“You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” Grandpa to Miss Rumphius.
The Wonderful World of Storybooks
Growing up in a world without television, I lived to read storybooks. I would read up cover to cover, the new books of language, literature and history before the start of each school year. My father had a very small library of Reader’s Digest and other books on a single wall shelf, and they brought me so much joy.
I read everything. The adventures of The Famous Five and Noddy by Enid Blyton are embedded in my sweetest memories as a kid. I still remember Noddy going for a short bike ride, bumping into a policeman and then coming home to have a boiled egg for lunch. Those were such magical times. We were carefree kids and our parents lived to see us smile. And more than anything else, reading made me happy.
I devoured books at such a fast pace that my mother hid the comics she bought for me and then gave them to me and my brother two at a time. One day I found her stash on top of the cupboard, but I so much loved her adorable subterfuge that I didn’t want to raid her hiding place.
I never lost my love for reading. My happiest moments have been sitting in a comfortable chair after work with a cup of tea, a plate of sweet cookies and an engrossing book. I would buy hundreds of books from the second-hand bookshops, and take them home in giant jute bags as if they were farm produce meant for the vegetable market. My father immensely enjoyed reading and he was happy to have this large supply of books at hand. In later years, when my mother fell ill I wondered how to keep her spirits high. Instead of following stressful news she liked to watch nature channels on TV. When she couldn’t sit up and watch TV, I bought some children’s storybooks to read them aloud to her, since we both still relished the simplicity of these stories, more than all the adult books and magazines.
When shopping for books for my mother I was disappointed to see that the shops now carried a much smaller selection of children’s books. Even those old time books and magazines that continue to be published have changed so much. They are now overtly commercialized. As an example, one of the stories ended with the baby animal characters arrayed around a plateful of a famous brand of chocolates enjoying a “Choco Breakfast.”
Stories that Inspire a Love for Nature, Tradition and Cultural Heritage
I started thinking back about the beautifully written ancient folklores such as Aesop’s Fables, Jataka Tales and other stories of kings and heroes. I had enjoyed all these fairy tales, fantasies and real life stories so much. At the same time, I realize that many of my beloved books missed stories about many other subjects that I would have loved to know more about. I wish I had had a chance to read biographies of sufi saints and their spiritual journeys, tales about ancient pioneers in mathematics and medicine, and stories inviting deep immersion in nature.
I thought there must be a place for books with stories which inspire a love for our cultural heritage, and also bring us back to the wonder of nature. So many kids growing in cities are disconnected from nature. Mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are becoming so increasingly common among kids, that a completely new genre of mindfulness books for kids has flooded the bookstores.
While there is obvious goodness in the new-age books for kids that teach mindfulness and breath meditation, we are cautioned by doctors to be careful about such practices. Scientists warn that “mindfulness and meditation can worsen depression and anxiety.”
Nature, on the other hand, is unequivocally calming. In the midst of a hectic workday, I start feeling relaxed when I step out into my garden full of tall pine trees, tomato plants, mint and daylilies. Even the view from my window of the black squirrel scampering on the apple tree in my front yard makes me feel peaceful. When I spend my weekend digging up the rocks and weeds on my farm I feel so content. This is life. I can spend my whole life doing this, I am thinking. The healing aspects of nature are well proven.
The Healing Powers of Nature
Nature is restorative. Even a few minutes in nature over as few as 10 days can result in perceptible positive effects on our mental health. Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing is an opportunity for people to take time out, slow down and connect with nature.”
As concrete jungles are sprouting everywhere around us, we are getting alarmed that we may lose our most precious treasure. We are beginning to consciously cherish our environment, and rewilding or ecological restoration movements are becoming stronger. We are recognizing that agriculture is not just for feeding our bodies – the act of farming can nourish our souls as it is such a “nature immersive” activity.
Working in the fields offers us a way to become deeply immersed in nature. In an article in Resilience, the author Shepherd Bliss writes that “working the Earth can be good for body, mind and soul. Farms can heal.” Even reading stories about nature, gardening and farming can be so relaxing.
My Grandma’s Stories
Our parents had not grown in wealthy homes so when they eventually had money, they splurged on us kids. We did not lack anything, least of all our favorite storybooks. However, among all the wonderful books and toys what I cherish most are the stories told by my grandmother.
I remember coming back from school and sitting at the long lunch table in the cool verandah listening to my grandmother tell stories. With a beautiful childlike smile my white-haired, hard-working, gentle grandmother told us happy stories from religious books and from memories of her growing up. Though she had experienced great hardships throughout her life, her stories were never bitter – they were full of wisdom, positivity and hope. She was a true sufi whose connection to God gave her strength and joy.
Storytelling is how we experience and learn about the world around us. Traditional stories help to continue cultural practices and revitalize the younger generation. My grandmother had planted a lot of fruit trees in our backyard and in the whole neighborhood our little backyard had more abundant produce than even the houses with huge gardens. I would proudly tell the visiting fruit vendors, “We don’t buy fruits!” Through her stories and personal example, my grandmother gave me a lifelong love for growing and nurturing plants.
My grandmother’s stories described the history of our families and gave us a glimpse into the past making us want to find out more. Her stories of spiritual people inspired us to cherish moral values such as truthfulness and honesty. Her stories from her childhood enriched our cultural experiences such as celebration of traditional festivals.
My grandmother often rued the fact that unlike her growing up times, now we kids were not surrounded by many grandparents who would pamper us and tell us stories. I am thinking that our kids in the modern world are perhaps even more missing out on the traditional stories from our culture and nature.
Grandpa’s Farm Stories: Reconnecting with Nature and Tradition
Traditional stories about our natural and cultural heritage connect us back to the earth. They bring us peace and happiness.
The books in this series of ‘Grandpa’s Farm Stories‘ transport you to the carefree world of kids who have come to visit their grandpa’s farm. Their wise and benevolent grandpa tells them stories from the past and teaches them the moral values such as truthfulness, honesty and love for nature.
The books are enjoyable reads not only for kids but also for adults. You would love reading them aloud as much as your kids will enjoy reading the books themselves.
These books about nature, farming, folklore, our ancient heritage and moral values represent an effort by the author to make the world a more beautiful place just as the beloved grandpa advised Miss Rumphius. These beautiful stories from nature, tradition and cultural heritage would appeal to all age groups not just kids.
- Miss Rumpius
- Mindfulness and meditation can worsen depression and anxiety
- Forest bathing is an opportunity for people to take time out, slow down and connect with nature
- “Working the Earth can be good for body, mind and soul. Farms can heal.“
- Rewilding or ecological restoration
- LotPot, Madhu Muskan, Amar Chitra Katha, Chandamama, Champak, Parag and Nandan, the magical worlds of Xanadu, Bahadur, Superman and Batman.
- Welcome To Story Hour: 100 Favorite Books For Young Readers