“Thanks Sarvadnya, you are so nice.” Anjali smiled as she gave her backpack to him. “Wow! I feel so light. I have a lot of energy now!” And she ran off ahead of me and Sarvadnya a smiling kid now laden with a bag.
Ninth grade boys are not usually gallant so I was surprised here. But Sarvadnya did not seem to mind, he probably did not think much of it at all. I felt the bag and it was surprisingly heavy. What was she carrying? Rocks?
“Did you bring your perfume bottle with you?” Sarvadnya called out to Anjali who was happily skipping around a little bit ahead of us.
“No” She said.
Anjali paused a little, smiled and said “I do not know.” And then ran off again, more to avoid the question then anything else.
“She brings it everyday, perfume and make up, it is always in her bag.” Said Sarvadnya matter of factly, I could read his mind. He just did not get why girls did that sort of stuff.
“Yeah, well you know girls.” I said in a man to man sort of way. He nodded knowingly. I nodded with him. Here I was able to wax eloquent on most aspects of knowledge to kids and all I could do was nod with a kid about how we both do not understand girls. I did not want to tell him that ten years down the line he would still not be any closer to understanding girls, so I changed the subject.
“How was your day?” I asked. And we began talking about our field trip.
We had come here to Purandar fort, built on a mountain rising 1300 feet up from our plateau that we lived on to look at different plants. Our home in Jejuri is beautiful and we love it but here the girls who were very interested in flowers found so many different ones in about a few square meters that they were really excited. It was amazing for them. For a few years they have gone around and know almost every flower that grows wild in the field around the school and they come here and they find plants that are totally different. We took a lot of notes and photos and also where possible we took a few flowers where we were sure there were plenty.
Purandar has species plants that are endemic to Purandar. It is unreal to imagine that- we are standing on a few acres of mountain that have plant species that grow nowhere else on the planet. Even if we did not know them it was fascinating just to be there and feel it. It reminded us how beautiful and fragile our ecosystem really is. The boys also found a few bugs as well which we are giving to experts back in Pune to find out what they are.
Today is Shivaji Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Shivaji- the great Maratha king and warrior. Purandar was one of his most important forts. So a lot of people were coming here from many places. There were groups of men coming from villages, they went up to the temple at the top of the fort and lit a flaming torch there. They then walked down the hills carrying that torch, running all the way back to their village. I could imaging this as tradition many hundred years ago when the call for battle came from the fort, these young men running through the field and mountains of the Sahyadris with flaming torches in their hands through the night to the wee hours of the morning, rallying the villages to join in the battle. Even now with no reason and probably no knowledge of the history of this tradition it is still being done. There mere sight is inspiring.
We did not come with flags and torches. But we did learn something about the environment and how great diversity exists in our land. From plants and animals to religion and culture this great diversity is the reason for the richness and beauty of India.
I hope that we have lit a torch to take back home as well. By caring more for our environment maybe, we can find in ourselves to care more about each other.