Write-up by: Nanta Kumar
Event Write Up – Cuckoo Forest School Weekend Volunteering
Cuckoo forest school and the movement aims to recreate a society intertwined with nature through traditional sustainable methods as much as possible. This provided me a great opportunity to experience something different from the regular volunteering events like planting trees and clean-ups and was apt to resume my volunteering activities after a brief hiatus. In case you want a tl;dr version, It was an amazing experience to spend an entire weekend volunteering away from the city while pondering about the unnecessary fears we associate with our materialistic living and truly realise what we require to live and that true happiness is in exploring new experiences.
After a lazy Friday afternoon, I quickly packed my bag with basic necessities (which I found to be actually excessive on reaching there) and headed out to our carpooling spot at Guindy. It always amuses me how easy it is to identify unknown CTC/ Ainthinai members among throngs of people going by unabated. Wearing shorts/ jeans and a cap with a small backpack even if it is a long event while waiting nonchalantly are typical traits to look out for. As soon as I found my co-travellers matching such traits, we started our journey. We began to bond over the journey with talks ranging right from organic farming, sustenance living to economic and foreign diplomatic policies. It always amuses me that every CTC member has a unique story to narrate, be it one of my co-traveller who practices organic farming himself while managing his company’s operations and another who has quit his cushy corporate job and is pursuing long-term volunteering at reforestation programs while living a vegan lifestyle with resources even lesser than those utilised at Cuckoo school!
We reached the school after some ample help from our master, Googleji and found ourselves to be first among the volunteers to reach there! Slowly the rest started to trickle in over the night while we were getting accustomed to the beautiful place nestled between majestic hills and enjoying the ‘thousand star’ hotel accommodation after a very long time!
Early next morning, we woke up to the sounds of nature and the beautiful sight of the green hill range towering over our place. Once all volunteers had woken up, we split ourselves into few groups to take care of various tasks needed to be completed which ranged from mulching for a herbal garden, creating banks for a Zen garden pond to cooking, forest walk for collecting dead leaves etc. I accompanied the team which was to move rocks for the pond. Though I thought it was going to be hard, the group-work exhibited and the constant barrage of jokes made light work of the situation that we actually began to enjoy the task with many of us also doing ‘catch practice’ with the stones. Awaiting us after work, was an amazing breakfast of Ragi porridge with fresh cut mango pickle which tasted even better after our pre-breakfast workout! Then we proceeded to resume our work where the difficulty level was raised with much larger rocks to be moved and occasionally one could even hear chants of ‘Bahubali’ in the air, making the entire group break into laughter. As tiredness crept in from the unusual amount of manual work, it became an even more hilarious sight, with each person egging the other with jibes especially using the reward of a sumptuous meal awaiting us on completion and true to the word, as soon as the call for lunch was sounded, all raced ahead towards food immediately!
After the filling lunch, most of us took a power nap and continued on with the rest of the work, alternating between each other with different tasks, before calling it a day. As all retreated back to the huts, among small groups, each engaged in different games with the kids, various ‘get to know’ sessions and random talks while waiting for the dinner. Meanwhile, we also drank some delicious tea made with ginger, lemon grass, and other herbs to rejuvenate ourselves. After dinner, few went on to sit by the bonfire and later on to a night trek to the nearby river bed to explore the night’s mystic beauty. Soon with the tiring yet awesome day of volunteering behind us, all fell asleep to a blissful slumber.
Next morning, after ‘treating’ myself to an extra hour of sleep in the chill morning, we resumed our remaining work for the pond. After the breakfast, we went to a nearby mango farm to bring back some big rocks on a tractor and that crossed off one item of riding on a full tractor off my list as well! After lifting some humongous rocks, some so huge I needed three others to lift it, we returned back on top of the tractor to meet a local icecream ‘tata’ who came to serve us some delectable ‘Kutchi Ice’! Ensuing that, more work for the pond and the garden was completed before we called it a day and headed for our final meal at Cuckoo.
After the heartening meal, we all sat under a huge tamarind tree to hear from the long-term volunteers at Cuckoo about the conceptualisation of the entire place and the passion and the hardships which goes behind building such a beautiful enclave. Their resolve and dedication towards Cuckoo was inspirational and motivated all of us to work and live more closely to nature. After the talk, we bid adieu to Cuckoo, motivated to work even more for the cause of saving our natural environment and come back to Cuckoo Forest School more often.