Apoorva Joshi

PhD student - Michigan State University; Independent journalist - environment, science and international news.

Fellow - International League of Conservation Writers.

Member - Society of Environmental Journalists, International Communication Association.

The Art that is a Child.. and the Heart that is IN a child..

Every time we go back and think how we were as children, there's something new that strikes us. Something we've missed before. A majority of people agree, that young minds, when influenced, create an almost everlasting effect, as opposed to the worthless task of convincing or influencing an adult pre-fixed mind. As a child, when I watched a man jumping on a Crocodile and getting it out of a fishing net that was drowning it, I believed. When I saw a guy walk up to a Snake and say- this beauty is one rare fiery one.. - I believed.
When a parent sitting beside me in a movie saw a Dragon leap up and help a young boy, she, however, did not believe! Which basically means, that a mind in which opinions are fixed and immovable, is more difficult a target than those fresh young ones who are only looking for a reason to be amazed! These are the "future" of our planet, if we intend to have one, that is. A lot of times we forget, that apart from our household worries, there are bigger and worse things happening to our home. Earth. Tell these kids that they might not have a playground left after a few years, might not have trees to climb on, might not have rivers to go jump in; and you'll see what I mean. They will give you the most innocently petrified look there could be!
Unfortunately, if not for Earth, at least for these little lives, we are indebted to Mother Earth for all that we have taken from her. And never given back. Mankind has only taken. Those few who want to give back something that might keep Earth alive for the next generation to enjoy, are impolitely and publicly pushed back and made to withdraw into hibernation mode. Our loan, is something that no amount of money or power is going to be able to repay. It is, by far, the biggest debt I have come across.
Forget the fact that the Constitution of India requires each citizen to do his/her duty for the biodiversity and the wilderness. But as a simple matter of ethics, can we not feel the need to repair the blindning damage we have done? If 5 Lakh people felt they need to do something for wildlife when they were kids, 50,000 probably actually retain that idea as they approach teenage. 5000 then think of pursuing a degree in the field. 500 get shortlisted for interviews and post graduate courses. 50 make it through successfully. and 5 actually come out with renewed zeal and the will to make a difference! So believe me, if you're addressing 5 Lakh children, you need to do a very good job knowing what the possibilities are. Every time I have addressed a bunch of young minds looking up inquisitively, I've done it knowing, none of them might end up actually entering the field. But gone and done it anyway, with the hope, that at least one of these will be among those 5! More people today, need to talk to children. Involve them. Conduct lectures or workshops for the under-privileged which might just make them think, and then once that initial feeling is instilled in them, it might make them walk towards the world they want to know. That, techincally, at least 20 times the present number of people need to be walking towards. Kids need to be taught. They need someone in front of them whom they can possibly look up to. Someone they can like as a friendly person who is happy doing what she/he is doing.
The emotions and questions that flash through the eyes of the children sitting and listening to you, can be very touching. Very interesting. They have the brightest of faces, with the most never ending questions. Some ask, others are shy. Communicating with kids can be the toughest thing sometimes. You never know when they might get an over-dose and refuse to listen further. You never know when they might yawn in your face, or talk among themselves and distract you or worse, ignore you! The best thing to do, is mix with them. I, personally, dont like the - "I'm an outsider" attitude. I love playing with them, talking to them, learning from them. They love company. But they love friendly company. That's why, rule number one of -Talking to Kids- is - Be informally yourself. Blend with the surroundings instead of being the outstanding one. Another very important aspect is, patience. For me, being impatient comes genetically. It is undoubtedly the hardest thing for me to do when around kids. Being patient, is a mountain of a task for me! But, with practise, and experience, even that comes! There's nothing you cannot learn! And well, for those of you who think someone younger than you can't possibly teach you anything, time to turn back to the year 2008 now. Welcome to the era of knowledge! Having an open mind and accepting that you do learn from even the children around you, is the catch. Putting those gigantic egos away is the main task. Those of you who have major ego problems- take to start gazing after 2:30am.. and once you realize how insignificant you are, then go talk to kids.
One more thing that must be avoided at all costs, is using abusive language. And insulting any of the people in front of you (or behind you!). Kids will not appreciate it, and worse, they might just pick it up from you.And then, for all you know, you will have achieved nothing apart from teaching them some slang. Using strong and effective language is totally different from throwing insults every now and then.
This wasn't supposed to be a handbook on handling kids, but as it turns out, I realized while writing, halfway through, that if the basics arent known, there's no point in writing about- why involving kids is so important. So now, the main topic of kids' importance as catalysts in a mission, shall be discussed the next time.
Something for thought - If you can't wait till the next article or if you're going to miss it or forget it, then- just use the main basic steps and start off anyway. Coz the Conservation message has justice done to it, only when it is spread successfully! Go make a kid WANT to help conserve our wildlife! Forcing him is going to be worthless, so you'd rather bake a cake. If you can make someone WANT to do something, you got it dude!! :)
Remember? - Nanha munna raahi hoon.. :)

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