US woman on mission to make Agra worthy of Taj
"This city needs a push. We need new community leaders who can command respect and inspire people," Erin White, draped in a pink sari, told IANS.
White, who took part in a programme to feed lepers near the Taj Mahal, said she wants to stay in the city "till 60 or may be more as long as the body permits".
The Yoga teacher decided to do her bit and change perceptions of tourists and local people, after she came to India to help in charity work.
"The city is dirty and no one wants to stay back here for a night. You have to teach people to be conscious of hygiene, health and sensibilities of others. You have to build trust and reach out," she said.
"I have now a nucleus of five people and will go on adding more and more good people for a cause that will bridge the communication divide," White said.
"It's kind of a Robin Hood-type arrangement. You take from the rich who have enough and plough back a portion to the needy and deserving," she said, referring to the heroic outlaw in British folklore who robbed the rich to donate it to the poor.
White wants Agra to become cleaner and greener, not just physically "but spiritually too".
"I have held a seminar of small businessmen and traders. They were told of ethical practices and their responsibilities to society. The process of sensitising them and to teach them good manners will continue," White said.
Tourists who visit the city engage in what she termed a kind of "rape".
"They come, touch, enjoy and go away. What do they take or give? I am working on programmes that would involve them to share the burden, make them work, teach, discuss or interact with the community. Such tourists will be contacted online."
White's mantra is "discover, inspire and defend". She is looking out for "heroes" in various fields.
"You need role models. A democratic society needs inspiring heroes to move ahead. You need success stories to diffuse the clouds of negativity all around," White said.
"I intend to bring celebrities like actor Priyanka Chopra and others to help us in our programmes here, and mobilise the locals so that they feel involved and become contributors rather than spectators to the process of change that is waiting to happen."On how many people will support her, White said: "Oh lots, you wait and watch. So many students, businessmen and professionals... I am talking with so many and they all agree that the time for change has indeed come."
"And this change will be ushered when everyone in the city gets involved and actively participates in projects that can redefine the existing parameters," White said.