I have written earlier in this series, about the dissonance we have after reading some of our favourite classics and trying to reconcile the values they espouse to our own values. As part of the discussion following the post, I suggested that while discussing these stories with kids, we should perhaps highlight that they needed to critically evaluate them and not necessarily accept the values given in them as a norm. One way of doing this, perhaps, could be to encourage kids to rewrite the stories.
I thought it was important for kids to let go of the notion that stories are sacrosanct and start genuinely beleiving they can choose to do what they want with it. That will encourage rewriting from different perspectives. Right after I wrote that blog, my daughter taught me that kids never think of stories as sacrosanct, and they seem to constantly reinvent it to suit them.
I was reading out this story to her, and she seamlessly modified it into something totally different, and communicated the story to me in her own language.
There was a little girl called Sonali. She had a crow for a friend. One day she was eating a biscuit. The crow was greedy. It snatched the biscuit from her hand and went away. It sat on the tree and ate the biscuit. SOnali started crying. Her mother came out and gave her another biscuit. She was happy. THe next day, the crow came to play with her again.
My daughter’s version of the story (coincidentally, I narrated this story to her right after a breakfast session with the crows).
Me : There was a girl called Sonali (like Migu), who had a crow for a friend.
Migu : Hmmm…..
Me : One day she was eating a biscuit.
Migu : No, dosa
Me : OK, one day she was eating a dosa. The crow wanted the dosa. So she snatched it from her hand.
Migu : No, she threw a piece of dosa and the crow ate it.
Me : Ok, what happened after that, did she cry?
Migu : She ate a piece of dosa.
Me : Great. What happened after that?
Migu : Crow clapped hands for her.
Me : Great, and then…..
Migu : She threw another piece of dosa for the crow.
Me : Then
Migu : She ate one piece of dosa
Me : What happened after that.
Migu : Dosa got over.
I was impressed with this story, because it showed how instinctively children are non-anthropocentric. The original story still saw the crow as a thief of the biscuit, but as far as Migu was concerned, the food was meant to be shared.
Unfortunately, I dont see this value persisting in her or any other child. Children either learn fear of animals or learn aggressive behavior for self protection, when confronted with animals. This is the behavior we teach them. None of us, as adults can serve as good role models, teaching them to accept and live with other animals. We are too comfortable protecting our own turfs, and I guess too scared to share it with others. Animals themselves can act quite unpredictably, because, I guess they also dont have good memories of human association. And the more they act unpredictably, the more they fuel the fear in us till living together becomes quite difficult.