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Water, elephants and peace away from the madding crowds- march 22, 2012

Already in the lap of nature in Club Mahindra’s Kodagu Valley resort in Coorg, we took the opportunity to delve further into the jungle to visit the elephants on the Tala Cauvery river. The drive offered a visual treat of plantations growing coffee, betel nut, banana, coconut, maize and many other crops we couldn’t identify. The diversity of crops and the prosperity of the villages testified to the fertility of the Kodagu valley. We also saw this translated into the ready smiles of the locals who enthusiastically gave us directions in local dialect; they were confident and easy going and best of all, uncomplicated.
Closing in on the elephant camp we were headed for, we saw a group of about six elephants being led away. Soon we learnt that a strike had just begun and there would be no elephant bathing today. It was hard to be disappointed in the midst of such beauty and soon we were all rowing ourselves into the river on a still water rafting sortie! One leg in the raft, the other in the water, we rowed hard and worked off breakfast. The kids were totally in the mood to jump in the river, even willing to swim with the magnificent water snake we saw swim across right before our raft. Our guide informed us that the deceptively still waters were in fact about thirty feet deep and so the kids were reigned in!
On our return, we were delighted to see a group of elephants being bathed on the opposite side of the river (they belonged to the ‘private’ camp). Getting to them, however, entailed a rather tricky crossing of the river bed hopping over slippery stones and fording mini streams. Finally the kids did bathe and feed the elephants, those magnificent creatures stoically tolerating the crazy excitable tourists surrounding them.
All in all, it was an enjoyable morning. My idea of a holiday is either being in a bustling city where myriad stimuli hit you simultaneously or this- surrounded by the peace and quiet and melodious sounds of nature.
My day, fittingly, ended in an Ayurvedic massage. The spa here came highly recommended and Marlynne the masseuse did not let me down. She confided that she would be leaving next month after eight years of working to marry and settle down in native Kannur. A bit later, we were regaled with interesting stories by the resident musician, a creature of interesting ancestry and some talent, whose name we don’t yet know. And that, to me, is the best aspect of travel- meeting people you will forever associate with the place you’ve been to!





The liberation of leaving town- March 17, 2012

There is something particularly relaxing about leaving town. Today, we drove out only about half an hour to a friends farmhouse for a birthday. We drove through a bustling little town and a couple of sleepy villages. The green fields, the trees, birds and the rocky outcrops of the Aravallis came next. With every few kilometres, I felt my heart rate drop and my senses open up more.
At the farm, the children revelled in the simple pleasures of the outdoors. Climbing, running around, setting themselves simple challenges, it was a sheer pleasure to watch and be a part of. The hostess had gone a step further and organised some extra entertainment, calling in a potter from the village nearby, a horse to give kids rides, besides a funny duo who blew balloons, painted tattoos and showed magic while getting utterly bullied by the children.
The farmhouse itself was delightful. Landscaped but not manicured, some real veggies and fruits, lots of flowers. No loo and the kids seemed to even enjoy the experience of peeing in nature!
Kudos to all city dwellers who invest their money and their time (which is a lot tougher) to nurture a getaway. I especially admired this family for keeping it a simple wholesome experience that their children are an integral part of.






Exploring nature in the city: Children’s weekend club outing Feb 18, 2012

Dipanwita, a dear friend, initiated a weekend club for children last month (one more in a growing list of hobby clubs in Gurgaon, which is virtually buzzing with community-building activities like this), starting with a theater workshop on a Saturday in January 2012. This month, another friend Ritu, a nature lover and a lady with a green thumb, led the children and a bunch of tag-along adults into an exploration of nature in the midst of our city. Gurgaon, whatever its ills, has a few excellent green areas in and around it and the Sector 56 Tau Devi Lal Biodiversity Park was the centrally located, urban park chosen for today’s walk.

We assembled at seven- eight children and five adults to walk around the park. Ritu asked the children to observe keenly, ask questions and collect samples of whatever took their fancy in a bag. Cleverly, she praised the kids as responsible citizens who wouldn’t do something as base as plucking flowers and leaves, and it worked! The team walked in reasonable order, discovering a variety of palms, bamboos, flowering trees and bushes, a set of religious trees like peepal and ashoka and finally, a small rose garden.

We took a break for snacks and then, Ritu set out two drawing exercises for us all to do. In the first, we were asked to use the collected samples as stencils, trace shapes in an overlapping sort of composition and then shade it in. The second exercise was to draw a tree, not stylistically as children tend to do, but as close to reality as possible.

The experience brought up in a fun way a whole host of topics like natural propagation, conservation, biodiversity, the different uses of certain plants, the importance of green lungs in a city and many more. I was impressed by how much the kids knew and even more so by their curiosity. The drawing exercises challenged us all in terms of focus and helped us internalize patterns from nature. Here are some pictures from our exploration this morning.

Yes, this is in Gurgaon, a small green haven!

The enthusiastic group; Ritu answers questions on the right, others discuss as they walk

The kids bonded well as they filled their collection bag

Some bizarre stuff as well- Manas swallows a dog's jaw!

The park is frequented by the local villagers, a happy lot!!

My stab at the first exercise-tracing outlines and shading the samples collected

Udai's attempt at drawing a tree from observation

Some of the artwork was brilliant! Nitya, the artist, poses

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