This post is part of a series of content focusing on covering inspiring work of Indian youth, brought by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with Potentiaa

Dipika Chordia has helped plant close to 20,000 trees in 3 years and helped reforest close to some 50 acres of land through her project- Serene which she started with her father and family members on a barren piece of land.

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Dipika’s approach to education and life is truly unique. She attended Rotary Exchange Program in Argentina after class X for 1 year, and after Class 12 decided not to pursue further education in the format as we know it.  She took a break for a year and taught in a Montessori School. After that, she taught at a community school in KodiaKanal, Tamil Nadu which was completely self-sustainable. This experience had a great impact on her and encouraged her to lead an alternate sustainable lifestyle

Opting not to move ahead with formal education, she undertook training through various courses like
• Yoga teacher training
• Organic Farming Certificate course
• Solar Energy Technician Course
• Biogas and Green technologies
• Naturopathy
• Waldorf Teacher Training Program (currently studying

She started Project Serene with her father and family members, by taking charge of a barren piece of land outside Pune.

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In 3 years, she has helped plant nearly 20,000 different trees (2,000 mango trees, 3,120 cashew trees etc.) and reforested approximately 50 acres of land, through this project. She is also working on 2 companies in the sustainability space, she has co-founded
• Water Smart Pots- a unique Gardening Pot
• Alkwa- a rejuvenating ionic alkaline water (with magnetic effects)

Check out her entire profile on Potentiaa

We got a chance to know her in her own words. And here is what she had to say.

Your Eureka moment? That first instance which inspired you/ motivated you to do something.

Dipika: I think my inspiration was very subtle and slow. It was not a spontaneous decision. Since I was little I’ve had my grandfather and father to look up to who’ve always been doing good deeds for others without expecting anything in return. I guess I want to be just like them and I found my way to do it. But I guess my final moment of actually deciding to do it was after reading a book called ‘TUESDAYS WITH MORIE’ A book that inspired me to take the step right then and there and continues to do so.

How did you proceed? What did you do next? Knowing the next step is so important. What was your reasoning about the next step?

I just started with a very simple, common yet important step of “not to waste water or electricity ever” motto in life. I told, sometimes yelled at the people for not doing the same. It may have been wrong but it worked more than most of the times. I understood at a very early stage that unless and until we don’t help each other nothing’s gonna change. One person cannot create a difference unless the mass follows it and it becomes a trend. Also I made sure that people never throw garbage outside and put it only in the dustbins.

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How did you seek help from external sources? Family, friends, the mentor or that video online- what was the role of the external world in helping you take the next steps?

My father was, is and will be my biggest support and mentor. He’s taught me everything I know till date and I have always taken his advice on any new project that I do. Reading books, watching documentaries, talking to other people who are doing different works for the same field, meeting and staying with them, everything inspired me. All the people I meet teach me something new, whether it’s good or bad, right or wrong is not the question but they all have something to teach and say and I respect them and love to hear it. Sometimes I’ve faced heavy criticism for what I do or chose to do from near and dear ones too but today I can say that they all were actually teaching me to be strong and face the world which is not as easy as I thought it would be.

What was your first break? How did you feel? What can you tell the readers about it?

There are lots of perceptions about first breaks I guess. Some people may call it your first successful job, project, some may say when people recognized you for your work, some may say when you have achieved what you wished for, some may say just the state of satisfaction that made you sure you’re on the right path. For me it’s the latter one, I think I was sure about what I want to do in life because I transplanted this tree on my terrace from one pot to another and chances were very high of that tree to die. I felt really bad after my dad told me that and I started talking to the tree every day after that and watered it regularly, after about 2 weeks the tree had a small new leaf. A little red a little green, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen just because I felt that I had actually given birth to it. It was like my baby; thereafter I went and started spending lots of time with that tree. Soon it gave me its first pomegranate ever! I couldn’t believe it. My feelings at that point would be almost impossible to describe. All I can say is you actually have to experience it. It’s magical, it’s a miracle! And that’s when I knew that no matter what I do in life this feeling of creating something, giving life, making our mother green and beautiful was the only thing that would actually made me proud.

What kept you inspired? Who/ What do you draw inspiration from?

Like I’ve mentioned earlier my father is my biggest inspiration along with my grandfather. ‘Tuesdays with Morie’ and lots of M.K.Gandhi books constantly inspire me. But the biggest of all is the feeling of being a part of the earth is the strongest inspiration I have. I do not allow myself to do a lot of things because they are morally wrong for me and the nature that sustains and protects us. I have immense love and respect for nature and that feeling alone is enough to keep me motivated for life; even in small things of life, whether I travel or I’m at home, with people or without. The sense of responsibility that I feel towards our earth never leaves me alone.

What is your formula? What are your attributes and qualities that allow you to do what you do? More importantly did you inculcate any of these? How difficult is it? How did you inculcate any?

I don’t have a fixed formula. I like to listen to my heart and follow what it tells me, more than most of the times its right! In the beginning it was difficult to differentiate between what your heart says and what your mind says, but after a particular point you just understand and know instinctively what’s right for you.

What did you learn while doing what you did. How has our thinking changed? Why do you think this process ‘of doing’ was important? If you had not done what you did, do you think you would have developed this thinking?

I think the most important thing I did was that I took ACTION. I felt the need to do something and if I had just thought and thought and thought about it I would not have been a apart of such a great plan and done something for myself and society. It’s the actions that matter more than your thoughts and words. If I wouldn’t have done the project I’d still be building shapeless dreams and meaningless wants of so many things. By actually working you just get more sense of being real than just building lots of dreams and living in a fantasy where everything is very easy and works according to the way you want them too.

What about your failures? How important were they? What did you learn? Why are they important? How did they make you feel?

When we started working, practically on the field there were lots of changes that we did not think of, had not planned but had to do them or things that we wanted to do but could not inculcate practically for so many reasons. Failure is the first step to success. If you don’t fail, you don’t learn, if you don’t learn you don’t try, if you don’t try you can never succeed! Failures always makes me feel sad for a certain amount of time but now that I’ve learned to handle it better I know it’s for my own betterment. I try to think again, think different, start the thing with a fresh mind and new patterns. If they succeed you’re happy and you move on, if you fail again…the entire process starts again. The important part is not to give up and keep trying!

How did your college and school education shape you?

My school taught me how to read and write. I think I’ve learned most of my thinking ability from reading. Reading “good” books, values, biographies always inspired and helped me, still do. I never went to college because I believe in an alternate education system, where I just went to different places, stayed there for a considerable amount of time and learned a little more about the things I’m passionate about.

What message would you give to readers? What if someone wants to be like you? What would you tell them, and how would you ask them to proceed?

I don’t know much to say. Personally I don’t think I’ve achieved that much, at least not yet to actually give you guys tips on how to proceed. There’s just one thing though that have a good heart, clean soul and pure conscience. Don’t try to do anything to please others if it’s against your principles. Have good ideals, inspiring principles that you will not compromise on for anyone. Be nice, be humble, and always listen to your heart. Life’s too short for expectations; accept what you have with grace and try it make the best of it. Always push yourself a little harder than your capability. Love yourself and the others around you.

What if you could change a few things? Would you want to change anything? What would you change and Why?

If I could change anything at all in today’s world, I’d make everyone a lot more environment friendly. To think and work for Nature is not just mine or your job, it’s everybody’s job as a whole and it’s not even a job it’s just a thing you do without efforts like breathing. To respect nature and all other creatures. Be sensitive and understand what we’re doing, we’re doing not just to one species or forests or birds or one person it’s to the entire EARTH as a whole. It’s important that we take this seriously and maybe even go beyond our comfort zones to do it because we’ve been way too lenient with ourselves and we’re really running out of time and Mother Nature’s patience.

What’s your idea of fun? What do you do for fun?

Anything that doesn’t involve lot of fuel consumption, harming or killing of other beings, disrespecting other beings. I go and sit at random places at my project where it’s quiet and peaceful without any outside disturbance and its super fun for me. Talking to people, making friends, knitting, reading, getting wet in the rain, swimming in the dam, going under a waterfall is all fun. Anything I do that my heart agrees to with the people I love is fun for me.

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What sacrifices have you made? What is your take on them?

Things have changed in me after I decided to do this and be outside the mainstream. I don’t go for random drives very often anymore even though I’m invited to go with my friends and cousins. I also stopped watching movies in a multiplex and going to a mall because I do not wish to support the culture that I believe is going to take us down, and consumerism, our lifestyle; malls and multiplexes are the biggest evidence of this. My way of dressing was always simple, but now it’s with thought put into action and its way simpler than it used to be. I’m not sure if they’re sacrifices or if I would like to call them that, they’re just choices I made and things I did at that point of time when I thought it was necessary. I don’t even fly anymore unless it’s a complete no option choice for me. I think it’s important to do these little things because they impact your way of life and in turn your way of thinking.

How has your personal life changed? What would you prefer- do you like these changes or would you prefer to not have them?

I’ve become a little more matured and stable with time. Experiences have taught me to deal with difficult situations in a much simpler way now. I like the changes going on, it’s always good to accept and flow with where life takes you. I’m a lot quieter now, but thankfully my friends and family accepts it now and hence my personal life is good. People change all the time and so does your life, it just gets easier with time to understand this.

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Anything else that you want to add?

Nothing that I have not said before. Keep good ideals, read a lot, have fun and stay cool and be happy. Do not be afraid to fail. Spread your word, show your way of life, live what you preach and believe in!Always remember “BE THE CHANGE THAT YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD!” – M.K.Gandhi. Do live like it’s your last day and start following your heart form this moment onwards. Do not wait for the perfect time, day or year because the perfect time is always NOW!

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Watch this video to know more about Project Serene

[box bg="#fdf78c" color="#000"]Potentiaa is a project that finds and showcases the most amazing, inspiring and enterprising Indian youth, and their interesting initiatives.[/box]
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