Nurture with Nature

Sun Flower
When I was a small kid, I was fascinated with mud. It was great to play after the rains in the mud. We made caves and decorated them with sea-shells glass pieces and flowers. It was fun playing in the open, running, screaming, laughing and touching the earth.

One of my loveliest memories of childhood is holding the hand of my grandfather and going for a walk at night. He would tell me stories of his childhood how he would walk through a patch of woods to go to school, how he met a hyena one day and how he climbed a tree to escape. We would come back home and on winter nights, grandmother would have hot chocolate waiting for us. As we drank the delicious chocolate we would smile as our affection spoke silently.

I wanted my daughter to experience the beauty of togetherness with nature. When she was a toddler, we chased butterflies together. When she turned six, we started a nature journal practice. It is lovely to go for walks and collect twigs and leaves. We observe trees, the sky, seasons, animals, insects and birds. We make notes. It is fun to paste these notes, draw, paint and sketch with the date and time.

Last year, we discovered a tiny nest on the top of a tree next to our terrace. In this nest, small babies waited for their mother to come.

A lone woodpecker used to visit a leafless tree near our house. We used to wait for the bird (our Woody) to visit. Every morning we observed Woody religiously visiting the tree.

However, that tree was cut down, and we lost our Woody forever. I could teach an important lesson to my daughter. We need to accept the change as only change is constant. Friends may come and friends may go, but life goes on.

I want my daughter to discover relationships beyond SMS, emails, social media or the Internet. Today an overdose of digital media and 24×7 connectivity is making us isolated ‘islands’ existing in a zone to become a zombie.

I want my daughter to experience the sunrise and sunset, to feel the difference between a breeze and a wind, to sit under the canopy of star and have conversations in person not on a mobile.

I want her to know that nip in the air announcing the winter and observe the slanted rays of the sun telling us that the days are getting shorter. Our nature journal consists of lovely notes of all these occurrences.

Nature journal practice has bonded well. It has also made us revere and respect nature in an amazing way.

Life changes literally and figuratively. These lovely moments of togetherness keep you grounded and become an anchor later in life.

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Magical Kingdom

Those were the days touched by magic. Everything was enchanting, wonderful and waiting to be discovered. Those days everything seemed attainable in land of infinite possibilities.  When the twin sisters; astonishment and wonder held my hand. The days jumped happily, and nights provided wings to visit the dreamland of fantasies.

 When running happily everywhere, competing with the wind was the norm.  The mud fascinated, and clay took any shape in tiny hands. When clouds looked like giraffes, and the wind whispered magic spells.

A square box which was guarded fiercely, which contained treasure of feathers, pebbles, sea shells, ribbons and paper cuttings. Many pleasurable hours got immersed in this treasure.

Seasons were accepted with great glee without any complaints. Each season had ample and varied temptations.

Red, orange and yellow kites would allure in the windy months. The sight of kites soaring high in the sky is mesmerizing. Even today when I watch the kites a smile touches my lips delicately.

The tangy summers were spent in hours of reading books in the afternoons and drinking chilled fresh lime. Indian summer is like a mango all sweet and sour. Raw mangoes are eaten as a salad with a bit of salt. The variety of mangoes we get is huge. There is a new flavor to look for every week. Freshly pickled mangoes with rice would add tanginess to the lunch.

 Paper boats floated in the rains. I loved the rainy days when schools declared holidays. Those days nothing mattered except discovering the universe, at least a part of it.

I don’t exactly remember when things changed. The colourful world became black and white and gray. Things and objects lost their ability to fascinate me. Life was more of routine with clock stress creating strife. The seasons brought additional chores. I started walking instead of running and became skeptical. I accepted life out of acceptance, and the wonder vanished. Then….

The magical Kingdom visited me again with my daughter arrived. Today, I get a glimpse to this wonderland holding her hand. I am touched to notice the dancing stars in her eyes when runs after the crimson butterfly. A ray of sun from the window makes her eyes huge with wonder. A little bird, a bunch of small puppies are worth all the time. She is my teacher in this innocent world.

The pictures are from the net.

Art of Cooking

Art of Cooking

Cooking comes naturally to mothers! You can be a slow cook, a bad cook, a great cook…but you have to cook meals and of course the stories to go with it.

My journey in this field has been amazing giving me an understanding of the philosophical side of hunger. A hungry and crying baby will always seek its mother. The comfort of your mothers cooking is something we can easily relate. And it continues throughout life. There is an uncanny connection of a child’s hunger with the mother. No matter how grown up the child is the mother instinctively realizes and will ask ‘Have you eaten something?’ You can recollect the worried looks on your mother’s face when you tell her you have had no time to eat as you rush through work.

Cooking her favourite dish excites me. I like to surprise her and watch the dancing stars in her eyes when she notices her favourite dish on the table. Her excited chatter is enough for me to give in. But then I need to worry about nutrition too.

It’s not easy to explain a child the importance of eating healthy. With the market overflowing with fast food and crazy food items how long can you protect? When she was a toddler I had set few rules which of course I have been following-

No chips packets

No aerated drinks in the house

No fried snacks

These three rules are followed religiously and have helped us to have a balanced and healthy diet.

It was easy when she was a toddler because her interaction with the outside world was limited and I could monitor. But once she started school she realized there was a long list of forbidden but extremely tempting food available outside. I was growing as a parent too. It would have impractical to just become an authoritarian parent and insist on the rules. I found some strategies that helped me. I am happy to share with everyone here.

I made a PPT presentation of her lunch box menu consulting her and gave her three choices to choose from. This made her feel important and gave her freedom of choice. So every day there was one fruit in the lunch box with either a vegetable paratha , or a sandwich .She could choose fruit juice too on two days of the week. On Friday she could have her favourite junk food. There were few tantrums but I tried explaining her. She understands the importance of eating right. Her interest in her looks is another motivating factor, though I feel she is too young for all that. She is growing up fast and soon I would worry about her boyfriends more than her lunch.

I am very lazy when it comes to cooking. This has helped to develop a creative way of cooking while reducing the stress and toil get a dish which can be enjoyed without any hesitation. Cooking stories have helped definitely and made me a fair cook.

Last year in the summer holidays I introduced her to this art of cooking. And the results were great. We bought a nice bright apron with the design of bright cherries. Her excitement was infectious.

The first dish she tried her hand was aloo tikki.  Washing hands before entering the cooking arena is a rule she knows since she was a toddler. I gave her a plastic grater to grate the boiled potatoes.  She chose the ingredients she wanted to add. It was ginger, chopped coriander and salt. She omitted green chilli. Her concentration helped her to form perfect rounded tikkis. My daughter is a perfectionist when it comes to shapes, no wonder she draws so well!

The hot griddle with a teaspoon of oil was on the gas as I helped to lay the five tikkies. Soon the dish was ready to eat. We took the plates to the dining room and laid the table. I had kept some lettuce leaves in ice cool water and the fresh crisp lettuce looked tempting. There was nice tangy imly chutney to go with. She enjoyed decorating it on her plate. Finally she ate without remembering even once that she hated tikkis……

It was a wonderful bright afternoon we spent in the kitchen. That day I found out a peaceful way to make her eat dishes she refused to eat without tasting. Getting kids involved can get them interested and no kid will refuse to eat what she herself has cooked. I feel boys should be taught to cook too.

Since that day she has graduated to making more complicated stuff. She makes sandwiches, bhel puri and sprout chat and fruit chat.

These holidays she wants to try her hand on making ice-cream. Good going, I should say for a seven year old child and mom.

First Published on Sulekha