“When you accept something or someone you dislike it leads to tranquility
When you don’t it leads to hostility, jealousy, and negativity.”
You may read these words of wisdom and not pay too much attention to them. You may think I have picked them from some quotable quotes website and pasted them here. Now do as I say, read the words again and visualise a 15-year-old teenager saying them in a matter of fact tone.
A few days ago I was in Chennai for the Chennai Storytelling Festival. It was a fabulous experience mingling with a myriad of creative minds. I came back with a mind buzzing with stories but my most valuable learning from the festival was how a teacher managed to instill a value system so strong in the students of her class by way of a story.
Once I returned to Kanpur, incidentally a very worried mother came to me and said, “My child is full of negativity.” Confused at her statement I looked at her 5-year-old who was chewing on his shirt’s collar. I asked the boy to play with toys and we stepped out of that space. Then I asked the mother to express her concerns in detail. This is what she had to say, “He was part of a race in the sports day at school. He didn’t come first so when he came home he told me that when the race happens next time, he will trip the fastest runner and take his place.”
By now the mother couldn’t look me in the eye. She seemed embarrassed and was somehow blaming herself for the feelings of anger and jealousy seething in her child’s mind. I reassured her that I was not judging her parenting skills and asked her about her son’s routine. Everything seemed normal until she uttered the words ‘cartoon’ and ‘Doraemon’.
Well, to be honest, I don’t have any expert knowledge on the blue cat from Japan so I couldn’t blame the boy’s so-called ‘negativity’ on anything. I asked the mother to take a deep breath and relax and that she should just ignore the negativity, at least for now.
Since I am dealing with children all the time, I am aware of the character Doraemon but my knowledge is restricted to the fact that it is blue, a cat and not very pleasant looking. My curiosity took the better of me and I found myself watching Doraemon on Youtube. At first, I couldn’t stand it, the torture was too much to bear. However, I pacified myself and continued to watch. Okay, so there was this boy called Nobita, who didn’t like studying or doing homework (That’s fine really – I didn’t too!) anyway he had a whiz cat who was like his saviour and helped him with some fancy gadgets. All through the one episode I watched (And didn’t finish) Nobita was trying to impress some girl and there was a bad guy etc… Nothing in the plot really grasped my attention. It was too boring. Anyhow, I continued watching. Then came the point where I actually paused, rewound and watched again and again. This was the point where Nobita’s mother was introduced. She was screaming and shouting at the top of her voice. The animation literally showed her lungs when she shouted and Nobita spoke really badly to her. He schemed to trick her and pacify her anger which was only there because of unfinished homework. I noticed another thing – the body language and mannerisms of all the characters. They were all too loud and aggressive. Yes, there were other problems too with the program but I had found mine! To cut the long story short – This hideous cartoon show was leading to aggressive and negative thoughts brewing in the 5-year-old I met.
My mind was buzzing with so many thoughts. I just couldn’t help myself from thinking about the sound value system and thoughts of acceptance and tranquility the 15-year-old I met during the Chennai Storytelling Festival exuded. Well, let me give you a little background to that too. This boy and his entire class were introduced to a fabulous South Indian epic called Ponnivala, a year ago. The class was a part of storytelling from the epic by the teacher followed by a discussion on various characters and story plot. The epic has characters who are jealous, who make mistakes and hurt each other but if you look under the surface, it is a story that has many take aways like human nature, love, sacrifice, acceptance, pride among others.
When I asked the teacher about her style of teaching she simply said, “I believed in the story”. She said that the children picked up the values on their own, neither did she give them a moral science lecture after every class nor did she write down the values on the blackboard for them to mug. She simply told them the story immense passion and excitement.
Isn’t it amazing what a story can do? The medium doesn’t matter – it could be a film, a TV show, a book, or a story heard from someone – what matters is the content and the values hidden beneath the layers.
The human mind is amazing, it is absorbing the tiniest of things and registering them in the subconscious mind. A child, or even an adult, doesn’t mean to be pessimistic, negative, or even mean. It is something the person saw or heard sometime that left an indelible mark on their subconscious mind and made them behave so.
Yes, parents have a responsibility but it is an equal responsibility of a teacher too to instil a sound value system in children. If a teacher’s passion and faith in a story could help built a value system so strong for her children that they have been molded for life then it isn’t that difficult, is it?
You don’t need any magic dust, all you need are the right stories and the right passion and faith to share them with your very impressionable listeners.