They took a few sarees from their mother, collected a whole lot of newspapers from every house in the society, even did rounds dressing up as Lord Rama or Hanuman to collect some donations to make an effigy of the Ravana. “Total time waste”, a woman standing next to me said. I am sorry but I beg to differ. The very essence of this festival is amazing. Nine days before Dussehra, I see these kids working like a team.
The activities in which the kids are involved during nine days are actually ten lessons to different life skills. We just need the perspective to see things differently.
Planning and Decision Making: The come together and hold meetings to make a plan, as to how they are going to collect resources and funds to make a small Ravana effigy and to perform a small skit before the effigy burning ceremony. I see them discussing things, I see them writing down important things and then making a plan of action.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: You should see them when they act all matured to solve the issues. So, once they had to ask all residents in our society to donate whatever they want in cash, kind or any other way to help them for their Ramayana skit and Ravana effigy, they had planned to dress up the youngest ones as Lord Rama and Sita. One of the boys brought his yellow dhoti for the little boy who had to dress up as Lord rama but it was too long. There was a crisis, they discussed and came out with a solution. They used a yellow dupatta borrowed from me 😛 and used it as a dhoti, another red dupatta became the stole.
Then one of the residents said, if the dhoti’s size was big they could have dressed another boy as Ravana but the kids here are too intelligent. They know that the youngest is definitely the cutest and it is easier for them to collect the donations with a cute ambassador. I mean, how sharp their minds are.
Creative thinking: I have seen the kids actually searching the net for scripts to present a small skit on Ramayana, I have seen them making changes in the script to make it more interesting. Last year they had made changes in Sita’s swayamvar, kids dressed as Charlie Chaplin, Michael Jackson, a few funny Rajas and a beautiful and Graceful Lord Rama. People could not stop laughing and they managed to show their talent as dancer or comedian as well.
Effective Communication and Negotiation: Now this one is the best. These little magicians, both boys and girls, have mastered the skill of influencing us. They are great in negotiating and bargaining. THey wanted help for the costume, for raw material to make the effigy and help for make up. They managed to convince us in such a manner that we actually participated, I did the make up, someone else helped with the costume and negotiating for the donation was amazing, they used everything, sweet faces, innocence, intellectual convincing and what not.
Interpersonal Relationship Skills: What amazed me was how the preteens and teens worked together and talked to the electrician to make him understand what they wanted and how. The were not confused. They were prepared, they had a written plan and they acted responsibly. Half the amount was paid in advance while rest was given in the end. They were polite yet I could see the authority in their voices, it showed that they were serious about what they were doing.
Teamwork: Their best asset was the way they worked as a team. Roles and responsibilities were divided but whenever someone needed help with his or her department I saw them going out of their way to help each other. Even when elders were there to take care of the last step that is use of crackers in the effigy and a few other things. It was only the kids who decided what they wanted and how. They sat together, discussed situations, solved the problem and then came to us to ask for help. Not even once we could see any one of them being unhappy about the decision. They worked collectively.
Optimism: So during the skit, something happened that could have deterred anyone’s confidence but these kids have not learnt to give up. As Sita (a little boy, cutest of the lot) was standing with Ravana and Vibhishan was talking to him. Ravana mistakenly stepped on Sita’s saree. The little boy playing Sita caught hold of his saree and suddenly we saw Kumbhakarana coming from backstage, picking up Sita in his arms and exit. People laughed and commented things but nothing can let these kids down. The tallest one was playing Ravan, almost 15 years old, he suddenly picked up Shah Rukh Khan’s accent and said, “eeeehh! Bade Bade skits mein aisi choti choti baatein hot rehti hai senorita!” Everyone laughed and then they continued the skit.
The effigy wasn’t very grand, just a three feet tall Ravana but as it burnt with flames soaring high I could see the light of lessons these kids have learnt through these celebrations. I could see a strong team standing in front of me, feeling proud. Today, we often think these activities to be a time waste but this is how we can keep our kids connected to our traditions and values. They learn about our culture, they work as a team and learn the skills that are going to help them all through their life. A little guidance from our side and these simple celebrations will lead to big things in life.
Image Courtesy:Internet (Only for reference)