Games Our Children Play

Let me ask you something. If your child comes up to you and asks if he/she can play house-house or ghar-ghar with friends, you won’t think even for a fraction of a second before saying ‘yes’, will you? I know I won’t. In fact when I see Namnam pouring ‘tea’ into her little ‘tea-cups’ and serving it to her friends or when she puts on her gloves to take out ‘freshly-baked pizza’ from her ‘oven’ or simply rolls out a dough onto her chakla to make rotis, I go on a nostalgic trip of my own drawing similarities to my own childhood.

I remember for us kids ghar-ghar meant having a kitchen stocked with the usual saucepan, kadhai, glasses, plates, spoons,etc and each of us had a role to play. One of us would be the ‘husband’ who would have a newspaper in his hand while the ‘wife’ would bring tea, make two cups and start complaining to the ‘husband’ about how their children troubled her and didnt ‘study’. And the rest of us acted as ‘children’ either doing our homework or playing marbles or ‘gotiyaan’ as the game was known or just getting reprimanded by ‘our parents for our supposed ‘misdoings’ :D. And on days one of us had our barbie doll set, were the happiest of days. Because we could try out different dresses on her, deck her up and take chances singing lullabies to her and carrying her like a baby.

So today when I hear the term play-house or ghar-ghar, that’s image that conjures up in my mind. Namnam and her friends are combing their respective barbie’s hair, dressing her up, tucking her in bed and I smile and wish to myself that they would never grow out of this innocence.

Having said that, yesterday, when one of my relatives shared a disturbing incident that occured in the school where she teaches, it got me wondering if innocence was indeed at risk and somewhere the parents had a hand in it.

It happened in one of the school buses. A 4 year old kindergartener went up to her friend and asked him to join her in the backseat on the pretext of playing ghar-ghar. To say that I was shocked at hearing what she did next would be an understatement. She took the boy to the backseat, removed her underwear and
told him to lie on top of her. Luckily the conductor caught them just in time and reported them to their parents. The perplexed parents approached the school principal who in turn summoned the girl. And as it turned out, the girl revealed that this was a game which she and a couple of her friends in the class played regularly. Upon being asked from where she learned this game, she replied,’ mere mummy-papa khelte hai'(my mummy-papa play this game).

Now, I understand that children grasp things very fast, but if a 4year old girl asks a boy to lie on top of her then it clearly means that children grasp things much faster and much more than what they are meant to.

So how do we address this issue? Who do we blame here?

  • Do we blame these little children who dont even know what making love is or to put it more bluntly, having sex is? Do they even need to know?
  • Do we blame the TV shows, movies, advertisements, etc. for inflating their curiosity level?
  • Do we blame the living conditions in our country where so many families live in one-room flats giving zero privacy because of which many times children end up seeing things which they are not supposed to?
  • Or do we blame our regressive mentality where ‘SEX‘ is still a taboo subject and any inquisitive query from a child is treated with a snub or a shove?
  • Or is it time that we parents introspected? Will it help in safeguarding our little ones’ innocence if we, parents are a little more cautious and careful? Will it help if we parents are a little more encouraging towards discussing this subject more openly? So that if and when our little inquisitive-minds come up to us with any questions, we are ready and open enough with answers that are appropriate for their age?

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Koi Lautade Mere Beete Hue Din…

…at least the 10 days that have gone by, rather swished by!

How wonderful it would be if you could go back in time and relive the beautiful days you spent with your family, all over again!

– The days spent lazing around carefree, with either a book in your hand or simply watching your daughter run around with absolutely no worry to run after her because you knew there already were three people who were more preferred to do the honour!

– The days spent watching your daughter climb up the shelves of her grandparents’ wardrobes, like a monkey and flick li’l things from there and sneak them into your bag. And then hearing her tell them how badly those things were needed in ‘her house’ instead making you reminisce about the time when you used to do the same 🙂

– The days spent stuffing yourself with the umpteenth serving of gajar-halwa made ‘lip-smacking-iciously’ by your ma and still craving for more.

– The days spent waiting for the tikki/golgappe-wala to come to your block and then rushing out to book your place with other residents, when he did come tom-tomming on his large frying pan with a spatula. And then devouring and relishing every bite and sipping the spicy jaljeera thereafter….oooooohhhhh!

– The days spent hopping from one shop to another splurging away and realizing in the process that no joy matched up to the joy of shopping with your mother :).

– The days spent rediscovering your city through lanes and by-lanes in a cycle-rickshaw with your daughter perching herself amazingly well right at the backseat and your heart skipping a beat every time the rickshaw-puller maneuvered through a jam-packed traffic and finally letting out a relieving sigh when he got you to your destination successfully.

– The days spent rushing up to the terrace as soon as the sun came out, with a pack of moongfalis and a book and your daughter following right after with her homework-sheet.

– The days spent grinding your teeth in the biting cold and yet loving every bit of the chill and breathing in every bit of Dilli ki sardi! Brrrrrrrr!!

How I wish I could have those days back! But as it turns out, its back to the grrrrind!

Anyway, how have you all been? Hope you all had a rocking start to the year.

Story-telling, the Grandparents’ way!

Pallavi had put up a status on facebook, a couple of days back wherein she mentioned how she couldn’t remember who Rama’s father was while narrating Ramayana to her son.

The status made me laugh out loud thinking about how well I could relate with her situation. I’ve had moments where, while reading out stories to Namnam, I have felt completely lost about certain characters and instances. So much so that I’ve even left them mid-way and tucked the books back in her shelf. * Shamefaced*.

But what Pal’s status also made me do was reminisce about my own story telling sessions with my grand parents. About the wonderful memories that are still so much a part of me.

The formative years of my childhood were spent at my maternal grandparents’ house. As both my parents were working and did not feel very comfortable having babysitters or Nannies around, it was only natural that they left me and my brother in our grandparents’ care, who lived just a few blocks away.

Story-telling sessions were an integral part of our stay at my grandparents. Especially stories from our Indian Mythology. The sessions were a wonderful way of bonding with our grandparents. We learned about the vastness of our culture and tradition from the different stories that they told us. They helped us widen our imagination ad infinitum.

Whenever I wanted to hear a story the first person I ran to, be it day or night was my grandmother,my Ammamma. She had some of the most precious pearls in her kitty. Her innate way of narrating stories made me want to live in those mythical eras. It was as though the characters sprang to life every time I pictured them in my mind.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

To give an instance which is still so vivid, when she told us about Jatayu, while narrating Ramayana, I remember forming a very ferocious and huge image, in my mind, of a vulture fighting it out with the giant Ravana. And then the image would transform into a very meek, broken,beaten bird lying on floor hoping desperately that Rama would come by just in time to be informed about his wife’s abduction. I remember feeling desperate myself at that point of the story, no matter how many times I would have heard it from her. Each time Ammamma reached that point I could feel that sadness and desperation creeping inside me.

Image courtesy Google Images

Another instance that I can give is when Ammamma narrated the story of Mohini, the only female avatar of Lord Vishnu, who tricked the Asuras by her enchanting ways, into handing her the Amrit, the nectar of immortality, and distributed it among the Devas. I remember having an image of a vast ocean with hundreds of Devas standing ashore to drink the Amrit. And for some strange inexplicable reason I imagined the Devas standing in a line, like school children waiting to get their candies!! Even the ocean that the Devas stood in front of, had the power to churn out Amrit, in my imagination!

One can find a lot of information about Mohini and the different versions and legends of her exploits in Wikipedia

While still on Devas or Suras, to this day I cant approve of them as genuine or godly as they are made out to be. I always felt they were a selfish, opportunist bunch who took advantage of their appearance and proximity to Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, to get the better of their infamous brothers, the Asuras. Thats my perception though.

Even Achachan, my grandfather had an engaging way of reading Bhagwat-Geeta, Adhyatma Ramayanam or any book for that matter. Hearing him and then having him explain it made us understand the essence of Indian Mythology in a far better way than we could if we had read them ourselves.

Stories begin to look and sound so much better when narrated by grandparents, dont they? I’ve observed how engrossed Namnam looks when her grandparents tell or read stories to her. I do read stories to her from Amar Chitra Katha, Panchatantra and other books but I know its so not the same as being narrated by the grandparents. They are a true blessing!

Being away from home, I still feel though, that Namnam is missing out on a huge chunk of fun moments and learning from her grandparents. But I’m glad whenever she gets to be with them, she makes the most of her time.

Reading too much into it?

Recently I have started reading stories to Namnam.It is something that I have tried to do ever since she was a year and a half.But her fascination for books,papers and anything remotely related to that was confined to biting or tearing them into pieces!So much so that R,who works in a publishing house that take out about 4 magazines in a month,was anything but amused at his daughter’s love for destroying his sole source of income!Thankfully,with time,she outgrew the phase and found more interesting things to do.

So I was happy,when,a couple of months back,Namnam brought a book to me and insisted on being read to.Soon this turned into a practice and she began to love this.And I,even more so at this new phase of mother-daughter bonding!

Reading is a virtue that needs to be cultivated.In fact it should be an integral part of your growing up.

The more you read,the more you grow,the wiser you become.To me,a well read person commands more respect than a highly qualified one.I know of many people who are well-educated,hold doctorates even,yet their knowledge is limited to the field of their specialty only.If you ask them about something outside of their expertise,they would be ignorant.Why?Because they dont feel the need to read or widen their horizon.

My Ammamma was not very highly educated in the permissible sense of the word.Yet she was so well read that her intellect and wisdom could match up to any person holding a bachelor or master’s degree.

Not everyone can have a passion for reading,I agree.I dont boast of being a voracious reader myself.I dont pick up anything and everything that comes my way to read.But I do find the whole aspect engaging.Even empowering at times when I realize I’ve gained some knowledge too in the process.And I’m so glad to say here that my reading has increased thousand-fold ever since I started blogging.

I was chatting with my father-in-law while drafting this post.He said one of his cousins was gifting him a CD listing the names of 1000 books!I’ve no doubt,though,that of those 1000,Appaji would have read 800 already.His excitement was evident in the words he typed on the messenger.His books are his greatest companions.There’s nothing that gives him more pleasure than reading.I so admire him for that and respect him even more.

I’m yet to know how much Namnam is going to acquire the habit of reading though.However,I’d like to try and make sure to do my bit by inculcating in her the love of it.

Let me sign off with a quote by Maya Angelou that is apt to the present context..

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.