If you are in Kharghar’s (New Mumbai) famous food street in Hiranandani Complex during the late evenings on the weekend, you may spot a young boy, his mother and father, standing together quietly on the main pavement, facing the crowds who come to eat their evening meals.
The 11-year-old boy standing with his parents is holding a placard with a plea to stop smoking. The family stand there in quiet resolute for about 2 hours before going back home.
The young boy is Akamjit Singh Lamba, and his parents are Jasvir Kaur and Divyajit.
When asked what is his message to all the people, Akamjit has two slogans ready, “Be a champ, quit smoking, gain health,” and “Stop smoking before smoking stops you.”
Smoking is banned in public places such as this; however, in spite of the presence of a police chowki just around the corner, young and old spend their time smoking and having snacks in the food street.
“We used to come here very often before, and we loved to eat at these food stalls, but six months earlier, we had to stop because of the sheer number of people who would smoke in this area,” says mom Jasvir, “So about two months ago, we decided as a family to do this together.”
Is there a message for the local authorities? “We don’t want to involve any corporator or any authority, we are here to give the message to the people directly,” says dad Divyajit, “They should understand what they are doing and refrain from smoking in public places.”
Thanks to their efforts, now spanning three weeks, there is some change. “Some throw away their cigarettes after seeing our placard - we notice it and we call them and show our gratitude by giving them a chocolate. We carry a diary with us too; some people have give us a written pledge, not to smoke here anymore, and we reward them with chocolates too,” says Divyajit.
Was it easy to do this? “At first we were very self-conscious; we were afraid to even open up this placard,” says Jasvir, “but once we started, there was no looking back. Now, people come and talk to us; some families express their gratitude. But we do this because of our love for this place. We want to see it smoke-free.”
Come rain or storm, every weekend, the 3-member family stands on the busy street of Kharghar’s khao-galli, quietly making a difference where it matters.