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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A camp at Van Niwas, the Himalayan centre of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Nainital

In the hills
LAKSHMI BHAVANI The Hindu Young World Tuesday, Jun 10, 2008
A mom on a school trip? Check out her experience. Picture perfect: Lake Nainital

It was interesting to know that the regular school trip for our child this year was a camp to be conducted at Van Niwas, the Himalayan centre of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Nainital.
I pictured falls from boulders, a slip down the rock with a fractured arm or two as a result. If not fractures, it would certainly be scraped knees, bleeding elbows and blistered feet and so on. This was one picture of anxiety which had given me the o dd idea to accompany my son to the camp in the first place. In addition to this, the memories of the study camp attended a few years ago at the ashram beckoned me to be there once again. Going up into the Kumaon Hills into the green wilderness, for a week from the pressures of city life, was also a pulling force. Hence when the call to the Ashram enquiring for the possibility of stay was graciously accepted, my joy knew no bounds.
Then the next manoeuvre was talk to my son about the idea of his mom being in the school trip.
May be he has the concern of eternal motherly instructions in regard to food and other such similar daily interventions as looked upon by a 12 year old. I made a deal that I would not bother him with motherly love. Actually there was no need for that, the teachers knew how to handle the children with flair. The children too are very good at doing things independently.

Thus I went with the children to Nainital. The sprawling ashram is situated at about 1000 metres above away from the busy Mall road and the Naini Lake. The steep slope to the Ashram which is 600 metres away from the main road looked daunting, yet the children sprinted all the way up. The wilderness around the ashram had an air of tranquillity. Rocking activity
Though I went just to be there to feel the quietude of the hills, I got involved in participating in the five-day rock climbing course and trekking along with the children. The camp had various activities in a well organized manner. The morning bell rang at 5.30 a.m and the campers are ready for the Keep–fit exercises by 6.30 a.m. The exercises in the open air set the tone for the active rock climbing in the forenoon and lead to the long trek to scenic view points in the afternoon.
After breakfast the children relaxed and played after which Shramdaan - where children cleaned and helped in the kitchen – took place. Rock climbing and a walk to the nearby jungle followed.
In the evening they had meditation class which was followed by dinner. They enjoyed the organised, disciplined way of life.
I found the rock climbing course an exhilarating experience, though the initial day was tiresome. The second day was a little frightful but I slowly became confident. Each day, I started with a little trepidation accompanied with hesitation whether I would be able to climb the rocks or not.
Of course some of the children did the climbing swiftly, and to be able to do the activities along with them gave a boost to the confidence. The entire five- day course taught me perseverance and encouraged me to stretch my limits.

Many times when a task looked difficult, I gave up as quitting was easier. Now I have learnt an invaluable lesson - once you are half way up the rock, there is no point turning back. It is difficult to go down too, so why not go up and finish the task? It’s the fear that makes one stop.
Rappelling was an amazing experience even though it looked frightening. But when one understands the technique, conquers the initial fear and takes the first step with trust, then the entire climb down is fun.
The long treks, which started from 4 km and stretched to 11 km, were exhilarating. There were the trips to the town too where knickknacks were bought at the Tibetan market.
All of us had a wholesome experience which indeed enriched our lives.

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