Ashish Joshi (23), an architecture student from Sambhaji Nagar, Maharashtra, calls himself a complete devotee of Mother Earth. He is in a committed relationship with nature. Recognised and awarded for his efforts, his passion has made him a hero.

Ashish has taken up the responsibility of speaking up for the environment and animals. He feels that for all the depletion that we do in the name of growth, we can only survive by giving back to nature. Abuse and manipulation have brought humanity to the edge of an apocalypse.

Ashish, while pursuing architecture on one side, is also into tree plantations for the past two years. He has crossed thousands plus tree plantations which are now turned into a mini forest. As a guardian, Ashish takes proper care of every plant, naming them for recognition and easy watch. All the trees planted are Indian native species, which will help to restore food and biodiversity.

"I began by planting 10 trees. The satisfaction and positive feeling were so immense that I could not stop there but kept on planting more trees," says Ashish.

Watching the tiny saplings grow into sturdy trees has been exhilarating, and he has found nothing that even comes close to this feeling of pure joy.

To quote Ashish, "contributing in a little way to my beloved mother earth is the least that I can do. We as humans should contribute a bit of our part towards nature. In this fast-growing world, I am happy to see people work for social causes on a large basis".

Ashish runs an animal rescue centre. He has been looking after the animals, providing them food, shelter and medical care. The centre is open to animal lovers for adoption.

Sharing his life story, Ashish said: 'As a teenager, I witnessed the tragic death of a dog. The dog had newborn puppies. I could not stop myself from taking care of her litter. That was the beginning. Caring for nature and animals have made me a better human being. We have trained none of us in animal welfare or claim to be environmentalists. It is like being on "on-the-job training" that we have learnt everything by practising. Care and compassion teach us some important life lessons.

Seeing the impact that Ashish and his team have had on the Sambhaji Nagar eco-space, the government official has been forthcoming in their contribution. Change has only come after everyone realised that it's a collective effort that will give results.

His goal is to create a natural habitat for animals, birds and trees. A place that all living beings can share and sustain. For this, he needs lots of volunteers and monetary support. As an optimist, Ashish is confident that one day this will happen, even if it takes a little longer than planned.

Ashish is a living example of how an individual can do wonders. His team of nature lovers work day and night to protect and replenish in whatever way possible. He has been an inspiration to others, and many young minds have joined the team. They believe in learning by doing. Experience is the best teacher one can have.

Written by: Archita Ghamande