Category: stories

No more happily ever afters

No more happily ever afters

I have a question today. But before that listen to this story that I shared with the children of The Book Club this Sunday. I’ll keep it short I promise.

The story (The Book Keeper)

… is set in the year 2042. It talks of a scenario where books and writing are extinct. ibooks, laptops, computers, tablets and phones are everywhere. However, there is this one poor Bangladeshi boy, Santanu, who possesses a book (A Bengali adaptation of Matilda). He doesn’t understand the Bengali script so he uses it as a diary, address book, notepad and a scribble pad all in one.

One day the Internet crashes. The parents are angry and the children, restless. They are forced to play outdoors and stumble upon a dilapidated building which happens to be a deserted library. They start to love the place. They read, run around and learn to make up stories. Then one day the Internet comes back and the kids all disappear again back to their electronic world leaving Santanu alone but happy with the books. You can read the full story here. (While you’re there you might like to check out the site. It has some amazing stories from around the world).

The question

So tell me now, does the ending bother you? It did bother me. Would you have thought of altering it before you shared the story with the kids?

I was sorely tempted to do that. I’ve tampered with stories earlier, mostly the so called ‘fairytales’, when the kids were younger. I did away with the gory and the unpleasant, evening out the rough patches making it perfect as it could get.

This time however I let it be. For one, this ending might be more near the truth than the one I have in mind, two – changing it would amount to trolling someone else’s story, three – maybe it’s time to let the kids figure out the situation for themselves. I sure was curious to see their reaction – would they accept it like it’s inevitable or ‘normal’ (Yikes!!) or would they feel saddened like I was?

What the kids had to say

The kids completely loved it – the whole story. There were exclamations of ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’ at the idea of all kids having phones and tabs. But there also were ‘haws’ at the idea of no books. They accepted the story in a way more positive manner than what I’d ever imagined. Rather than a black and white approach they found many angles to it. Most said they liked the ending for Santanu’s sake. They liked that Santanu could enjoy being by himself with just books for company. Some said this wasn’t ‘the end’ at all and that finally the kids got bored of their computers after getting a taste of the good stuff and came back.

It’s such joy to watch children think and talk and discuss. Yet one more time I was made to realise how I underestimate the way they think.

On story telling

On story telling

Doctors say one should start reading to the kids from the time they are born.. or even when they are still fetuses. By those standards we were late starters.

Initially of course the days were a haze of formula mixing and nappy changing. The only story that appealed to me was that of Sleeping Beauty.. sleeping for a hundred years.. bliss, I thought.

Which one to tell?

Then there was the issue of which one to tell. What with fairy tales peppered with evil step mothers and sisters, the choice was limited. (Take Cinderella, Snow White or for my mythology crazy kids – the Ramayan). There were fathers who abandoned their children in the jungle (Hansel and Gretel), and scary endings galore. The Pied Piper who walked away with the kids gives even me goose bumps or Red Riding Hood who was eaten up by the wolf along with her grandma.. positively a no no.

So what’s a mama to do?

Well tired of trying to pick and choose I simply proceeded to sanitize the stories. First to go were all stepmothers replaced neatly by ‘naughty aunty/queen’. Kaikeyi was just a ‘naughty queen’ in Dashrath’s palace.

Then went the scary endings.. Pied Piper was given his money and made to bring back the children, a hunter heard Red Riding Hood and scared the wolf away (the grandma also runs away instead of being eaten up).

Lastly I did away with the death sequences… the evil queen in Snow White falls off the hill ‘never to be seen again’, The troll in the Three Billy Goats is ‘carried away by the river’, the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk simply ‘breaks his head’.

Yet there are questions..
From Naisha: In Jack and the Beanstalk the giant falls so, “His mama must have been sad.. she was nice, she helped Jack and still Jack hurt her son.” 
This one from Hrit: “When Ravan died was Vibhishan sad?”
And another one from him: “Bad logon ko mar dena chahiye mama?”

The best bet…
… I found were our good old Panchatantra stories. Then there are the Pooh and Dora series which were just perfect.

The doctor says…
The counselor advised me to make up animal stories for the kids. So there are stories about…

A rabbit who used to push other animal kids (for Hrit when he’s naughty in the playground)
A calf who laughed at someone who fell down (for both of them)
A lion cub who learnt to make new friends (for when we moved to Pune)
A teddy bear who is naughty at the doctor’s (to while away time at the clinic)
A pup who wouldn’t come home from play in time (to get them home after playtime)
A Jack story about a boy who is naughty at a birthday party (for when I have to send the kids alone to parties)

However what I’m most proud of is my Cocktail Story.. that’s for the time when Hrit and Naisha both want a story of their choice and there’s time for just one so I give them a cocktail and wonder of wonders — They love it.