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.

Television-is it so harmful to children…

As it is made out to be??

I don’t think so. I know there will be many of you who think otherwise. Many of you may be from the school of thought that believes television stunts a child’s imagination. But I believe excessive viewing of television is what hampers a child’s functioning.

If a child spends most of his time in front of the TV then it is definitely going to harm him/her. If a child is told to watch TV because his/her parents don’t want to be disturbed while they chat with their friends on phone, or they want to go out somewhere, or they are simply too busy to attend to their little one, then yes, the child is being given a message that watching TV is the only worthwhile thing to do.

And this approach is adopted by not just the parents,mind you. I’ve seen care-givers like grand-parents, nannies/baby-sitters too, relying heavily on the tube when faced with the challenge of pacifying a wailing child or feeding a fussy-eater. TV is even what many turn to, to make children sit through while they go about doing their chores.

What I’m trying to say is we, adults, are the ones who drive our children to the point of addiction for television. If we know how to make use of TV in a constructive way, our children have much to learn from this medium.

I can cite my daughter as an example. She is a huge fan of Barney & Dora. The reason R & I acknowledge her watching the series is because Namnam gets to learn a lot from it. These shows are interactive that teach kids about alphabets, numbers, nursery rhymes with great deal of fun thrown in. They impart strong positive messages about values, good manners, optimistic attitudes by way of songs, skits & dance routines.

And another character she eagerly looks forward to watching everyday is Mister Maker. He is the one who helps her with her penchant for craft and painting. The amazing part is he always advises to make use of things that are available at home. He stresses a lot on recycling and re-using which I believe is a very valuable lesson that Namnam can imbibe.

So these are the shows that Namnam ardently watches. That’s not to say that she is glued to them through the day. She gets to watch TV for about an hour and half every day. That’s a condition R & I have laid down for her & ourself so that she gets a chance to indulge in other things too with as much fun.

This way she is able to grasp important lessons from the TV shows and put them to use in her life just like she gains more and more knowledge and gets to widen her imagination when R & I read books to her or when she plays with her blocks or creates shapes with clays.

I’m not saying this is the right approach to handle children. I’m no authority on that. But it has worked well for my child.

So long as we, as parents know how to keep the TV sets from ruling us and our children, then I feel there’s no harm in having them in our lives.