Oct 05, 2016

What the Goat said to the Goatherd

Deepa Krishnan

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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