22 Y.O Janani Eswar Tells Us How She Is Planting A Unique Human-Nature Bond Through GRIN
- IWB Post
- November 23, 2017
Small hands plowing soil in the flower bed, wide eyes looking at the wonder they grew – this exquisite feeling may be hard for a child to explain but as adults, we can describe the oneness we felt in the cradle of nature. Children today are devoid of this experience, living a life cocooned in gadgets.
Home-schooled since the age of 12 and growing in the green world, Janani Eswar, 22, found it very unsettling that any child can grow without that special bond with Mother Earth. And with that thought in stride, she found her passion in connecting children to nature.
Janani finds innovative ways to blend theatre, public speaking, art, photography, naturalist studies, playfulness and entrepreneurship through GRIN (Growing in Nature), her social enterprise in Bangalore, India. In a conversation with IWB, she shares the ‘Grin’ fun she has with kids.
How connected with nature were you, as a child?
I have beautiful memories of our time out in nature. Being home-schooled, I had the opportunity to be as close to the greenery as possible. I still remember gardening with my grandparents. With the sweltering sun beating us down and yet we would go on, digging and planting and pruning and observing the wonders of the Earth. We would go on long treks out in the wildness.
I remember we had this huge badam tree in our courtyard. Our summer days went in collecting the badams with my siblings, eating them and comparing who had harvested a bigger basket. Along with that, we observed closely the different types of rocks we used to break the nuts opens, the types of birds that were on the almond tree. Best days ever!
Looks like you current expertise comes from first-hand experiences! What is the first plant you remember planting?
It’s perhaps the strongest memory I have. I was around eight and my mother asked me to come along with her to take out the ripe potatoes I had planted 6 months earlier. I was blown away by the array of small and big potatoes she pulled out off the ground! It would sound mundane to some, but I had learned how to nurture it, grow it and then to see the magic of it coming from the ground. Wow!
The potato must have tasted way better than any potato ever, right?
Of course, it was the taste of my first success!
Under GRIN you approach schools to bring children closer to nature, but not every school has a proper area for your projects. How do you go about it?
Yes, that is true. We have organized our projects in different schools with many having no space available for such events. But that never deters me. I have conducted my sessions in schools with a single tree outside.
I don’t want children to go far to find nature, I want them to see it around them and grow one if it isn’t there. That’s the reason I love working in cities, we don’t take kids on treks and tell them that this is nature. We teach them to recognize the smallest presence of nature around them and nurture it.
It is a tough task to engage kids’ attention! How do you accomplish it?
It depends on the environment available for the activity. If my team has the ample open space, we arrange for scavenger hunts, where they find ingenious plants. Blindfold games, see and sketch, etc. In schools, where even a single potted plant is missing, we teach them gardening, we teach them to make their own environment. I have experience in theatre, my own childhood in nature and my parent’s teachings to help me, so I come up with different games to suit the situation and to make sure that the children have fun while learning.
It is quite hopeless to think that if you force a child to spend some time outside, away from his shiny gadgets, he will reconnect with nature. What you’ve to do is make them feel the beauty of their natural surroundings, let them marvel at the true wonder this planet encompasses.
Before you started GRIN, what had you been up to?
I was doing a lot of learning in psychology, business studies, theatre, and science. Since the age of 16, I have been working to bring people closer to nature. GRIN has been established on the entrepreneurial platform of Arty Plantz, a foundation by my parents, Radha and Krish Murali Eswar, and it was them I worked with prior to GRIN, which was founded in 2011.
I was going through GRIN’s amazing website and came across a point where it was mentioned that a child undergoes psychological and behavioural changes when they are close to nature.
They sure do! It brings about a monumental change in their personality. If you don’t expect a plant to grow under a rock, or a spider to spin its web in a vacuum, why do you expect a child to grow on a desktop? A child close to nature grows up to be a calmer, more peaceful and a creative individual.
I remember we were working with a group of children for 8 weeks. One day, after 3 hours outdoors, playing in the green grass, we were going back to their classroom, when they suggested cleaning the garbage off the roads. I never teach children to love their environment; I make them connect to it. They learn to value nature. Even kids who suffer from ADHD (attention deficit hyper disorder) manage to concentrate and are at ease when in nature.
Living in a bustling city like Bangalore, how do you manage to make your home green?
Every balcony in my house that faces the sun has a plant. And we have so many plants!
You have written ‘Nature is here’ in one of your blog posts. So in your heart, how do you find nature?
We are all offspring of nature! When I look in the mirror I see nature, I see it in the little child of my colleague. In my heart I know, I am happy because I have a unique relationship with all that nature has, it is my support system, and I am the part of Nature’s family.
You observe nature in the most unique ways, what did you observe on your way to the office today?
The sun was setting and the birds were flying off in the horizon, off to their next destination. Though it sounds like a cliché setting, to me it was paradise on Earth.
A sight to behold indeed! When are you planning YOUR date with Nature?