Children and Stories (April 2008, Sukhdev Vihar, Delhi) - Audio

Storytelling is not meant with child as the audience, the grandmother when she told the story to the child, child is the center. The story told by grandmother to the grandchild has child as the center.

So now to come back. First of all, keep the name future for the first five year course. Secondly, tell them the stories. Thirdly, make language the basic element, spend most of the time in teaching languages, and language is best learned through stories, recitations, dramas, make the child himself repeat and, repeat and repeat, let the child also like to tell the story, like Parchanya saying no kanha, she’s repeating a story of her in her own way. She can't read the whole story, but she knows the main character, so she repeats that word and children always like to repeat. This is one important factor which you don't normally take into account. Children like to hear the story which they know. We feel that until and unless it’s a surprise, children don't like it, but no, children like to repeat, even though they know the end of the story. They know the end of the story, but they said, no, you tell me that story.

When I was young boy, I should tell my mother, tell me the story of the parrot. That was my favorite story as a child. My mother would start with: there was a small parrot who was talking to his mother and the parrot said to his mother, “see you fly away from the tree and I sit alone here. I don't like it,” so I said, just like me. I used to enjoy this just like me. I also don't like to remain here. I can fly. The parrot said, “can I fly?” “No, no! No don’t fly away, sky is very wide, you will be lost.” The parrot said “once I want to go”. and the parrot’s mother said “all right today I’ll fly with you.” “No, no, no don't fly with me. I want to fly alone.” I say “yes, I also want to fly alone.” Then you fly, flying, flying, flying, mother was lost, but he was enjoying flying flying and went away, long afterwards he reached a tree. He was tired, then he remembered his mother, where is my mother now? so I would say, she was not there now? So no no, you have already flown away away. I want to eat now. My mommy is not here now. What can I do? So looked around and found a very good fruit around on the tree for the first time it flew to the fruit and pecked the fruit. Ate it and is completely full now and he looked down. There was a beautiful river flowing and stream water flowing down. He was very tired, slept down, then when he got up he said: Where is my mummy? She was not there, but now, how can I go back? I don't know how to go back to my mommy. In the meantime, there was one sparrow which came flying and told that sparrow, “where are you going? Are you going to meet my mother?” So that sparrow says “I don't know who is your mother?” Then he said “my mother is very nice. My mother is very nice, you see her and you will like her. You go and you tell her that your child, he’s not hungry, not thirsty, sitting very nicely on the branch of her tree and remembers you all the time. Will you tell it?” The sparrow says “yes, if I meet your mother, I’ll tell”. She flies away after some time. He is not sure whether his mother has been met by this sparrow or not. Will my mother receive my message? She should not worry about me because I’ve become big. I used to like this story so much, I have become big. Another sparrow comes after some time. It’s the same story, that I am neither hungry nor thirsty. I sit on the on the branch of the tree.

Now this story was my favorite story, whenever my mother used to say I will tell you a story, I used to say tell me this story. So this is child psychology, children do like stories which are simple but which are very simple but full of emotional thrust in it. Every child likes to be the hero of the story and becomes identified with it and therefore that image is built in the mind of child. So such stories have to be brought together, short stories, which can take a sufficiently long time to tell the story, but not too long to disturb the child’s imagination, should not be very complex stories. One episode but a complete episode from beginning to the end.

And another story of my mother’s, very special one. There was a very small family, very poor family. Are you poor, are you sick? When I hear this, we are not poor! But that person is poor. They are living in a very, very small house, so my Mother said, but these people were even having a smaller house. They were living in, in Gujarati they call it kubo, means a small little tunnel like enclosed little thing. Now the mother had always to cook food because she had three children, two brothers and the youngest was a girl. But she was very, very smart girl, poor father used to be very hungry and the mother used to feel that my husband should get sufficient food because he was working outside. He was tired always, children were not so tired, but this young girl, her name, was Kusakri. She was very smart. One day she found that mother and father were talking when they were all asleep, but she was pretending to sleep. She had not gone to sleep. She was hearing the whole story and the father said to the mother, “I am very hungry”, so she said “Now children are asleep, just I’ll cook for you, something very special”. So she prepared the hearth, fire was burning, on it she put some oil and she put a little onion in it and as soon as the onion fell into it, there’s a tremendous explosion, and Kusakri got up and then she waited a little. Second time the onion fell into the oil. Suddenly the girl got up, she said at this “I will eat and not for my father.” So naturally girl had to be respected. She has to be given. Again she went to sleep again. The father and mother started again. The same story again, she got up. Now this drama I used to like very much. You should remain awake. The message I learnt myself and you should not fall asleep because when you're asleep, father and mother will do some things and you will not get your share in it. So I still like this story very much, my mother used to tell me stories.

So like that, there are many good stories which our grandmothers used to know very well and they used to tell in such a small manner, and that the whole thing would go into the very heart and mind of the child, penetrate it to the child. One of the great works that is to be done is to fabricate new stories of today. I don't know how to make those stories. That is why, in Gujarat, we have one very nice teacher called Bijubhai. Even now one of the stories that he wrote, I remember very well. Even now that story moves me. What was the story.

There was a king and he had a huge palace and he had only one princess Lavani. Lavani was the name and in that big palace, a big garden. Now for that garden there was a gardener, so there’s a very nice gardener and he had a very small house, small cottage, big palace and a small cottage here and that gardener has a boy, a son. His name was Ram and every day a princess would look from her terrace, this young boy playing with flowers and all that and she would turn to her mother say: can I go and play? and mother said no, you should not play, he’s a small boy, gardener’s son, you should not mix up with him. But she had so much liking for seeing that boy and play with him, to get the flowers and butterflies. So one day she just fled away from the palace and sepoys could not catch her. She ran and ran and ran and ran and went to that boy and said: can I play with you? and Ram was so happy that princess had come to his house and she wanted to play with him, and he said, yes, but what you are seeing is nothing of the garden, from the palace you could not see the whole of the garden. The boy was free to see the whole garden, so he said, I will show you the whole garden and the girl was so pleased, for the first time she saw the whole garden and they collected lots of flowers, lots of flowers. In the meantime, the palace found that the girl had run away, so there was a big commotion in the palace. Sepoys were asked to run away and to find out where the girl has gone and king was anxious. The mother was crying, my daughter has gone away. And these two, boy and girl are so much telling stories of the palace and he was telling the story of the garden. It was wonderful, they had lost all sense of time, even it was dark. Ultimately, policemen came there and they found this boy and girl talking and they shouted at the boy and said, you have taken away this girl, so the girl said, he has not taken away the girl. I have come here myself. But the policemen were not convinced. So they said, no, no, we shall take you to the prison. She said, please, no, no don't take him to the prison. He’s not at fault at all. The girl was taken away to palace again and now policemen were asked not to allow the girl to go out because she should not mix up with this boy. Three days she did not go because of policeman watching over her. On the fourth day she fell ill, she got a very high fever. Why? Because she was not allowed to go out and then the mother and father are very anxious. What will happen to our child? She’s, very, very sick and then the doctors came and they gave medicines and all that. But the fever will not go away. Then the doctor says, tell me, what do you want to eat. I’ll give you permission to eat whatever you like. She said, I don't want to eat anything. He said, you want to play? Yes. We shall bring so many toys in the palace. No, I want to play. Ultimately she said Ram should come here. Then the king became anxious and they were in search of Ram. Ram also was very, very troubled that his friend had not come to meet him for three days, but how could he dare to go into the palace. But now the policemen were asked to bring the boy to the palace. Then the boy came and as soon as the girl saw the boy, her fever was gone and then they both went away to the garden again. That’s the end of the story.

Now this story Bijubhai wrote long ago in 1935 or 36, and I have read the story 10-15 times. Even today. When I tell the story, I feel it was a great lesson of equality. The boy who belonged to the gardener, a princess who was such a auspicious palace dweller. She was not allowed to meet him, but the human spirit doesn't look at the wealth, does not look at the position, it’s a common link between soul and soul.

So this was a good story for me. I learned that story and I have in my mind I have told this story so many times. There are some good story writers today also, but we do not know who they are. You will see some of the children’s stories which are being written are without imagination. They are lifeless stories, but this kind of story, where the emotional crux is so deep that they remain memorable.

Fortunately stories like Luv and Kush for example, it’s a tremendously emotional story, Luv and Kush story, two small children and Sita is the mother. Sita knows that she is the queen. Children grow up, they do not know that they are princes, and yet the treatment that Valmiki gives to these children is almost like treatment to princes.

Now that story is extremely good for children to learn, Luv and Kush and Sita and Valmiki, how the children were brought up by Valmiki. What kind of education he gave. It is a tremendous message for children that they wanted to run away to not to learn, but the Mother was very kind so loving, and she speaks to them how to study, how to learn and what the children are supposed to do when they become big and Valmiki was available who’s a big storyteller, such a big warrior himself. He wanted to teach how to throw the arrows and the mantras, and all that and children will love the learning.

My aunt, you should tell me the story of Ramayana, and this story of Luv and Kush was a great inspiration for me to study. If Luv and Kush could study so well because of Sita and because of Valmiki, then I should also learn a lot. Today there is a great need to rewrite some of these stories and create a good selection. I don't know if you have seen Mother’s book called Tales of All Times. Have a look because they're all short stories which you can tell within three four minutes. It’s a very, very good book.

We need to create new stories for children. It’s a very big task. Now these children, when they have a quest for learning, then education itself becomes itself a very living process. Children like to love, that’s a one basic premise: children like to learn, but we do not nourish this desire to learn because today we do not have good stories to be told to children, but when good stories are told they become extremely happy like Prajnaya. They become so happy to hear stories and they want to repeat the same stories.

Why is it so that they want.. Because I’ve seen it in Prajnaya’s case except Hanuman and Kanha, she would not listen to any other story?

Because she knows those truths.

So what difference does it make in her psyche?

Because the children want to repeat pleasant experiences. You see the greatest instrument in human life is to have the pleasure of something in which you can have great delight. My desire to run away from home was really great, to seek freedom, because you always say no, don't go, don't go and children don't like it. Children want to do everything. You can hear that your child wanted to paint. She wanted to draw sitting down here.

That pleasure, children want to repeat pleasant experiences. When my mother used to say.. then I used to feel so happy that I am not hungry, I am not thirsty. I am on the ground of a mango tree and very beautiful breezes coming, imagine that now I’m on the treetop.

So anyway, we have to have a lot of literature to be produced for children. Actually you should be in search of good storytellers.

It’s a difficult task, actually not to distort the great image that you want to build up and modernization is good, but modernization in a certain way mixes, and we have not yet been able to create these. Men like Tagore should come, Tagore wrote many children’s stories, like even this Parrot’s Training is also imagined by him. So stories of that kind people should make.

So have you written anything on this entire scheme, first five years and then the next two years or ten years of the child? So, first five years, future..?

Mother said first five years should be given to the vision of the future and in good basic language, because they become more sophisticated as they learn language better and better. The normal tendency of the child is to be fascinated by the sound. It’s a psychological trait, even animals when they hear the sound they are fascinated to life. The greatest fascination for animals is to hear good articulated sounds. Mother said that if you speak nicely even to a lion, he begins to worship you and wants to listen to you. It’s a magic of sound, this sound is magic. This is color seeing is also magic. You show beautiful colors to children, they fall in love. Similarly, sound is also a magic, and the very articulated sound is a tremendous effect, and that’s why these what is called the aliteration in which the first word first letter of every word is the same, like la-la-la, ma-ma-ma, when you read the whole sentence, the combination of ma becomes so great, you become delighted, the same sound repeated, because of rhythm. In our Sanskrit literature we will find some sounds which are repeated.

Yesterday someone brought me that book on Sanskrit literature, just see that book, it’s here, it’s a good book,. I would like to write a letter to Vijay. Read this.

Children will like to repeat. Because there is that rhythm and they will imitate. So language is mastered. If you have got verses of this kind, then there are verses which are onomatopoeic in which the very sound conveys the meaning of the word like kaku for example, you see koel actually has got the same first of panchama swara, who always recites in pancham swara and has always the same sound. Kaku is a kind of always moves melody always starts from top to bottom, top to bottom, top to bottom. Top to bottom is the rhythm of kaku, so even the word kaku is onomatopoeic, it resounds the sound of the koel. So if you have, for example, if you want to show something was rushing, rushing, rushing and if you have whole poem which repeats the same sound, it becomes very pleasant. So there is one present minister Rami produced the film Shankaracharya. He is a great lover of Sanskrit. He happens to be one of the ministers there. He used to come to me because of my love for Sanskrit he used to come. At that time he was only a small congressman in 1991 and all that and he used to recite to be some very nice verses in Sanskrit. One day, if you meet him, you ask him, he'll be very happy, he doesn't mind Congress or BJP or anything of the kind, but he'll be very happy. He produced a film on Shankaracharya in Sanskrit because he believes in Sanskrit to be great and all people must learn Sanskrit. He is almost a BJP man because he produced a film on Shankaracharya. The whole story is in Sanskrit and he has spent money on creating. Although he knew that audience would be very small, but still he has produced the whole life of Shankaracharya in Sanskrit, all dialogues in Sanskrit.. so he has got a kind of a small.. I would like to have myself that collection of his verses - they are very, very nice, even those who don't know Sanskrit, if you just repeat those words every very sonorable, very beautiful. Even these are also very good.

You see how much our pedagogy was developed in Sanskrit. Today, because you've got three four languages to learn, nobody is bothering about such devices by which language can be learned, only you have to make more effort in all the four languages. It’s such a big fun that this way the same thing can be spoken in French almost with the same sounds. In English also, it’s the same sounds, and yet it will make the same sense, although the words will be different. There must be some good wordsmiths who can combine the words in such a way, then you see that language learning is so easy.

Our ancient pedagogy is very effective. This is one of the reasons why McCaulay threw out our pedagogy. Actually, it’s not pedagogy at all, you learn the subjects, cram them, pass them. So the present day system was meant to produce factory workers and clerks and then ultimately to run their courts and their dispensaries and then to be British or therefore only the professions you can seek were clerks and industrial workers and doctors, lawyers and engineers. Others were not so much in demand, so these three professions also became very powerful, see lawyers became powerful because courts were established and they established a system of courts. When Shivaji was a king courts existed but courts were not like that available or required, people used to go to the kaji in medieval times to tell what is the problem, you tell the story. He would give the judgment. Finished. But the system of British jurisprudence that was brought to India necessitated a class of people called lawyers and judges will not listen normally to a person himself saying I don't understand you, because a villager can't tell the story in a sophesticated manner. So, although he is allowed, if he can express himself, but he found that he was always failing unless you had a good lawyer who could expound your whole thing in the language of the judge. That is what created the whole system of lawyers. There were no lawyers otherwise in India.

But because of the complexity of civilization, I think this was a necessity?

That I was discussing later on. I am only telling you one thing that this is what happened and even today, if you are going to study law, very good, if you are going to be doctor, very good, engineer, very good, philosopher, No, no! not at all, gives you nothing! Industrial worker? Yes.

Now they have a very good name for an industrial worker, MBA master of business administration.

Yes, and if you can do clerical work, very good, also most of the people in India at that time they aspired to be clerks. We have a very interesting story in Jamnagar. We had a king called Vibhajam was the name of the king, jam is the title of a king, so Vibha was the king. He was illiterate. He knew only how to sign in which he only used to sign “V”, that was the highest education he had and he could only write “V”, it means everybody else had to write jam. He used to be very funny man. He had a great ambition that his kingdom should have the best administration, which is good. Now how to get the best administration? answer was all the clerks of my administration should know English. So he had told his Diwan, I want English in every field of administration, don’t bring your Gujarati people. They don't know how to administer, Gujaratis of course. You must get young people learn English and I will be sitting when you select anybody. I must hear them speak English. One Diwan he had some brother-in-law, very young boy and his sister was all the time saying, take this boy, let him be a clerk in your office. So this Diwan was in great bewilderment, how to make this boy admitted into administration. He did not know English, he only knew Gujarati, and he did not even know Gujarati also quite well. He said, don't press me because Vibhajam himself sits over there, but the sister was very insistent, so this Diwan found a kind of a device. He said, look when you come for interview. I’ll be there to ask questions, but your answer should be in English. I will ask you: have you eaten today morning? I’ll ask you in English, you do not understand, but my question will be.. have you eaten or not in the morning, so you only have to say yes, very easy, then I will say what have you eaten, so I will give you one word. You just cram that word. You do not know English, so you will not be able to pronounce that word. You should learn. In Gujarati tindi is called tindorak. But in English you can’t say the whole sentence. So you should now cram one word: intindorak. Only this one, long, long one.

Vibhajam was seated and Diwan started: have you eaten in the morning? Yes. What have you eaten? he spoke very loudly as if he were scolding. What have you eaten? He said: intindorak tindoras tin. Vibhajam just stood from his seat and said, such good English he speaks, take him, take him. He was taken in.

This is a similar story. One of the kings who used to rule Sikar, so his name was Kalyan Singh. So, first of all he used to write.. He only knew how to write his name and then in Singh he would put bade e ki matra. One day, a person who knew Hindi and said to him that this is not the correct way. What is the correct way? He said e matra would be chotti. So the king asked him. You tell me: how do you write your name? What’s your name, he said Sakti Singh. So how did you write Shakti Singh? He said shakti, chotte e ki matra and singh. Now who is bigger, greater among us? You are a smaller singh. I am a bigger singh, so I will use bade e ki matra*.