change solutions and not follow.”
In the end what matters is recognising and respecting for what is already within and around. You may just find what you seek in your own beautiful land, Bharat!
Apart from leading Swaraj (they write 5waraj denoting the 5 Bs of India) and Psi Energy, Gaurav Shorey is also a mentor at Paakshantar which offers eco-friendly, kitchen based cosmetics aimed at reducing chemicals present in cosmetics as well as water conservation. Know more about Paakshantar.
You may also want to watch one of his TedX talk.