Thursday, November 24, 2011

Spirituality in Children

On my father-in-law's birthday last week, we decided to visit the temple closeby to seek divine blessings. After finishing the morning chores we all reached the temple by 8.30. As we were getting the puja done, I saw a little boy and girl of  around five and eight years of age standing on the other side. Since they were unaccompanied I assumed that they must be from around that vicinity. I was quite impressed to see the devotion with which they prayed before the diety. Once the priest had finished with the pooja, they took the prasadam and bowed before the Lord and left.

As we stood there, I saw many more children in school uniforms coming into the temple. Each one of them stood reverently in front of the Lord with folded hands, took three pradakshinas, prostrated before the diety and  applied the vibhuthi (the sacred ash) on their forehead. It amused me to see the way each and every child  apply the vibhuthi on their forehead; they would peer into their reflection on the outside of the shining bowl which held the vibhuthi and then apply it in the center of their brows!! Finally each one collected the prasad and left. All this was done with so much of devotion that I was left speechless. I realised that this must be a part of their daily routine because of the meticulous way with which they were going about these rituals.

I should say that in about half an hour or so that we were there, I saw almost about fifteen to twenty children all in the age group of eight to ten come and seek blessings of the Almighty before they left for school. All these children I guess were from the nearby Government school as all of them were in the same uniform. I realised the true meaning of the saying children are the incarnation of God. More than concentrating on the pooja, I saw God in these little faces which radiated so much of  pure happiness and joy. Their faces were so serene and I could see their absolute surrender to the Lord.

In my mind I bowed my head in all humbleness to these little ones and to their parents who have given these children that much needed spiritual backbone with which they can face the obstacles of life with great fortitude.

Do you think the more sophisticated and urbanised we become, further away we move from spiritualism? Spiritualism in whatever form that one follows, ultimately don't you think that each one of us is looking for that tranquility and answer to that ultimate question of "Who am I?"      

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Picnics or study tours?

The other day when my children told me that they have a class picnic and that they would be spending time at a resort, my father-in-law reminisced about the kind of picnics that they used to have. He told us that as part of school outing they would be taken to nearby sugar factories and would be shown how sugar was prepared or to small scale industries where they would be shown how fabrics were woven, followed by swimming in the local waterbody and lunch in the lush green fields and play before packing their bags.

That set me thinking; can't our children also have such kind of picnics which is fun and at the same time brings in some practical education? Many of you might be familiar with this joke where, when a teacher asked the class children where one gets milk from, the answers varied from packets, milk booth and shops! Somehow, the cow did not come into the picture at all!

But seriously, our education system hardly gives us any real insights other than studying and answering questions from books. Even during my time, we still did not have what I call hands on education. We would read theoretically about agriculture, cultivation of crops, irrigation system and so on as part of our curriculum. Beyond that we hardly knew how rice or barley or wheat crops were grown. Thanks to our urban upbringing! We all admire the lush green fields en-route to a resort, take pictures of farmers working in their fields, gasp in delight at the picturesque scenery as we call it and leave the memories trapped in our cameras. Period.

We go to supermarkets and pile up the trolley with packets of various items like sugar, biscuits, different kinds of flours and so on. But do we know exactly how sugar is prepared from sugarcane? How jaggery is made? What processes are involved in dehusking and cleaning of different cereals? Same way we buy apparels but we do not know how a cloth is woven from the stage of fibre to a fabric, how a loom works, how materials are dyed and the whole lot of procedure involved which goes into the making of a cloth.

At least during our time we had some exposure into this as our grandparents lived in villages / small towns and we used to get to see all of this, but now that everyone have moved out or the smaller villages now have become semi urban towns, our children have absolutely no exposure to real life equivalents of what they study at school.

Imagine the delight of little children if they are taken from the school to fields where they actually get to work alongside the farmers and you know how little ones love to muck around literally! or when  they are taken to factories and shown how the day to day materials that they use are made, they would love to tinker in garages or factories to see how automobiles work. Learning would then become more enjoyable and meaningful don't you think? One which will be remembered for a lifetime? Wouldn't it be the best way of imparting knowledge to our children right from a young age to respect dignity of labour? What more, when they do it alongside their friends they enjoy it much more.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Heal this earth for our children

This year on Independence day an announcement was made at the gathering in our apartment that shortly they would take up zero waste management project and asked each resident to co-operate to make it a success. Now our apartment complex has some three hundred forty odd flats and even if we say four members per flat it would be a whopping thousand four hundred (rounding off) residents in this complex alone!

Imagine the waste produced by each of these flats and the apartment complex on the whole, on a day to day basis? Phew! is it not colossal?  I am taking the instance of only our apartment! One can then imagine the waste that gets collected all over the world! I was therefore very happy that here was an opportunity where we will leave lesser carbon imprint on this earth and not only that, my children would practically learn what would otherwise have been just another lesson in their textbook.

The project went underway from September onwards in a phase-wise manner. The first thing was to create awareness and this was done by having exhibitions and hosting a talk show with one of the experts in this field of zero waste management from Vellore, who spoke not only to the residents but also to the maids and other helpers. After this each and every flat was provided with clear cut instructions on how to segregate wet waste and dry waste. Also all the flats were given two different coloured dust bins- one red (for dry waste) and one green (for wet waste). No plastic liners were to be used and dustbins were to be covered with newspaper only.

Now the dry waste like plastic covers, milk covers, bottles etc were to be thoroughly rinsed and dried before putting into the bin as these would later  be sold and used for recycling. The wet waste like kitchen waste, dry flowers etc would be made into compost which could then be used to grow the very fruits and vegetables that we eat organically.

Initially some of the residents showed resistance and felt it was tedious and difficult.Some felt it was not their job in the first place to do this, the bins would be filthy when plastic liners are not used so on and so forth. But then I guess it is all about the change in mindset. If we cannot do our might in saving this earth then who will I wonder? Anyways now the initial glitches and hitches are done away with and things are going smoothly.

I think even with no research and education our ancestors were in sync with nature. They knew even then that they had to co-exist with nature on its own terms and disturbing nature would mean disruption of the very existence of human beings. Hence every single item used was eco- friendly, made from raw materials available in nature which would easily disintegrate and decompose and merge into nature once more to be  reused again. But post industrialisation has got us into the use and throw culture added with the most dangerous and toxic plastic and e-waste, poisoning  our very earth on which we live. So does it not then make each one of us responsible? Should we not start now and save our beautiful planet 'Earth' for generations to come? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Truly a festival of lights

We have been celebrating Diwali - the festival of light and sound I must say for the past several years. After the entry of children into our lives the festivities brought out added dazzle and sparkle into our lives. The amazing and joyous look on their faces when sparklers and flowerpots were lit or the frightened gasp and cries when crackers were burst - all these added a different dimension to our festivities. When they got older, bursting crackers on their own became a symbol of courage and a sign of independence. All these happened in addition to the ritualistic oil massage and bath followed by lighting diyas everywhere and gorging on sweets and led up to the final moments when they would wait excitedly for that moment when they could start on the firework show.

All that changed this year when my children announced that they would not be bursting crackers or for that matter any other  fireworks this year. We were happy that we would in a very small way contribute towards lesser pollution this year. At the same time as an adult, being conditioned to celebrating Diwali with fireworks I asked the kids if they would atleast like to buy one pack of flowerpot and sparklers as a symbolic spirit of this festival. They refused.

I should say this Diwali we enjoyed a lot by decking up the house with lovely rangolis, amid strewn petals of crysanthemums, roses and marigolds. Prepared lots of sweets and savouries at home as well as a sumptuous Diwali meal, visited friends and relatives, and had friends visiting us. Not to forget we lit lots of diyas. At the end of the festivities, In my heart I felt that this Diwali was well and truly the festival of lights.