“No Aunty, I don’t want to participate in the Rangoli competition, Boys don’t do Rangoli, its for girls..”, Said one boy student when I announced the Rangoli competition for the class Annual celebration a month ago.
Then I explained all of them about Rangoli, that it’s a creative expression of art through colors, patterns etc.. The way you do drawing & painting, Rangoli is another medium to express your creativity… But guess kids and specially boys were not in the mood to listen. Another boy interrupted immediately “But Aunty, in our house our maid (domestic helper) draws Rangoli so why should I do that.”
Our discussion kind of took a different turn because of the gender and labour. I understand some kids are genuinely not interested in arts or sometimes science but when we hear such reasons for not participating in the competition then it is a serious concern. I realised that the actual reasons are different than boy’s interest in Rangoli. I have never faced this situation before… so far, either parents said No, on their child’s behalf or boys didn’t show up at the last minute for the Rangoli competition, but this was the first time I have heard boy’s reactions, opinions about why they are not participating and I must say, I was surprised to hear them.
That was the time I realised, if I force these boys and make this competition mandatory few of them might participate, unwillingly, but then I thought, as a teacher I need to help them understand the dignity of labour, which means respect each other, respect each and every job done honestly, never look down on others or label them as below your level or dignity. After knowing this concept if boys want to participate then I could say they are participating with interest. Although for such kind of education parents help and support is very much needed and I am happy that few parents seriously showed interest. This time more boys participated in the Rangoli competition than before.
I still remember during my growing years, every evening, my siblings and I would recite prayers and tables and then we used to touch elders feet to take their blessings (Namaskar). There was an unsaid-unwritten rule in our house that if anyone including the cook-Gardner or any other domestic helper who was present that time then we had to take their blessings too by touching their feet. In fact, we never asked any question why should we bow down & touch domestic helper’s feet etc. It was taught to us that we all are ‘human beings’ first and we should treat each other with respect irrespective of someone’s profession, education & gender.
But now times have changed, our kids raise their voices if we ask them to do something similar OR something not acceptable to them because of their pre-set notions. Now a days kids are curious to know everything possible before doing anything, they have a series of why, how, when, which is good but then it increases our responsibility to explain them, guide them properly. Two years ago, one evening , when my daughter finished her evening prayers and took my blessings , my domestic helper was also there so I asked my daughter to take her blessings too… The moment she heard me saying that, my daughter was shocked, she looked puzzled, she took few moments to digest that thought but when I reminded her again she did it, of course unwillingly and rushed to her room. Although the helper was more than happy to receive all the respect but once my helper left I had a long talk with my daughter, we discussed a lot about giving respect, dignity of labour, I shared my childhood experiences with her and made her understand this concept. I know my daughter has understood this concept very well and knows its importance too in fact she now follows it and educates her younger brother whenever needed but still because of the peer pressure (none of her friends acknowledged this gesture wholeheartedly) she is still little uncomfortable about accepting this in front of everyone. I know she is young, it will take some time to act on it & being a mom, I should give her that needed time to adjust & to accept this new concept but at the same time I also know that, as a parent I have to be consistent in my approach to teach her this important life skill.
Later in the class I talked about this concept in detail, shared my personal experiences, told stories and we had a great interactive session. Kids came up with curious questions-doubts and shared their experiences too. Although sometimes such concepts are difficult to understand for young kids until they personally experience it at home or see their parents or significant others doing it. Needless to say, our children learn from us and our actions speak louder than words. So why not teach our kids, to respect others irrespective of someone’s status, profession, education or gender. I believe, teaching our kids this important life skill can be one of the best gifts we can give them.