I grew up with my grand father telling me stories. This might be new to children these days. First of all, they hardly know their grandparents. Next, they dont get to stay with them. Further, people are just too busy for stories.
I was not busy when I was child. I had enough time for everything. Lucky me! 🙂 The first story I heard was Gajendra Moksham. I was told that elephants are a symbol of God Vinayaka and I believe it till date. This story was about an elephant who was devoted to Lord Vishnu and performed offerings to God everyday. He gave a lotus from the nearby pond. How sweet! But one day, a crocodile got hold of his legs when he stepped into the pond for taking the lotus. Try as he might, he couldnt pull away. And then he surrendered. He called to God, "Aabhadh Baandhavaa, Anaadha Rakshagaa, MahaVishnu, Enna Kaapaathu." And God appeared and freed him from the crocodile. Then he granted moksha for Gajendran on the river bank. Cute one, isnt it? Till date, every elephant I see reminds me of Gajendran. Every morning when I see The Hindu, the elephant on the logo reminds me of Gajendran. So deep is the impression formed when you hear things as a child.
My great grandmother narrated me the story of how Brahma lost his fifth head. Imagining many heads was fun really. My grand mother told me the Paati vada sutta kadhai. I had a great impression on foxes when I heard the "Chi Indha Pazham Pulikkum" and the story of the fox that made itself the king and was exposed during a rain. I was told that foxes were cunning and owls were intelligent. I still believe that. My grandparents also told me the story of how a boy escaped from a bear, how a weary traveller got back his things from a monkey and about the boy who cried wolf.
Then the Dasavatharam. I know the story behind each of them. My grandfather loved narrating the story of Prahladha, Mahabali and the story of Rama – the prince of Ayodhya and Bheema overcoming Bhakasura. Ramayana was narrated by my grandfather with great interest as he is an ardent devotee of Vishnu. Then came stories of Krishna and Kaliya, Krishna and Sudama and Krishna and Kamsa. I could picturise Vasudeva walking through a parted yamuna even before I saw it on TV. The story of Agasthyar going over the flying Vindhyas is enough to spellbind any child. The story of Vinayaka getting the Gnana Pazham and the story of Garuda becoming Vishnu’s vehicle, Jatayu, the story from Sivan’s ThiruVilayadal – Pittukku Mann Sumandha Kadhai, the story of how Ganges came to be on Siva’s head, the story of Indra cheating sage Gautama and Krishna holding the Govardhana Giri with his little finger followed suit. I loved the stories of Lord Murugan’s birth, how Manmadha became ashes, Narakasuran, Bhasmaasuran, Iyyappa Jananam and the Meenakshi Sokkanaadhar kalyanam. I enjoyed the stories of Narada coming round the earth with a palm full of oil to prove that he is God’s greatest devotee and the story of Rukmini proving her love with a Tulsi leaf that could balance Krishna. My grandfather told me that Kalki would come one day to rescue the earth and I trust him.
A little later came King Lear. After that Merchant of Venice. The way my grandfather described Shylock I could imagine a real gory guy. He narrated the story of a boy who saved a town by holding the water with his thumbs and the story of Robinhood. He also narrated to me Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Rapunsel, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and the story of the woodcutter and his axe. Then the story of the king who got donkey’s ears. Only his baber knew of this and he went and told a tree about it. When the tree was cut later on, it started saying what the barber said to it. He also told me the story of Samson and Delaila and the the story of the husband and wife who gifted each other a comb and a watch strap. When I grew a little old, he told me The MahaBharatha and the story of Nalan. He also told me of our freedom struggle, the world wars and great persons of our country. The stories that I have mentioned are only a sample of what he told me. The number that he has told me is numerous. All of it had a very profound impact on my upbringing, my mentality, my thoughts and my self.
I feel children need to listen to stories when they are young. This develops creativity, gives a child scope for thinking, helps them remember more and gives them the feeling that good overpowers the bad. Also, it instills belief in God and makes children moral, that is, it gives them a conscience. If your child is adamant on not eating food, try a story. It works on most kids. The quantity of food eaten is more with an entertaining story than without. It gave me an interest in listening to stories and an eye for detail. Also, it gave me an interest to read. I read a whole library of books when I was young. This helped me develop a flair for language. I was doing Wren and Martin when I was in third standard. I was able to sustain my interest as I grew and I am able to write now only because of the initial stories I heard as a child. Grasping new concepts became easy.
Emphasis needs to be laid on the way the stories are narrated. You need to narrate them with devotion, you need to believe in the things you are telling them and you need to ask them questions from time to time to sustain their interest. When they ask a question, dont tell them that their question is stupid. Instead, give a convincing answer. I would like every kid to spend their childhood – listening to tales, believing the impossible and having fun, not playing video games and doing homework.