Medha Lolayekar is 13 years old. She is a Junior member of the Chitresh Das Youth Company and an in the 8th grade at Miller Middle School in San Jose.

As part of our effort to green our production for Aranya Katha - The Maharaja’s Decree CDI staff, students and parents visited the recycling center at the Stanford Office of Sustainability at Stanford University and took a guided tour and learned a great deal about the process and cycle of our waste, whether it be composting, recycling or landfill. Medha attended this tour and wrote this essay about her experience.

My recent trip to Stanford University, to visit the Recycling Center and talk about Stanford Sustainability effort, got me thinking how important and urgent it is to promote recycling, educate people about eliminating waste, and how to make more sensible choices in our day to day life. Perhaps introducing a course of Ecology and Sustainability as a mandatory part of school curriculum can do the trick? There are so many important and difficult academics we learn in school. We work so hard to get good grades, and excel on exams and tests. However, the majority of students have very little knowledge of how to recycle and what throwing away trash does to earth.  If only everyone could internalize what a terrible crime is being committed by polluting and wasting natural resources. Did this field trip change my whole perspective on the problem? Was I oblivious to it before? No, it was not news to me, it was rather an eyeopener on how urgent it is to act, and how important it is for our generation to realize that it is time for us to be the change. 

Saving and helping the environment has always stuck with me. All my major projects, essays and assignments have been about ecology. In sixth grade, I wrote a letter to the President of the United States about how global warming is real. The results were disappointing as he didn’t reply, but other students before us got replies. 

Seventh grade was the year where we learned and first touched base on biology. We were given a coral reef preservation project, where we had to come up with ways to promote tourism, but also help the coral reefs. There were four teams that needed investments from the three judges to promote their take on the problem, and whoever the judges chose as the best solution of the problem got the funding to work on the project. 

I suggested to my team to base our solution on ecotourism, which would create expansive reef nurseries, where eco-friendly solar powered clear bottom boats could allow the tourist to see the reefs without touching them. In the end, we came out as the winners of the challenge.  

Now you might think how this could be at all related to Kathak. Dance and ecology seem to be very different and unrelated. To those unacquainted, Kathak may seem as rhythmic moves to music, typically following a set sequence of steps, but it is so much more than that. Kathak tells the audience a story and touches their hearts through the emotions and feelings of the dancer expressed through moves. I remember, when I started dancing in first grade, I was learning about rainforest preservation. Coincidence? Probably not! At the same time during my dance class, I was learning tatkar (the specific beat, created by feet hitting the ground in a particular sequence and speed). I could not see how dance and nature may be related. Despite tedious and tiring dance classes, I kept exceling, learning, chanting the bols (syllables used by Kathak dancers to name musical notes and beats they dance). I felt invigorated when I danced, but only later did I realize a deeper meaning behind the movements. In any form of dance, the dancer speaks through movements, but in Kathak, there is a spiritual element that involves the dancer to be constantly grounded to the earth. Kathak is danced barefoot, so we feel more connected to the earth. The energy that surrounds and engulfs the dancer is almost palpable by those in the audience. Here are a few bols - Ta = body (from Tanu), Thei = Earth (from Sthela), Ei = Lord (from Eishwara). This is my 7th year studying the art of Kathak dance. 

My most recent dance piece on the historical account of the beginning of the global environmental movement, resonated with me the most. If art can promote enlightenment and peace, there is no better vehicle to raise awareness for fragility and beauty of earth, awaken others, realize the urgency and start the change. 

Photo of Medha Lolayekar with her father, Santosh, taken February 2, 2019 backstage at a performance at Marin Center.