Friday, July 6, 2012

What the girls learned at Hide-Out

Well one of  the first things that struck me at HO was that when the rest of the kids in India would be going for their first week of school, my girls were here , attending the best school in the world. The school of nature. Can any class-room really beat the farm at HO? Can any amount/kind of science, nature lesson substitute the lessons they would learn during their week's stay at HO? I assumed not and was proved absolutely right.
When I came back from the trip i got a bit of ranting from my family about how we just " choose to chill out in a farm" instead of being responsible parents who would enroll their kids in a school. That comment made me sit down and list everything we discussed and did as an activity to remind myself that our learning during the 7 days of HO was beyond anything that any school could have offered. So here goes the list:
1. All of us TOUGHENED UP big time:

  • Especially Kunju. For the first few days she was constantly complaining about the mud in her feet and dress & the wetness everywhere. She is by nature slightly finicky about cleanliness. But after talking to her several times about how mud cannot be avoided in such a place and that MUD IS NOT DIRT, MUD IS GOOD and that its okay if her dress gets a little mud on her, she eventually loosened up. By the end of the week at HO she didn't even bother wearing any damn shoes and was running around in her jaddi happily. 
  • They got to experience darkness and overcame huge fears. In Pune they would sometimes be scared to go to the toilet without the lights in the passageway. And here in HO in a few days they had come in terms with the darkness..every evening the lights would go off at 6.30 pm and they would eat their dinner ( with insects literally swarming @ us) , find their ways across the garden to & from the room with a torch and would go to sleep in utter darkness with no fan ( & it was quite hot). One afternoon while searching for Chellu i realized that she was sitting in pitch darkness on the toilet seat ( the bathroom had no windows and was generally pitch dark even during the daytime due to the power-cuts) all by herself. She hadn't even bothered to ask us.
  • All of us got used to @ 14 hr power-cuts. Of course being in an open environment like that made it easier but it was certainly very hot. I think for 2-3 days or so the temp must have hovered at @ 40 + or so. Our attitude towards sweating changed- we accepted it as a good thing rather than the usual fretting.  Every night the girls went to bed without electricity ..anywayz  they used to be dead tired too by then to really bother about any fan!
  • The lack of electricity was indeed a huge lesson in getting out of one's comfort zone. Of becoming stronger mentally & physically. An extremely valuable lesson I believe. 
2. We learned how to plant  :
  • Pineapples -
  • Banana trees-
  • Drumstick trees
  • Rice ..Included in these planting were up & close observations of the above plants ( I have never known all my life as to how pricky a pineapple plant can be), learning to dig, interacting with the farm help while resting & what effort it takes to plant anything! That food dosen't appear like magic in the shops. Hemant had mentioned latter on that what we eat is not just the sweat of the farmer but his blood! Rice plantations require a lot sitting throughout- its kinda like doing a 100 baitaks. Imagine the effort that goes into growing food! 
  • Lotsa physical labor. Chellu participated in each and every digging during the plantations. It was just amazing to watch her. How strong she is mentally. She should have been born to a farmer. 
4. Sorting of mangoes
5. Picked a lot of Marathi- interacted a lot with the farm workers and our Swadhyay Parivaar folks from nearby villages. 
6. How to prepare the roof for the monsoon- the 2nd day the girls climbed on the roof of the mandap and helped the workers with putting up new sheets and laying fresh hay and tightening the harnesses @ the bamboo sticks that go across the roof. An experience that no school would have taught them. 
7. How to prepare amrit paani & use of ash as an insecticide. Both were used during the pineapple plantations.
8. Touched and examined a dead snake ( garden snake called Nanavati)
9. Watched fireflies in the pitch darkness- @ it was a discussion of pollution and effect of city lights on the lives of fireflies. Kunju commented that it felt like fairy land. And indeed it was- almost magical to watch the fireflies in that darkness.
10. Watched the rural night sky in all its magnificence. Wow..that was like magic really. The rural sky has a beauty that's unmatched. It literally felt like diamonds studded in the sky- Discussion @ God has made everything so beautiful for us..his Greatness, Divinity, Gratitude. 
11. Collected plastics @ the farm- discussion @ bad effects of plastics vs natural decomposition. Also discussed why Hemant uncle didn't encourage processed food in such a place- the plastics it would bring, how it would tempt the farm animals & harm them. and that's exactly what had happened. One of the cats had spied on our Bourbon biscuits and had gobbled up a few. He was certainly not comfortable that day. 
12. Observed LOTS OF camoflauge & symbiosis. 
13. Animal behavior: Watched and played a lot with pets in a totally natural environment. The cats playing in the farm was a treat to watch..they would climb up the trees and the almirahs & play with the insects. We had read in a storybook that cats always fall on their legs no matter what- we gotto watch that everyday in the farm. 
14.  Sensitivities improved greatly due to the darkness.
15. Participated in emptying a huge pit. Conversation on how to look out for snakes.
16. Discussion on what's a dam, how is electricity produced?, Narmada Bachaao Andolan.
17. Recognition of various plants/trees- on the first day itself we went @ the farm trying to recognize the plants & trees and I was surprised at how much Chellu knows! Chellu could recognize all of them by the time we left.
18. Discussion on why is the cow worshiped in our culture? How the cow helps in natural recycling of all the wet garbage by eating the left-overs. They also got to feed somthng or the other to cows everyday leading to discussions on Herbivorous & Carnivorous animals , Rumination . 
19. Why sweating is good? We sweat such a lot there due to working in the farm during intense heat . We discussed about sweating as a good thing, the use of matki ka paani for a bath after intense sweating. 
20. Discussion on effect of permaculture farming on nearby villages= how the water table rises thus leading to more potable water. Chellu has seen a cartoon sort of documentary on  the same and thus could relate immediately.
21. Physical Play: They got to swing, climb, run a lot, play in a tent and of course play their usual role-play stuff like crazy! Just being in an all outdoor environment like that must have done a lot towards their physical well-being. 
22. Biodiversity & Organic Farming- How permaculture farming encourages all sorts of plants to grow with each other as against mono-culture farming. 
23. Learning from experts- From :

  • Hemant- On how to pick a fruit. Ants being vital insecticides, Bird pollination being crucial to the growth of the farm and Pruning of trees, How the whole farm was a barren land and it was turned into a fruit forest with permaculture. 
  • Madhukar- Terminator seeds, a lot of talk @ planting.
24. Swimming and experiencing two kinds of waterfalls ( one from a lake and the other from a dam), swimming in a dam.
25. Lots of playing withe PLENTY of natural items:
  • Gulmohar sticks
  • Stones,
  • buds
  • leaves
  • Flowers
  • Mud 
  • Fruits
26. Experiencing and participating in natural cooking- Observed choola cooking. Observed how to cut a pineapple and preparation of various sauces, salad dressings. 
27. Lots of relaxing , sleeping in a hammock ,  feeling the wind- lots of day dreaming ( very vital !!) 
28. Experienced True Community: On the last 2 days Dominique Anthony & Joon joined us. The girls had a blast with them. They wouldn't let go of them. To have adults who accept children just the way they are is a BLESSING that's hard to comprehend. The girls would have played like crazy with the guys. 
All of us went swimming together and it was a treat to see Joon & Dominique help Chellu to swim. Shankar, I, D & J formed four corners of a square ( which Chellu recognized immediately as a square!) and on D's command Chellu went swimming from one to the other. 
Then the last day Hemant took us to the waterfalls and let Chellu ride on his back to experience the foot of the falls.  For HSers like us community is vital and when we experience it we feel lucky and always one the right. That the universe can attract and bring to us the right people who accept us the way we are and show us better and bigger paths & goals.
29. Lots of hands-on cooking & observation: We cooked a lot especially during the last few days when Dominic & company arrived. Just watching that kind of spirit and team work can be valuable for anyone. Lots of talk @ healthy cooking & eating. Lots of valuable community time. Yes my girls are very lucky indeed!!
30. Nature decorations: Around the farms are small, wide pots/vessels that's filled with water and decorated with flowers & leaves. Shruthkirti had helped in decorating the same quite a few times.
31. Warli Painting: Gotto hear about the history of Warli artists and learned how to do Warli painting from an artist himself.

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