The Treasured Childhood

If you ask me about my most precious childhood memories, I would say it was the time when I was ensconced in bed with my grandmother, holding her tightly and listening to the most amazing tales of Ram, Sita, Krishna, and numerous other mythological characters.

My eyes would lit up as those stories took the curious kid in me to a fascinating world of imagination. Every day I would listen to the same stories with undying excitement. It was my favourite time of the day.

As I grew up the element of religiousness in me slowly gave way to freedom of thoughts. But I feel it was the love for my grandmother’s stories that has kept me a god loving person. I am spiritual to some extent and yet pretty naïve towards the religious practices that wrap us all.

In last few years the challenges of parenthood made me rediscover the lost world of stories. My twin girls have a great fascination for Krishna, Radha, Lord Ram, and Sita. They love getting dressed as Radha-Krishna and dance to their tunes. I must admit that this has doubled my work as I have to dress them up “on demand”, i.e., whenever they want it and they want it at least once every day.

This all started when I was frantically searching for a way to put the twins in bed on time so that I could catch a breath as well. When they were babies I used to sing Ram and Krishna bhajans to them. As they were growing up these bedtime lullabies stopped working. Hence I decided to switch to stories and it seemed to work. All I had in my kitty were the anecdotes I had listened to in my childhood. And that’s how it all started.

Now, after almost one and a half years of this daily storytelling routine, I realize its importance in a child’s growth. One of the most crucial aspect of child’s growth is development of a healthy imagination. The mind of a child is the most interesting thing in this world. It’s always in a state of bewilderment.

A child has her own unique visuals and uncorrupted versions of things. She can fantasize in a way no adult can. Story telling allows this trait in children to flourish. It’s the most engaging and interactive activity to try out with kids.

What’s a good story for a kid? Any story that keeps her engaged. However I personally feel that introducing kids to the Indian mythological tales is good idea since it’s replete with stories with inconceivable characters that stretch the imagination of a young mind. The common pattern in most of these stories is that they end with triumph of good over evil. I think this inculcates in children an intuitive judgement about good and bad. These stories pack an important message — the real villains aren’t out there; they are the undesirable traits of a human mind and it’s all about conquering these inner demons.

The narration exposes them to the sweetness of their mother tongue and it also gives me an opportunity to bring my children close to their cultural roots.

Technology has invaded our lives like never before. Given the busy schedules and a constant demand on attention, parents have to multitask and apparently have to fall back the digital medium at times to engage the kids. Even I am guilty of switching from the active storytelling bedtime routine to the “OK Google” (Google home — an AI powered device). The smart device knows the playlist that has Dhvani and Avani’s favourite songs of Krishna, Ram, and Ganesha.

One or two stories aren’t enough for them anymore. Their demands have become endless making me spend good hours reciting stories to them during bedtime. But the that’s not the main challenge. Both demand different characters to be narrated at the same time. Dhvani wants Krishna story and Avani likes Ganesha story. And that leaves me in a fix. Whose wish should I fulfill first ? The never ending dilemma of a mom with twin.

So now I ask “Ok Google” to play their favorite playlists and three of us are tucked in the bed listening to those melodies till the time they sleep.

However I try to have a small storytelling session with them during the day at least once — whenever the time permits and I still have the energy to talk. Sometimes I repeat the same story over and over again. At other times I add a new imaginary storyline to the existing one. Adding voice modulations and hand gestures makes doubly interesting. At this stage, the twins have developed own versions of these stories. Now it’s common for them to hijack my story and start adding their own characters and situations. They love introducing their own imaginary characters and animals.

I might be biased but listening to their blockbuster stories is full paisa vasool.

Based on my 3-years of parenting twins, I strongly feel that active storytelling should be an important part of parents schedule. I know that digital medium can’t be avoided completely but it can never be a replacement for a mother or father’s voice and face.

Let’s not deprive our kids of the precious stories about our culture and heritage. Let’s give wings to their vivid imagination. What could be a better gift in life than the gift of “A Treasured Childhood”.