The plan was to take a trip with our extended family during the school holidays. We remembered a talk given by Ms Srilekha Venkateswar from The Wild Walk (www.thewildwalk.com) at our school’s annual day function. She said that today’s parents think they are bonding with their children in front of the TV or in the shopping mall, but that’s not bonding. Real bonding is when we are together in Nature, one with our natures, one with each other – our humble selves with magnificent Mother Nature. So, off we went, young, old, all in tow, to the Parambikulam Forest Tiger Preserve in Kerala, southern India.
Those four days were filled with so much serenity. I found myself going down on my knees to my children’s height while we chatted and it seemed so much more connected. We drank tea from the hut of an 80-year old man who was not a tribal native, but had come there as a young man to help build the dams. He had so many stories. His self-sufficiency and ability to walk effortlessly through the slopes of the forest were amazing. We slept in tents that were so simple yet very modern and convenient. Peacocks climbed on the roofs of the tents and all night long they kept ‘talking’ to each other.
The morning walk by the river was gorgeous. “Look mom, elephant poop. Wow it is huge!” My daughter had her binoculars and was able to see the Malabar kingfisher and the hornbills. So many peacocks graced our morning walks with their pretty dances.
The astonishing thing was that these safari rides, boat rides and walks filled us inside out in a strange way. We would come back for food and respite and everybody would be silent. Just as I thought, “Maybe they are getting bored,” somebody would pipe up, “Did you see that Malabar squirrel and the way it was moving from branch to branch?” or “Did you see the Langoor black monkey that was hanging upside down?” And there would be a glow on everyone’s faces again.
Treasures ... Memories …I did not know how my five-year-old would fare. Taking him along was a good lesson for me as a parent. Never underestimate them – their love for nature, their curiosity, and their enthusiasm for the wild. On the second day he commented, “If we are going to journey through the forest to see the ‘same’ animals again I am not coming. I’m going to stay in the tent with thatta and patti and speak with the peacocks.” Come time to explore again, however, he was the first one to roll out, and after a five-hour safari he put his head to rest sleepily on me. But every time the bus slowed down to let a deer or bison pass, he would wake up to look and tell me if it was a Samba deer or a spotted deer. The child behind so excitedly remarked, “Bison! Look! Bison!” My son sleepily said, “No amma, that’s a Gaur. Bisons don’t live in India.’ Wow! I wish all learning was this practical, straight into the head and heart. Some day.