Monday, March 25, 2013


One day last week, Isha wanted to play board games with me. She first picked up ‘Snakes and Ladders’. We picked up some flat coins lying around, started throwing the dice and moving our coins. At one point, when she had gone much ahead of me, she stopped and looked at the board for a while. She picked up her coin and placed it on mine (remember they were flat) and said let’s stay and move together. She placed the dice on her one palm and asked me cover it with my one palm. When I did, she suggested we shake the dice together and throw it on the floor. She moved the coins together until we reached 100. And said ‘I like to go with you amma’.

She then wanted to play ‘Ludo’. She chose yellow coins and I chose red ones. We started throwing the dice and moving our respective coins. When my red coins reached her (yellow) side, she said ‘Come home!’ Initially, I didn’t quite understand what she meant. Then, she asked me to throw the dice once again and moved my coin into her home. She did the same with her coin; brought it to my home. “We are being guests in each other’s home” she giggled! I said “Oh, that’s so cool! ‘Hi Yellow’ and she replied ‘Hi Red’. After a while, she brought all the four reds into the yellow ‘Home’ and all the four yellows into the red ‘Home’. She then moved them all to the yellow ‘Home’ saying ‘For sometime, let’s all stay together’, giggling away all the time. Then we visited the green and the blue homes. And the board-game soon turned into a conversation about why people had their own homes and such.

Was it no coincidence that I had just posted about the African tribal children on facebook just a few days before this happened? Could it be that a mind uncorrupted (by our modern civilisation’s ideas of racing* and ranking) instinctively believes in Ubuntu?

* The only exposure to ‘racing’ that Isha has had is when she sits down to eat at her own pace. Very often she is told by adults ‘Eat fast. Let’s see, who finishes first’. I once clarified to her that what people actually meant was that she should stay focused on eating and not get distracted. And that it was actually good to eat slowly – chew well and enjoy her food – so that her body could use it better. Since then, adults who tell her that get lectured about the benefits of eating slowly.

** Ubuntu in the Xhosa culture means 'I am because we are'.

1 comment:

Joyoflife said...

Hi Sangi Akka, I have always been a silent reader -cum-admirer of your blogposts.. Every single post of yours is an answer to all the questions that used to haunt me. Though I am a chronic Attention Deficit Hyperactive person, I have an ability to remember everything that happened around me right from when I was 2.5 years old. Being a very hyper and restless child, it was only natural for elders to react to my antics and clumsiness. But that has a prolonged effect on me. I grew up with very low self-esteem and on top of that, I used to guard whatever esteem that remained with defensiveness and resentment. I must tell you, my mom has been on the receiving side all the time. She is a very strong person , as I was a very difficult child(and still behave like one at times).All these made me decide that at some point of time, I will work with kids and "unschool" them as you rightly said.I am currently working with kids at a nearby school. I was supposed to teach a kid to add single digit numbers that sum up to double digits...lik 8+6=14..The kid was relatively slow, and more than that , her teacher's expectation of doing it fast, and the peer pressure that an 8 year old is still using her fingers was bogging her ..

I was reminded of my own tryst(sarcasm) with Math. I would be daydreaming, and I had no idea what was going on in the class.

So I told her that she reminded me of my own childhood and what really matters is that you know what you are doing when you are adding(unlike me , who learnt it by-heart 9,6...15.. 8,6..14,9,3...12.. etc etc

I taught her to use fingers as vanishing sticks. I taught her that if she knew 5 +5 is 10 then 5 +6 is just one more than ten, which is 11.

She learnt it and she was a happier person when she went back.

I do the same with every child I interact with. Tell them to be grateful, to express their feelings, to be confident , to participate..

And I.. I am living my concept of childhood through Isha, vicariously..