Like most children of the eighties, I was fascinated by Enid Blyton books- specifically the Famous Five series. Looking back, her descriptions of picnics that comprised of food such as ginger buns, jam bread, baked potatoes, cakes, biscuits and tarts of various sorts, which were washed down with a glass of lemonade, just seemed to excite me. Therefore, it is quite likely that I would push this fondness on to my two little girls. However, on the day when I proudly passed down my Famous Five collection to the girls, I knew something was wrong- something was seriously wrong. For, the two of them looked away after a couple of chapters and seldom got back to reading them. What exactly could be the reason? I just had to know it all.
Cuddling into bed one night, I casually asked them as to why the books didn’t interest them. Prompt came the reply-
“Who goes hiking and on picnics so often? And what kind of fun does one have out there?”
The truth hit me hard at that very moment. I hadn’t taken the girls hiking/trekking, hence they just couldn’t connect with the adventures it held within it. So at 6.00 AM the following Saturday, two backpacks were ready. Waking up early isn’t really a norm in the weekends, thus what followed were frowns and moans from the two girls. Pushing them out was a herculean task indeed. It sure did take me a while to sort out their irritation.
Anjadweep( or sometimes known as Anjadiva) island is a tiny little place off the coastal town of Karwar towards south of Goa. Not many know about the existence of this tiny island on the map of India. Until the early 1980’s the island came under the jurisdiction of Goa. However, it soon was taken over by the Indian Navy due to its strategic location. These facts of course weren’t really discussed with the girls. I just kept them on track- hiking a small little hillock to catch a breathtaking view of the Arabian Sea.
As the chill morning air gripped us all, we caught the first rays of the sun. Did I catch a little speck of wonder in their eyes? Slow yet steady, I sensed the girls soaking in every bit of the place. It wasn’t an arduous climb up, despite the crudely cut stone steps. Crushing the cluster of dried leaves beneath their feet, the girls squealed in delight at the sound. A withered picket fence, the soft sand of the Arabian sea glistening under the morning sun, surely I was reminded of my childhood reading experience.
Exploring the old island came across as an adventure to the girls
They ventured around the Portuguese ruins and the old abandoned Shrine of Our Lady of Brotas and São Francisco de Assis- apparently amongst the oldest churches in the country. As the day progressed and the warm air smelled of the salt from the sea, the woods opened into a clearing.
Was it the breathtaking view or just the thought that they had made their way up?
I wasn’t really sure, but the girls sure were elated. Like a paint box, there were shades of blue, green and brown around.
Food on a hilltop
Amidst the hills, the clear blue skies, the green meadow and the dense forests, we settled down to have our breakfast. Sandwiches, fruit cakes and fresh salad- the spread was surely influenced by Blyton’s stories. Though I soon realized it isn’t about the actual food. In fact, Blyton’s menus are often pretty plain. It was her descriptions that made the whole scene so wondrous. In a similar way, it was the surrounding that made the breakfast spread the best ever.
The day was warm, with a sun that was neither mild nor fierce. The sound of the wind from across the cliff could be heard, with gulls hovering over them. What really attributed to the enjoyment(especially to the kids) was the freedom to eat while they wandered, without having to heed to any norm of table manners. And not to forget the grown-ups’ joy of digging into a buttered sandwich, watching the waves lash across the rocks.
Its all an experience
Picnics, hikes and eating food out in the wild- these are experiences, the girls hadn’t been exposed to. And probably that just seems to be the problem. In a time when our idea of an outing with the children is at the movie, mall or a meal outside, the joys of a trek or a picnic in a peaceful outdoor setting had seldom been experienced. Not until that Saturday.
Also coming to think of it, as a parent when you start projecting your own perspective, it could leave the child confused. How about just making things more realistic? It rekindles a whole new thought process within them. Blyton may have created joy with her stories fencing around picnics and food. As a parent, I had to get close to creating that magic through a real life trek and picnic.
That Saturday, as we cuddled into bed, the girls asked me, “Did the Famous Five go on similar picnics?” The question left me with a big smile on my face.
*Featured Image Source: Pixabay