Friday, July 6, 2018

Have you read a story to your child today?

I remember one outstanding moment from the archives of my childhood very vividly even today and which is still etched in my memory. My sister's friend had lent her an Amar Chitra Katha. As the book had to be returned quickly, we asked mom to read it out to us and narrate the story. Mom has a lovely soft voice and we used to love hearing her narrate stories to us.

Ah! the world of storybooks. Right from my childhood reading and listening to stories was a passion with me - stories that were passed on from one generation to another - the story of the sparrow and the crow, the Indian version of Cinderella, Goldilocks, Red Riding Hood, The Hare and the Tortoise and so on. We were so very fond of stories that we would ask mom to tell us stories all the time.

Once we were able to read on our own a whole new world opened before us. There was now a role reversal. I was the official 'Story Teller'. Narrating stories during lunch and dinner times during weekends and holidays was now my domain! At school, we used to exchange storybooks. The day I got a new storybook, would be the most exciting day for me. I just could not wait a minute longer to open the pages and go through the wonderful world created by the story writer. Homework and other studies would be done and dusted in a jiffy and finally, the much awaited moment would come, when I would settle down in a corner of the house where I was least likely to be disturbed and get totally immersed in the book.

Apart from Hans Christian Anderson, Enid Blyton and so on, who can forget our very own Uncle Pai's Amar Chitra Katha? These were also one of my favorites - the mythological stories which were narrated to us right from our childhood, now took a life of their own because of their colorful pictures and simple presentation. Stories from Ramayan, Mahabharat, Panchatantra, Hitopadesh were not just stories, but also lessons in morals and values which as children we could easily understand and inculcate.

One of the stories that Mom read out to us during our school days was that of Meera Bai. The story begins with Meera being enamored by Lord Krishna right from her childhood. So she would sing, play, dance and sleep with her idol of Krishna. As she grew into a lovely woman, she was married off to the King of Mewar. But Meera was totally immersed and devoted to her Krishna alone. Her husband and his sisters try to reason with her and when Meera refuses to heed their advice, they try to poison her. But her Lord protects her and when her husband realizes her true devotion to the Lord, he himself becomes her devotee. During her last days, Meera goes to various places where Lord Krishna had lived in like Mathura, Brindavan, and Gokul where she writes and sings for her Lord to take her to him. Finally, she is united with her Lord. As mom finished reading, all three of us sat in silence totally mesmerized and when we finally looked at each other there was such powerful emotion in all of us that we had tears in our eyes. The power of stories!

In my own little way, I opened this wonderful world of story to my children too (when they were young) and continued the same tradition of weaving the magic of words, telling them stories where I could see them embark on various adventures, mysteries, and travel into that wonderful imaginary world, where they could become superheroes.

Today, despite stories being available digitally, I love the touch, the smell, and the feel of the books. So, as someone who has gone through the journey, I would urge all young parents to go on and enjoy story sessions with your little ones and enjoy the journey into the realms of the world of fantasy together.

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