She’s a lateral thinker, someone who’s broken free of the shackles of established educational norms and given herself free reign to think and learn and live at the same time. Nineteen year old Janani Eshwar connects people to plants. She creates learning and teaching models for both children and adults at her venture Green Connect, a part of ArtyPlantz, a social organisation in Bengaluru.
It may sound simple, a tad over-hyped and not so important in the large digital world that one is drowning in these days. But Janani Eshwar believes that she is doing much more than teaching people to appreciate and conserve nature. “I connect people to plants. I find ways to make them fall in love with plants and to feel like we inhabit this ecosystem together,” explains the sprightly nineteen-year-old in her sweet, innocent tone.
She’s passionate about what she does. For someone who gave up the formal education system at age 12 to be home schooled, Janani has a long list of subjects learned and still being learned as part of her study repertoire. She’s presently doing a course under a mentor from the Eight Shield Community in California – it is a proprietary road-map applied to educational strategies, personal development, community building, organisational processes and more.
The Green Connect Programme, a module spearheaded by Janani herself for ArtyPlantz in Bengaluru, has gained much popularity among conscious groups of elders, youngsters and school goers, all through her efforts to connect and relate to the right target audience. “Outdoors, in nature is where we are meant to be. I’ve often been told by the participants of my programmes that this is just what they were missing. We restrict ourselves so much these days, what with our four walls boxing us in or the electronics we are wired to. Our senses miss out on all the exercise and exploration they need to be fully developed and it hurts us in many ways,” she explains.
Many studies have found links and proof to say that lack of exposure to nature and all the stimulus it provides are major reasons for psychological syndromes like ADD or hyperactivity and even depression. Most importantly, there are several things that are going wrong with our environment. Many of them because of our actions. “It isn’t hard to get information on how to live right, but very often we aren’t pushed to doing it. By connecting with plants, falling in love with them and realizing truly that we are a part of each other, people can’t think of doing anything that isn’t right by them. By connecting people with plants, we heal both the land, and our minds,” explains the passionate naturalist.
Through her work Janani concentrates on orienting mainly children and their caretakers to nature. She believes that if she can allow opportunities for children between the ages of 8 and 14 to connect to plants and nature, we will have a generation of self confident, empathetic, kind, healthy citizens who will do right for themselves and their community. She wants to reach out to every child in the country, but for now concentrates on her immediate society and city.
Constantly researching the subject and broadening her educational boundaries, Janani tells us how it is imperative for her to make a sustainable working model, even for a chosen profession like hers. “If I don’t make a sustainable model, my research is not complete,” she says. “I am going to be working with people from various classes of society, from various communities and from various fields of expertise. I am in conversation with psychologists, anthropologists, ethno-botanists and many others in the education field. The model I create should be one that can work for them all.”
Using her Green Connect Programme, the young lady works in two ways. Firstly, through a deep awareness of the senses and how to fully open them out. “This allows us to get down to the Earth in a way that animals and plants do. It allows us to enjoy fully, the opportunities for experience that the human body provides,” she explains. On a second level, the programme works through a realisation and reinforcement that we are a part of nature. She explains how as humans, we feel removed from nature. We often segregate things into natural and man-made. “We have to remember that we do really only get this one Earth, that we have a place on it, and that there are skills and practices that are needed to allow this to happen. This portion involves some thinking and introspection. It also involves a lot of skills and ways to live with the land.”
Vastly different from the average teenager (though Janani jokes that she doesn’t really know what the average is!) she went through intensive thinking before embarking on this mission. “I wrote out many pages, talked to many people (both supportive and otherwise), in fact, I used my workshops and sessions as a test to start with. I tried every possible way to see if this is what I wanted to do. I cleaned out the sentences I used to talk about my work until it sat right with me. I do have the frequent lazy day. I have the too much energy to sit with the computer. But, if I don’t work for a while, I don’t feel right. It doesn’t even feel correct to call it work. It is what I do. It is why I learn,” she says emphatically.
The aim of Janani’s research is to ensure that working with plants and nature can be financially sustainable. “This research and work model that I have created has to be sustainable. If I want to make this movement big, I need to be able to prove that others can choose this crazy field. That they can make themselves sustainable. We are solving a large deficit. We are needed. It is up to us to be innovative enough to find a way to make this solution work,” she says, signing off with a flourish.