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Blossoming of Little Minds (5)
And the story continues . . .
The theme of this episode is the process of adaptation of schooling to the needs of society - which is a continuous one.
There are two new nursery rhymes as usual.
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If not, please scroll down to read the fifth chapter titled "Society and Schooling".
An inconsequential impasse
Chapter 5: Society and Schooling
For Joe Eashwarcharan, the idea of society was quite different from what it was for typical humans. Society for him included just about every sentient being.
A wildlife enthusiast in his youth, he had embraced a profession in his later years that allowed him to be closely in touch with his passion. He bred animals, birds, reptiles, and fish that he would take with him to schools, when called upon, to explain to the children about their life patterns and societal norms. It had earned him the sobriquet of "the Zoo-man."
Suhasini Ranganathan had heard about him at an informal gathering of pre-school principals, held a few months ago under the aegis of an umbrella organization, which encouraged interaction between teachers of such schools to share experiences, and exchange ideas, about teaching methods. She had decided to invite him over, to find out whether he would have something interesting for the children of Balaranya Nursery School. The principal discovered to her comfort that punctuality was one of the virtues of the Zoo-man, for she found him entering her office exactly at the appointed time, with a warm grin adorning his face. Also in his wake came an un-ignorable, but not despicable odor - the perfect perfume to wildlife enthusiasts. It was a concoction that reminded one simultaneously of freshly dug up and wet earth, a few-hours-old cut grass, powdered oilcake and newly ejected horse-dung, and a mixture of just harvested raw mangoes and ripe lemons.
"Good morning, Lady Suhasini!" said Joe, in his breezy manner, "You asked for me, and here I am. Nor have I come alone. A few friends are relaxing back in my van."
The principal liked the man's spontaneity, and felt at ease. The unexplainable apprehension that precedes meeting a new person, inexplicably vanished, swept away by the earthy openness of the man, and the naturalness of his aroma.
The home-bell had been rung, and the students were in the process of being picked up by their respective parents.
"I will see your friends after the crowd has dispersed," said the principal, pointing to the people swarming near the gate, which was visible from the big bay window across her desk. "Why don't you tell me what you have to offer in the meanwhile? We have heard many things about what you do."
"Ha! I hope all that you have heard about me have been nice things. I don't generally display my nefarious self in public," said the Zoo-man, jestingly.
"Give me a moment, before you begin. I will call one our teachers."
"It isn't going to be anything scary, Lady Suhasini. You can withstand my commentary on your own as well," said Joe, in a serious tone.
The principal just grinned, and calling Abida, asked her to fetch Hema, the LKG teacher. Quick introductions followed her arrival, and Joe Eashwarcharan began the narration.
"I learn and help others do so," began Joe, "and enjoy what I do," he concluded.
"We all do that too," replied Hema, wondering why she had been introduced to this strange man with a weird odor.
"No, you don't," asserted Joe, "Maybe you learn and enjoy, but you certainly don't help others learn. You condition."
"Why do you say that?" asked Suhasini, bewildered.
"The best and only teacher can be nature. She has everything there is to be taught. What your school, and millions like them around the world do, is prepare children to respond to specific needs of human society of the day. While nature provides all encompassing education, school curriculum caters to a very narrow and self-serving requirement. It is only a conditioning of the mind to these particular ends," said the Zoo-man. Though his face still sported a smile, there was a rare and almost fanatic fervor in his voice.
"One moment, Mr. Eashwarcharan. I would like all my teaching staff to be here to listen to you. We do believe that we are more like catalysts than teachers - in the process of imparting education - and that children have the necessary ability to learn on their own, by watching and experimenting. But you seem to imply that real education is something else. I hope you will not find the idea of facing about a dozen women all alone, very daunting," interrupted the principal.
"Certainly not, milady. I am pretty strong in my convictions. Moreover, I look at this exercise, as one, where I share my experience, and not as a confrontation."
Abida was dispatched once again to herd all the teachers into the principal's office, and did the job assigned efficiently, as always. Her request-sounding directives were obeyed immediately, a deference, which even Suhasini did not command.
Another round of introductions followed, and Suhasini updated the recent entrants about the discussion so far. An animated argument erupted right away, and it seemed that everyone was talking with none to listen.
"Your Ladyships!" said Joe, raising his voice a bit to be heard above the din. "This is exactly what happens in any society - be it human, animal, bird, or marine, when something is disputed. We delude ourselves saying that we are something special. Believe me, we aren't. Societal norms, and reactions, are very similar across all species of beings."
"Don't generalize so outrageously, Mr. Eashwarcharan. I haven't seen a school for monkeys, chicken, or whales in my life, nor have I heard of such ridiculous things," said Zeenat, furiously.
"But I have both heard and seen," replied the Zoo-man, calmly.
What followed was a hush, punctuated by the slowly ebbing sound of labored breathing, as many a sensation changed their tone from indignant annoyance, to startled incredulity.
"Would you care to elaborate?" said Suhasini, when the silence had run out of steam.
"Talking of other species, we certainly may not find a school with a sign board, and books with lessons printed in them. However, if the term 'schooling' can be used to define the course of action, that prepares the young to understand the environment and respond to it, with the aim of self preservation and living in harmony, then yes, all species instruct their young, just as humans do. They have social structures as we do, converse as we do, with a range of sounds for explicit communications; can remember experiences and recall them, when necessary, and feel and express emotions as we do. In its essence, is this not what human children learn, and do, at school?" said Joe, in a purposeful and measured tone.
He paused for a minute, for the import of his words to sink in.
"All of you would be well versed with the fundamentals of psychology, I am sure," Joe continued. "What is the measure that you use to assess the performance of children?"
There was another short hiatus, as those on the receiving end of the question, debated silently whether or not to voice their thought. Self-doubt is a plague that can torment even the most intelligent. It has less to do with confidence, and more with the fear of being publicly ridiculed, even if it were to be in a manner most mild.
"Intelligence?" Shyamala courageously ventured.
"Absolutely right!" exclaimed Joe, in his usual expansive style. "And if we were to elaborate on that, intelligence is a collective term that includes the capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn. Are we agreed on this?"
Several heads nodded, indicating agreement.
"Do you also agree that all living beings possess these traits?" asked Joe.
"Yes, they certainly do. But not to the levels comparable to that of humans," said Zeenat, a touch of acrimony continuing to color her tone.
"Agreed," said Joe. "But sufficient enough to conduct their own lives in a satisfying manner. Taking a holistic view, we realize that humans do exactly the same, and their goals in life aren't conceptually different from these supposedly lesser beings."
Suhasini could strongly sense the flavor of her discussion with Dayanidhi Ramadas two days ago, emanating from this one as well. The difference being that the earlier debate was confined to matters about humans alone, while this one included all living things in its fold.
"With your permission, can I bring my van inside? I would like to introduce you to some of my friends who have come along with me."
"Sure," said the principal.
The Zoo-man brought his van inside, which had a specially designed trailer. At the push of a button, the canvas covering its two sides were pulled up automatically, revealing a little enclosure that covered half the width of the trailer, accommodating a cow and calf. The other half of the trailer was further partitioned into two, with one-half occupied by a family of rabbits, and the other by a tortoise and her offspring.
The teachers gathered to one side of the trailer. A few children, who generally stayed back at the school for about an hour after the home-bell, until their parents picked them up, also joined in excitedly. Joe came over to them, and called to the cow, which had its backside to the assembled crowd. "Janaki! Friends to see you."
The cow immediately turned around, her big eyes glimmering, her ears cocked up and alert. She moved close to the trailer's edge, and stretched out her neck to bring her muzzle to touch Joe's outstretched hand in the form of a greeting.
"Jodha! Where is Jodha?" Joe called.
The cow looked back, and mooed tenderly. The innocent white face of the calf appeared alongside, its eyes cautiously considering the crowd staring at her in fascination.
"You see, not only can a cow recognize the sound of a name that we assign to her, it can also distinguish names that we give to others of her kind. You also saw her 'school' her child to respond, when called, and the child 'learns' from this experience. The scene wouldn't have been much different had I introduced my wife and child to you, except for the fact that my wife would have been seated in the cabin next to me, and rather than mooing, would have spoken in our language."
The giggling teachers almost sounded like a bunch of teens, when they expressed their mirth at this comparison by the Zoo-man.
"Yes. Dwelling in modernity, we seem to have distanced ourselves from life in its broader sense - particularly those living in cities. Some of us, who can trace our roots to villages, can at least remember such experiences during our childhood. Those born and bred in cities are totally unaware," said Suhasini.
"I want to touch the cow," exclaimed Vishaal, the "hyper" child. He was one of those, who stayed back at school for a while.
"Why not?" said Joe, and lifted the child up to the cow. The boy rubbed his hands upon the cow's nose, and withdrew it in alarm, when it snorted.
"It scolded me," cried the boy.
"No. It doesn't like the smell of the plasticine-clay that is stuck to your hand, and so let out a big long breath."
"Will it play with me, if I wash my hands?"
"Yes, she will. But you have to make friends with her first, and promise not to tease her."
"Good boy. However, we do not have the time now. You watch from afar today. You can play with her the next time I come."
Joe lowered the reluctant boy to the ground, and addressed the teachers. "Cows are intelligent and curious animals, who enjoy interacting with their environment. They have long memories and are capable of learning lessons from each other, just as humans do. They develop friendships over time, hold grudges against those who treat them badly, form social hierarchies within their herds, and choose leaders based upon intelligence. They are emotionally complex as well, and even have the capacity to worry about the future. And all this is done without having to go to a school with a signboard, and without reading printed lessons."
"All that you say maybe true," said Zeenat, still nursing a grouse, "but I hope you are not implying that the educational system, as it is now, is useless?"
"Certainly not. Society decides how they want their young to be brought up. I only wish to say, that there is a distinction between conditioning and learning, and that there is less of the latter in today's education. My endeavor has been to bridge that gap to a little extent, and believe me; it has made a difference. Ensuring certain precautions, I let children carry home some of my animals and birds, as weekend pets. It has been reported that hyperactive children become calmer, and disinterested children enthused, when they do so. The change in outlook - though induced, may not be clearly discernible in children at the kindergarten level, but with slightly older ones it is quite evident."
"We will discuss your offer for arranging a day-long interaction between 'beings of different species,' as you put it, at the next staff meeting, and decide on, when to have more of your 'friends' to visit our school, Mr. Eashwarcharan," said Suhasini, looking at her wristwatch, and realizing that it well past the time, when the teachers normally returned home. "But the meeting with you was certainly an eye-opener for all of us."
"My pleasure ladies; just give me a tinkle, when you have made up your mind. Until then, here is a little nothing from me," replied the Zoo-man, inclining his head slightly, and extending an envelope towards the principal - which she accepted with a perplexed look on her face, and made his way back to his truck and trailer combine. The canvas slid down the trailer sides covering the animals, and the truck moved out of the gate on to the road, and away towards its next destination.
Suhasini opened the envelope, removed a folded paper from inside it, and found a hand written story-rhyme for children. Reading it, she had no doubt, who the author was.
A tortoise had a letter to send,
To the white rabbit who was his friend.
In a deep burrow that no one spied,
Lived the rabbit, on the river's other side.
He asked for help from a green parrot,
And promised to give her a red carrot.
The green parrot refused and said,
"Go and ask the monkey instead."
The tortoise walked up to the monkey,
Who was very busy picking flea.
Bowed to him and asked respectfully,
"Will you please carry this letter for me?"
The monkey made an ugly face,
And said, "Let's first have a race.
I'll take your letter, if you win,
Else, on your shell, I'll make you spin."
The tortoise came across a fat hog,
Lazing about in a dirty bog.
"Go away!" the hog said and threw a shard,
"Can't you see me working, so very hard?"
The sad tortoise, to the lion he went,
Whose roar, the forest air, it rent.
And asked him, if he would kindly take
The letter to the rabbit, for friendship's sake.
Like burning coal, the lion's eyes shone
And he said to the tortoise in an angry tone,
"How dare you ask me, a mighty king,
To do for you such a menial thing?"
The tortoise felt his little heart shiver.
He made up his mind to swim the river;
That henceforth he'd for himself fend
And walk all the way to meet his friend.
The story-rhyme was narrated first to the UKG children the next day, and they loved it. It was then recited to the LKG children on the day following that, and they loved it too. Even Zeenat felt her unexplainable dislike for the Zoo-man melt away.
Another thing that Joe Eashwarcharan left behind - the extraordinary aroma - lingered in the principal's cabin for a few days more, resisting Abida's intense efforts at exorcising it.
It was another unusually usual morning at Balaranya Nursery School. The prayer bell was yet to ring, and the place was bustling with traffic of the first hour - children being dropped at the school gate by an assortment of elders - grandparents, parents, uncle and aunts, brothers and sisters, or other guardians, comprising of bus, car, and three-wheeler drivers, house cleaners, and security guards.
It is a paradox that, though existence thrives in duality, its denizens strive for singularity. Existence is inconceivable without the complimentary notions of birth and death, creation and destruction, rise and fall, love and hate, and yet we forever endeavor for the eternal. This absurdity has its limited parallel in the realm of schooling also - the complimentary pair being played by teachers and parents.
From a teacher's, or a principal's perspective, school rules specifically mention what parents should and should not do. It proves to be more an exception than a rule, which makes the teaching staff believe that the biggest problem that they face in their profession are parents and their unreasonableness. They have heard that education, along with age, makes people wise and sensible, and are fairly convinced that someone has made an error of judgment, while framing this adage. Or perhaps, it has been framed for the scheme of things and behavior of beings on another planet, and has somehow found its way into earth-lore. Teachers are martyrs whose self-respect and sensitivities are sacrificed at the altar called 'school,' so that the future of society is safe and secure.
From a parent's perspective, teachers are whimsical and incompetent bullies, who tend to believe that they know what is good for a child, better than its own parents do. The principal is an incorrigible tyrant, who treats her pampered and inept teachers with kid gloves, and hapless parents with an inflexible and coarse hand, made of wrought iron. They are partial to all other children, except that of the parent whose perspective is sought. They are agents of the devil who haunt parents, robbing them off their peace and serenity. Parent's put up with this persecution only for the sake of the future of their children, who together with the offspring of other such suffering parents would be the constituents of tomorrow's society.
If you were to see members of these two groups meet in public there would be a great display of seeming bonhomie - hand shakes, hugs, flying-kisses - the works. Once their backs are turned, there will be reserved the choicest words for the other.
It was a parent whom the teachers abhorred, and the one who had a dim view of teachers in general, and his son's class teacher in particular, who turned up during prayer-time that morning, and demanded to see the principal. The school rules explicitly stated that, except in an emergency, parents should not ask to see the principal during prayer-time, and the teachers, until after the home-bell. This parent had long back decided that conventions did not apply to him. Abida attempted to stall him, but even she was no match for his vehemence.
Fearing an unsightly scene, Suhasini - on being told by Abida about the gentleman - delegated the part of leading the prayer to Hema, and walked up to her office.
"Good morning," she said to the waiting man, as graciously as she could.
The man did not bother to return the greeting, but launched into his tirade directly.
"My son is in the UKG. He has been in your school for two years now, and yet cannot speak one complete sentence in English properly. What will he do, when he appears for an interview next year, for admission to the first standard? I suspect that his teacher is not up to the mark. You will have to change her."
"What is your son's name?"
"Have you seen his report card of the previous year? Has it been good?"
"The report card says that he is doing excellently. That is why I suspect the teacher. She is doctoring the card to hide her own clumsiness. The real test of the child's ability is whether or not he is able to speak in English properly. He is a failure there, and it is all because of his teacher. I have told her several times earlier, and she thinks that she knows better. I demand that she be removed, or that my child be put under the care of a better teacher."
"Do you converse in English with your wife at home?" asked the principal of the man.
"No, my wife isn't conversant with the language. We speak Hindi at home."
"How much time do you spend with your son?"
"Not much. You see I am a busy man. I leave home very early, and get home fairly late. An hour on Sundays is all that my hectic schedule allows me."
"When the child is used to a particular language from its birth, it takes a while for it to pick up another. Had we started instructing your child only in English, when you admitted him, he wouldn't have flowered to be the bright boy he is today. We have had to talk with him in Hindi to make him feel at home, and encourage his interest to initially learn things in the language that he is familiar with. Then slowly we have been introducing him to the equivalent English words. It is a slow process, and each child has its own pace. Nothing is achieved by forcing something upon a child. We have almost a year to go, before the interview that you mention is due. I am sure that by that time, Rohit's ability in spoken English would have improved."
"You are only trying to protect your teacher. If she hasn't been able to do anything in two years, what can she do in ten months? Further, by saying that every child has its own pace, you are implying that my child is slow. How can that be? He is my son!"
Suhasini realized that she was dealing with a specimen at its eccentric best. Reasoning in this case would be like banging one's head against a granite wall.
"I will convey your observations to his teacher, and we will do our best on the matter. If you will excuse me, I have other matters to look into," said the principal, intending to close the meaningless dialogue.
"You are not assuring me that you will change his teacher," persisted the man.
"I can assure you no such thing."
"Then I will have no option, but to remove him from this school, and admit him elsewhere," said the parent, in the false hope that the threat would make the principal relent.
"You are free to do, as you wish. As long as the child is here, he will get the best of attention possible."
"Which is not good enough!" said the parent, firing away a parting shot, as he stomped out of the office.
Suhasini had been through many such confrontations, and weathered many such diatribes. She also knew that all the bravado on display by the confrontationists would have evaporated into nothingness, even before they crossed the office threshold. It was best to keep a low profile, and smother the flare-up, rather than to react and invite more trouble.
Prayer-time having concluded, Hema walked up to the principal's office, which also doubled up as a store room, accompanied by Godavari, to collect some teaching aids for their upcoming classes, and were in time to see the angry parent whiz by, oozing wisps of fury. He too spied them, and conferred a glower upon the UKG teacher.
"He was here to seek my removal, I am sure," commented Godavari. "If my count is correct, this would be the seventh time in two years that he has done so. He should be finding my face extremely unpleasant to be so persistent."
Though she jested away this aspersion upon her teaching ability, it did hurt sometimes to be singled out thus.
"Don't be disheartened," said Hema, soothingly putting her hand upon Godavari's shoulder, "We know you are capable. Opinions of loonies like him don't matter."
Finding the principal at her desk browsing through a book, they quietly went about their respective chores, and left the room.
Seeming to read a book was Suhasini's way of telling those around, that she wanted a bit of seclusion. Though her gaze was on an open page, her mind was pondering over this increasingly regular phenomenon of parents insisting that their child be conversant in spoken English. Not all expressed their viewpoints, as brazenly as the one who had not long ago graced her office, but convey they did. It was the need of the society today.
Higher education required it, jobs of all genres demanded it, attitudinal vogue insisted upon it. And the onerous task of transforming an entire generation of children - born into families that spoke a range of other languages and a plethora of dialects - to be fluent in English speech, fell upon the unfortunate teachers. They tried to cope with it, and going by the percentage of population that understood the language, it should have been deemed to be a fairly successful effort.
But measured on a puritanical scale it was an absolute mess. Pre-schools could be regarded as the place of origin of all the Indian dialects of the English language - Hinglish, Binglish, Tinglish . . . the list being quite long. Many words from the indigenous languages found their way into the dialects; grammar was granted a perpetual holiday, while intonation and accent refused to severe their homegrown tethers, and remained firmly rooted in the Indian tradition.
Suhasini wasn't too perturbed by this turn of events. She did make it a point to speak correct English with the right intonation - she was good at speaking three other Indian languages as well at their pristine best, but she considered language in the context of society to be only a means of effective communication. Insisting upon children below the age of seven years to speak absolutely correct English, was a transgression upon their rights, and on the need to express themselves.
There were any number of new coinage of words, and novel methods of framing sentences that happened at the school every day.
"Board writing," would mean, "I have written on the board."
"My pencil no" would signify "This is not my pencil."
"He 'choring' pencil," would indicate, "He stole a pencil," the word "chori," being the Hindi equivalent of the verb "to steal."
And more often than not, these trends and practices percolated down from parents.
When all this was acceptable in the world of adults, it was meaningless not to do so with little children. It was a wonder that children were able to cope with more than one language, and manage associations between words and concepts in each of them. Adults learning a new language for the first time wouldn't do any better, if not worse.
Over the years, many modifications had been made to the curriculum and teaching aids to cater to such shifting demands of society. It was a constant endeavor to keep up with the times, as was the case with any field of life.
Not having ever been a parent herself, Suhasini had at times attempted to see the world from a parent's point of view, to understand why they behaved the way they did.
During one of his earlier visits to the school (when he appeared a bit more reasonable), the parent who had come this morning to vent his anger, had confided in her about his desire to get his son admitted the following year in an International school that had come up in the outskirts of the city. Annual fee for the school was a bomb that he could afford with great difficulty, but the man was willing to go that extra distance, to toil hard uncompromisingly, so that his son got - what was in his perception - the best education available. These were laudable ideals, Suhasini thought. However, to be uncompromising with one thing would mean being accommodating with something else. That was the way of life. In this case, it meant that the father hardly found time for his son, engrossed as he was in ensuring that adequate funds were available to achieve, and sustain his objective.
She was certain that, as the time for the child's possible admission to the International School approached, the father would seek the services of a proficient teacher to coach his son exclusively in spoken English. Despite the stand that the teachers maintained in arguing with parents that forcing a child to speak and express itself in a new language without giving it adequate time to adapt, was a burden upon the child, it was a fact that, if a child could express itself well in English in an interview, this ability became the overriding factor in determining its performance, particularly in schools, where English was the medium of instruction.
Suhasini had even thought of suggesting to the man, that she would assign one teacher exclusively for an hour after the home-bell each day, to focus on increasing the child's expertise in spoken English, and charge him for the service. The idea, however, had a premature demise, as she thought of its repercussions. Its birth was prompted by her eagerness to help the man in his endeavor, and its end by the apprehension about the possibility of having to cater to a host of divergent requirements from a multitude of parents. While the naivety of idealism provoked it, the wisdom of realism - which accorded primacy to the self over society, annihilated it.
The notion of society had been another subject of debate, whenever Suhasini and Dayanidhi met. The latter, in his unpretentious manner, would always assert that society was merely a convenience that man used to further his personal goals. High-sounding phrases like "being useful to humanity," "putting self over society," were all so much nonsensical gibberish to him. One did nothing for society, unless there was gain in it for oneself - either materially or notionally - was his unequivocal contention.
Suhasini had found this definition a bit too harsh, but found it to be true, when thoroughly analyzed. And this seemed to be true of any society and its constituents. She had read in a science magazine that the genomic differences between different species of mammals - including man - were very marginal. This provided a justification for similar behavioral patterns across societies to which each of them belonged.
Shyamala was very excited one morning, when she announced to all the teachers, that her husband had brought an illustrated storybook for children. It was titled "Lulu and the lace." He had been away on a business trip and found it at a bookstore there, while looking around for some technical journals for himself. It had big colorful pictures, and the narration was in verse.
Every teacher had some comment to make, after having had a look at it. One said that it was a bit too long for kindergarten children. Another argued that, if a comparatively long story like "The Three Little Pigs" was standard fare for children of this age, then this should be all right too. All looked up to Suhasini for her verdict.
"Let us try it out," said Suhasini. She felt that the story would make the children realize in a very broad sense, the idea of society and the way it works, the interdependence of individuals, and the idea of reciprocity. "But this certainly is only for children who are five and above," she opined.
The rhyme went thus:
Lulu went to the market place,
For her frock, to buy some lace;
"I haven't any," the tailor said,
"I'll make them, if you get me the thread."
Lulu went to the man, who spun yarn,
And lived with his wife aloft a barn.
"Oh! To spin, I haven't any cotton.
The farmer promised, but has forgotten!"
Lulu went to the man in the farm,
And found him shaking in a state of alarm,
"My stock has been taken by the policeman,
Though there is no wrong that I've done!"
When Lulu went to the police station.
At her, the policeman pointed his gun,
"You! To the tailor I will send.
He has my uniform and spurs to mend."
Lulu asked him "Why can't you go?
Why do you hide behind your desk so?"
The policeman's face was crimson and red,
Behind the desk, he was all naked.
So, back to the tailor, Lulu went,
With the uniform that the policeman sent;
Lulu returned and got released,
The farmer's stock, the police had seized.
The farmer, happy at getting all back,
Of a bale of cotton, he made a pack.
To the spinner of yarn, for Lulu to take;
The rest he stored away with a rake.
The yarn-maker's joy knew no bound.
In astonishment, his eyes were round.
Quickly he spun a ball of thread,
With it to the tailor Lulu sped.
The tailor, sporting a cheerful face,
Made for Lulu, the required lace.
She thanked the tailor and very soon,
Returned home singing a merry tune.
On the principal's suggestion, the story was read out and dramatized in one of the UKG sections. While one teacher held the book aloft, for the children to view the pictures, two others - one as the girl Lulu and the other, by turn as the tailor, yarn-maker, farmer, and policeman, brought the story alive. The principal too was there, sitting on the old stool by the door, watching both the performance by the teachers, and the reaction on the faces of the children.
It was difficult to qualify the children's response the first time a story was recited. It took a while for them to get familiar with the characters and their roles, and only then, would they begin to enjoy it.
"So children," said the teacher who was reading out the story. "You should learn to help one another to live happily. You saw, how Lulu got her lace made by helping the tailor, yarn-maker, farmer, and the policeman. All those who want to be like Lulu, raise your hands."
Little hands began to rise, one after another. The teacher glanced around, and found one boy sitting rigidly, hands firmly crossed across his tummy.
"Sravan, don't you want to be like Lulu?" asked the teacher.
"No!" said the boy, resolutely.
"Don't you want to help others?" asked the teacher.
"No," was the reply again.
"Then others too would not help you. Won't that make you sad?"
"No, even if I don't help, others will help me," said the boy, with nascent arrogance.
"Naughty boy," said the teacher, grinning, and left it at that.
But Suhasini was stunned at the boy's insight. It certainly couldn't be a conscious one. Not in a five-and-a-half-year old. She also wondered whether there could be any distinction between the terms "conscious" and "unconscious" thought. Both had the brain for its origin - unconscious thoughts were not ethereal. It was unfair to deny credit to the conscious for the stimulations and revelations bestowed by the unconscious.
"Another Dayanidhi Ramadas in the making," thought the principal. While the teachers were toiling to instill the idea of society to the children using the story of Lulu as an allegory, Sravan had gone one-step ahead, and laid bare the impulse that powered it...