My Story

It does not start with when I was born.
But it starts when I was Reborn.
And that was several times

Dr Rajendra Shende
“Looking-back” is not necessarily a leisurely exercise. Neither it is an unproductive workout. “ Looking-back “ produces number of lessons that enables one to ‘look-forward’. More than that it helps me to reborn and resurrect.
Yes, this site is the story of number of resurrections that I underwent in my journey till now. And yes, you guessed right, it has not yet finished!
The most transformative ‘looking-back’ exercise that totally changed my way thinking took place on December 1972 in the dark and silent space, 29,000 kilometres above our planet’s surface.
Harrison Schmitt, one of the three crew members of the Apollo 17 spacecraft of NASA on its way to the Moon, took a photograph of the full and wholesome earth. Never before such a clear image of the Earth looking like a ‘ blue ball of jade’ was captured. That later became one of the most reproduced images in history. The time when it was captured was 4.09 PM in India. The sight of the fully illuminated Earth by the flashlight of Sun that was on the backside of the astronaut , it was the mega-opportunity for the crew of Apollo 17 to click in the dark of the space. They did.
It took several days for NASA to publish that image, popularly called as ‘Blue Marble”, for the word to see. When I saw it, I was working as an engineer in my first job in Tata Chemicals, in the town called Mithapur. The township and the factory of Mithapur was situated right on the tip of the hen-looking protruding part of the western India called as Saurashtra. It was even visible in that image of Blue Marble. I was taken aback by that image of the full and wholesome Earth that to me looked like lonely , full of frailty and vulnerability, isolated amid the vast expanse of the dark space.
Interestingly, The Stockholm conference on Human Environment, the first ever deliberations by the world leaders on interaction between humans and our planet’s environment, had just taken place in June 1972. I linked those deliberations in Stockholm Conference to that image of fragile Earth.
That was my first resurrection. It was clear that humans are whipping the fragile Earth , our only home, by their indiscriminate action. And there is no other home. No planet B.
20 years from then, in 1992, the world witnessed another momentous gathering of the Head of the States of nearly all the countries around the globe at Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. For the first time so many heads of the state came together under the banner of United Nations to prepare and launch the Blueprint called ‘Agenda 21’. The objective was to chart out the actions for new Millennium, 21st century, that was still 8 years away.
I was in Paris precisely at that time, busy in preparing and launching another blueprint called ‘OzonAction’. That action plan was for protecting the world from fast depleting life-shield around the planet i.e. Stratospheric Ozone Layer. The objective was to be accomplished within the 18 years starting from 1992.
The need of the blueprint of the OzonAction was the direct result of the urgent actions needed to save the fast deteriorating ozone layer and global Multilateral Environmental Agreement called the Montreal Protocol agreed by nearly all the countries in the world. The agreement called for the elimination of the Ozone Depleting Chemicals, or Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) as popularly known. The Montreal Protocol stated that by 2010 production and consumption of most of the man-made ODS had to be halted.
That was the year I was selected through global selection process for the job in United Nations Environment Programme. I left my corporate management career in India behind me. I was chemical engineer from IIT Bombay by qualification and had risen to corporate management level in India. It was quantum shift and continental rift in my career. I moved from national private sector to global environmental management and from Indian sub-continent to Western Europe-France.
Dr Rajendra Shende in China
Long-range result-based strategic planning that I was used to employ in corporate business management in India came handy while working in the international agency like United Nations to implement the Montreal Protocol. Agenda 21 and the OzonAction under the Montreal Protocol were in fact the long-range planning documents that included the turn-around strategy for the global corporation called ‘Earth Limited’!
That was the time when the global bipolar cold-war was ending, and multilateral global warming-war was taking birth. I realized that there are many holes, not only ozone hole, in the global equity and global development process in managing the global commons i.e. natural resources. Having seen the Board-room-wars in the
private sector, I realised much wider and deeper conflicts among business and between the nations, mainly arising of the greed, economic and social inequalities.
It became evident to me that national borders will remain the major cause of conflicts. But what crosses national borders like rivers, air pollution, oceans and trade in environmental sensitive commodities, black carbon particulate matters , ozone layer, climate change are equally important causes for the clashes at the board rooms of ‘Earth Limited’ of United Nations. Deforestation and desertification were not only threatening the survival of the human race, but they were making the ‘Earth Limited’ bankrupt with fast depleting nature, cultures and the future.
I resurrected once more. I rededicated myself for the job ahead of me in United Nations , first to save the Ozone layer and then mitigate the climate change.
Nearly 20 years forward, when I ended my mission in United Nations in 2011, my task of ozone layer protection was accomplished. Production and consumption of the most Ozone Depleting Chemicals were eliminated exactly as per the time-schedule. That was the demonstration of what collective actions by the countries and the political resolve could achieve given the scientific evidence and common sense.
My journey of ‘next-resurrection’ began after that resounding global success. I realised that three lessons from the success in saving the ozone layer and in avoiding the world that ‘ we did not want’ must not be forgotten. First , we could have done better by engaging the communities of youth in the university-campus, women in their house-holds, famers in their agricultural-fields, poor in their hatched-houses to accelerate the actions towards ‘ future we want’. Second, while solving one environmental issue of Ozone Layer protection, we have contributed to aggravate the existing climate crisis. The ecosystems are interlinked and hence the solutions to environmental issues cannot be fragmented . And third , partnerships have to be innovative and not just for the financial transfers of the funds from developed to developing countries
So, I decided to continue my walk like a global nomad. I resurrected again.
Dr Rajendra Shende in France
Let me take you, at this stage ,to a flash-back. My nomadic journey, in fact, had begun in 1950s in the stark rural area in India, where the water had to be fetched from river a km away and light in the night was available only through the burning of the kerosene in the lanterns. I was living in the mud house without a concrete slab and without any touch of cement. The two room house was rented by my parents to hold
6 of us . I walked a km to daily to reach to the primary school and studied sitting on the floor. That lasted till my primary schooling was over.
Many people of my age who now occupy the high positions in India also went through similar situation and hardships. It never occurred to me to attract the sympathy by describing such apparently miserable conditions to get applause for my achievements and accolade in my later life. The reason is simple, I never considered my childhood conditions to be hard, nor full of suffering and definitely not deprived of the human joys. Lessons I learnt, ‘looking back’ at that life, became my treasure and the capital to invest in my future life. The adverse conditions have lessons when we look back.
Looking back, those were the days, full of struggle, aspirations and hopes. Adversity, I think, is not only mother of invention but a father of ‘thinking-differently’ and grandmother of serendipity. My primary education was in small village of Vaduj. For secondary education, I moved to another small town of Rahimatpur where my aging grandmother was living. Interestingly, while my mother who took her children under her wings in that muddy house of the village of Vaduj where she was primary teacher, my illiterate grandmother in small town of Rahimatpur helped me to get ‘differently-educated’ for secondary education.
My grandmother herself had gone through even tougher times. Her stories were full of ‘looking-back’ exercises that she unveiled before me. I then started loving and reliving her nostalgia myself. Not for my daydreaming, but for dreaming for my future with restlessness. In the huge ancestral house of Rahimatpur, we were only two residing there. My grandmother and me.
When she took me under her wings, that was also my resurrection. Reinvention, recreation and reimagination became my new traits and tracks. Definition of my ‘dream’ then became , not as something that I get in sleep but that does not allow me to sleep.
Realising my restlessness in Rahimatpur, my uncle took me to Mumbai- Bombay those days-for further secondary education. There my journey took me on further ascents. I stood among top-50 of the state-level Secondary School Examination and then cracked national level IIT entrance examination to enter into that ‘out-of-the world’ experience of IIT. I was reborn.
It is said that “Put Harvard, MIT and Princeton together, and you begin to get an idea of the status of IIT in India”. That was yet another trajectory for me leading to yet another resurrection.
This web site is full of the impact of those trajectories. These are the cyber pages of journey of resurrections.
From very peculiar rowdy and rough local rural Marathi language to Imperial Oxford English, and then to stylish and smooth French, from the green campus of IIT Bombay to crusty salt fields of Tata Chemicals , from profit-hungry business and industry to peace making United Nations, from the causes of the problems to the tenets of the solutions, from making of chemicals to phase out of those lingering and persistent man made pollutants and finally from the dusty soil to sky-high stratosphere , it is a journey of a nomad called Rajendra Shende that has no destination.

This web site is the reflection of that journey. It is :

Epitaph of the past.

Epitome of the future.

Episode of the transformation.

Would it be Epilogue of the ‘Earth Limited’?
I leave it to you, my friends.
Do send me feedback on what you think.