Language Policy In Indian Education: Pile It Up On The Children

I figured out how the Indian educational system initiates rote learning for students by turning upside down the LSRW approach in acquiring languages. However, I could not understand the reason, then.

I know that Indian students are taught multiple languages; I was a student myself, long back. However, I was taken aback when I read that currently, NCERT recommends that students learn a minimum of five (5) languages in their schooling years.

The quote from NCERT website: We strongly believe that all children should leave school with CALP (Cognitive Advance Language Proficiency) in at least three languages; they should of course know a couple of others at least at the level of BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills).

Now, I think I can connect the dots. The Indian education system has no option but to upturn the LSRW approach for teaching languages. They have to torture the child with so many languages and ensure that there is some resemblance of learning at the end of it. There is no time for the conventional time-taking methodical LSRW approach. What has to be done? Pile it up on the children. Bash on regardless. Focus on Writing, Reading might follow later. The student is left on her/his own for Speaking and Listening.

This brings us to the larger picture of what is the language policy in Indian Education and what purpose it serves?

The Language Policy

The Constitution, adopted in 1950, necessitated that English and Hindi be utilized for conducting the Union’s official business for a time of fifteen years [s. 343(2) and 343(3)]. After that time, Hindi should turn into the sole official dialect of the Union. This did not happen. What to do now?

  • Education policymakers knew that Hindi cannot be disrespected, so teach Hindi.
  • They recognized that English is not going to leave the Indian shores, so teach English.
  • Now, they became conscious that except for the northern states, Hindi is not the mother tongue for the rest of the citizens of the country. So, teach the third language.
  • Sanskrit is practically not used anywhere in the country. But we cannot forget the glorious past of the country. So, teach the fourth language.
  • Now, with so many commissions and omissions, we are bound to step on the toes of some of the communities and religions. To respect their feelings, teach the fifth language.

I know I made the above explanation up. However, there is no other practical way of explaining this silly obsession of teaching five languages to students.

The language policy takes into account the reality of multilingualism, the push and pulls of regionalism, the political need to carry every religion and community together and the inevitability of English. The hotchpotch ragtag mishmash jumble of teaching five languages is the incorrigible output.

Just that, it fails to take into account the audience for this folly of a policy. The children pay the price for this craziness and bear the brunt of taking the load of studying five languages.

The Purpose

NCERT dutifully mentions “We should also note that several recent studies have effectively demonstrated the positive relationship of multilingualism with cognitive growth, social tolerance, divergent thinking and scholastic achievement.” NCERT does not give a link to any of these studies.

I am not aware of any other country in the world that is teaching five languages to their children. Would other countries not be aware of what their children are missing out on by not studying five languages? This seems to be a well-guarded secret by Indian educationists.

Indian society is as much an inequitable and discriminatory as it can be. When it comes to social ills and leaving the marginal and vulnerable sections unprotected, benefits of multilingualism, as quoted by NCERT, seems to have bypassed India.

Rather, I feel that by making a child focus on so many languages simultaneously, Indian education system ensures that the child does not master any. Leave aside becoming a master of languages, s/he would abhor the languages. Do you need proof? Check the number of students opting for JEE/NEET and those opting for humanities at +2 level.

I agree that bilingualism is helpful for the child, but it is about two languages. Why is the third language getting added to the conundrum? The further addition of the fourth and fifth language is a sheer torment of young minds.

Would NCERT be conducting alternative studies that limiting the languages for school children to a maximum of two would lead to a better academic outcome? Apart from letting children enjoy their childhood, seemingly an objective that is long forgotten.

Apart from increasing the weight of school bags, I see no purpose of the language policy in Indian education.

What would be your views about the language policy in Indian education and the purpose it serves?

PS: I do not think, though, five languages are being taught to children anywhere in the country. It is another silly government rule that no school cares to follow. Even though the children are burdened with 3/4 languages, and that itself is too many.

LSRW: Where And How Rote Learning Starts In Indian Educational System

LSRW is considered a natural way of acquiring a language. A child is expected to go through the four stages of LSRW in sequential order. A child would first listen to the mother tongue spoken around her/him. At the second stage, the child learns to speak – makes sounds, moves on to alphabets, small words and gradually, the sentences. The third stage would be reading – picture books and tactile material, establishing a relationship with letters and words. The last stage would be writing.

The above is how LSRW (Listen Speak Read Write) is expected to function for a child when s/he acquires a new language. However, the Indian educational system has turned this principle upside down and come up with an opposite version for the language learning of Indian students.

Disclaimer: I am a stay-at-home father, since the last three years, to my now five and a half-year-old twin daughters. My wife and I are also trying to develop a sort of home-schooling for the girls. In the process, I try to figure out how the Indian education system of curriculum, schools, books, NCERT, methodology etc work. This is how I stumbled upon LSRW and the below are my views on its utter disregard in the Indian educational system.

Writing as a rote skill

Have you ever considered what is taught to children in the play-school/school? Invariably, in the majority of the schools, writing will be an integral part of whatever the child is exposed to. And that too, it will be in English.

Have you ever wondered why the reading does not precede writing in Indian schools? I guess that reading cannot be dictated, reading cannot be forced, reading cannot be made to order. After all, reading is an age-appropriate skill. The child will learn to read, only when s/he is ready to read. However, writing is a flexible skill and amenable to manipulation.

The schools make the child write alphabets, words and short sentences, even though the child in the natural course of things has not encountered them. Ideally, the child should be able to read and comprehend what s/he is writing, but here the child is made to write irrespectively.

In short, Indian schools force-teach writing, preceding reading and in many instances, even before the speaking and listening happen. After all, the probability of English as a mother tongue for us, Indians, is fairly remote.

The rot starts with NCERT

I was wondering how schools could turn the LSRW on its head and get away with it. Unsurprisingly, they have been given a go-ahead by NCERT, itself. The below two quotes are from NCERT website.

“For a very long time now, we have been talking in terms of LSRW skills as the objectives of languages teaching. This exclusive focus on discrete skills has had fairly adverse consequences.”

NCERT does not bother to list even one of what these adverse consequences are.

“We now plead for a more holistic perspective on language proficiency. After all, when we are Speaking, we are also simultaneously Listening and when we are Writing, we are also Reading in a variety of ways.”

Yes, NCERT is right. When we speak, we also listen, for listening precedes speaking. When we write, we also read, for reading precedes writing. NCERT uses the correct order of LSRW and then reverses the interpretation when it comes to actual implementation. NCERT maintains stoic silence on the holistic perspective on language proficiency and does not go beyond bashing up LSRW.

Thus, NCERT gives its blessing to schools to take up Writing as the first step in language teaching. In the process, NCERT does not cite any study/argument/logic to arrive at its convoluted inference.

The above two points are at actuals. You can see them in execution in schools and read in NCERT’s website, in letter and spirit. The third point is my interpretation of the first two points.

Schools and parents lap up writing

Formal environment for kids in India is big business. They charge a bomb. So, they have to also deliver, something. Unfortunately for them, reading as a skill cannot be delivered. Speaking as a skill takes time. In a short period, what is possible is writing. So, the child writes.

Education and learning are tangible, as well as intangible. We, Indian parents, understand and believe what we see a child doing. We do not tend to bother much about what is indeterminate. A child writing is a perceptible occurrence and it makes us happy that our child is learning. So, the child writes.

Summing Up

The educationists, the parents, everyone bemoans that the Indian educational system promotes rote learning. Basis of my interpretation of LSRW, I believe that rote learning starts early, very early in the Indian educational system.

It starts with the un-natural preference for writing, a skill that should come last in the natural order of skills to be learnt for a child to acquire a language and we teach it first before any other language skill is picked up by the child. I did not find a single article on this on the internet, neither for nor against. Seemingly, it is not a topic of discussion.

We are trying to follow LSRW with our twin daughters. Let us see how it unfolds.

What are your views on LSRW and the Indian educational system?

Why A Girl Is Never A Hero? Why Only A Boy Is A Hero?

“Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero?” These are the perpetual questions raised by both of our twin daughters. Be it fiction, non-fiction, storybooks, mythology, cartoons, newspapers – whatever and wherever, both the girls keep raising the above questions.

To be honest, if it would not have been for my daughters’ raising these questions persistently, I would not have even realized it. It has become so obvious in popular culture and so ingrained into my mind that I was oblivious to have myself become synonymous with it. What is it?

Every child would raise these questions

My twin daughters are no wonder kids. If they can raise these questions “Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero”, I am certain that most of the other girls of their age would also ask similar questions. Why limit only to girls? I am sure that boys would also raise the same questions.

Why limit to girls and boys of the current generation? I suppose, my wife and our mothers too, when they were kids, would have raised these questions, as well. I do not remember if I asked these questions. Do you remember asking these questions in your childhood?

That is precisely the point. Only the children ask these questions. When they go on to become adults, somehow somewhere these questions stop existing to them. Along with their childhood, they leave it behind. What is it?

Every adult would not raise these questions

When the adults read the storybooks to their kids, why would they not be alarmed by the pronoun “He” staring at them all around? When the adults see the cartoons and movies with their kids, why would they not be perturbed by a boy/man saving the day and the world, all the time? At the time of narrating a mythological tale, why would adults not be concerned that it is always adventures and heroics of a God – invariably a man.

An adult takes it for granted that is how things have been, things are and things ought to be (Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero?) It becomes a norm, it gets accepted as a fait accompli, it becomes a part of life. What is it?

Is it the market or the psychology or something else or everything put together

There is a big market for kids’ story-telling material. It is all about imagination, they say, and is limitless / knows no boundaries. Majority of these kids’ stuff, if not all, is dominated by male heroes. Why is this, so-called, imagination only getting limited about the little specific around the gender and nothing else?  Why cannot writers and artists centre their imagination around a girl? Is there no market for a female hero? Would parents not buy such stuff?

Or is it something that is even more deeply ingrained into our psyche? We do not think that women are worth it and can do good stuff on their own. They always have to play second fiddle – a Sita to a Ram and a Chutki to a Chhota Bheem. Imagination, an extension of our thought process, cannot exist in isolation and is a reflection of the story-teller / the society. These story-tellers, irrespective of gender, do not seem to think highly about the female gender, apart from being a side-kick.

I do not seem to get it. Is it the market that won’t accept the girls in the spotlight as the central characters? Is it our (man’s) interpretation of the women and their role in society and life, at large, and women being a party to man’s version of themselves? Or is it something else? Or everything of it? What is it?

Exceptions are not the norm

I know that the situation is not as bleak as I have made it out to be. We have exceptions. There is a Jhansi Ki Rani and there is a Kalpana Chawla. There is an Ela Bhatt and there is a Hima Das. But, that is all. These are the exceptions and not the norm. List down 20 notable women in public life in India, (no, the Bollywood examples do not count), and you will yourself know the status of affairs.

If you choose to live in denial and say that a situation is improving gradually, looking at things optimistically, I have nothing much to say. Just that, coronavirus came and turned our version of normal and acceptable life upside down. It is a forced change, though. Why cannot there be a similar and swift change in our outlook towards girl/women? What is stopping us?

A hero is now considered to be a gender-neutral word and is also increasingly used to refer to a woman (source: https://www.dictionary.com/). A lip-service. In real life, we are far from the notion, nowhere closer, not even started.

I continue to have no answer to my daughters’ questions – Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero? I don’t want them to forget the question as they grow older, unlike their mother and grand-mothers.

What would be your answer? What is it?

PS: Please do not bring the sham of International Women’s Day into the discussion to say that the situation is changing for good. I find it for the worse. I am referring to a change for my daughters’ generation, and not for the nth generation, down the line.

Children And Plants: A Lifetime Of Learning

What could be the prized possession of a child? A toy? A dress? Surely, not chocolate. What could it be? Something that encapsulates childhood innocence, skills and competencies, academics, spending quality time with parents, preparing the child for the world that s/he is going to inherit. What could that be? My take – Plants.

I am not referring to growing own food, exotic species or new-age technology like hydroponics for space and cost is a privilege in India. I am not talking about gardening or even trees. It is just about a simple plant, any plant in any pot with any seed present in any kitchen. It has to be that simple and easy for every child to experience first-hand, nature and environment, and learn to be a part of it.

As I see my twin daughters tending to their plants, I wonder about the aspects in which this activity has impacted their exposure, learning and growing up.

Skills And Competencies

Patience – Plants will not yield to instant gratification requests. Return on efforts will take time.

Failure – Every seed sowed will not germinate. All the efforts might lead to a big nothing.

Discipline – Day-in and day-out the plant needs to be taken care of and watered at a given time.

Ownership – I have sown. I tend to. I grow the plant. That is mine.

Curiosity – How does the plant grow from a seed? The different parts and their functions.

Hands-On – Learn with practice and by doing, and not just by hearing instructions.

Sweating – Opportunities to sweat for a child is few and far in between. Sweating is good.

Getting Dirty – It is not the sanitized and clean environment that boosts immunity, but this.

Cause & Effect – As you sow, so shall you reap. Your efforts, your learning, your returns.

All The Senses – The experiential learning that involves all the five senses, unlike classroom.

I can go on, but that is not the purpose. The skills and competencies that a child learns while tending to plants in beyond an adult’s imagination. And, all this learning is something that a child is not going to forget in a hurry. Rather, it is going to stay with her/him for a lifetime.

Academics

Learning skills and competencies through tending to plants is a non-tangible. It is not conducive to assessment and examinations that an adult and a schooling system are used to. No issues, at all. The learning from plants is amenable to textbook academics too. Just that, it requires a bit of application.

It is Maths time. Numbering, Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Shapes, Weights, Comparison, Time.

It is Language time. Speak and ask open-ended questions. Read and Write about plants and actions.

It is Environment time. Plants themselves are a living environment, a world in a microcosm.

It is Cognitive Development time. Discuss and analyze experiences and predict outcomes.

A humble plant can teach all the academics that a mighty classroom can, that too at a fraction of a cost, time and efforts.

Quality Time

There are just three actors in this entire story – the child, the plant and the adult, a supporting cast. No distractions, just actions and observations. There is nothing but daylight that separates what the child and adult are doing involving all their five senses with the plant.

The togetherness, the bond, the memories that tending to a plant creates has no parallel. There will no repetition and no monotony in all the time spent together. There will be unexpected twists and turns along the way and the child’s reactions to each will lead to stories to savour.

It is not just the plants that get discussed and spoken about, but also the children – how they think, evolve, grow and develop. It is about growing up together, including the adults.

Any Plant Will Do

Even if there are no pots around, just a plate or a broken bucket/vessel will suffice to grow a plant. Coriander and fenugreek from the spices box in the kitchen, peels and leftovers from the cut vegetables, seeds from a fruit that a child ate – anything and everything can be tried out for growing. Seasons do not matter. The place available does not matter.

A requirement is just a willing adult, a handful of soil and a child will surely follow the suit.

A Better Tomorrow

Plants give a chance to children to learn innumerable life skills, overlooked in standard school curriculums, and teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.

It is said that we have to leave a better world for future generations. Tending to plants with children is a small cog in the bigger wheel of creating an environmentally sustainable ecosystem.

There is no better gift than handing down a love of nature for children, starting with a base unit – Plants.

This is how I arrived at what the most revered and sacred possession of a child should be – A Plant. Also, a lifetime of learning.

What would be your take on this subject?

Coronavirus: Life Learnings For Children

Dearest Daughters

We, the humans, thought, believed and acted that life is to be lived in a certain manner. We had notions about living a life, learnt and perpetuated from seeing the world around us. Majority of us scorned and scoffed at the idea that we need a change from what we know as life. And, then came the coronavirus.

We believed that we were the masters of our planet. Our leaders were guiding us on the path to economic glory. We paid lip-service to nature and dis-regarded climate change. We called our planet Mother Earth and abused her in all way possible. There was just no stopping to us – the invincible humans. And, then came the coronavirus.

The coronavirus up-ended our living and brought unthinkable changes to our life (even if temporary), what we have called “life” till now. We reasoned that humans could not live in any other way than what we consider as “life” and surprise of surprises, all of us are still alive.

The Rush-hour

We believed that unless we are a part of the rush hour, we have missed out on life. If we do not see people rushing around us and if we too do not dash ourselves, we are losers. We took pride in being hustlers. We jostled and toppled, pushed and shoved, and felt uneasy when not able to do so.

The coronavirus showed us that life can exist in a slow-lane too. The world moves not because of the people moving around us and self, rather it is independent of us. Now, each one of us is at home, literally. Though, figuratively, we are hustling even now, just that it has become long-distance.

The learning for you – Life can exist without being a part of the rush hour.

The Academic Rat-race

We were taught to believe and we believed that children are an extension of us, adults. If adults are in a rat-race for money and fame, children should be in one too for marks and grades, the academic rat-race. We believed that children cannot exist without the shackles of schools and the current educational system.

Lo and behold. The coronavirus threw the children out of schools. The children are left without the exams and tests, their raison d’etre. Now, the adults are ensuring that the children remain in the academic rat-race with on-line learning. Long live the schools, just that it has become long-distance.

The learning for you – Children can exist even without schools if they live life with their parents.

The Self-sufficiency

In India, we have the tradition of maids and cooks and servants and all. Indians strive to be a developed country but cannot live without the maids and helpers around them. Even the NRIs and OCIs, who are self-sufficient in doing household chores abroad, become third-world citizens when in India, in this regard.

The coronavirus ensured that all the trappings in our lives were removed. In a very different way, coronavirus has made us a developed country. Do we appreciate this? Can we remain like this? Nah, we are itching to get back our maids. We want to be first-world but want the frills of the third world.

The learning for you – Life can be lived independently without anyone to pick behind.

The Pollution-free Environment

The nose is used to breathe polluted air. The ears are used to hear large decibel honking. The skin is used to artificial lighting throughout the day in the confines of closed rooms. The eyes are used to the rapid movement of people and vehicles. The taste-buds are used to eating multi-course meals.

Now, suddenly the coronavirus has turned everything upside down. In every other learning till now, the mankind is trying to ensure that s/he lives in the same way, as earlier, with no perceptible changes – work from home for them, on-line learning for children, somehow to get maids to turn up. But, in this particular case, coronavirus is winning hands down.

The learning for you – Life can also be lived in a pure and unadulterated environment.

A Little Bit Less Is A Whole Lot More

Coronavirus has shown that a little bit less of what we termed as life till now, results in a whole lot more of what life might be and could be. As children, life can also be about picking up stones, nature walk around the house, hearing the chirping of birds and also, being with one’s own family.

Once the coronavirus threat retreats, mankind will press forward with vengeance. We will have to make up for the lost time. Bad habits die hard. I am sure the coronavirus will also fall off the thick-skinned and self-centred humans.

The learning for you – Live Life Sustainably and Sensibly unlike the previous generations before you.

Quit the race.

Language Games And Activities For Kids To Pick Up The Vernacular

This is a guest post by my wife, Nivedita. She runs an experiential outdoor travel enterprise for kids – Dirty Feet. She gets to interact with lots of children in an informal environment and know them from close quarters when children are chilled out and just being themselves. Basis these real-life experiences, she is penning down thoughts on how to keep children engaged and entertained whilst indoors during the coronavirus lockdown. Here goes one for the language games and activities.

The Backdrop

Dirty Feet has been impressing on the need for kids to explore nature and outdoors and to engage with communities through experiential activities and real-life interactions. As the focus shifts indoors and you explore ways to bond with your kids, we wanted to share some thoughts based on our travel insights which might be handy.

Whilst briefing our young travellers about the Dos and Dont’s on Dirty Feet trips, we always suggest that they speak in the vernacular to the extent possible. This is not just to ensure a connect with the communities who only speak the native language but more so because of our realisation that opportunities for kids to pick up vernacular language skills have been increasingly compromised in recent times.

The most alarming part is the reaction that we get from the kids time and again across all age groups – disinterest and dislike. It is not that they don’t love languages. They take great pride in sharing their foreign language skills. German, French, Spanish have many takers but Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada, Tamil are frowned upon.

So we thought why not use this family time at home to kindle a love for our home-grown tongues! Sharing with you a list of simple and fun language games and activities which could get you started in vernacular/regional languages.

Ready To Go

1) The game of the ending letter or simply put word antakshari in the vernacular. The first player says a word. The next player picks up the last letter of that word and has to say a word and this goes on. Any number of players can play this game.

2) The start sound game. Say for 30 seconds or a minute, the players in the group, one after the other are required to share words all starting with that letter. Say for instance ka, ki, pa, pu, anything would work.

3) Categories, will you please name some names of………. Clapping and snapping fingers whilst sharing words of a particular category. A game that builds hand-eye coordination, a sense of rhythm, vocabulary and general awareness skills, all in one go. Begin with simple categories and move on to more interesting and whacky ones. Just remember to do all in the vernacular.

4) Multi-language word game. In the first round, the first player says a word in one language and the rest of the players should follow by stating the word in other languages that they are aware of. The second player gets to begin the next round by saying a word in his/her preferred language.

5) Challenge each other to speak for one minute in the local language.

6) Together, try translating English stories into the vernacular or suggest vernacular subtitles for English movies/cartoons; better still play-act a story in the vernacular.

7) Enjoy the rich variety and beauty of rhymes, action songs and folk songs of different languages by learning and singing together

8) Enjoy the bliss of introducing kids to the songs, books, stories, movies in vernacular that you have grown up with. Also what better time than now to encourage them to call up their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and chat with them in their mother/father tongue(s).

9) Draw out numbers and pictures and tell the names in the vernacular.

10) Roll the dice and make a sentence with that many numbers of words in the vernacular.

11) Read together vernacular storybooks at Pratham and arvindguptatoys.com.

This is just a suggested list to get you started. Trust you are all very resourceful and creative to add many more to this list of language games and activities.

Please do let us know your thoughts. We would love to hear from you.

Mrugavani National Park: Feed A Sambar Deer For The Whole Day

Mrugavani National Park is recommended for a visit should your children/you can spend an entire day feeding one sambar deer. Now, one may wonder if feeding one sambar deer can be the sole purpose of visiting a so-called national park? Yes, it is. And, children can love the experience. Just that, it could have been a lot better.

Do not believe me? Read on. The below is basis the Mrugavani National Park visit in February 2020 with my five-year-old twin daughters.

The Area

Wikipedia page says that this national park covers an area of 3.6 square kilometres or 1211 acres. Telangana tourism website reiterates the same number. I suppose, 1211 acres have to be huge, really huge. Well, the visitors are limited to about less than an acre, or an acre or whatever, that one can walk through in 8-10 minutes, all possible directions.

No hard feelings, though. Nature is better left alone, away from humans. In which case, there is no point in going if the visitors are limited to such a small space.

The Flora and Fauna

Telangana tourism website informs that the park has been home to 600 species of plants and animals. It also mentions that the fauna is as varied as they come. It mentions about some animals as the most striking species for the curious traveller.

Well, they have to be taken at the face value. There is nothing to satiate the curious traveller, that s/he could walk in 10 minutes flat. Whatever trees that are present in the visitor area, none are named. Leave aside, further information about them.

My daughters asked me about the flora and fauna, that they were promised basis my google search. I told them that nature’s gems are better-kept secret. They asked back, then why are we here?

Jungle Safari, Watch Tower, Environmental Education Centre & Museum

We asked for the jungle safari. The driver told us that we will not be able to see anything apart from dry trees. In his suggestion, it was a waste of money and time. We dropped the idea.

We went to the watchtower. The steps were dilapidated and the railing was broken on both sides. It was not safe to climb for five-year children. We dropped the idea.

We went to the Environmental Education Centre. It was locked. There is a Forest Department office within the visitor area. Upon enquiry, we were told that the centre is opened only when someone asks for it. After some 10 minutes, it was opened. A person kept snooping behind us to ensure we do not know what. The information inside looked like a google copy-paste job, fit for a school project of 12-14-year-olds but not for the consumption of five-year-olds. After looking at some animal replicas, the children lost interest in 10 minutes, we walked out and the doors were locked again.

Wikipedia page mentioned a library, a museum, an auditorium and nature walk with guides. I suppose all these were hidden and locked from the visiting public, should they run away with them.

The children and I were getting exasperated.

The Sambar Deer

The girls noticed a sambar deer in the enclosure in the visitor area. They rushed towards the animal. The deer looked expectantly at them. The girls asked if they could feed the animal. I asked a staff person walking by. He shrugged his shoulders and asked us to proceed with leaves as food.

That was it. The girls started. They would have started feeding around 1030 or so. The next time, I looked at the watch, it was 1630. They went on and on and on. There were numerous leaves on the ground, they tweaked some leaves from shrubs, I pulled some leaves from the trees and that is all that we did for six full hours. I fed the children during lunch, and they fed the animal – breakfast, lunch and snacks, all rolled into one.

The sambar deer obliged for the entire time. S/he kept walking along the enclosure railing, but not even once went inside. The girls kept getting company throughout the day from other children in feeding the animal. The other children came and went, and B +ve and O +ve were nonstop.

The Children

It was tiring for me. But, for the girls, it was sheer delight. As an adult, for me, it was like can you please stop now? As children, for my daughters, it was like there cannot be anything better than this.

This is what and who the children are. I got them to visit the national park and all its paraphernalia. Not a single aspect worked, as promised. The adults screwed it up. The children found their amusement, what they ought to be doing as children, which we adults would never comprehend.

We left at 1630 as the guard pushed us out. It was Mrugavani National Park closing time, at 1700 hours.

The girls felt blessed to have got an opportunity to feed one sambar deer for the whole day.

What’s more to life than that?

PS: If it is more for you, please do not visit Mrugavani National Park, it is an outright dud. Trust the Government to be a complete killjoy by making it zilch experiential and ensuring that nobody takes any interest in knowing about the environment, leave aside the conservation.