This week we present two mothers, Vini and Dimple who share an interesting history. They are both alumnae of The Department of Human Development and Childhood Studies at the Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi, which is also our alma mater. To add to that, they have sons who are around the same age. It is the activities of their children during the recent months that are featured in today’s episode of Masala Chai. We thank both the mothers and their sons for permitting us to feature their videos and stories. The brief bios for both appear in the Notes section.
The magical world of my 11 year-old
Vini Gupta: I am a mother of two kids, my daughter is 15 and son is almost 11. My daughter is mostly busy with her studies for 10th grade but finds time to explore activities like juggling, hoola hoop, strumming the guitar and some painting. On the other hand, my son has loads of free time and has learnt to occupy himself with several self discovered interests. He is curious to learn about everything he encounters, reads widely and is constantly exploring something or other. I believe he is soaking in a lot of ‘good’ knowledge from every possible source. During this whole time, not even once did I hear either of the children complaining about boredom, or being locked in. There is always so much to do around the house. Boredom is not a word that is encountered in our home. I suppose they have followed my lead in that regard. I am always busy trying out something new around the house.
Recently, I found my son making attempts to create videos. He would follow my activities carefully and alongside, he was exploring the field of magic and illusion. It all started with his interest in the App I use to edit family dance videos and online lessons for my tutorials. He became fascinated with the recording, sound and image mixing that I was able to accomplish and asked me to teach him. Soon he started making simple compilations of book covers by adding captions and music. As he became better at it, he searched for a bigger challenge. Since he enjoys illusions, in particular those by Zach King, he soon became completely engrossed in enhanced video editing. Once he got started, he would spend hours trying tricks on his own. He sets up a scene, handles the tripod to shoot and then edits the material to make videos which even I haven’t figured out how to make! His skills have surpassed mine by a huge margin and I have no idea how he shoots the things he does!
He also enjoys my online art and craft classes so much that he connects to my Zoom classes and attends like any other student. He seems like a sponge, soaking in information and knowledge from all possible sources. Recently, he started learning dance from his father just for fun. I shared some of these videos on YouTube to encourage him. Soon he was enrolled with an online class with a dance teacher. Another important figure in his life is his Nani (maternal grandmother) who tells him stories every night even though she lives in another city. She is closely connected with the children in every way. They have finished reading and analysing 105 chapters of Mahabharat in this lockdown period. We also have a large family WhatsApp group everyone shares their latest interest and engagement like photography, cooking, art and so much more. This is also an important source of inspiration for all of us, and keeps us closely connected, despite the fact that we live as a nuclear family.
I believe that overall, we have a very vibrant and active family group and this provides the children with constant inspiration for learning and engagement, no matter what the circumstances may be. They see opportunities everywhere, no matter what the constraints.
Learning to handle the lockdown
Dimple: My son Adwitiye is 12-years-old and passionate about sport. He enjoys theatre and story-writing as well. His stories have been appreciated and some of his scripts have been chosen for school plays. If I look back at pre-lockdown days, I can say for sure that reading was not his preferred pastime; he loves the outdoors and spent far more time with that than with books. On weekdays, he would be busy with school and evenings were spent at the Cricket Academy. Being confined indoors has been a challenge for him, but this forced hibernation has had an interesting outcome on his preferences. He has become very involved with reading. His passion for theatre helped tremendously with meltdown moments when he became overcome with worry about the possible impact of this hiatus on his game. He even imagined that he may never get back on the field again. It is his theatre class every morning, with sessions of storytelling and recitation of his own writing, that have kept him emotionally engaged. With the Integrated Volunteers Network, he has been regularly making presentations of his stories and snippets of a theatre act which is part of the story Panch Parmeshwar by Munshi Premchand. Another enjoyable session was an online tabla class that he is part of, during which he plays the instrument dressed in his cricket jersey to symbolize his love for the sport.
As a mother I strongly believe that it is critical for children to understand and label their own feelings in times like this. Creating opportunities, providing them time and being open to listening to their perspectives are essential for their self-expression. During my doctoral work I explored children’s agency using storytelling, and experienced first-hand, how storytelling facilitates expression and understanding of self-other dynamics, especially related to emotional experiences. Such opportunities were found to be liberating for children, since it provided them a safe space to voice their opinions and feelings. Using insights from my dissertation, I started an initiative #kahaanisunnasunaanashurukarona (start sharing stories) and Kathika on YouTube, after the lockdown, for sensitive and meaningful involvement of children in story-telling. The stories were intended to entertain, engage, educate, help to remember, and express oneself. As a part of the initiative, I posted a story a day on YouTube. There was an overwhelming response from children as well as adults. Motivated to move this further, I also added a Facebook page: Kathika. I welcome you to visit Kathika and leave your comments.
At Masala Chai, we watched these presentations with a great deal of interest. There is something very special about being a Irwinite, especially from our Department. We were so proud to see the engagement both Vini and Dimple have had with their children during this period. As one can see, the orientation of the respective mothers (and the larger family) towards creative expression in their own lives has been transferred very effectively to their offspring, in this instance for dealing with the crisis of being locked indoors. A constraint became translated into an opportunity. In the case of Dimple’s son, he was deeply missing his outdoor activity and needed something substantial to express himself. And for Vini’s son, magic seems to be a “baen haath ka khel”, he is able to create invisible steps and disappearances with practiced ease!
We went a bit further to explore the reactions of children to these recordings. Here are some responses. In the following video, Reshu’s daughter is seen completely engrossed in the story, perhaps a bit taken aback with the use of an expletive that her parents usually avoid!
Pooja’s 8 year old is a curious soul. She loves questioning and finding answers. While watching these videos, the first one about magic took her completely by surprise. She instantly realised that the act was special, even impossible. “How did he even do that?” During the second video she was better prepared for the surprise elements and watched very carefully for editing nuances. For now, it has got her thinking about magic! “The instrumental session on the Tabla was fascinating for both my daughters to watch. They were amazed with the deft actions of Adwitiye’s fingers and the corresponding sounds produced”.
Featured image by Pooja. Title: Birdie by my daughter
Vini Gupta is an alumna of Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi, India. Her experience spans over 18 years in the field of education and development with both non-profit and for-profit organisations. Presently, she works as a freelance consultant and follows her passion for art. She conducts art and craft workshops for children and adults at her home studio, schools and corporate companies. Here are the links to her art based activities which have gone totally online during these COVID times. Although the primary purpose is to engage with art and aesthetics, an important strategy is to try and use available materials without having to go out to purchase stuff for the classes. The approach is interactive, engaging and loosely structured to permit intense exploration and develop children’s interests in artistic expression. Attempts are made to try different mediums and surfaces, open the doors and windows of the mind and have loads of fun!
Dimple Rangila (Ph. D.) is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Human Development and Childhood Studies at the Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi since August 2008. She has a major in Child Development and her Doctoral work in Education explores children’s agency and voice using storytelling in primary school. Her interest areas include – Children’s narratives, storytelling, Early Childhood Care and Education, parenting and socialization. She has trained school teachers, educators and facilitators on use of storytelling with and for children. She has presented her work at several National and International conferences and has published her work in journals and book chapters. She has been an expert for NIOS Swayam Prabha Channel for their Live Video and Interactive Radio shows. She is a mother, a storyteller, an academic, writer and a researcher.