R, my youngest child, has been into Mythological Amar Chitra Kathas...for sometime now. I had bought a whole mythological set (about 250 of them), the last time I had gone to India. Every moment she gets, when she's leaving to school or, when she is back from school,..she's behind the sofa in the corner of the family room..beside the fireplace reading them..again and again..Staring at the illustrations of those celestial women, their clothes..and the war depictions, the blood and illustrations of rage. Its very funny how she pronounces, Gandhari or Pandavas or any name from that myriad collection of Indian mythological characters.
Earlier, her picks used to be .. all those books who's cover has beautiful women on it..The book “Urvashi” is in tatters!! With four girls at home...seems like that was the most read book :-)
Now..she's past it and picks whatever interests her. She was too surprised to know that a father can go to war with his own sons.
“How can a Daddy wage a war with his own children, Mama?!”
She’s baffled and is happy for Luv and Kush, when they win the war. She loves them even because she herself has identical sisters. She identifies with their love for each other as brothers, their loyalty for each other.
She is confused that a husband can banish his wife from the kingdom for no reason. That men can order the clothes off of a lady while the husbandS watch. She's fascinated with Krishna and his powers. She wonders if she will also be helped by him when she’s in trouble. She's amazed that a lady can give up her eyes..just because her husband is blind. She’s feels wonder at the power of Parvathi.
Lots of reality for a child to whom life is still in black and white. Her questions make me speechless, unable to find a convincing answer for that age group. Gets me thinking if these books are even meant for small children.
In India, as we grew up, we didn't make such distinctions when we were kids..we were exposed to these comics without giving a second thought if it was age appropriate. And we accepted the good people as good and bad as bad. We never realized that Ravana was actually a very learned person. He was called Ravana Brahma because his knowledge was comparable to that of Brahma's. Or, why Kumbakarna was always sleeping. Or, we never questioned why Sita was banished to the forest just because of some Dhobi's words. We didn’t question if Rama was right or Lakshmana for that matter.
There are some very interesting..clever tidbits in the stories though..like the concept of “Akshayapatra”, or the concept of “Chandi”. Lots of stories that relate to our lives..For one …My kitchen sink and my Laundry are my “Akshayapatras”
When a child questions you, why somebody behaves bad, its so easy to answer why ..by saying "Because he is a bad guy". But, if a person is supposed to be righteous, and comes upon a behavior not befitting him/her, then, how do we explain a child why they behave like that...How do we explain the GREY part of life?! How do we explain the decisions people make in life?!
I remember reading somewhere that its very important for a child's world to be Black and White. They have to learn to perfectly distinguish between good and bad behaviors because they are not mature enough to make appropriate decisions or, even decipher people's good and bad intentions. There should be no confusion. It should be clear to them..A particular behavior is either good or bad. No middle ground. But, such comics make such things very confusing. Don't you think?!
Richa: Mama...I find myself cheering for Rama as well as the bad guys (Ravana's army). I don't know why!