The Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin is not a strange mammal in our world.
Sightings, advertisements, and talk about dolphin cruises have been heard by the MOP children, so it was a relatively simple exercise to glide the dolphin into our conversation of the week across MOP Sites.
Krystal found a video on dolphin behaviour that set our session on a high note. Many eyes got glued to the screen fascinated that Dolphins make sounds, swim in pods and are so playful. There was a keen sense of awe that we had brought visual media into the MOP site. A first !
The key words that emerged from this short video were
happy – playful – friendly – group
We then brought out a word building game that allowed the children to arrange words from letter tiles. The words that emerged here were
flood – spear -river – drown
We asked the children what connections can these 2 sets of words have ? This word association exercise has come to a good fruition in our program, because the children’s minds move furiously and strong ideas emerge that set the tone for the story as well as build on prior knowledge and strengthen talk.
Multiple story ideas later – Anita said, ‘now, show us the book !’ I often marvel at how the pattern of the session, the main purpose of the lesson plan has become rooted in the children. They know that a book will emerge , that it will consolidate or add to their ideas and there is a joyful anticipation.
So, I revealed Putul and the Dolphins and we read with growing concern and sensitivity about Putul and her choices and the events that unfolded in this book published by Tulika, written by Mariam Karim Ahalawat and Illustrated by Proiti Roy.
When the key vocabulary emerged in the reading, there were connections being made and comments of ‘spear’ teacher ? and ‘people eat dolphins’ and connections to some of their own houses that are on the bank of the ‘nalla’ and the home of Putul .
At the point in the story when Putul’s mum admonishes her to not think about the dolphins but rather about their own plight, I closed the book. Eager, engaged faces looked at me wondering what next. I asked the mighty question – what would you do ?.
I learn EVERYTIME from my children. With the exception of 2 children across sites , all the rest felt that Putul had to save the Dolphins. But why, I declared, outraged, the family is hungry, the flood has come ,they have no food and the Dolphins bring money … Ashwini agreed, she said “yes, Money will allow them to move house and be safe”, but the others- hushed her and scowled at her . No, they felt, money was not as important as saving the Dolphins.
A book like Putul and the Dolphins allows us to engage with ideas around moral dilemmas that are not often easy or authentic to find. A good book like this, builds up the context to the situation,sets the tone of the plot, climaxes to a conflict and allows the reader to immerse him/her self into the dilemma. We decided it was wise to hear what Mariam Karim Ahalawat would do. What is the author’s point of view in this story and it revealed itself as we read to the end.
There was a deep sense of justice and fair play at the end of the reading and even Ashwini felt that Putul had made the right choice. We wondered what else that community might have done, now that the Dolphins are special and not farmed/ fished. Khushi thought people might pray to the mammal to thank her for saving Putul and others thought that the Dolphin can become a tourist sight seeing event , like we have in Goa ! So many ideas, flowed out of this story but also so much of feeling and sensitivity was raised by this story.
Before we moved on, I introduced Tulika’s new book on Dolphins; Ira the Little Dolphin but Shekhar Dattatri. A gateway into non fiction, the children pored over the photographs, awed by the impact and hurt man made actions and devices inflict on these mammals and pointed out the similarities and the differences between the Indo Pacific Humpback and the Irawaddy Dolphin.
As we began to pack up our books and make our way to the van we looked towards the coast affirming that we have these gentle beings close at hand and that two special books brought our worlds and understanding closer together.