Field trip the Prakriya way
As the train chugs out of Bangalore railway station and all of us wave to the ones left behind, there is a sense of déjà vu and a travelling back in time to a world without the rush of traffic, the deadlines to be kept, the phone ringing. I glance around after the children have settled into their berths and see happy faces of those who know they too have won the lottery...two days away from the familiar and the known into a world of exploration, challenges and being on one's own. The train speeds through the night and the chilly air is a sign that we are moving further away from the city into the other world, where the very crispness in the air awakens and teases all our senses.
The Bhoomi Ashram, nestled amidst the green hues of the Sharavathy valley is an achingly beautiful space that quietly welcomes us into its tranquillity. As we drive up the winding road up to the Ashram, the view gets more enticing with few houses to be seen and the greenery merging with the blue sky. Now and then we see people going about their business, cattle being herded and children cycling or walking to school. And as we arrive at the Ashram, the children, though tired, can barely contain their excitement. Neither can I.
The first time I had been to the Bhoomi Ashram, there was a sense of novelty, newness, of seeing a new place and trying out something new. This time around, I am struck by a renewed sense of awe I feel for the place. It is almost like the time one returns to one's ancestral home. Nostalgia and the promise of a new experience mingled together. And there before one's eyes lies the road, same and yet different. I notice more things - the effort people put in to make all of us comfortable and welcome, which I probably took for granted the year before; the terrain, which is more challenging this year and the sounds of the forest which lulls us all to sleep at the end of the day.
I also notice the impact a place has on each of us; the different hues that come alive in us which seem more subdued or go unnoticed in our day to day lives. Here, the children seem to eat more; take care of one another and encourage one another more than usual. Is there a sense of homesickness? Yes; but there is also camaraderie and togetherness. For some I see a toughening up of sorts; of pushing oneself to go the distance and achieve new goals. And if that doesn't happen, there is always someone there to hold hands with.
Fieldtrips in Prakriya have always been one of my favourite yearly activities. They not only give me the opportunity as a teacher to see the children in another space and time but also provide me with the possibility to test my assumptions and my own self-placed limitations. Here are some reasons why Fieldtrips are a part of the culture building process in Prakriya.
You build a relationship with the people and a bond with the place...
When we visit a place more than once, a relationship is formed with the place and the people. It sets a tempo for each of us to enjoy the place for what it is and to go beyond the first thrill. Children remember the dog whom they would have named in the previous trip; or ask for some dish to be cooked because they like it. They may seek an old forgotten haunt and make new discoveries along the way. Stories and tricks are shared again for it is an old friend we have come to visit.
See the place with new eyes, see me with new eyes, see you too:
One sees the place afresh. It can teach us to stay in the moment and experience the place all over again. Neither have I remained the same nor the other nor the place. Am I in touch with the here and now? Do I see myself differently this time from the last? It provides a new space for all to interact more informally without the formal structure of a classroom. It is here that we can laugh together and cry together, and cherish belongingness and new learning.
In a world of aplenty, I can make do with bare essentials...
It is always quite a challenge at one level to pack only “what one really needs” and to live simply without the frills of the modern world. Fieldtrips to places like Melekote, Kaigal and Sharavathy valley to name a few, help us to question what we really need and the idea of consumption as the only way to exist. The exposure to nature's diversity and simple living opens up windows for each of us to stop, stare and relish a new way of being.
And so, the children plead at the end of every fieldtrip, “I don't want to go back. Can we stay here forever? Do we need to go back to the classroom? Why”
And we are left with the hope that we have awakened ‘the pilgrim’ present in each one of us.