Written by Deepali
It was my first story session after a month long Diwali vacation and I was a bit apprehensive and had started doubting my decision about taking ‘Gulla and the Hangul’ to this particular sixth grade as they had nil exposure to any state other then Karnataka and a little bit of Goa and probably very little access to harsh political realities. I had come fortified with images of Jammu and Kashmir, people, clothes, houses, occupations etc. I started with it being a folk tale and one boy said that all elders make stories for us so that we may learn something and then over the years it becomes a lok katha. I asked if anybody knew the name of the topmost state in our country map and Anil (name changed) said Jammu and Kashmir. And what a super start it was! He mentioned that there are terrorists who try to enter our country and our Army prevents them. When I asked what an earthquake means, the class responded by saying bhookamp and again Anil said that recently Nepal had a bhookamp but he was not sure if Jammu and Kashmir had one. Although J&K did have floods…..my heart was bursting with pride and happiness and a bit of shame about how I had prejudged them. I asked him how he knew about all these things and he replied by listening here and there and sometimes the TV. As we started reading the story, some kids wondered happily how every one loves fried fish for lunch, they also very easily recognized the Hangul as a deer. As we read on about the Pheran worn by Gulla, Raju (name changed) jumped up excitedly and said he knew about it. Prone as he is to distract the class with all kinds of antics, none of us wanted to take him seriously but I went ahead and asked him how he knew about it. He stood up excitedly and said he had seen the Hindi movie, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ in which they wear pherans and there is Kashmir and the Army and even the Tangdhar valley. I had never seen so much excitement and interest in his eyes ever as he sat through the entire story without resorting to his usual antics. Many felt that the Spirit of snow could have been Gulla’s mother, who had finally found him. The class was surprised when I read what Gulla wished for. Every child in the class felt that he would have wished for his mother. After the story, a couple of children recounted how they had got lost in the Yellama Jatra and in a small town Vasco da Gama. And both were petrified and had started crying. In the first case, the police announced her name on the loudspeaker but as none turned to claim her, somebody dropped her to the place where she was staying and in the second case, a kind samaritan put him in the correct bus to send him home.
What a rich and interactive class it was, putting all my apprehensions to rest and once again teaching me to always expect the unexpected.