Monday, 14 November 2011

Paradise Lost

Last week we got a notice from my son's class teacher informing us that the second grade would be going on a field trip to have a closer look at nature since that was the topic they were pursuing in social studies.She also asked parents to volunteer as chaperones to help with the kids during the picnic.This,in itself,was astonishing as we come from a culture where the parents interact with the teacher only during the bi-annual parent teacher meeting!And who can blame the schools for enforcing this policy when I personally know parents who,on the first day of the new academic year,shout across the gate to the teacher as they pick up their kids,'How is my child doing?'
I was first off the block to volunteer and last Friday saw us hurtling towards our destination with two buses full of second graders.The picnic spot,called'Paradise Lost' was on the outskirts of Nairobi,just a twenty minute bus ride away from the school.It is a fifty four acre private property with a lovely river flowing through it.It is ,indeed,a veritable 'Garden Of  Eden' with just the apple tree missing!As we entered the main gate,we saw that the road,on both sides,was lined with coffee bushes which were laden with coffee berries.The teacher pointed this out to the children and they were thrilled to see coffee actually growing on bushes,as upto now, they had only seen it in a bottle at home and,of course,in the Nescafe advertisement on television!
As we jumped off the bus,I was struck by how peaceful the place was.No kiosks selling 'Biseleri' and 'Cadbury'(yes,sadly,in India,the brand name has become synonymous with the noun!),no hawkers chasing us,as is common back home these days in so called picnic spots and no 'Lays' packets littering the ground....
I was reminded of the many picnics we have had in different parts of India when we were kids.Those were the days when picnics were really picnics,not just an excuse for eating out!I remembered 'Chandubi' near Guwahati in Assam,a mustard field near Amritsar in Punjab,a spot near Jodhpur in Rajasthan whose name I cannot recall as I was in kindergarten,another near Mhow in Madhya Pradesh.Our mothers woke up at the crack of dawn,actually cooked and packed food in steel tiffin carriers and filled 'campers' with water(as bottled water was unheard of in the India of those days) ready for a whole day of picniking!Just as I had done for my son and myself that morning!
The children had a boat ride on the serene river and then we went off to explore the caves which are said to be 2.5 million years old.The entrance to the caves was behind an enchanting waterfall bringing to mind an Enid Blyton book which describes exactly this scenario.We had to bend double to go through the passage until we reached the main cave.Our guide told us this was where the Mau Mau revolutionaries hid when they were fighting the enemy.The kids immidiately wanted to know who the enemy was.Now,since most of the children were white,the guide had no way of knowing their nationality and so was hesitant to say the word.As he was fumbling for a suitable word,a tiny tot helped him out by saying'England'!He was palpably relieved and said yes the nationalists used these caves till Kenya finally became independant in 1963.
Then we had our lunch in rustic,wooden picnic sheds on the banks of the river,followed by horse and camel rides for our enthusiastic second graders.Feeding an ostrich was also on the agenda,but the poor ostrich was indisposed that day!It had probably been overfed by the previous day's merry makers!On the bus ride back home,I mulled over our day and felt this was 'Paradise Gained' while our poor polluted Pune was 'Paradise Lost'.Where have we gone wrong?

1 comment:

  1. Such a lovely serene place. Loved reading about it.


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