Earth Day – The Farm

Earth day - the farm

Earth Day is just around the corner, on April 22nd. I bet your schools have programs and activities to raise awareness of the importance of caring for the earth. There’s probably a drawing or essay competition or cleaning up your school playground. Here’s a question for you…What do you do on other days? Do you eat a bar of chocolate and throw the wrapper on the road? Do you drink a soda and toss the bottle to a side?

Earth Day celebrations for one day make it a token celebration. Our thoughts must translate into action. Otherwise, there is no value in spouting environmentalism. So, my friends, make it a point to pick up after yourself wherever you are. If the adults around you throw trash, be the role model and clean up their trash. Our earth needs all the helping hands it can get.

Earth Day – The Farm

BOYS! BOOOOOYYYSSS!

Raghu and Raju swallowed their giggles as they tiptoed to the kitchen and planted themselves behind their mother’s back.

“BOOO…”

“Surprise!”

All three of them shouted at the same time.

“What is this magic? Are you really Raghu and Raju or some spirits in disguise? Looks like I won’t hear an earful from your bus driver!!! Okay! Okay!” their mother wrapped them up as the boys hugged her.

“So! What made you two get ready without me yelling at the top of my voice? Do share! I must use the same trick every day.” Lakshmi rolled her eyes teasingly.

“Ma, yes, we got up without any alarm as we were excited about our excursion,” Raghu jumped and hopped.

“YYYYeeppp! We are going on a trip to an organic farm. There are many animals and a few birds, too,” said Raju.

“Ha! I think I’ve heard about this place. Well, have a fantastic day with your friends and tell us about it. Maybe Dad can take us there, and we can pick up some organic vegetables, too,” Lakshmi nodded. “Listen, boys, I’m wrapping your tiffin box in this plastic cover. You can throw it out when you finish lunch, okay?” She tightly tied the plastic cover’s loose ends around the boys’ lunch boxes.

“Mama, what are you doing? Why are you wrapping the tiffin box in a plastic cover?” asked Raghu.

“Ada! You sound surprised! I have been doing it for ages! This way, no oil or water will leak into your lunch bag,” said Lakshmi, handing the tiffins to her kids.

“Mama!” Raju was exasperated. “Do you know why we’re going on the excursion today?”

“Hmmmm…so you kids can have fun with your friends? It is just a part of every year’s schedule, right?” Lakshmi shrugged her shoulders and looked amused.

“No, Ma, today is World Environment Day. We are learning about how pollution harms the earth. We’re going to this organic farm because it is out there somewhere. There is less pollution there, and the air will be purer. It will be good to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.” Lakshmi smiled at how earnest he sounded.

“We were asked not to bring plastic items to school today. Our Ma’am has already told us to stop using single-use plastics like plastic bags, spoons, straws, and thermocol,” Raju added.

“Why not?” Lakshmi pulled her brows together.

“The problem is these disposable plastic items don’t biodegrade.”

“Bio what?”

“Biodegrade Mama! It means that bacteria can’t break these into smaller particles. They stay on earth for thousands of years. They get into our water sources and food, too,” explained Raju, fully loaded with facts.

“Okay, my dear bright spark. Bacteria is good for something, then! I’ll pack your lunch without a plastic cover, and you can bring your steel water bottles. Are you happy now?” Their mother looked on proudly as the boys sat for breakfast.

It was strange to be at the bus stop on time. The bus driver thought so, too. “Hey! I must be dreaming! You two are on time!!!” he bellowed.

“Uncle, today is our excursion, so we got up early,” Raghu explained sheepishly when a squeaky voice belted out, “Old McDonald had a farm. EE, I, EE, I, OH…And on his farm, he had some cows. EE, I, EE, I, OH!”

“Oh No! Will we have to listen to the KG kids singing their rhymes?” The driver chuckled and shooed the boys in.

As the bus pulled into the school grounds, banners, charts, and pictures showed the importance of a clean environment. The campus usually had the same trash bin to collect all kinds of waste, but today, they had three coloured trash bins.

Miss. Leena’s voice came over the intercom. It was time for the kids to assemble in the playground. Like an army of ants, a stream of kids trickled out of the classrooms and waited to hear their principal.

“Good morning, everyone! I hope you all are excited for the day. Did you notice the changes on our campus? The flex banners are gone. We now have charts! World Environmental Day will be a “NO PLASTIC” day. We have introduced coloured trash bins today. You can see red, green, and blue trash bins. Red bins are used for wastes that are not biodegradable. It collects biomedical wastes, which are non-cyclable and non-biodegradable. Green bins are used for wet and biodegradable wastes, and blue bins are used for dry & recyclable wastes. These wastes are recycled and reused. Today, we’ll keep the campus nature-friendly. In a few minutes, we will leave for the farm. You can enjoy being with farm animals and feeding them too. Be good listeners and have a great time!” She waved to the assembled students.

“Look at the coloured dustbins!” Malini pointed

“They are super shiny,” said Raghu.

As the buses pulled in, they stood, grabbing their partner’s hands. As if a switch was turned on, the little ones broke into the rhyme…..

“Old McMcDonald had a farm, EE, I, EE, I, OH!”

The others rolled their eyes, smirked, and pretended to ignore the singing.

The kids had been so busy chitchatting that they didn’t notice when the roads became quieter. The honking had let up, and fewer buildings dotted the streets. When the bus turned off the road to a mud path with thick, lush fields on either side, a wooden board read, “Welcome to The Farm.”

The kids stood up from their seats and scanned the land around them. Large heaps of hay lay in the distance. Grain drums and small troughs of water stood to one side. They turned to the sound of the creaking door; a man stood on the steps. He shushed them all with a finger on his lips, and the chatter died down.

“Hello everyone! I’m Mr. Ashok, and I care for the animals on this farm. When you get down, stand in rows of two. I’ll take you to the animals and feed them. Please keep your voices down. Do not go beyond the fence, and take care not to poke or hurt the animals,” he swept his eyes over all the kids. They knew they had better listen to him.

The kids murmured softly as they made their way behind Mr. Ashok.

“Ey! That’s a stallion da!” Raghu’s friend Prakash said in a hushed voice. “It looks like the horse in the movie War Horse’. It is fantastic!”

“I wonder how they got the mane to shine so much!” Raju whispered back.

Beyond the fence, a few cows were pulling at the hay. Others rested nearby, chewing cud. But some people were gathered around a cow, looking worried.

“What’s the matter, sir? Is the cow not well?” Prakash asked Mr.Ashok.

Mr. Ashok looked grim. “No, Gomathi hasn’t eaten for many days. The vet will be here shortly.”

A car pulled up, and an important-looking man got out. Another man rushed to him. The two men stood there talking and pointing. Then, they made their way to the cowshed.

The kids stood at a distance and watched the vet examine Gomathi. She lay on the ground, unable to move. A calf nuzzled next to her.

“Sir, is that calf newborn?” Ravi looked up at Mr. Ashok

“Yes, it was born just a week ago. Gomathi hasn’t been able to feed it the past few days, and the calf is confused,” he nodded.

The vet examined Gomathi’s stomach and gave it some pills and an injection. The kids were glued to the spot even when the people at the farm placed some screens and blocked their view of the cow. Someone else brought the calf out. Raghu wanted to hug the poor baby.

The noise of something being thrown around with loud panting breaths was troubling.

“She has eaten something and is not able to digest it. What did she eat, do you know?” they heard the vet ask.

“What could Gomathi have eaten? Would she have swallowed a huge ball? Or a big rock?” Thousands of questions hammered into the children’s brains.

“Kids, you have to move from here…” Mr Ashok led them away as they bombarded him with questions.

“What’s the vet going to do?” 

“Is the cow going to be okay?”

“Can we watch?”

Mr. Ashok looked at the worried face. If he didn’t reassure them, the children were going to be traumatized. “The vet will open the cow’s stomach and check whatever is causing the pain. That is the only way to save the cow,” he said gently.

The kids and their students wandered away from the cowshed. They fed the birds, picked a few fruits and vegetables each, and ate lunch under the wide canopies of the mango and jackfruit trees. But there was a nagging feeling in the back of their minds, even when they climbed the trees.

Was Gomathi okay?

And then it was time to leave. Prakash, Raghu, and Raju were the last to line up. They turned their back to the bus, looking for Mr. Ashok. Would he come to say goodbye?

 When the tall figure appeared from the cowshed, Raghu broke into a run, shouting, “How is Gomathi? Is she okay?”

Mr. Ashok ruffled Raghu’s hair. “We have to wait and see.”

“Why?” The boys crowded around him.

“The poor cow had eaten several plastic bags. That’s why she wasn’t eating! Though I don’t know where she found plastic bags on our farm!” He rubbed his face.

“None of us brought plastic bags,” Raju held up the cloth bag with his tiffin box.

“Why do you have to wait and see?” Raghu asked.

“Well, it was a major operation. The vet has stitched up Gomathy’s stomach, but it has to heal first.”

The children thought about the poor calf wanting to cuddle up to his mother. They sent a silent prayer that Gomathy would get better.

On the way back, the boys heard their teachers talk about plastic bags.

“My gosh! These plastic bags make their way everywhere, even into an organic farm! Plastic cannot be digested or decomposed by any microorganism, and these non-biodegradable objects threaten the earth!

The kids rode in silence. They had read about the harmful effects of pollution in their science textbooks, but today, they experienced its effects firsthand. Raghu & Raju felt guilty about using plastic things without considering how it affected others.

“I feel like I’m responsible for Gomathy’s pain,” Raju murmured.

“Not just you, Raju! We’re all responsible for polluting the environment,” said Prakash.

“Did you see how our school was transformed today? We were asked not to bring plastic things. They had coloured bins. But why do we do this only today? Is it enough to take care of the environment only for  one day because it is World Environment Day?”

The kids pondered the Prakash’s questions. They all felt guilty for not contributing anything to the environment.

“I think we should be responsible for our Planet every day,” said Malini.

“How about celebrating World Environment Day daily?” asked Raghu.

“Daily Environment Day?” How is it possible, Raghu?” asked Raju.

“Look at what we did today. Our school zone was plastic-free, with proper disposal of garbage today. Let’s do it daily. We can also form an Environment Club in our school. What do you all say?” Raghu’s voice rose in excitement.

“Then we can plan activities that promote awareness to care for the environment, reduce pollution, and clean the environment,” said Prakash.

The teachers heard the burst of ideas and smiled. These students learned something from the trip that they’ll remember forever. They, too, sent a silent prayer for Gomathi’s recovery.

Read more about how it all started here:

Earth Day

Find other contemporary stories here:

The Samosa Seller

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