Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Through the Green Lens; A Photo Story


When you say ‘Nature’ to me, no poetry born under a cherry tree comes to mind. No tune composed by the river or lyrics of a song the winds on the dunes sang. No quotable quotes either. When I hear ‘Nature’, all connections in my neurons go blank, except one. The one which zips me back to where I belong, and how. In the Doon valley, you grow up making tree houses and befriending squirrels-next-door. You play fetch with your dog in a kitchen garden which grows the family’s vegetables and you ride a scooter on roads so thickly lined with old Fir trees, the mountains on all 4 sides have to vie for a little attention. My home town where my memories with Nature converge is a picture every 5-year-old draws in the name of ‘Scenery’.

Mountains big and small standing arm in arm, drawn in crayons. A sun with glorious rays peeping from between the two in the middle. Smiling. Two birds like the letter V flying randomly and a river flowing down the tallest peak. A small hut, driveway, tree to one side and bush to the other. Maybe a pond with a few ducks. And three stick figures – father, mother and child – with arms upraised, as if saying Hurrah to the delightful surroundings. When you say ‘Nature’ to me, this comes to mind. 

A picture of Friendship with Nature. A bond that develops over time and is unlike any other. No strings attached here, no self-interest. No obligation or customary to-dos. None. A symbiotic coexistence in its purest form. In its most real form. One hundred percent.

I was inspired to befriend Nature as a girl, then introduced to the marvels of the wild as a married woman and today, encouraged as a mother to egg my own child into this friendship. Three phases, and I let my picture collection tell you about them.

Phase 1
Friends of the Doon Society, and me


I had barely learnt to differentiate between a moth and a butterfly in school when I was asked by my parents to ‘start contributing’ to an NGO they had been a part of. FODS was founded nearly three decades ago by 5 concerned citizens of the Doon valley towards the protection of this ecologically fragile belt. It was this NGO which played a pivotal role in shutting down the lime quarries in the Uttarakhand hills. I was initially enrolled in ‘NEAP’ – Nature and Environment Awareness Programme, which meant I was to visit schools and conduct informal sessions on environmental topics I myself knew enough about. And that was just the beginning, with no looking back to doing my tiny bit. While work made me relocate out of the city, FODS, with my parents as its core members, continues strong and committed. Nature trails and quizzes are organized in schools across the valley, as are bird-watching and nature camps. Under ‘Trees for Doon’, FODS asks citizens for land to plant trees on, providing free saplings and seeds for whoever volunteers a patch to be greened. A Citizen Action Group has been formed in collusion with other NGOs in order to deal with the civic problems of the city, in coordination with the government machinery.

FODS in the city
But the largest project running successfully remains ‘The Elephant Family’, with its primary aim of protecting the Asiatic Elephant. In order to reduce the dependence of humans on Rajaji National park, its natural habitat, FODS adopted a village, Rasulpur, to keep the locals self-sufficient and aware through alternative livelihood options and workshops, respectively.

Activities in the village include promoting new farmer techniques like poly-tunnels through workshops, creating compost pits, adult education classes, free health camps, computer education centres, looms for women, distributing solar lamps, cycles for girls to reach far flung schools, artificial insemination in cattle, etc. 
      Needless to say, this is how I was inspired to become Nature's friend, as a "friend-in-need". When I was shown not just how beautiful and fascinating it was, but also how vulnerable and how fragile. And how it needed us humans to intervene for its well-being and ours. Yes, even a youngling like me!


Phase 2
Into the Wild - Me and my husband

I did not marry a cave man, but I did find one who believed in wild honeymoons. Before your mind races like a cheetah, look at the picture. In the first year of our marriage, we left no stone unturned to traverse National Parks and safari across Wildlife Sanctuaries. Enjoy Forest Reserves and live on a boat to visit mangrove forests. From tuned-n-tamed nature before marriage, I was swept into nature growing wild, and in the wild. These were no resorts with manicured lawns and imported palm trees. Here, nothing stood between you and an angry animal except a man-in-khaki. Where wild boars were wild, not animated creatures out of ‘Madagascar’. Where mosquitoes bit like bees, and bees if upset could kill. Wild tuskers could chase you like toys and crocodiles snap your anchor into half. And where a beautiful bird song could be one asking you to step out of the way, for the tiger-in-stripes was walking that way. 

Some of the sanctuaries and reserves we visited - Buxa Tiger Reserve, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, Gorumara National Park, Chilla Forest Reserve, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary  
It was through many such honeymoons scattered over a year that I discovered the ‘wild’ side of the lover in me. The lover to Nature, of course, growing free far away from what I had come to call 'home' but as marvellous as creation can be!


Phase 3
Paying it Forward - Us and our child

Life happened. Out went the wild and in walked the domestic every day. The green side of our hearts had to make do with a few pots of plants and a handful of sunshine, as we earned the other kind of green to survive. It is now that I became an addict, of Facebook’s Farmville. Sowed and reaped pumpkins. Put an alarm to wake-up at odd hours to collect the harvest. The phone bill came, we were left bankrupt and I was detoxified. I bought myself an extra pot for a bitter gourd vine and forgot all about reliving and recreating an expanse of green in my apartment-life, like the green times I had left behind. Little did I know then that all I needed was a child to take me back to being my Nature’s friend again.

And my son arrived. 

How the first introduction to Nature is in the form of cuddly toys, and expanses of greens and blues and browns which make no sense, but still invite their tiny minds. From Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary to Bangkok's Siam Ocean World, from Bhimbetka caves to a Mughal window in the Red Fort, my son was saying his first hellos to Nature even before I taught him how to.

And when his feet allowed him to walk, it was time to go a step further in this friendship. Run and fly pigeons in Jaipur's Albert Hall, or take orange sweet-peas for a ride in Lodhi gardens. Show us how flowers bloom or talk to fake peacocks in Surajkund. And stand mesmerised babbling with beautiful white ducks. No surprise then that the first book he chose to buy was called 'My First Hundred Animals'.

But when language is learnt, Curiosity learns to ask questions. Why is the feather so soft? How come these leaves are so thin? You hug a tree reliving 'Chipko Movement', whispering an I love you. Run amok on the green with stranger children. Stare intently at pieces of natural history in a museum or even talk to a twig the grass was hiding. Why, you even start imagining you are Atlas, shrugged! And you ask, on and on and on and on, the why what how where how come. 
About Nature.
He's a 3-year-old boy now. I always tell him – when life gives you lemons, go look for the lemon tree. There may be pretty white flowers you may get to see. Something new, entirely! Or something wondrous and miraculous, waiting to make you gasp. And he understands, already. Feeling one with nature takes nothing and gives so much in return. Calm on a stressful day or something new to discover in the mundane. Sowing a seed in a pot and enjoying the sapling grow as if a fairy waved a wand or soaking in the sun and making mansions out of imagination. Admiring the tree and understanding growth, or the waves and thinking of change and flux. And what better way to teach my child the important idea of Respect – not just about touching elders’ feet but also letting the tiny ant crossing his path be. Safe and free, just like he likes to be. 

And gradually, through nurture and nature, our Friendship with Nature evolves, grows and gets sealed. For a lifetime, at least! Just like ours, as a family!




47 comments:

  1. N looks so delighted with the tomatoes. I personally think visiting natural parks, sanctuaries and reserves helps one in appreciating the greens we lack in out city life; which in turn motivates us to take whatever steps we can to help..

    Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't you and the husband visit the Rhino reserve as well?

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    1. Yes, Gorumara National Park has rhinos. Great memory! :D
      Thank you so much for stopping by! :)

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  2. Such a delightful post, Sakshi!

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  3. I'm gonna sum all this, up in two lines.
    1. N is Nature's Eternal Comrade...
    2. You're gonna gift one of those Nature's Trail packages to N, very soon. :)

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    1. 1. Yes, you are right, Poonam.
      2. Who knows. :) But, will be happy to.
      Thanks a lot for your wishes!

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    2. See, 2. Came True!
      So happy for you, A and N!
      Congratulations! :)

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    3. Thank you so much, Poonam. :)

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  4. Beautiful writing, Sakshi! Best of luck for the contest!

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  5. The last pic says it all. Loved the introductory para so much that I read it again. My mind did run like a cheetah, but it was in the right direction - on a nature trail.
    This post is a winner for me. Pack your bags baby!

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    1. :D Trust you to play with words and string them thus. You are getting me over-confident and my mind is racing too now, exactly where yours did, Alka. :D Well, win or no win, compiling these pictures through all the albums was a lot of fun.
      And the post added to my blog too. So this was a win already. However, fingers crossed. Why lie. ;)

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  6. Ah!! A family that is living beautifully. God bless you guys!!
    And the last picture! YOU SHALL WIN THIS CONTEST!

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    1. Red, thank you. Trying our best. Soon he'll find us out-dated and his friends from school cooler to hang out with. So making the most weekend-to-weekend. :D
      Ha ha, well, that last picture, yeah. Thank you! :)

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  7. Very nice post Sakshi ! Growing up in the Doon valley must have been an amazing experience !
    All the best for the contest.

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    1. Amazing it was. I think all this craving for green and clean that I carry is a trait I acquired because of where and how I grew up. I really want to pass on at least a teeny tiny bit of it to N.
      Thanks for the good luck! :)

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  8. Delightful and very green post :) You are going to win this one.

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    1. :) Who knows. But thank you. Was great fun creating this post!

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  9. Beautiful post, ma'am. I can relate till phase-1 and that's what I've written about too. I wish you would take a look. I hope I would have a similar phase2 and 3 in future. As for the contest, you have nailed it for sure. I'm already dreaming about visiting Doon valley.

    And N is so adorable in the last pic. Love.

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    1. I will take a look, Meghana, if you promise me not to ma'am me ever again. I may look/act/talk/walk/eat/drink like your school headmistress but really, I will not bite if you call me Sakshi. ;)
      Doon is right where it has been. Do visit, and ping me before you do.
      N is a brat. Took a 100 pictures before he made a decent enough face to use for this. :P

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    2. Hahah! Thank you, Sakshi. I like your reaction for that "ma'am" bit ;)

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  10. Lovely! The words and the pictures and the winner for me is the last pic.. his grin says it all :) This is one contest the judges should have no problem selecting the winner :)

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    1. He LOVES playing with the vegetables in the fridge. He takes them out and then assembles a shop. So essentially, Seeta, I buy all my veggies twice over. We are still arguing if tomato is a fruit or a veggie but he refuses to take my word for it that it is a fruit. They are his fav, hence the smile!
      Many brilliant entries for this contest. I'm just glad this came out the way it did. The rest time will tell. Thanks a lot!

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  11. Beautiful write up sakshi...
    good luck

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  12. Beautiful Photos and beautiful post

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  13. Well, I loved the thought how u put it across..we all want our kids to be close to nature, understand, love it and don't abuse it..:)

    Loved the picture gallery!...

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    1. Thanks a lot for stopping by, Pooja. Happy to know the parent in you! :)

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  14. This is such a beautiful, refreshing post. And oh, you were so lucky to have spent your childhood in the Doon valley!

    I loved the line "When life gives you lemons, go look for the lemon tree."

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    1. Thank you, Diptee. Lucky I was indeed. And now, Dilli. :P
      Thanks for sharing the line on FB too. :) I felt like a new age guru being quoted. :D

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  15. Amazing post - loved reading about your trips to all the parks. The National Parks in the US are what I enjoy the most - they come a close second to the awesome libraries :).

    It's amazing how kids bring us close to nature by being curious or by pausing to appreciate the simple beauty around us.

    I sure hope you win! Good luck!

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    1. Oh yes, Shachi. I know what you are talking about. Seen some of both in the US and I totally agree with you.
      Such fun it is, isn't it, to really become in child again with our children? There is so much we as adults can learn still.
      Thanks a lot for the wishes and even more for liking this post.

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  16. Beautiful writing! Straight from the heart, perhaps that's the only way Nature can be truly experienced and expressed...Great collection of photos too!

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  17. Beautiful di !!! Loved each line nd each bit of it ..reminded of my old days in doon valley ! Awesome writing which actually not only reflects yr love fr nature but yr family life . It gives us all a lesson to be able to appreciate what we possess ! :) Stay blessed .

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    1. Thanks a lot, Bhavna. Good to see you here! :)

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  18. Hey Sakshi, What a beautiful post and I can see the winner of the contest already !

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    1. Come on, Ananya! :D So so many brilliant entries. This surely was fun to write/compile though!

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  19. Excellent.....a picturesque tale

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  20. Congratulations on the win. Your son is adorable!!

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  21. It's so wonderful to know about your love for nature and see the love traverse through three generations. Very inspiring :)

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    1. Thanks a lot for reading and liking, Rajlakshmi!

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  22. Congratulations for this master piece, Sakshi and the post is a blockbuster winner all the way. Loove the pics with the young man, befriending nature. He is adorable in the pics, enjoying every moment with the beauty of our country. Loove the Doon pic loads:)

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    1. Thank you many times over, Vishal.

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