It is early in the morning. Way too early for eight-year-olds to be up on a weekend. I sip on my coffee as Pattu shuffles a pack of cards in her hand.
“Different groups of people,” she reads, pauses and answers with a dramatic voice “Diversity”
I reach for the cards and the first that I look at is the description of what culture is. The next is about immigrants. If the coffee did not wake me up, I am alert now.
We engage, my children and I. “Know of any immigrants?” I ask.
Ammu replies “American Indians” I shake my head in horror and get into how they are the indigenous folks and everyone else is an immigrant. Letting that sink in, Pattu points to me. I beam and respond, “why yes! I am an immigrant.”
Talk meanders to the explorer who “found” America. We talk about history and the perspectives of the people who shape what we read in books and at school. Having painted Columbus for the flawed person he is, I rest, realizing perhaps I may have gone overboard in my zeal.
I tone down, advice my children to question everything and change topics. They run off to play with Darla and I finish my now cold coffee.
Growing up, History and Geography were subjects I tolerated. I studied because there were exams and groaned when I got the years for the various battles of Panipat confused. I breathed a sigh of relief when those subjects were left behind after tenth grade.
In the past few years with the proliferation of bloggers and self-styled historians, I am rediscovering the History of India and specifically South India through a different lens. I visit the temples I have been to many times taking time to linger on the details, to marvel at what was accomplished many thousands of years ago. To witness living History is a miracle in itself.
I wish learning had focussed on facts, leaving interpretation to the students. I wish we had projects that included interviewing our grandparents and great-grandparents affording us an opportunity to peek at a life so different from ours. I wish for a great many things that are too late to wish for.
I realize I can have a hand in shaping my children’s worldview. To afford them the curiosity, to urge them to question the spin on things, to make available alternate versions of the same incidents from two different points of view.
In learning with them, in paying attention to words used to frame topics, by raising questions on how things are worded to give a slant to things, by making them think, I perhaps can recoup part of my childhood. The part I wish had been different.
In shaping their worldview, perhaps mine will evolve.