Mother Nature is in danger. We all read about this in the newspapers, on social media and even witness it around us. However, there is nothing much we are able to do about it. We keep on harming the environment thinking that a single person cannot bring about the required change. Thankfully, there are not many like us. There are woke citizens who are taking baby steps to prevent possible damages. They keep on influencing and inspiring other people by their words, actions and behaviours. And this post is all about the conversation I had with such a person – Ruchita Jagzap.
I came across Eco-friendly Ajoba on Amazon and found it quite interesting. This picture book for children is not those regular ones about princesses or dinosaurs. It is based on the heartwarming relationship between a child and his grandfather. A grandfather whose lifestyle is an inspiration – be it his concern for Mother Nature, healthy eating or his fitness regime, Yoga. My daughter loved the book as she herself is concerned about the environment and in the end, desired to meet the boy in the book. I was intrigued myself and got in touch with the author of the book – Ruchita Jagzap. She encouraged me on so many fronts, be it parenting, the environment we live in or the very crucial, how to maintain a work-life balance.
When we met for the interview at her place, I was pleasantly surprised to see the set-up. There was no television in the living room. In fact, there was none in the entire house. Instead of it’s placed, there was this lovely little library beaming with books for children. As parents, they have decided that there is no need for television for their child. They might install one in the future, but that too in the basement. Another interesting thing that I liked was that they had their own vegetable garden where they as a family spent time together looking after the plants. All this assured me that I will get to learn so many things from her. And I surely did.
Q: Hello Ruchita! I was brooding about the book. Generally, people choose to write about animals or characters for children. You chose a living person. So, what made you write this book and what was your purpose of writing it?
A: Living with a toddler made me realize that toddlers are very observant and also, they are curious at the same time! Their minds are like open farms; whatever we sow/ inculcate will be grown in there! Considering this natural ability of this age group, the only intension here was to bring an awareness of living in a sustainable manner right from the beginning stage of growing, including of all those that we seek in our present respective lives. This book is a simple effort to make everything better for the future!
Q: You have written the book from the point of view of your son. Is there any special reason?
A: It is natural to make friends with our own age and it is also easier to understand or learn from our peers. Why narrate or instruct as an adult, when it is easier to receive experiences from a child of the same age? It is more convincing and more fun that way; isn’t it! Also, it makes a difference to them as well. When they see that their peers can do a certain thing, whether it is playing a game or eating certain healthy food or learning new skills, they feel more confident to try it by themselves.
(I certainly agree with this. My daughter got inspired by the kid in the book, who followed the footsteps of his grandpa.)
Q: What did you learn from your father and would love to pass on to your son?
A: Almost everything, I would say we are often a reflection of our parents, especially when it comes to idiosyncrasies and lifestyle practices unless we have deliberately tried to deviate for whatever reasons.
I have learned so much, not only from my father but also from my mother and from my grandparents as well. They have been what they wanted to, always, and that makes a lot of difference to realize, especially when you become a parent. My father is an environmentalist and growing as his daughter has always introduced me to nature at its best, which is not literally about the botanical or the environmental aspects but in general to live life in a holistic and balanced way. I have always seen him smiling through difficult and happy times. I only feel that it is magical to be that way and I am still learning the secret. This is not just me speaking but I am very sure that my siblings, friends, niece and nephew will agree with this as well!
With mom, she has been a special teacher for more than three decades and her profession was very demanding than I could even have imagined. She would take us to her school at times and we learned so much from those experiences. Those memories are still fresh and I only feel immense gratitude towards her for helping those beautiful young souls to live independently. They still come home to meet her. She is retired now but she is still connected with her students and that speaks a lot about her. Empathy, dedication and passion are three things that I have got the right introduction of, through her. If I am blessed with such rich experiences, I feel that the least I can do is share them and pass them on.
Q: While writing the book, were there any realizations, something that you didn’t know?
A: Not really, I was clear about it from the beginning. The only magical thing I have felt that toddlers are so resilient and introducing them to eco-friendly habits isn’t difficult at all. Same thing if we try to experiment with people of our age, it will be difficult.
Q: The book is about being a nature conversant. How important is inculcating these values to children in the present scenario of concrete jungles?
A: To be a nature conversant or to practice sustainability should not be a subject taught after a particular age or so. I feel it should be a cultural amalgamation. Through every celebration of life or through every situation we deal with, the approach should be very grounded, eco-friendly and simple. We, ourselves are nature and to be kind to each other is also being sustainable. So this is not about essentiality, in fact, it is ‘the life’. Where will we all go, with all that technology, all those advances and all those new discoveries if we are still struggling to eat the right, manage our waste and be humble? I feel today’s children are very receptive towards positive ideas, they are learning things faster than ever and as a parent/ guardian, we can only inspire them with our own examples to pick from.
Q: You have initiated a tree plantation drive in your neighbourhood society, what made you do that?
A: Well, it was teamwork! We are a group of like-minded people and nature lovers and our idea was to improve the diversity in our premises, work on the micro-climate and make the neighbourhood a better living environment for future generations. We planted few traditionally important and local species like billipatra, kadamb, sevan, shetur, jarul, kachnar, saptaparni, arjuna, parijat, few palms, badam and many more in the month of June 2020, the onset of monsoon with the help of a Gardener and the team. Since it was during the Pandemic, we did a silent drive with all the precautions. This was our second drive; the previous one was more exciting with the involvement of members of all ages from 3 years old to 90 years old.
The variety of trees will enhance the diversity and invite more diversity in fauna like the birds, bees, butterflies, squirrels, chameleons and more. We have already witnessed a gradual increase in numbers and variations of birds this winter. It is so miraculous to see what good you can do with planting trees around. A lot of research and data collection had gone before finalizing the species and the appropriate location on the premises. We planted some 81 saplings in personal front-yards and some 100 plus in the common areas. It was a very satisfying exercise. Unlike my dad, who must have already crossed a 5 digit number when it comes to tree-plantation; I am just at its beginning.
Q: You are an architect. What changes would you love to see in the world?
A: I am an Architect and an Urban Designer, so my thoughts are always associated on the urban level. My husband, Kush is also an Architect and we are having our own practice operating from Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Any project we take, we try to provide solutions not only to improve the spaces but to enhance the experiences as well.
My vision for the world is very Utopian, so it is difficult to put down a list of changes, but one day I shall share with you my thoughts through a series of paintings! I think that would do justice to this question.
Q: Ah! You paint as well? So, are your paintings primarily depicting nature?
A: Yes, they do. These are the thoughts derived from Nature, Space, and Emotions and mainly inspirational in expression; as I believe that life itself is full of milieu that we certainly need inspiration, hope, balance and something positive to keep moving ahead.
A note of thanks
It was both informative and fun to talk to Ruchita about her book. She has set an example for all those people who think that a single person cannot change the world. She has created a ripple that is touching the lives of people around her. And when a mother sets out to bring a change, it is certain that her next generation will be more aware and responsive. I am so grateful to Ruchita for such an enlightening session. Let’s come together and make the children love Mother Nature as our parents and grandparents do. We might have forgotten our basics in the rat race for success, but we can assure that our children do not.