It was 6 pm and children were walking into the playground one by one after their afternoon naps, only to realise that the swings area where they typically play was pitch dark. Winter has not set in properly in this part of the world, but the days have definitely become shorter. Thus, the decision to abandon the main park and migrate to a smaller one engulfed by buildings shimmering with Diwali lights was made as soon as we sighted our friends. After playing one or two rounds of ringa ringa roses, all children started flocking to their mommies as it was no fun playing in the dark. As the boredom on their faces was quite evident, I looked around to find other ways to engage them. While hardly anything was visible in the dark, the striking contrast of white flowers strewn on the dark ground caught my attention and theirs.
I encouraged all children to start collecting and lining them on the polished granite planter surface. Running to different ends of the park and reuniting with flowers at the same spot suddenly became a fun game to play. A 4 year old boy was told to count all the flowers as and when different children kept bringing them to him. When the pile accumulated to more than 15 flowers, a 4 year old girl was concerned about guarding them to not let them spill on the ground. While a 2 year old boy started throwing them on the ground, a 2 year girl started picking them up and putting them back in place.
While fighting for the same flower, they were encouraged to say please to each other. When the small girl was not willing to put the flowers in the shared collection pile, the older girl convinced her to do so. At the end of it all, all children were encouraged to gift flowers to each others. Besides making new friends, an important lesson of sharing and caring was learnt through this simple act of group play. Most mothers also breathed a sigh of relief as they caught on their evening gossip with friends while their children were busy cleaning up the park.
Photo Credit: Abhinav Sharma
“Of all things visible, the highest is the heaven of the fixed stars,” Nicolaus Copernicus declared during the Renaissance period.
A recent picture of the bejeweled super moon captured by a friend brought back my fondest childhood memories. I have always enjoyed gazing at the moon since I was a little girl for reasons more than one. Every year my mother would adorn herself in beautiful clothes and jewelry on the occasion of a Hindu festival and break her fast by looking at the moon. While admiring my bejeweled mother making offerings to the beautiful moon, I also learnt to appreciate beauty.
On hot summer nights of long power cuts in the city of Delhi, my brother and I enjoyed gazing at the moon and stars from the charpai (woven bed) in our balcony as the mosquitoes or heat would not let us sleep. Our father would often take that opportunity to discuss the shape of moon and constellations and we would both take turns pointing to the north star, rejoicing if we got it right as it required a skill of alignment.
30 years later, when my two year old has become more aware of his surroundings, the long power cuts are gone and so is the opportunity to show him the stars also because of high air pollution levels. What still remains is the beautiful white round object in the sky that I revered since childhood. Every evening, on the way back from the park, we try to hunt for the moon. We climb mounds of our neighbourhood for the hunt and, at times, also take our friends along. Myra, woh dekho moon (look at the moon!), I can sense the same level of joy and appreciation when my little one shouts out to show his friend. While he was quick to associate the shape of circle with moon, the concept of half and full was only understood because of the expeditions every evening.
To continue the joy of learning through nature, we collect stones from the road to make the mother earth for our next book on the theme of nature while going to the park. And on the way back we continue to gaze at the beautiful white object in the sky which remains untouched. Mumma earth upar hai (earth is on top), he exclaims one fine day. No, I said. Earth upar hai, he asserted again. Hum necche se stones utha kar earth banate hain to earth neeche hai (we pick up stones from the bottom to make the earth so it is at the bottom). And just like that I was able to win the argument from the toddler and make him understand the concept of top and bottom as well.