The huge park was filled with people of all ages. Little kids playing happily on the swings, slides and the merry-go-rounds; walkers and runners; parents chit-chatting away with other parents; young couples leaning on each other’s shoulders and senior citizens discussing about everything under the sun. It seemed like a beautifully painted picture. But there was something hidden under the beautiful canvas.
Neha, Shanti and Sheetal
Little Neha and her best friend Shanti were playing on the see-saw. Their classmate Sheetal ran towards them to join them.
Shanti immediately told Neha, “Let’s not play with Sheetal”.
Neha was confused, “But why shouldn’t we play with her?”
Shanti: I am not sure. But sometime ago, something happened. I think Sheetal talks too much and tells lies. I don’t remember exactly.
Neha: I thought we were supposed to be friends with everyone.
Shanti: Yes. My mom also told me that. But mom is not talking to Sheetal’s mom. Maybe that auntie also tells lies. And when I tell mom I want to go and play with Sheetal, mom says no, do not play at stranger’s house.
Neha: But you and Sheetal live only 2 doors away. Why are you strangers?
Shanti: I don’t know. I am also confused. But mom told that. Maybe they are not good people.
Neha: Ok. I will also not play with Sheetal.
As we are wondering what just happened, the story unwinds. Sheetal and Shanti were indeed neighbours. Their moms had been friends. But a trivial issue led to exchange of words and they decided not to be on talking terms. And they had unknowingly passed on that prejudice to their kids. Shanti’s mom never told Shanti that she cannot be friends with Sheetal. She never told Sheetal and her mom tell lies. She never said they are bad people. However, all of this had been built up in Shanti’s mind. That’s because Shanti’s mom kept bickering about Sheetal’s mom at home and to her friends. Though Shanti never really listened to all of that, she had definitely heard. And the prejudice unknowingly carried forward.
Hari and Kishore
Hari and his son Kishore were entering the park. Hari kept the helmet on top of his parked bike and walked towards the gate. Suddenly, Hari saw a rag picker walking in their direction. Hari immediately turned back, took the helmet in his hand, rechecked if he locked the bike properly went back into the park along with Kishore.
Kishore, who witnessed the entire thing asked “Daddy, why did you bring the helmet?”
Hari: Nothing. Just go and play.
Kishore went on to play. The rag picker continued his work of picking up discarded papers and plastic bottles. As he approached the area where Kishore was playing, Kishore immediately stopped playing and picked up his water bottle and kept it with him. Hari hadn’t told him that the rag picker will steal their stuff. But his tense state had passed on a fear into Kishore. When Kishore asked the question, Hari should have explained that it is important to keep things locked and safe. Instead, he unknowingly passed on his prejudice.
Priya and Nitin
Priya’s mother was old and ailing. Priya was the only daughter and had to care for her mother. Though her mother was not demanding, kept to herself most of the time and hardly spoke anything, Priya felt the burden of having someone to care for. Her mother, on the other hand, just longed to talk to Priya for 15 minutes a day, just a heart-to-heart mother-daughter talk. This request irritated Priya as she felt that she gave enough time for the old lady, still she demanded more time and yelled at her mother.
Priya had brought her son to the park and was chatting with her friend as Nitin played with his friends. Priya was telling how hard it was for her to take care of her mother and how her mother was constantly demanding time from her, in spite of giving her all the comforts.
Nitin was talking to his friend Kishore. Kishore asked him, “Hey Nitin. Why didn’t you come to the park for the last 2 days?”
Nitin: My mom had a cold. She said she couldn’t bring me. When she gets a cold, she is simply asking me to do lot of things. She asks me to fill the water bottles, put clothes in the washing machine, do this, do that and so on. And then she says, come and sit and talk to me about school everyday.
She’s very demanding. Sometimes, I just want to yell at her. But teacher says we shouldn’t yell at elders.
Priya never complained about her mother to Nitin. But she had passed her attitude on. And now, Nitin carried the prejudice.
Dadaji and Guddu
The cute little Guddu was playing on the swing pushed by the swing. The cute little 4 year old was a heart stealer and Dadaji was extremely proud of his grandson: a very fair-skinned, chubby kid with beautiful brown eyes.
They had many workers working for them at their house. Dadaji always ensured that he never collected anything directly from the hand of a butler. His glasses, shoes, paper, coffee everything had to be placed in front of him and he will pick them up.
Guddu got down from the swing and ran towards a little boy selling a bubble stick. Guddu took 30 rupees from his dadaji, placed the money on a box in front of the dark-skinned boy and told him “Now, take this money and place the bubble stick in front of me”. The boy did as he was told and Guddu picked up the bubble stick and ran ahead to play.
Dadaji never told Guddu that you should not collect things from someone who was dark-skinned. Instead, he unknowingly passed on his prejudice.
As parents and teachers, we teach our children to be friendly with everyone. We tell our children not to fight. We tell our children not to curse or yell. We tell our children not to lie. We tell our children to treat everyone equally. But, in reality, we do not follow anything. We are not easily forgiving like kids. We don’t forget. We carry grudges, we carry immensely unwanted pride. And we carry lot of prejudices. Children may be easily forgiving, but they are also big learners and observers. Let us not pass on our prejudices to our children. Let us learn from them. Let the canvas be really as beautiful as it looks.