So far, I have had the honour and privilege of showcasing Save our Sholas,addressing almost 9000 students across 19 sessions in 14 schools.
Every time I screen the film, I know the exact moments when children feel happy, excited, sad. The film is one of its kind that evokes such emotions. It has a phenomenally long shelf life with the kind of natural history information it gives in a creative way, keeping the audience engaged every second. Why I love screening the film is for a simple fact that it not just educates children, it shows the connect between humans and forests in the most simplest ways. Very few documentaries can engage children of various age groups and this one clearly stands out.
The reason why I enjoy doing these sessions is from a purely because I have been able to discover and explore how I respond to questions that are put forth by children. I am bemused by their knowledge and inquisitiveness.
The most common questions that I have faced so far include:
1. How does the King Cobra eat the rat snake?
2. What fruit does the hornbill eat and how can they keep the fruits in their throat?
3. Which is the forest in Karnataka which was destroyed by mining?
4. Positive anecdote on how people’s movement helped in getting a national park status in Kerala’s Silent Valley. Children actually spoke about it.
Some very interesting questions which baffled me included:
1. How does the hornbill know what size of tree hole is needed to build its home?
2. How do weaver ants build their nest?
3. How long does it take for the snake before it consumes the second rat snake?
4. Is King Cobra larger than Anaconda? What if they come face to face? Will they fight?
5. Can a mongoose kill a snake?
6. I recently read that drinking water from canned water is not good for health. Is that true?
There were so many questions like these. As I patiently listened to them and answered their questions, I felt I got many answers intuitively along with what I had read and learned from people.
I have never been exposed to long sessions with children continuously. For me, this is the first such experience, but I strongly believe there is an intuitive divine force which is making me do this. I wish to take no credit for I think all this is happening for a reason and an unknown power is guiding me. I am just a mediator who has been chosen to convey this message.
While interacting with these children, I lose sense of who I am and what I am and I am merely there to listen, talk and answer in the most simplistic manner. I could even term this as being in a meditative state among numerous children.
I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone of being a journalist cocooned in my laptop or sheaths of paper, writing away, or talking to people who are corporate, social enterpreneurs and common people. The base is same-connecting but here the connect is different, the level is different.
Also made me realise, my intrinsic quality as an individual who can connect with just about anyone and talk, sure made things easier for me. Also, this stems from a stronger exposure of approaching anyone and talking to local people on the streets of Mumbai, fund raising for GreenPeace as a 22 year old. That was the moving force behind pushing away the introvert me in a public space. I used to stand outside Jehangir Art Gallery, watching people when my colleague Brikesh used to nudge me and say, “Hey go talk to the person who is just coming out of the gallery.” After talking to almost 50-100 individuals everyday, standing outside a public place, to random people convincing them about issues of environment probably was the starting point of where I grew as a phenomenal communicator. Everything pays off.
I remember how my best buddy used to tell me from college days that I am a crowd puller. For me, its a natural art. Over years, the knowledge and experience has made it better as I love listening to people now, more than talking and learning from various people from different walks of life, from a 4 year old to a 80 year old.
I think I learned more from children during these sessions. I took more than I could give.
Some core decisions I took in life, led me to the path of my dreams, absorbing and maintaining key relationships, learning and seeing all of them take diverse paths to their dreams When you talk to them after a decade, they talk about how you have evolved or grown as they would have seen you differently. Today Brikesh is a climate change activist who is all over the media and we remember the times we used to stand outside Asiatic or at Kala Ghoda Art festival, looking at prospective people who would fund us and help us in achieving our targets. It also made me to recognize people from their body language, the way they talk and today I am glad that experience has helped me in understanding people within few minutes of glancing if they are worth giving time to. I can sense people because of all these experiences.
Old colleagues sure helped me to gauge how I have grown, and seen the power in me to inspire others, which is another innate quality I was able to discover all these years. I dearly cherish all this! More on communication, later!