Amazing Kids! Magazine

My Touch with Nature

Avani Anil Kumar, AK Columns Global Village Editor


I remember my trip to Abha like it was yesterday, even though it was really two years back. I guess it is a trick of the mind – making some happy memories seem bright and beautiful in contrast with the dull ones.

Being an expatriate in Saudi Arabia for almost fourteen years, I have had the chance to explore the biggest country amongst the GCC in many ways. (The Gulf Cooperation Council is a political and economic alliance of six Gulf states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.) But the very existence of Abha, which is in midst of a desert, was a clash of the facts of geography and my very experience with it. It was like finding salad dressing in a donut.

Abha is a hill station smacked in the middle of the desert country, Arabia. It is a land that possesses a rich tradition and history; it was the capital city for the Prince of Asir, Ibn Ayde, under the authority of the Ottoman Empire until World War I. In 1918, the Prince of Asir, Yahya bin Hasun Al Ayde, the grandson of Ibn Ayed, returned to his family throne and conquered Abha with complete independence. In 1920, the Asir area joined with Ibn Saud during the Unification of Saudi Arabia.

Abha continues to be the capital of the Asir province.

We had planned our trip with great precision. We, along with three other families, were to spend our day at a farmhouse owned by a Saudi national, but maintained by a dear friend of ours, who gladly agreed to tolerate the banter of us kids, juniors and seniors alike.

After much discussion, it was decided that we take the road trip, dangerous as it may have been. The journey took hours and we were to set off at the crack of dawn.

And so we did. I remember the hot showers we had for our bath, typical of the country, regardless of the time – day or night. It was summer in the whole of Saudi and temperatures skyrocketed to almost 52 degrees Celsius (125 degrees Fahrenheit).

Tanks full of petrol, three cars filled with passengers, parents solemn, teenagers fiddling with gadgets, kiddos excited, we set off through vast expanses of sand, sand and even more sand –  sand filing out on either side of the road.

To be frank, almost half of the journey was more or less boring. There was not much vegetation except for thorny bushes, and there were no animals. We stared at the sands until our eyes blurred and watered and we returned our attention to the iPads clutched in our hands. It was only on the occasional sightings of camels – mostly crossing the roads – that our cars would screech on the brakes and our families would be blinded by the sheer beauty and the grace by which they carried themselves – even if it was from one sand stretch to another.

Then came the treacherous roads. They snaked around the mountains, rushing with traffic. But the view was terrific. The roads had a clear view of the sheer drop; with its rugged trees and undulating sands. The braver ones posed for photos at the periphery by standing on jagged rocks to get a clear shot of the background.

The mountains leveled out at the top in such a way that the entire city seemed just like any other. We made it to the farmhouse in less than an hour after that and we had spilled out of the SUV just as my dad switched off the engine.

Abha is home to all kinds of flowers. There is also an annual flower fest in that regard. The farmhouse was no different. There were daisies, certain varieties of lilies, and most of all, roses. Roses of all colors and varieties: red, white, yellow, violet, burgundy, pink. Thorn less, short, bushy, thin, thick, etc, filled the entire compound. There was also a small shed with big equipment, used for extracting the essence of roses, that the Saudi nationals have a craze for.

After the initial surprise was over, we teens returned to our gadgets. After fumbling around with a few games, one of us mustered up the courage to talk to the uncle maintaining the farmhouse. We asked him for the password of the Wi – Fi connection. But he laughed in reply.

There was no Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth, and no telephone lines. We gawked at his answer and I still remember the question that we blurted out: How do you survive?

Depressed, we resorted to playing games. Halfway through Temple Run and Candy Crush, we decided that we were terribly bored.

One of the elders came up with the bright suggestion of exploration. We, too bored to protest, took that as our cue, and embarked on our short little journey.

Towards the back of the farmhouse, there was a forest-like plantation; including a thicket of pomegranate trees, bending low with the weight of ripe pomegranates. We plucked and ate them at ease, they were more delicious than anything I had ever tasted. We climbed trees bearing unknown yet sweet fruits, broke open almond shells, and sucked oranges.

Soon, we felt as if we had lived amongst the trees and fruits and flowers our whole life. We swung upside down from the branches, played hide and seek, rested under the shade.

Evening brought a wave of mist. The temperature dropped sharply, and we – unfamiliar with the extremes, huddled into the sweaters that our mothers’ common sense packed with the essentials. Dad cooked some grilled chicken on the barbeques, much to everyone’s delight.

By nine o’clock in the evening, we were all just a bunch of filled tummies, too tired to move or run. Still, as we got in the car for our return, I felt a sense of longing. That farmhouse experience taught me that my world was not enclosed in a piece of electronic device that I could hold in my hand. I came to know the beauty of nature, experience it firsthand, and understand how nature gives, though it never expects anything in return.

Pondering over that thought, I realized that I had never interacted with nature before. I never had done anything for nature, even though I have eaten the fruits, written on paper, used the wooden desks, and applied ointments.

I made a decision then, just as my feet left the warm soil of Abha. I have a duty to nature and I accept that responsibility.

On the return trip, I saw not the cities and tall buildings, or the lights that flickered in the night, but a world where nature is cherished, accepted and accommodated.