This was the second place we visited after Chandigarh. Chellu was very excited to head to JCNP. In fact it’s for the girls that we specifically chose JCNP. We as a family love nature and my kids revel in it. It’s the best thing ever for them. The freedom of space, the innumerable opportunities to explore, the mess and the physical activities it affords are all perfect reasons. And we have taken our kids to nature related stuff since they were babies. The one trip that I will always remember is of Algonquin National Park in the middle of nowhere, Canada. Chellu was @ 21 mos and I was 6 mos pregnant with Kunju. We had a blast. .We hiked a lot over plains and huge hills. Chellu was like a pro. That’s when it struck as to how much she loves to hike. She refused to take our help even then. She would balance herself beautifully on her tiny hands and legs, would slide down slopes, jump across puddles..It was like she was actually playing in a park.
We wanted to recreate all of that magic again in the JCNP trip and of course nature did it effortlessly.
We reached the Club Mahindra resort by late night. When the girls got up the next morning they were super excited to realize that they had finally reached JCNP. We got a room on the ground floor. They loved the easy access to the outdoors. Of course playing with stones was number one activity. I spied them playing role play games with the stones many times. That day they spent a lot of time rambling around the complex taking in everything new with the environment with great enthusiasm. Swimming in the pool was their first priority after the breakfast.
That afternoon we went for an elephant safari and needless to say they were super excited about it. The safari through the forest reserve made them aware of so many things..Animal sightings and a new found knowledge of flora. We all came to know for the first time the fruit from which sindoor is made. The girls plucked a lot of it and kept rubbing off the sindoor all over their body. Chellu kept shooshooing her sister incase we happened to disturb the tigers . They were amused by the langoors , and shouted “Bambi” when they spotted a fawn. Laadli the elephant we were riding decided to take a toilet break and the girls were surprised at how much poop and pee elephant excretes!! Hahaha..Kunju commented that Laadli is a dirty girl not knowing how to pee in the toilet! She asked “ Dosen’t laadli’s mother make her wear a diaper?” and I was like “Imagine how big that diaper would have to be!!”
The next few days we spent at JCNP was a true joy for the kids. They reveled at everything. The safaris, the swim in the kosi river, the sight-seeing, the stuffed animal museums, the star gazing in the night through our telescope. Chellu asked a lot of Qs and we discussed about camouflage, forest fires, animal life, rivers and their annual cycles, weather , forest management , birds ,wildlife and the dangers they face , pugmarks , water-holes , craters , stars etc.. Prior to going for the early morning jeep safari , Chellu was fast asleep but absolutely didn’t mind being woken up. The sisters loved the feel of wind while riding on the open jeep during the safari. The whole experience was magical in a sense- riding past acres of fields, rivers, valleys, quite hamlets and finally the forest.
Not once during the 3 hr safari that we took twice in different areas of the jungle did the girls complain about being bored. Their eyes searched with equal excitement as ours whenever the guide pointed to a creature. In fact he praised Kunju for her sharp-sightedness. Chellu would often ask for the binoculars. She would point to various trees, the shapes they made and would even detect alphabets in the shapes of the foliage. The sisters wondered if Mowgli lived in the forest and whether Sher Khan would show up? They did express some sadness over not sighting a tiger but since that was never the expectation that we had built around this trip, I guess they were happy with what they saw and experienced.
Once thing I always love about Chellu is her enthusiasm to jump in any new environment and soak it up completely. A part of it also comes from her absolute lack of fear. When Kunju kept asking if the tiger will show up and eat her, Chellu would often console her saying that animals will not hurt unless hurt. “They will not do anything to us Kunju!!” she would reassure. Chellu will never think twice before stepping in a river or about hiking in wilderness. Her curiosity is worth-learning from.. She will get so engrossed in her surroundings that time kinda comes to a standstill for her. That’s why she loves to hike in wilderness. There is so much to see, to inspect, to collect. In this trip, since the kosi river was quite dry we had to climb down and up the very rocky bank. Chellu refused to take any help and enjoyed the climbing.
Chellu's thought process and reflections took on a new tinge. Once while Shankar and I were racing with each other while swimming she suggested that we try holding hands together and swim. We tried it and couldn’t manage to swim but then realized that the back stroke is very much possible while holding hands! We have been swimming together for so many years but have never thought about swimming while holding hands! Chellu commented that this way I can learn to swim as fast as Shankar…:) We had a lot of fun around the pool. Shankar and I would swim while the kids would run from one end to the other. We had many such races. The girls also enjoyed playing throw ball with us in the pool and them outside.
As of Kunju while she soaked up herself completely in certain experiences she resisted a few and tried a few others. While she is not the types to jump into a river at the first sight, she did end up sitting on a boulder and enjoying the river . She did not enjoy the hike but loved running about in the resort grounds. Being the younger child she always lets her sister first jump into anything new and then slowly but steadily launches herself. Even in the pool she first soaked her legs and then after a long time started to play in the water after seeing other kids enjoying the water.
Initially Shankar & I found it difficult to accept her non-risk taking personality. Especially since we love adventure and our first child is very much like us. But this is the lesson to be learned. That our children might be very different from each other and from us. The important thing is to see the gem that lies within each child and tap their personality likewise. Even as HSing parents we do sometimes commit the costly mistake of comparing the siblings. “ Look at your sister..look how she jumped into the pool..!!” This trip kinda made me realize that my daughters are very different and I err big time by expecting my younger one to be like the rest of us. As Hsers we should be wary of creating competition or complexes amongst our own children. For us Hsing is about respecting each child as divine that has been born to realize its individual greatness. Fitting in is simply not expected. But having grown in the system comparing and expecting becomes our nature. This trip did help me see the vast differences between my children ( atleast as of now, it might change over the years) and gently reminded me to be appreciative of it.
The sisters also made new friends in the resort. This was the first time that Chellu has spent a sizeable amount of time playing with her friends alone in the park in the resort.The jhoola hannging from the mango tree was their favorite. But the best part was Kunju making her own friends! She found two other girls exactly her size and height. The three would run holding hands in the cafetaria making thier own games. It was such a joy for me to see Kunju with her own gang since Kunju is always surrounded by much elder children. And she isn't the types to make friends very easily.
This trip has been very relaxing in the truest sense. We had lots of time to do things together, come up with new ideas and experience nature in a slow mode instead of the usual hurrying from one thing to the next. And this slowing down did wonders on the children. They were at their best behavior and very cheerful. I guess they were reflecting our own selves as children often do. This is infact the beauty of nature. It calms you down so beautifully , a trait that we and our children have often lost in our urban lives. This trip kinda rekindled in me our desire as a family to live with nature at some point of our lives. There is no sense in just experiencing something temporarily and coming back especially when you love it. Someday we would love to break away from this mad urban mode and live amongst nature. I know that my children will love it. And a part of me wants to do it desperately for their sake before they grow up and become all serious about life.
These are my children’s days of careless wanderings through the wild, of stopping and smelling a flower, of patiently watching a lady-bug makes its way through the grass, of endless collection of stones, of splashing in the river water for ever , of marveling at a leaf’s shape or just simply running around like crazy on the cool green grass. I want these experiences to become a part of their everyday lives and not something that happens only in a vacation. This trip has certainly touched all of us deep down and reminded us of the divinity & importance of nature. I find it very irritating when people nod their heads sadly on knowing that we didn’t sight a tiger in JCNP. “ Arrey yaar udhar tiger dekhne ke liye tho jhaathen hain naa?” many exclaim! Seriously why are people so dumb? I really feel sorry for these people. They have lost how to be appreciative of nature and how to enjoy it truly. They race their children from one safari to the other , from one sight-seeing spot to the other, do the “Check-list” and come back, jubilant if they spotted the tiger and disgusted if not. It’s like all their money got wasted if they didn’t see the elusive tiger. I seriously pity such an attitude .
This pull towards nature does define our HSing character. In fact that is one of the big reasons to not send our children to school. We don’t see the value in urban, western , bread-oriented education. We want our children to get in touch with nature in a very deep level and choose a profession and life that co-exists with nature. It’s not enough that they just see tigers but think and do something about its survival. It’ s not enough to just splash around in the kosi but wonder about how to save our rivers. There is so much to do in this sense. I never worry about my children not becoming doctors or engineers but worry whether they and their future generations will have enough to eat, whether they will have forests to roam in and whether they will ever step into pristine rivers. It is important for us to provide them with the environment that leads to such questions. Cause what the future really needs is for us to preserve, protect and prosper nature. The JCNP trip made us aware of so many difficulties that the nation faces when it comes to protecting forests and wildlife. The tigers are on peril, the forest is being reduced by increasing habitation, the villagers are at risk from wildlife etc etc..It irritates me greatly that we as urban dwellers conveniently ignore these issues and come back to living on the tip of the melting iceberg like nothing ever changed . And we want our children to continue living on this tip…
“ So did we spot a tiger?” Like I care a BLOODY HOOT!