Folklore as a teaching aid

Posted: March 8, 2011

It is long since I wrote or read anything. No particular reason for that except that I was a little busy preparing for a talk that I gave on the 1st of March on Folklore and Environment an Indian perspective as part of a seminar organized by the Oriya Department of our college. I must say that the talk was well received and I can actually pat my back for delivering it in Hindi. This was the first time I was addressing the audience in Hindi and I surprised myself more than others by showing a fairly good command over the language. Years of interaction with Hindi speaking people on a daily basis has actually fetched results. The credit goes to my colleagues and friends and discredit if any is entirely my own. Thank you one and all.

I think I should stop blowing my own trumpet and share with you a cute little story narrated by the other speaker Dr. Mahalik. Of course his talk was interspersed with several stories from Oriya folklore that were relevant to the conservation of the environment but the following one stood out. The essence of the story as I understood it is as follows-

A certain mighty and powerful king wanted to beautify the garden next to his palace. In the middle of the garden was a banyan tree that seemed to be spoiling its beauty. He ordered that the tree be felled. After all he was an all powerful king and it was well within his rights to do as he pleased. He therefore ordered his men to chop of the banyan tree that was nothing but an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful garden. The kings men went to chop off the banyan tree when the tree spoke asking the men to wait for just one more day before felling it. They saw no harm in conceding to a seemingly harmless request by the tree and granted the tree its wish. That very night the banyan tree appeared to the king in his dream.

Oh, King! Said the tree. Why do you wish to chop me off? I am just a tree and I am not harming anyone. Why don t you let me be?

The king was annoyed and angry at the audacity of the tree that had dared to question his will.

You stand right in the middle of my garden spoiling its beauty and you have the audacity to ask me for an explanation. I am the king of this country and I will do just as I please. You will be cut down tomorrow.

Of course said the tree. You have every right to do as you please. However, there is a small request that I wish to make. Will you just grant me just one wish?

The king saw no harm in granting just one request to the tree that would in any case be felled the following day. So he agreed to grant the tree its wish.

You have every right to cut me. Said the tree. after all I am occupying the central location of your beautiful garden thereby spoiling its beauty. However, there are so many birds that have made their nests on my branches and others that perch on my branches when they are tired. And what about the squirrels that run up and down my trunk as well as other life forms that have made their niche in me? It is my request that you make some alternative arrangement for them before chopping me down. And ask your men to cut me into small pieces so that the life forms that flourish in the soil beneath me are not harmed when my huge branches fall down.

The tree s request had the king thinking about the truth behind its words. He felt ashamed that a banyan tree should be so concerned about the welfare of other life forms when he was concerned only about his own pleasure. He revoked his order and let the tree remain right where it stood – in the middle of the palace garden.

The seminar has set me thinking. I wonder if I could get hold of such stories and translate them for children? Dr. Mahalik spoke of eco-lore being an offshoot of folk lore. The generation of pre – school and primary school children need to be encouraged to think about the recycling of resources and conservation of the environment. My initiative could be just a small step in this direction. I welcome ideas from one and all of you to get me started.

The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its

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