What the Goat said to the Goatherd

Deepa Krishnan

Author: Deepa Krishnan

Date: Wed, 2016-10-05 10:38

Every year, we celebrate Gandhi Jayanti at Abhyudaya. This year, two of our children enacted a skit. It was a conversation between a goatherd and his goat. I found it both imaginative and thought-provoking.

Here's how the skit goes: The goatherd is cruel and doesn't take care of the goat's welfare. The goat decides to speak out. She tells the goatherd about the inherent rights of each living creature, about compassion for all. When the appeal to the goatherd's better nature doesn't work, the goat says she will fast unto death, if she is not treated well. She has heard about this form of protest from her aunt, a goat who lives at Gandhi's Sabarmati ashram. The conversation then veers to Gandhi's beliefs, at the end of which the goatherd promises to change his ways.

I was enchanted with the power of the children’s imagination. How cleverly they introduced Gandhi into the skit! 

I called the two children to my side and then I spoke about raja and praja, the ruler and the ruled. The two exist in a mutually dependent relationship, although the ruler is definitely more powerful. We discussed power structures.

What do the poor do, when faced with a powerful oppressor? Do they have a voice? How do they deal with the inequality? When I asked these questions, I noticed that the children's faces changed. Some went really quiet. With a pang, I realised that they were all too familiar with lopsided power structures.

I needed to give them some courage. So I explained the sources of Gandhi's strength: the great inner core that came from following the path of dharma. Being morally correct, walking the righteous path, this was at the heart of Gandhi's strength against the might of the British empire. We talked about concepts of non-violence and satyagraha, we spoke about some of the events of our freedom struggle, and the great sacrifices the country made. 

It was a sobering yet inspirational day for me. When you speak about such things to children, you begin to hold yourself to higher standards. I am struggling with my own expectations from myself.

In the coming months, I am going to do some audio-visual lessons on India's freedom struggle. I need to bring history alive for the children, so that they become aware of how precious our independence is.


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Prof. Deepa Krishnan has brought out the subtle art of story-telling and its power to bring change in this beautifully written blog. Gandhi’s ideology has been practised in the society for a long period. But how to explain that simply to children? How to inflict this ideology to the young minds who have the power to bring the change in future? No traditional history book, no theoretical article or no motivational speech can help the kids to understand the Gandhian principles. Surprisingly, the children themselves came upon the innovative idea of introducing Gandhi through story-telling in form of a skit: What the Goat said to the Goatherd. At the same time, Prof. Krishnan has shown how to utilize such a simple context of a skit to teach the underprivileged children about complex concepts of power, politics and values. These children are those who have been oppressed by the society for a long time. The stories of Gandhi’s unconditional struggle with few resources against the mighty British empire give them hope. They inspire them by showing the value of independence after struggles and sacrifices. It is an enriching lesson to the teacher as well. It creates thoughts in the teacher’s mind and helps her to understand the psychology of the children in a better way. It motivates the teacher to explore many such innovative avenues of inspiring them. We thank Prof Krishnan and Abhyudaya for their constant efforts to bring changes in the children’s lives.

The fact that the skit sends a strong message even today is something we should all be worried about. I think that we all need to have that friend or relative who can tell us, when we see injustice we too need to raise our voice and most importantly understand that we may have to sacrifice for a better tomorrow. The blog speaks rightly about the strength one develops from following the path of dharma. We often forget and take it for granted the freedom we enjoy. It is important that we learn about the importance of freedom and the triumph behind it. In the same way it is our duty to question those who take away freedom from us or any fellow human being and at the same time we should also have the wisdom to understand that freedom comes at a price. In the digital age when information and data is accessible to everyone, news travels fast and it dies even faster. These days, for any news there is a lot of support on the social media, thanks to the bandwagon effect. But often our support and urge to do something is confined to the four walls or on the digital wall and for some it is just another topic for a tirade. And most importantly there is too much noise to even see the real problem. Like the goat’s aunt, this understanding and the ability to raise voice has to be taught and working towards instilling these values into the kids is commendable. I extend my support and prayers towards the success of the cause.

The art of storytelling has a significant impact on the minds of people especially children as they capture the exact essence of the subject through it. The skit mentioned in the blog has beautifully explained the importance of speaking out in our difficult times. If it is not done then the consequences you face and the sacrifices you have to make are tremendous. It is also important how you protest, in case the situation is not in favor of you or you are being deprived of our basic rights. The children mentioned in the blog have conveyed the message of protesting by Satyagraha quite adroitly. They introduced Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings in a new way, which their peers will remember for a long time. In the world where there is violence everywhere like never before, the Gandhi’s way of rebellion is very much necessary to tackle things. It has also seen results like the Anna Hazare Lokpal movement in Delhi. They convinced the government to bring the Lokpal bill with their peaceful means within a short time with the help of Satyagraha means, which would not have been possible if they opted for any violent means. That movement also saw participation from schoolchildren who did not know much about the cause but participated by getting motivated by the means of protest. India being a peace loving country, it is important to follow Gandhi’s footsteps to convey its message to the world. The author mentioned that she saw a change in facial expression of students when she talked about the power structures and oppression in India; it shows the young are aware of the current situation and is ready to fight with it if given proper nourishment. The author’s vision of teaching students the lessons of India’s freedom struggle through the new techniques is commendable and I wish her all the very best.

Dear Mam, The blog beautifully describes the power of storytelling which can bring a change in the world. Sometimes you are at a very low point in your life and you just need a strong and mature sign to get up and take your curve from the low to the high. We just have to convert the failures into heroics by tying up the loose ends. The skit mentioned in the blog clearly shows how Gandhi’s beliefs which when explained clearly brought the change in the goatherd but instead if the goat would not have drawn the courage to speak up could have resulted in dire consequences and sacrifices. Therefore we can feel how powerful the influence and the engagement can be due to which people become part of real action and real change occurs. In the latter half of the blog, we can see how the student’s expression change when comes the questions about the inequality and the poor vs the powerful. But soon some inspirational talk and the real life stories helps to bring a change in the listeners. This can be attributed to the fact that stories helps make a powerful connection with the listeners. They tend to connect themselves with those who would have struggled with problems and found the ways to overcome them.It is just about making the unaware and conservative population change into more of liberal type. But for this change to occur, one has to provide a ray of hope or path for others to walk upon. And all these situations do occur in each one of our life but all we need is one who can just connect with our prospects and engage with us directly to bring a transformation of some kind. Finally I would like to appreciate all the efforts undertaken by the author and wish her the best in future in bringing significant changes in the lives of the needful ones.

Indeed Ms. Krishnan, after going through your blog, it made me feel connected and reminds me of a recent memory. It was an incidence which my wife discussed with me couple of months back. Being the teacher in a private sector school, she often discusses about weakening of knowledge structure in the CBSE pattern and relative impact on the students. But, one day she told me about a student of 10th standard, who innocently asked her that “Ma’am one side we talk about equality then why education is not same for rich and poor in an independent country?” Saying so, she mentioned that for a moment it was even difficult for her to answer immediately, but she could able to convince him on his doubt. Same day we discussed the topic for half an hour. And I asked myself, was that child asking something wrong? I don’t think so, because when we talk about equality, then why we put it aside for the prime and basic needs like education. And this similar educational inequality perpetuates to the economic, political and especially mental inequality about caste & culture. I often heard from people of independence era that when we became independent, we were only Indians who used to understand each other. But now republic India has different classes, which differentiate and moreover divides India in societies of Strong & weak, Rich & Poor and as you have mentioned Raja & Praja. I have seen children asking their parents that why NATIONAL ANTHEM being sung in the movie theaters? Does attaining a standing position on the national anthem and patriotic song justifies our return to our country? I don’t feel so, it is more than that. Self-determination need to be feel by these young souls as they are the seeds who bring real freedom in later life. But, despite these all known problems, I strongly believe that these young ones are the real future of independent India and if we direct them in a right direction, they will certainly rise and understand the real meaning of independence.

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