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Blossoming of Little Minds (3)
And the story continues . . .
This is the third chapter of the story "Blossoming of little minds". Kindergarten teaching techniques, their adaptation to specific situations, and the occasional amusing circumstances that result during the process of such exercises, are discussed in the course of the narrative.
The two inevitable new nursery rhymes are there as well.
If you wish to revisit the first chapter at this point, please click on the following link:
If you wish to have a relook at the second chapter now, please click on the following link:
If not, please scroll down to read the third chapter titled "Technical Tales".
Chapter-3: Technical Tales
Flair and flamboyance of vocal expression marked Geeta Omanakuttan's persona. She styled herself, a child education technologist, and vehemently insisted on being referred to as "the" child education technologist - for there was none else like her, at least with such a designation. Her short stature, and otherwise demure conduct, made her skill at oratory, even more distinctive.
There was, however, irrefutable logic in whatever she said, which was why people regarded her in spite of the almost intimidating verbal pomposity of her utterances.
She would argue that technology literally meant words, or discourses about the way things are gained. It was her contention, that contrary to common perception, the term was not of a recent origin associated with matters of industry, but has been around for quite a while, straddling a much larger canvas. Society, blinkered by narrow considerations, had constricted its applicability. She also had a grouse against the present day world on the usage and pertinence of the word "industry." Her contention was that the effort of teaching too was an industry.
People who had decades of practical experience in the field of education, and made excellent teachers, would gape open-mouthed, as Geeta Omanakuttan wove her wordy-web from her lofty pulpit, ensnaring them in her slick, but reasonable arguments, and making them appear to be novices.
This was the state that Suhasini and her teachers found themselves, one Saturday morning. Hailed by the press and electronic media, as the messiah of modern learning processes, educationists felt incomplete without being able to proudly say, that they had been to an Omanakuttan discourse. School after school, had fallen prey to this inexorable and all-consuming, notionally ethereal woe. Balaranya Nursery School too, which generally stood out as a specimen of obduracy, when it came to teaching practices, was sucked into its swirl. With them, it became an unavoidable necessity, because parents began to believe that it was worthless sending their children to schools, whose teachers had not embraced the Omanakuttan doctrine.
"Friends! You are not teachers, but exceptionally skilled technicians," began Geeta Omanakuttan, addressing the gathering of seven teachers and the principal, who were already feeling odd sitting in the wrong end of the class. To be referred to as technicians, made them feel even more uncomfortable.
"You are technicians, because you use unique techniques to mould and shape children, who are on their way to become productive adults. This occupation is like any other industry, governed by its own peculiar code, propelled by its related branch of science, and beset with its own particular problems," thundered the messiah, softly, and studied the faces of members of her audience for the form of reaction it produced.
Omanakuttan, in her typical style, had categorized listeners into three classes. She had evolved for each of them, consistently dependable methods of commanding their total allegiance, before the discourse ended, by playing upon their predispositions and prejudices. Her ever-alert antennae indicated that this bunch was a category-three specimen - steeped in traditional thought, very dedicated to their work, and not easily swayable. But she had faced and vanquished many such; she had a drug for every disorder.
Commending a trait of the subject in focus was a fairly common means of winning loyalty. But those using it stood the risk of being suspected of their motives of doing so. Denouncing an opponent of the subject was an even better means of neutralizing hostility. It did not carry the risk that the first did. This was Omanakuttan's standard drug, for use upon category-three subjects.
In the perception of many denizens of both sides of the divide, parents were the undeclared, yet avowed enemies of teachers. Omanakuttan did not believe in parliamentary etiquettes, and had no qualms of casting aspersions upon anyone in their absence - she rather preferred this. She was a true politician, in addition to being an accomplished child education technologist.
"Parents can never understand, nor appreciate the efforts that you put in, the skill sets that you possess, or the depths of your understanding of child psychology," she proclaimed in a ringing voice, locking eyes with each teacher by turn.
The drug took effect immediately, and began producing the desired results. The eyes of the listeners softened, their stiffened lips slackened, and their tense bodies relaxed. Omanakuttan was assured of unwavering attention for the duration of the discourse, and undying loyalty forever after. With this little detail out of the way, she plunged into technicalities.
"Child education technology addresses four main concerns. They are Phonics, Comprehension, Body Coordination, and Group Activity. This division is only a convenience to enable an effective structuring of lessons. In reality, there is a bit of each in the other. I am sure all of you would be familiar with this, even if it were not in strictly structural terms. Perceiving what you do in a different light will help in understanding its nuances, and being more effective in its application."
Geeta Omanakuttan paused to see, if the audience continued to be with her.
"I thought the first of the four divisions that you have mentioned was Phonetics, and not Phonics. Are they the same?" asked Godavari.
"They are related, but not the same," clarified Geeta. "Phonetics is the study of the physical sounds of human speech, its physical properties, physiological production, auditory reception, and neuro-physiological perception. Phonics on the other hand, refers to an instructional method for teaching children to read. It involves teaching children to connect the sounds of spoken language with groups of letters, and blend them together, to produce approximate pronunciations of unknown words. It is the latter that is taught in a kindergarten. The other is a subject for high school and beyond."
There was a dazed look of fractional comprehension in those gathered. Having been used to constantly mouthing three and four letter words for the children, it felt like being swept off the feet on being assailed by big, long, and high sounding ones.
"It may interest you to know," Geeta continued, "that though the concept of phonics is in vogue today, and widely followed, that is not the only method adopted to teach children to read and pronounce words. The whole-language method emphasizes identifying words using context and complete word sounds, rather than focusing on the sounds of word components. Most of us learnt languages by this method and not phonics."
"If I may interrupt you," said Suhasini, "don't you think the method of teaching language is also dependent to an extent on the language itself? With most Indian languages, a syllable, or a conjugation of two or three syllables, has only one associated sound unlike English, which makes it amenable for learning by either method."
"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed the technologist. It was always a satisfying experience to interact with a participative audience. "English language recognizes about forty-two elementary speech sounds referred to as phonemes, and has only twenty-six alphabets to represent them. It has also borrowed a substantial number of words from other languages with different phonemes. This makes the correspondence between spelling and pronunciation so much more complex."
"One should also consider the varying capacities of comprehension among children. I would say that ideally, a combination of the two methods - phonics and whole-language, should be used in different proportions, corresponding to the intellectual capacity of the child," said Hema.
"Well, said!" exclaimed Geeta Omanakuttan. "I see that I am in the midst of highly experienced teachers." She sensed that this was one opportunity to use commendation as a means of gaining loyalty, and she wasn't the one to let go off a prospect that was offered unasked.
"The topic of Comprehension is a logical continuation from the one on Phonics. Let us dwell upon it briefly," went on Geeta, looking at her watch to confirm whether she was within the set schedule. A stickler for time, she would allocate time to discuss each point in her discourse, and had developed the skill to smoothly steer the talk towards the next point in sequence, if the time limit set for one had been surpassed, without the audience feeling disillusioned, or resentful.
"Do you have any specific suggestions for teaching phonics?" queried Zeenat.
"Plenty! I have devised many games that would make the exercise fun for both teachers and students. We will have a look at a few of them at the end of our discussion," was Geeta's quick reply. There was finality in her voice that stalled any further questions on the topic of phonics.
"Having dealt with children for so long, you would have realized that by three years they begin to use complex sentences, and express fantasy using spoken language. By five years of age, their use of language is very similar to that of an adult," began the star speaker.
"Is there any specific term that is used to signify the processes of understanding within the mind, which complements the development of phonics?" asked Shyamala.
"Language comprehension can be divided into four distinct, but related abilities. Phonics is one of them. The other three respectively are, semantics - that refers to connecting a word to a real or abstract entity; syntax - that specifies the way in which words are combined; pragmatics - the knowledge of, how language is used in different contexts. The four together constitute language comprehension," explained Geeta.
"Won't you say that thought is also a language?" interjected Elizabeth, who had been very quiet, until then.
"Yes, it surely is," replied Geeta. "But when you think, the four abilities that we have outlined are rather smudged, and used only to the extent that is required to arrive at a solution to the thought process. Everything that we do is essentially need based. Comprehension too comes within this purview."
"I used to feel that reciting nursery rhymes with words that are deemed to be too complex for children was meaningless. Your argument points to a possibility that it may have its uses. Is my surmise correct?" asked Zeenat.
"Yes, indeed. Research on language development has indicated that children's vocabularies are strongly associated with the number of words addressed to them by adults. Reading stories, or reciting rhymes to them, certainly helps in increasing their ability in all the four defined areas of comprehension," answered Geeta.
"Do you also have a collection of good stories and rhymes for children with you? The school would like to buy them," stated Suhasini.
"Sure. I was in fact coming to that," answered Geeta. "Most of the stories and rhymes are fairly outdated. I believe that, if we have to inculcate in our children, values relevant to the present, then we should catch them young. Ideas like, following traffic rules and keeping the environment clean, should be included in children's stories and rhymes. I have composed many such. Here is one example. We will have a look at many more of them, after discussing the two remaining concerns of child education technology - Body Coordination and Group Activity."
And Geeta Omanakuttan recited the composition in her characteristic style that resembled a soprano at her "shrieky" best.
Zendey's Dad had bought him a car.
He went about in it to places far.
It was painted in many shades of green,
A combination that had never been seen.
Zendey loved to swerve and zoom
And honk away with the horn, poom-poom.
He would not follow any road rule.
When pulled up he'd lose his cool.
One day he had an accident.
His bones were broken and muscles rent.
For a month, he lay in a hospital.
His days were lonely, sad, and dull.
Said Zendey's Dad, "My dear son!
It is all very nice to have some fun.
But being careless, is just not done.
You can't drive now, or walk and run."
At his loss, Zendey wept very much,
And limped about with the help of a crutch.
He'd tell, when he met any girl or boy,
To always, follow rules for happiness and joy.
Concluding it in a high-pitched crescendo, Geeta Omanakuttan glared at her audience with a look that demanded applause, which was whole-heartedly given.
"Should we have a little break for tea now?" interjected Suhasini, before Geeta Omanakuttan launched into the next topic.
The time over-conscious messiah looked at her watch. "No, we will finish our discussion, and then have a break," she said firmly, and after a very brief pause added, "If that is alright with you."
The tone and manner, in which it was said, left no one in any doubt that they had no choice. But the audience didn't mind the snub at all. They were so mesmerized by Omanakuttan's awareness and charm that they would have been willing to go to end of the world with her.
"Body Coordination is a natural process. Natural, if we were to live closer to nature. As we don't today - and I do not look upon this phenomenon negatively, we have to create conditions to keep that process going. Conditions can be created, if we understand the human body's motor mechanism, and the requirements for its maturation."
"Doesn't that concept seem to equate humans with animals?" broached Elizabeth.
"What objection can there be about it?" demanded Geeta.
"Surely we are beings of a higher order!" exclaimed Elizabeth.
"Physiologically we are no different from animals. It is said that there are a couple of brain functions that are more developed in humans than in other life forms, which sets us slightly apart. Otherwise our body development process is very similar to those of other animals."
Elizabeth would not have stopped at that, and argued further had it been anyone else. But this was Geeta Omanakuttan, and she couldn't be wrong.
"To an extent, motor skills are also need based. Primates with almost similar body structure to that of humans do not have the skill to move the wrist and fingers, to write. This is an example of skill that is learnt for a specific task," continued Geeta.
"Do you mean to say that an ape can be taught to write?" interrupted Zeenat, amazed at such a possibility.
"Yes, they can be. Researchers have taught primates to speak, write, and read language like humans. Of course, the primates haven't attained literary proficiencies to the level of being able to write novels and poetry," replied Geeta smiling. Her face had a superior expression that made the rest of those assembled there believe that she was one of those researchers herself.
"That is amazing! I never knew such a thing was possible," blurted out Zeenat.
"Yes, there is so much to know and learn," said Geeta, condescendingly. Quickly glancing at her timepiece once again, she went on, "Considering motor skills, they can be classified into two related sections - Gross and Fine. The first is associated with the larger muscles of the body, and develop first, while the second is associated with the smaller muscle groups."
"Can specific body actions be related to each of these motor skills?" asked Shyamala.
"Yes. Sitting down, standing up, walking, and running, are all gross motor skills. Writing, picking up objects, and hand-eye-coordination tasks, are fine motor skills. Many tasks that we do require both types of motor skills. Child education technology has developed scores of simple equipment to help children learn motor skills that are necessary in the context of present day society. We will see some examples that I have brought along with me very soon."..
“Will there be any evolutionary change in human physiology, because of our changing life patterns?” asked Suhasini.
“That question is something that child education technology does not consider. Evolutionary changes happen over large time spans, comparable to many human lifetimes. Increasingly we see humans using less of their limbs, and more of their brains. Perhaps, this will induce limbs to become vestigial and brains to grow bigger, and in the next two millennia, humans would have a form quite different from what they have now,” replied Geeta.
The disquiet at this possibility was discernible on the faces of the listeners, as they imagined varied directions of human evolution, and their resultant grotesque outcomes.
“You don’t have to worry about it now; not ever, because we will not be around, when that happens. We will see our grandchildren, and great-grandchildren too, if we were to live long enough, in the image of humans as we know them now,” consoled Geeta.
Noticing that some of the teachers were still lost in their dismal thoughts, the messiah–in true messianic style – raised her hands heavenwards, and declared in ringing tones, “Why should we imagine a frightening outcome to human evolution? It can be something beautiful, something truly ecstatic. I am certain about it. That is the way it will be!”
And in the true manner of a believing flock, the listeners shed their disturbing notions, and prepared to follow their messiah into the last topic of child education technology.
Yet another glance at her wristwatch told Geeta, that she was behind by almost ten minutes in her intended schedule, and so she decided to quickly sprint through what remained to be said. People got a minute off her for Rs.500. She wasn’t going to provide anyone a discount to the extent of Rs.5000.
“Group Activity combines the skills learnt from the first three sections, and prepares children for adult life. Through them, children learn, how to make and sustain friendships, how to form and maintain hierarchical relationships towards achieving definite goals, and the need and means to control personal ambitions for public benefit. All such activities are scaled down versions of what adults do. I have a list with me, which describes various group activities that can be organized for children at the nursery and kindergarten level. You can also buy the necessary merchandise from my store,” said the market savvy messiah, with a covetous smile.
"Why don't you recite something that you have composed for group activity-say on the theme of friendship?" asked Suhasini. Being well versed with people management techniques herself, she followed it up with a few words of praise, saying, "Your compositions are so inspiring, apt, yet simple."
For a moment, vanity and greed vied for supremacy within Geeta's mind. Vanity won, and Geeta broke into a poetic flow with abandon, Suhasini's whetting words of praise giving her already shrill voice, an extra edge.
I found a bottle beside my bed.
"Genie inside," the label said.
There was a hiss, as I opened the lid.
I jumped, I hopped, I ran, I hid.
A pop, a bang, and the genie came out.
He was dark and round, fat and stout.
He said, after he let out a moan,
"Oh, little boy, don't leave me alone!"
I showed myself and said "Oh, dear!
You are so big; then what do you fear?"
The genie replied, "I am a blob of gas;
Neither flesh, nor bone, my body has.
I have no kin; I can call my own;
To the far netherworld they have flown.
I have nothing to give, or to lend.
Yet I ask-will you be my friend?"
I went to the genie and gave him a hug.
Sat with him, and felt warm and snug.
We shared everything from that day on.
We'd be together, until night, from dawn.
And then one day, while we had a nap;
A sudden flash, a crackle, and a zap,
Made us sit up, we felt a mild rap;
It was the genie's mom and pap.
With tears of love, the mom was all awash.
The pap eyed his son and said, "Oh, my gosh!
Come, dear child, to our home we go.
For eons we searched and missed you so!"
The genie hugged me saying, "I love you!
But I have a home and love my parents too.
Though we feel very sad, as we part,
We'll always be in each other's heart."
The genies then rose up into the sky,
And vanished, before the blink of an eye.
The whereabouts of their world no one knows.
They will be happy there, I suppose!
Vanity's victory proved short-lived, and greed returned with a vengeance, when Geeta's watch reminded her that she was now fifteen minutes behind schedule. "Heavens!" she exclaimed, before concluding the session with the remark, "That is all I think it is, for the day. I'd love to have now, the cup of tea that you offered. My throat is parched."
A pulpit has immense promotional powers. It can geometrically enhance the image, stature, and importance, of the person occupying it. Those not on it, inherently feel that the one on it, is in some way superior to them. They - the one, who is upon it, and the ones who are not - wouldn't be in their respective positions, if this were not so. The mental bleariness so induced upon the demoralized many, makes them look up to the one on the pulpit as a messiah. If such a person were to possess a decent level of communication skills, and the flair to use them, then those below are utterly mesmerized into subjugation.
The flipside of this phenomenon is that once removed from the pulpit, the messiah is no longer so mesmeric. The charisma is further eroded, if one were to sit together, and sip a cup of tea with such a person on equal terms.
This was precisely how the teachers of Balaranya Nursery School felt, after the hurried tea party, and accompanying small talk that followed the lecture. When they began looking through all that Geeta Omanakuttan had on offer for sale in the boot of her mini-van that served as a mobile warehouse and retail store, whatever vestiges of awe that survived the comprehensive demystifying sweep of a few minutes before, was also blown away.
"Look at the price of this!" exclaimed Godavari, holding a set of picture cards. "Rs.400 for something that we make out of scrap. Preposterous!"
"And these face masks for Rs.300 each," commented Hema. We create one in half an hour, and our material expense, would at the most be Rs.15. And our creations are more durable, while these are so flimsy."
Remarks of this nature greeted almost every item that was on display from the Omanakuttan range of products, created using the judicious application of child education technology.
And with every such observation, Geeta Omanakuttan's hope of making a good profit from the day's expedition, continued to rapidly diminish. The fee for her talk having been already paid in advance over a month ago, it was an empty-handed Geeta, who drove out of the gates of Balaranya Nursery School that afternoon, her dourness in sharp contrast to the geniality that suffused her self, when she had arrived.
However, it was not a wasted day for the teachers, and the principal of the school. They had been exposed to a few new concepts. They could view whatever that they had been doing all along from a new perspective. And most importantly, they were convinced that their competence was in no way lacking, in the context of what their work demanded of them. This was a very satisfying emotion, and it was unanimously felt that they owed Geeta Omanakuttan for having granted this. It was surely worth the exorbitant fee that she had charged.
"And we got two good rhymes as freebies!" exclaimed Suhasini, just before the teachers dispersed for the day.
"Yes, they were very good indeed. It was a pity that none of us could note it down and we don't remember them completely either."
"Not to worry," said Suhasini, slyly. "I got both recorded on my mobile."
The proverbial cherry on the cake was that parent's confidence in the school was enhanced, as it now carried the stamp of having its teachers coached by the high priestess of child development technology - Geeta Omanakuttan.
The school's annual-day, held every year in the second half of the month of November, was always a grand affair. Commemorating nothing in particular, it provided a platform for showcasing to the parents, and to the teachers themselves, the results of the efforts that had been put in and the commensurate progress made by the children in their development towards adulthood.
Cultural programs, and sports events, were held during alternate years. This practice too had evolved over the years. Initially, it started with both cultural and sports events being held on the same day, which entailed exclusively earmarking a group of children for each of the events. Parents objected to this routine, saying that their child was being denied participation in one type of event, or the other.
To cater to this parental demand, it was decided to have a separate sports-day, a few months ahead of the annual-day, which would ensure that every child participated in both kinds of events. This too had its problems. Children in this age group required, at least a month and a half of training to prepare them. Having two show-days in a year meant dedicating three months for this exercise that left little time for covering the specified curriculum.
Finally, the practice of having sports events and cultural ones during alternate years was decided upon. There were objections from parents to this too, with some complaining that their children got to participate in less number of cultural, or sports events, than the others. This was inevitable, considering the fact that most children were at the school for three years - starting with Nursery, then graduating to LKG, and then to UKG.
The principal and the teachers had grown wiser with the years, and had mastered the art of maneuvering their way through parent's complaints, which were permanent fixtures no matter what they did.
There were six items identified for being performed for this year's annual-day, two each for each of the three classes. One of the items was a three-act play - a first time experiment for the school. Until then, all plays had been of the single-act genre.
The theme chosen was an excerpt from the story of Ramayana. With actors in the age group of five to seven, even a single-act play was a struggle - for the teachers, as well as the students. Comparatively, a three-act play would be a stupendous one. This theme was particularly chosen for the experiment, because the story was known widely, and parents - who would constitute the audience - as well as the children, would easily be able to relate to it.
Parents too played a part in the preparations. They had to get the necessary costumes, and dress the children in them. It was a great help, when they would also occasionally oversee the child's rehearsals, which would be possible, only if they were conversant with the theme.
And so it came to pass, that the first act retold the part of the story, where the monkey chieftain Hanuman, flies to the land of Lanka across the sea, and finds Princess Sita imprisoned in a garden. Hanuman gives Sita a ring from her husband - Prince Rama, and assures her that Rama would soon reach Lanka to rescue her. He then proceeds to fight and kill the demons guarding the garden.
The second act narrated the part of the story, where Hanuman is captured by Prince Indrajit, the son of King Ravana of Lanka, and brought to the king's presence. Hanuman is punished with his tail being set on fire. With his lit tail, Hanuman sets the city aflame, and flies back to Rama.
The third act described the part, where Rama, with his brother Lakshmana, and the army of monkeys, invade Lanka, vanquish Ravana, and take Sita back to their kingdom.
In essence, the plot appeared pretty simple, but by the time the teachers made the children to say their dialogues, and play their respective parts well, they wished they had taken on something less complicated...
The period of concentration of children being generally very short, it wasn’t a straightforward exercise of handing each of the actors their script, explaining their role, and then making them rehearse. Keeping them focused was the greatest job.
A teacher often found an actor missing from the sets, as soon as her back was turned. If the budding actor was of the “hyper” kind, and had a papier-mÃ¢chÃ© mace in his hand, he could be invariably seen to be pummeling a more sedate child, who would be the hero of the play, into mute submission. Or the female-lead would have run away with the villain to share a bar of chocolate. Another child would make up his mind all of a sudden, never to be a demon, because his grandmother would have told him the previous night that demons were bad guys.
Recounting these funny little incidents to one another after school hours, when they had a strategy session for the next day, was the only means of amusement for the harried teachers in this onerous task.
During one such strategy session, it was decided to make the children view the video-adaptations of these stories, so that they could understand the traits of the characters they had to portray. The plan worked to the extent of keeping them quite and attentive for the duration of viewing. The moment it was switched off, they were up to their regular pranks.
Days meandered along at their deceptively dreary pace, until the annual-day was finally upon them.
Suhasini and her group of teachers had planned for very sophisticated sets for the experimental three-act play, in the hope that any failing in the dramatics would be made up by the grandeur of the setting. There was a wonderful garden layout for the first and third acts, another with a dark background with little lights to represent stars and flame, mimicking lights behind building cut outs that would create a realistic scenario of burning structures – all at the touch of a switch.
The afternoon hour, for which the annual-day program was scheduled, arrived. Parents in their best attires, and children in their costumes, began trudging in. They were conducted to their respective enclosures by the band of aayas, who wore specially selected livery to play their part of ushers.
The first five items went through their paces, leading up to the grand finale – the three-act play based on excerpts from the Ramayana story.
It being that time of the year, with just about three weeks to the winter solstice, the Sun had set and twilight was waging a losing battle with darkness that had already taken the eastern horizon in its embrace.
The gallery lights were switched off, and only very subdued lighting illuminated the stage. The principal announced the first act of the Ramayana play, and the stage was immediately swathed in a bright glow with a greenish tinge, to give the setting the ambience of a lush garden. Sitting in front of a tree cutout was Sita with her head held in her hands. She was supposed to sport a melancholy look, which she did, initially. But a chance glance at the audience that made her see her parents along with her brother who was a year older, started off an unstoppable spate of giggling.
“Sita enjoying her time in the garden prison,” someone from the audience commented, and there was a roar of laughter.
Hanuman’s entry into the scene was to be very dramatic and remarkable. A raised platform attached to ladders at both ends had been placed at one extreme of the stage. The boy playing the role of Hanuman was to climb on to it, and then jump onto a mattress placed a little ahead of the platform near the tree, where Sita would sit.
As it often is, providence had a different plot. As Hanuman climbed up the ladder and took his position to jump, his robe was entangled on a protruding nail. Hanuman found that he could hazard a jump only upon being reconciled to the possibility of arriving in public, completely robe-less, which was not a very comfortable thought at all.
He looked about to find a solution to his predicament. Seeing his father seated among the audience, he called out "Papa! My robe is stuck on a nail."
Parental concern blinded the father to the surroundings, as he rushed onto the dais to help his son out of trouble. A tall man, he reached out his hand, located the nail, and released the robe from it; after he had ensured that his son was not injured. To help the boy balance with both his hands on the platform, he had taken the papier-mÃ¢chÃ© mace from him, and dropped it on the stage. By coincidence, it fell at the exact spot, which was to be a cue to begin the next sequence of the act. In the normal course of events, Hanuman was to jump down, talk to Sita, walk a little distance away, and place his mace on the ground at the marked place, at which point, the leader of the demon guards would ask his horde to attack Hanuman.
The boy playing the leader of the demon guards was very conscientious and meticulous. He had been watching the place in complete focus, oblivious of whatever else was happening on stage. When he found the mace there, he shouted his order in no uncertain terms, "Destroy this monkey!"
Half a dozen children converged upon the place, where Hanuman was to have been, and found instead, his father. Assuming that there had been a change in the cast, they began showering blows upon the unwary man who staggered and fell, unprepared as he was, to this sudden demonic charge.
"Hey! That is my dad!" shouted the real Hanuman, from atop the platform.
"So, what?" asked the demon in charge, continuing with his blows. "This is what the teacher said we must do."
With little cordless microphones attached to their robes, their voices reverberated through the hall amplified by the speakers. The audience loved it. Uncontrollable laughter resonated through the auditorium.
After order had been reinstated, and the devastated parent rescued from the clutches of the demons and restored to his seat, the play continued. The two remaining acts concluded without any untoward incident. The play was an unqualified success, and was unfortunately remembered more for the hilarious mess up, than for its near perfect conduct.
As one well meaning parent, who was in the good books of the teachers, because she supported whatever they did, mentioned - not only do children learn by directly participating in such group activity, they learn a lot more by constantly watching, how elders go about organizing it.