Ramakrishna Ashram at Shivanahalli
we decided to go there, and it ended up being a most satisfying morning!
We walked into the entrance over a carpet of Gulmohar petals, shed on the ground as summer shaded into the monsoons:
When we went and met the Swamiji, he immediately gave us permission to go birding, and gave us each a tumblerful of piping hot chai. As we walked along towards the trees, a group of curious children surrounded us. "Would you like to come along with us to see the birds?" I asked them in Kannada, and they replied, "But...we have a class.".
The Swamiji immediately intervened, and said, "No, you can go with them!" And so, with a group of about 11 or 12 boys and girls, off we traipsed! Here are the children trying out our binoculars for size, under the benevolent eye of the Swamiji:
(the Swamiji is the one in the ochre robes.)
The keenness and enthusiasm of the children was just amazing. They are all children belonging to nearby villages, who attend school near the Ashram, and some of them spoke English extremely well..and were quite knowledgeable about scientific facts and the natural world!
Here are Chandu and Krupakar, showing them a few Small Green Bee-Eaters:
Amongst other things, the Ashram has coffee plants, too:
We walked along the edge of this lovely well, where one the girls told me, turtles and snakes can sometimes be found:
We walked past the Swamiji's residence:
(He apparently is hardly ever to be found there,he's busy around the Ashram area all day!)
and right up to this retreat area, that overlooks a bluff that is now intensely green after the showers:
When we returned, a lovely breakfast of
with tasty lemon pickles awaited us...
and I saw lunch (of rAgi muddhE) being prepared:
The Ashram is indeed a haven of serenity, with a Vocational Centre, and a School being run. The Swamiji is very keen that people like us come and encourage the children to learn more about what is around them, rather than have them learn just from text-books....and we found that it was the children who pointed out several larvae, pupae and birds to us.
The feeling when two children so trustingly slipped their hands into mine, and walked along with me, smiling up into my face and asking why I hadn't brought any children with me...was indescribable!
They were all barefoot, these schoolchildren of the Ashram; they played in the sand and mud, chased each other like all children do, and had a hundred questions for us about our binoculars, my camera....and the birds and the trees around us.
I'll be posting all about the various birds and insects that we saw on our trip, and it was a delight to see the children trying out the binoculars back to front, and looking up all the pages of my Grimmett and Inskipp and asking me if I could show them the more spectacular birds shown in the pages! We felt it was a very rewarding experience to have chosen to visit the Ashram for birding!