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Shyamchi Aai – Bringing up children


Shyamchi Aai - Book Cover from edition by Pune Vidyarthi Gruh Prakashan. Image courtesy - prashantb.wordpress.com. Click for larger image.

Shyamchi Aai - Book Cover from edition by Pune Vidyarthi Gruh Prakashan. Image courtesy - prashantb.wordpress.com. Click for larger image.

Spare the rod

There is an exceptional story from Indian पौराणिक pauranik texts on bringing up children.

Yashoda-ma, Krishna’s foster-mother, angry with Krishna for some prank, asks him to open his mouth, to see what he was eating. After some threats by Yashoda-ma, Krishna finally opens his mouth. And what Yashoda-ma sees is the entire creation in Krishna’s open mouth.

The shadow of Satan

Children, in Indic society, are seen as nandlala नंदलाला and balagopal बालगोपाल. On the other hand, in the Desert Bloc, naughty children a result of Satan’s influence. In Christian theology, children are born in sin. Children in Urdu are admonished for शैतानी shaitani – meaning behave like Satan.

This starkly brings out Indic attitudes compared to Desert Bloc. Reading Jane Eyre (on Adele Varens) or Charles Dickens children, one can see this negative attitude towards children. This was subdued, in modern West, partly and possibly, due Maria Montessori’s avant-garde  ideas on teaching children. Montessori taught the West that children learn during play. Play is part of the learning process, Montessori opined.

English speaking India

In modern times, in India this theme was explored by the Marathi writer, Pandurang Sadashiv Sane (better known as Sane Guruji) in his best-seller, Shyamchi Aayee – Shyam’s Mother.

Except for the fresh coat of oil paint, nothing much has changed in the 8×10 feet cell of Circle 4 in Nashik Road Jail, where Pandurang Sadashiv Sane (better known as Sane Guruji) wrote Shyamchi Aayee – one of the most moving and inspiring works in Marathi literature.

The book deals with his childhood in the Konkan with special emphasis on his mother’s influence on him.

The dimly-lit cell and high prison walls may not be the ideal settings for a writer, but for Sane Guruji (1899-1950) it was just fine. He finished writing the classic inside his prison cell (Circle 4) in just five days, between February 9 and 13 in 1933.

Sane Guruji was sentenced to jail for around one year after he participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930. (via Sane Guruji gets lost in the details, Lifestyle – Sunday Read – Mumbai Mirror).

Still from film - Shyamchi Aai (Image courtesy - http://default19in.blogspot.com). Click for larger image.

Still from film - Shyamchi Aai (Image courtesy - http://default19in.blogspot.com). Click for larger image.

Spreading ripples

Translated into Hindi, Japanese and English, the book was also made into a film. It won the first national award for Best film. Later on, the film version, triggered a satire, on how a ‘modern’ Shyamchi Mummy behaves.

With such an ideological inheritance, to see India top in female foeticide, makes me search for the external ‘stimulus’ behind this behaviour.

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