Nusrat Khatri and Afzal Khatri

“Retirement is a time to get re-tired doing what you love to do” is what Nusrat Khatri feels drives her and Mr.Afzal Khatri.

Meet Nusrat and Afzal Khatri, both in their late 60s, who quit their successful business in the US in 2001 and returned to India to make a significant impact on their surrounding environment. Strong believers in the idiom “change begins at home,” they started with garbage segregation and put up a composting pit in their housing society. They also planted over 800 varieties of plants in the garden and put name tags on each species to educate people.

A chance visit to the Samata Nagar Police Station in Mumbai to seek permission for celebrating Navratri in their society changed their lives forever. They offered to tend to the badly maintained flower pots there and even donated a few from their personal collection to beautify the place. Repulsed by the filth that filled the backyard of the police station, the couple offered to clean it up. Police Inspector Vinayak Mulay was more than happy to seek their help.

Although it seemed almost impossible to clean the three-foot high garbage and debris that covered the area, the couple remained undeterred. They sought the help of the Principal of Thakur College, who readily agreed to send 40 of his students as volunteers in this mission. It took three months to clear the 50-truckloads of junk comprising abandoned vehicles, tyres and metal debris. The BMC chipped in with their vehicles to remove the trash. The couple then set about preparing the bed for the garden and planted plenty of saplings. Today, the 1.5-acre plot is home to more than 1,800 varieties of plants, over 32 different species of birds and many insects and is aptly called “Dev Bagh.” “Eliminate toxins from entering the environment, by practicing solid waste management and generate more oxygen by planting more Trees,” says the couple. The couple uses their own resources to conserve the environment and has hired a full-time helper, while students volunteer whenever the need arises.

Despite their commendable work to conserve the environment, the couple thought it was a prank call when Nature Forever Society conveyed the news of their selection for the Wipro-nature Forever Society Sparrow Award.

At an age when most retired people give up hope and get into depression due to lack of activity, this couple has proved that age is just a number and will power can drive you to engage in passionate work.

Ecological restoration in urban concrete jungles is important in today’s times as cities face increasing pollution in the absence of green cover. By involving students from colleges, the couple is raising awareness among the younger generation that is suffering from “Nature Deficit Syndrome” about the importance of protecting their environment.

Nature Forever Society salutes the couple’s enthusiasm that has also helped create multiple island ecosystems that help urban fauna like birds, bees, butterflies, insects, small wildlife and native plants which are declining at a rapid pace.

Their advice to the young and old - “choose one area of your interest, the work that will benefit the society and by working in that area will give you pure pleasure and happiness.”