Getting in touch with nature is need of the hour
I woke up earlier than usual that morning. As I shook myself out of the early morning stupor, I realised another sound, apart from the hum of the air-conditioner, had broken my slumber. The sound had a unique rhythm and melody, ebbing and flowing in a pattern. It was the sound of falling rain. When I sat down in my balcony with a cup of tea, Sunday was standing before me in all its hypnotic beauty.
Close to four decades ago, my late sister had penned a poem called Yayati. In it, Yayati’s son Yadu gently chides his father: ‘Barish mein bheegne ki umar hoti hai pita?’ (Father, is there a specific age to get drenched in the rain?). Why put an age constraint over an enjoyable pursuit? I ventured out as I was. The park was full of water and you could hear the pitter-patter of raindrops. The trees were brimming over with happiness, the grasses were dancing and the rain gripping them in a long, languid embrace. Often, during my morning walk, I notice that there are snakes. I want to reach the middle of the park but clad in slippers and shorts there is a real fear of a snake bite. I am reminded of an adage that says the only difference between an animal and human being is that an animal is driven by emotion and the human being by his intelligence. I am momentarily jolted but the rain is enticing me and the grass beckoning me from a distance. I am transported back to my childhood. We never stopped ourselves then. Why should I do that today? Let me move forward.
There is a bench built on a slope in Meghdootam Park. I lie down on the bench. The rain is singing a lullaby and the clouds are wearing a cloak of darkness. When the cauldron of worldly thoughts within me goes cold, I fall asleep. After some time, when I open my eyes, it appears I’ve just gotten up from my mother’s lap. When did I last feel so energetic? I don’t burden my brain and keep lying there. The combination of the rain, my drenched body, the lush surroundings and the hazy moisture goes on for some time.
When the rain took a break, on my way back home, I realized that in the mad rush of our daily schedules, we’ve cut ourselves away from nature.
Being cut off from nature equals being cut off from oneself. A person separate from his own self is the world’s most unfortunate refugee. Our world is increasingly getting full of such people. Its impact is showing. At the beginning of this decade, Taiwanese researchers discovered, in two schools, that children were becoming myopic. According to report in The Ophthalmology Journal, these researchers asked the school management to encourage children to play in an open playground. The results were positive. One year later, the kids playing in the open stood out distinctly from the book-worms. As many as 17.5% of the kids who preferred being indoors were myopic, while the figure was significantly lower at 8.41% in kids who played outdoors.
The question is, what kind of future does a planet full of myopic people have?
A long time ago, I had read a Michigan University report in Psychological Science. The researchers sent a selected group of children to two destinations. The first group was sent to areas full of greenery and the other to fashionable, yet crowded malls. When the groups returned, the researchers found out that the retention power of the children who returned from green areas had enhanced by 20%, even as those who returned from crowded areas showed no improvement. Clearly the computer in the hand of every person in form of a mobile phone has snatched away a lot from them. This includes their sleep and peace.
We are living in a world full of restless and dissatisfied people.
That day, while getting drenched in the rain, I was thinking that the health market is booming. If some vendors are peddling recipes for a size-zero body, others are giving a guarantee for six-pack abs.
A modern-day Hercules or Venus aren’t born these days, they are created. When uniqueness is sold in the market, it creates aberrations. If I talk just about India, the manner in which the number of mental patients is growing is a matter of concern. Health ministry statistics say the number of patients in this category had reached 50 million at the end of 2005.
Rather than adding to this list, it is better that we return to nature. Don’t wait any longer. The rain is waiting for you outside.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan.
His Twitter handle is @shekharkahin.