Nature Trail & Trek : A Family Date

20191124_103713Today we trailed to Upper Kanheri at Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which is the lung of our metropolitan city of Mumbai. There were 10 participants right from the age of 8 years to 45 years. As per, google dictionary, trail means, “walk or move slowly or wearily”. And today that’s what exactly our group did. Special thanks to our curious participants as well as an excellent naturalist Nilesh Mane who guided us.

According to me like any facilitation, key to facilitating the trail is to be in the moment, be aware of what is present in the environment, simplify narration so that participants can easily connect, encourage their curiosity and seek for an opportunity of transference. WhatsApp Image 2019-11-24 at 8.57.40 PM

Now a days due to environmental hazards, bombardment of messages on social media and several awareness campaigns done by social activists, we all talk about saving the environment but hardly can contribute towards it. I feel one of the major reason for this to happen is absence of true motivation. Unless and until we don’t love our nature, urge to take an action to protect it will never rise. And to love something we have to spend time with it, hug it, listen to it, experience it, appreciate it. Which will never happen by moral talks or forwarding msg on social media. For that we would have to go on a date with nature. Once we experience it first hand, I am sure true change will begin. Because change doesn’t happen from mind but from heart. The problem is in our today’s lifestyle we have completely gotten disconnected with nature. We don’t even think before cutting trees, if they come our way. But I am sure once we will start dating with nature, it won’t be that easy to cut the trees.

WhatsApp Image 2019-11-24 at 8.57.47 PMOne more thing which Nilesh shared was how nature has been the motivation for so many innovations like Japan’s Bullet train. In Japan,the bullet train was having troubles with sound waves created due to its speed. This sound was so loud that it was affecting the surrounding environment as well as buildings by damaging their structures. Eiji Naktsu, a passionate bird watcher, general manager of the technical development department of bullet train found its solution by observing a kingfisher bird attacking its prey. He noticed that the shape of kingfisher’s beak is playing one of the major role’s in creating a surprise attack. Its beak helps the kingfisher in cutting through water with minimal noise and ripples. This is how he came up with the brilliant idea of restructuring the front shape of the bullet train…

He rightly said that we spend so many resources on experimenting for innovation but if we observe nature closely there are so many proven examples. Nature is experimenting, evolving for millions of years. There are so many examples of innovators who were motivated by some natural phenomena.

So whatever motivation we have, to connect with nature, going on trails is one of the best ways to spend your weekend with your family 20191124_092101

In the laps of Himalayas…

 Almost a fortnight long camp was the highlight of this summer. As anxious as we were about the outcomes of the camp to Shama RamGanga, Uttarakhand with a group of 29 kids along with Maitri group (Borivali, Mumbai) ranging from 10-18 years, the success of it was well proven by the happy faces of all the participants throughout the journey. The journey in itself began with 36 long hours to reach the first destination: Corbett! Having retired in the cottages at night, the next morning started with a trek and bus journey to next venue: Ranikhet!

Aww gaped from every child’s mouth seeing the beautiful cottage of Ranikhet which were to be their quarters for next day. Refreshing juice of the Buraans (Rhododendron) flower quenched their thirsts every time they were tired! Local plantations, first long trek for 5kms, visit to the village temple and games at night kept the kids active all the while. And then began a bus ride to the next destination: Shama, a heavenly abode for the city-ites! The scenic beauty of the region was extremely pleasant with a lot of butterflies in the stomachs due to the ghats, but nevertheless, playing antakshari for 6hrs kept boredom away! 

Finally the baggage was dumped into a ramshackle garage, carrying stuff that would last for 3 days, the kids began climbing higher towards the Gyandhura Village located at a height of 8200 feet above the sea level! It was during this climb that they realized how vital the air is for sustaining! Tiny tracks lined by scary valleys at the edge were a marvelous sight. With all their might the kids trekked to their cottages… the pride of Shama! Once in the dining area, all the tiredness was washed off merely by looking the giant of Himalayas surrounding us. Seeing Nandadevi, Nandaghat, Trishul immediately brought geography textbooks in front of the eyes! No words would be enough to actually describe their might and beauty!


Shama stay was packed with never-done-before activities like Hay stack building, Earn-ur-meal, Egg Hunt, Present the location, entertain the locals and of course the campfire each night before the day ended! 29 aspiring enthusiasts with their heads high trekked for 15kms in the jungles of Shama without a single hurdle to stop their steps. The kids were amazingly supportive for each other and extremely careful! Guess it’s natural for all of us to get tamed in the demands of nature!


But as the itinerary would have its way, we had to move towards Nacchni for couple of days to enjoy water adventures! Resembling a base camp in every sense, passing through a metal bridge, staying in tents, the cold waters of the RamGanga river gushing by the side, swimming and body surfing in the mighty river and an inviting net in place for beach volley ball… what else would the kids have asked for??? The only lights at night were that of the moon and stars and that is when a kid came up to say “We waste so much of electricity each day”!! Nacchni was power-packed with the group divided in three teams for Mountain Bicycling, Kayaking and Slithering. The kids wouldn’t come out those cool waters inspite of such a strong current! None of them complained of their sim cards and earphones been taken away for almost a week now! Happy realization dawned: Life without screens is possible!!


The last of our destinations was Mukteshwar who welcomed us with chilly winds due to rains! The campsite couldn’t have been better than what we had. Apple plantations all around, with lovely flowers planted all along the tracks, the colors of nature surprising everyone with each step towards the massive tents well protected from the cold! Next day the kids did rappelling, rock climbing and flying fox. The adrenaline rush was felt right from the youngest to the eldest member in the group! Overcoming all their fears, may be for height, water or fall, the kids made sure that all their friends participate in each activity, boosting the ones who were hesitant! The sportsmanship spirit was indeed remarkable!


The camp came to an end but the journey continued… On the way to Kathgodam station, dinner was arranged at an South-Indian restaurant and to every one’s surprise the tiniest one in the group commented “We are eating with the lights and AC’s on after ages, it seems so out of the box after all these treats in Nature” . That is when Kshitij smiled, having served its purpose. 


Having a life full of amenities and hundreds of options even for basic necessities is freakingly awesome, but sticking to basics of simplicity is where all the fun lies in. The respect for resources, the willingness to preserve them and their proper utilization is all that nature would like in return for his extravagant gift to humans – Life!!


Thus the journey continues…from being in the laps of Himalayas… to the countless memories running in our minds, waiting eagerly for some more sun’s to shine…

Should I Be Sending My Children to Camp?

While the campers are messing about in the woods, many of their peers will be attending summer school or specialized skills programs. Their responsible, if sometimes Tiger-ish, moms and dads will be investing their money in their children’s future differently, sending them to one week sport and hobby classes, Entrance exam prep courses and unpaid internships designed to polish skills, boost scores and impress college admissions personnel. Instead of spending three weeks at an all-around camp, these children will be focused on skill-building, sometimes in three different specialized programs to which their parents drive them every day (allowing time for that all-important debrief in the car going home).

Which set of parents has it right? Or more to the point: Does an overnight camp experience still make sense in this competitive, resume-building world? From an analysts, point of view, the answer is a resounding YES. I believe that children develop in profound ways when they leave their parents’ house and join a camp community.

Learning to sleep away from home is, of course, a critical step on the way to independence. Part of the challenge is beating homesickness, which may be hard for some children, and which, by definition, your parents cannot help you do. Kids know they have to do this sooner or later. As a friend’s son once remarked with horror, “If you can’t learn to sleep away from home, you have to live with your parents for the rest of your life.” But beyond that, there are things that, as a parent, you cannot do for your children, as much as you might wish to. You cannot make them happy (if you try too hard they become whiners); you cannot give them self-esteem and confidence (those come from their own accomplishments); you cannot pick friends for them and micro-manage their social lives, and finally you cannot give them independence. The only way children can grow into independence is to have their parents open the door and let them walk out. That’s what makes camp such a life-changing experience for children.

From the book, “Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow,” I know that many young people do not really know how strong they are, how competent they are or even who they are until they get away from their parents and test themselves in a new and challenging environment. Many children told me the best thing about camp was, “I can really be myself here.” What do they mean by that? I am pretty sure I know the answer. When children are away from their parents, they do not have to view their own life and achievements through the lens of my-athlete-father-standing-on-the-sidelines-watching-me or my-mother-is-worried-that- I’ll fail. When a child is on his own, the experience is his alone, the satisfaction belongs only to him and he does not have to filter it through what his parents think and feel.

For the dedicated, loving and anxious parent, letting a child go can be tough. “Will she be happy at camp? Will he make friends? Will she be homesick?” But homesickness can often be confused with a parent’s child-sickness  The director of a girls’ camp in Mumbai tells me she has more and more parents of 9-year-olds calling to say, “Well, she’s ready for camp, but I’m not ready to have her leave.” If you want an independent child, you have to master your own child-sickness  Try remembering the sweetest moments from your own childhood. Most adults tell me that the sweetest, most memorable times of their childhood were when they were away from their parents, doing something with friends in the out-of-doors, taking a challenge or doing something a bit risky. That sounds like camp to me.

By the way, when college admissions officers were interviewed about how they view campers, they say that they think former campers are more likely to succeed in college because they have had successful experiences away from home, and they are always impressed by seniors who have been counselors looking after younger children. Camp helps build confidence and identity; it also builds leadership skills.