Working with children has always been fun, whether cooking with them in a school or just informally having a conversation. Appreciation of their world with fullness of focus and fascination makes them the most divine company ever. Freedom to articulate and our readiness to listen to their feelings could make them feel wanted like everyone. Imparting thoughts with children will reward you with some immaculate interpretations and our imaginative vocabularies could shape them into good communicators and form their character in life.
When we planned a cooking and cultural camp for students, I never realised this could be one of the happiest times in my life and one of the most beautiful works we could have initiated in a long time. We had a fruitful plan and programmes based around food and nature—an inevitable part of a young individual’s growth to sensibly amalgamate within the system we live. Children are the beneficiaries and torchbearers of future advances, leaders of the times to come. So, their upbringing should involve a natural and social education, if they have to serve the world better and make their own contributions for further generations.
On May 1, kids between the ages of eight and 15 walked through our main gate without knowing the package of surprises waiting for them. Our senior chef greeted children with garlands and treated them like grown-ups at our retreat, whilst they sipped healthy red hibiscus juice. Our hostess Sruthi unleashed the schedule of activities to our anxious looking young guests. After a short break, we guided them through our kitchen to introduce the commercial cooking space filled with aromatic spices, bronze vessels and traditional cooking tools followed by a cooking class where every individual was part of making their own lunch. Many of them looked extremely happy and proud as they enjoyed their first organic lunch at Rasa Gurukul. Thereafter, we took them for a farm visit where some kids interacted with fresh vegetables and spices at source for the first time. Then natural games from old traditions, music workshops, storytelling and a thought-provoking discussion were conducted as well.
The next morning, we started off with a simple yoga session, then walked with farmers for the day’s harvest and later, had a relaxed time with our cows at the goshala (cowshed) where the kids experienced milking the cows. By 9 am, they gathered around the dining room for the fabulous breakfast spread; everyone looked so full of energy and involved in intense conversations with their newly found friends. We met at Rasa Temple for our finale to this most incredible 24 hours, shared some personal stories and conveyed the purpose of conducting an event like this. We had a surprise goodie bag for them to take home with homemade snacks, pickles and the veggies they picked up from the garden.
The interesting thing was none of the children showed any urgency to go home, they were too involved in the special treats offered to them. As we melted in those moments of innocent and pure glee of childhood, what we learned was the richness of this kind of learning exercise and perhaps this could be the best thing happened to their parents too, knowing how smoothly they embraced all things of the past generation. With a few genuine cooking workshops like this, their growth will take a new shape with a glorious backdrop of culture and heritage. Most importantly, the workshop helped boost their affinity with mother tongue, getting used to homely cooking and the emotions of a belonging which even grown-ups are missing these days.
We overheard Master Sreehari asking his father as we said good bye, “The food here looks so wonderful and tasty at every meal time, can’t we stay here forever?” This simple reflection of a seven-year-old made us feel that our job was accomplished.
The author runs the London-based Rasa chain of restaurants