Artist: Jaya Madhavan
In a recent interaction with six-year-old children, I asked them to write a short description of any animal of their choice. I gave them a structure for the essay — namely the first line should describe their chosen animal in such specific manner that the readers should be left in no doubt, the second few lines should detail the use/danger of the animal to humans and the last line can be used to express their personal opinion of the animal.
I usually use this exercise to gauge how “schooled and boxed in” the children are and based on this I decide at what level I should begin my writing workshop with them. But it emerged that this particular group was full of poets. For the sake of my readers, I have remedied the children’s sentences and spellings a bit, but the import is intact. Read on:
A boy who chose to write on cow said in his first sentence (describing the animal in specific manner), “A cow is a cow. Not a goat.” ”Going on to the second paragraph, he explained, “Many animals have milk, but a cow is so good that it can give milks even in packets” and his last line said it all, “I love a cow. It is so useful I know its spelling.”
Another child enthralled me with her version of the lion. Her first line read — “Lines are fat and hairy.” Second paragraph — “Lions run after non-veg items like chicken, egg, mutton, beef. We cannot be friends with lion as we are also non-veg item.” And finally, “Lions are useful to us in cinemas.
Then came the dog. “Do I like my dog or my sister? My sister fights with me. My dog only bites me. I bathe in Dettol, my dog also. My sister’s name is Minu. My dog’s name is Joker. I feel sad because they make fun of my dog. He is not joker, but my sister is mean. I hate my sister. I love my dog. He is useful. Sister is dangerous.”
Yet another child wrote about the owl. “Owl is living in villages or forests, inside a tree hole. They are so wise that crow, sparrow and everyone go to Owl for wisdom. An owl sleeps in the day. But I cannot. I come to school in the day. Also I live in city. So I don’t know anything about owl. So bye-bye.”
Next came the snake. “Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssss, a snake shouts like this. When we say ssssssssssssssssssssssssss it means keep quiet. Teachers shout like snake. Snakes dance very well. For annual day we did snake dance. A snake is useful in school programmes.”
There was one on Hippos too. “Hippo has large hips. They live in Discovery TV. I have a hippo soapbox. If hippo and elephant fight, who will win? I am very sorry; I don’t know any use of Hippo.”
And I particularly love the one on elephants. “Elephant is big, black and very strong. From far they look like black clouds. They wear bells to warn us. Their anklets are so big we use them as chains. Elephant is the national animal of the world.”
There were many other lovely entries about the rabbit, peacock, monkey and even fish. The children eventually created some beautiful poetry with me which I shall share with my readers in another column.
The children employed such exquisite expressions, boldness and revealed such expanse of heart and mind that I regretted my adulthood, which seems to stand in my way of writing good poetry. What more can I say? I only hope that the children’s “schooling does not interfere with their education” and I can only hope that these children remain the poets they so easily are!