Talking to the 6 year old in me

Last weekend – as our dear friend Rebecca agreed to babysit Sahana – we decided to go watch a movie together! Just me and Sangita. Sangita picked a non-commercial movie called – The Sessions – to watch. I had no clue as to what the movie is about. When it started out with a man who is paralyzed – I was expecting a miracle and thinking that the movie will end in a happy ending by Mark getting better! (It’s based on a real story of Mark O’Brien). How lame of me.

The movie is very touchy and moving. It shows a completely basic level of human nature which we don’t encounter in a day to day life. No drama, just great stuff. There is one scene in the movie which moved me a lot and I have been thinking about it a lot. In one of the scene – Helen Hunt who is the sex surrogate asks Mark – who is getting upset about how he is doing – to close his eyes and imagine the time when he was 6 years old in a nice place. Not in the body of the 6 year old, but as if he is watching the 6 year old version of him. Then she asks him to tell that 6 year old – There is nothing wrong with him, he is not the reason for his disability.

That was really moving. The 6 year old in me keep banging on my door asking for me to talk to him. After a lot of thought, I relented. I imagined a time when I was 6 year old. This was 1980, so we were in Bapatla, AP. After my school the best place to play was in a big pile of sand in our backyard. I would take a bunch of bricks and make them bus, car etc and drive them around – often resulting in some accidents. I watched my 6 year old playing for a long time and then approached him and said these 3 things-

  1. There is nothing wrong with you
  2. You don’t have to be perfect
  3. You are loved, always

I ¬†know that this may sound very kooky – but there are 2 things to take into consideration. First, if you study time. I mean the time time, you will know that past and future are nothing but ideas – temporal placement of events in our minds. They don’t exist. To add a meta-physics level to it, you will learn that everything is happening at this moment. Irrespective of how hard it is for linear mind to understand it – I believe in that. The 6 year old is playing with those bricks right now as I type this. Second, the emotional release it had on me was immense. I just couldn’t take it and it explains why I had to wait like 5 days before I talked to the 6 year old – even for my imagination.

My Second Childhood

I grew up in India. All my education was in India. The only reason I got out of country was for opportunity and better life. With Sahana in my life I am experiencing something extraordinarily new that I believe wouldn’t happen again in my life. I am experiencing a second childhood. I have many bits and pieces of memory from my childhood. I remember some sweet ones and some sour ones. But what I am experiencing now is totally different.

I am part and parcel of American culture, but mostly contemporary. I mean if you refer to something from India which has roots in every kids childhood there, I would get it – but if you refer something related to American culture which every kid born here gets it, I probably wont. I mean I can read up history and politics and understand it – but I won’t be getting the essence of growing up here in this country – ever. Well until recently.

After Sahana turned like 14 months old – she has become more active with couple of things – TV shows (not much), language & education. Tv shows are fascinating because I had the same response Sahana has when she watched Elmo. I was surprised how well made is Sesame Street. When we watch Elmo – trust me I watch it with same intensity like Sahana does and I love it.

Language – Talking with Sahana and teaching her words has been a totally unique experience. The way she is picking up words and the way she remembers names is very interesting. Like many Indians who don’t speak much English but only written – there are some things which I do which usual Americans don’t do. A lot of Indians convert questions into statements and then add a visual or verbal cue in the end – signifying it’s a question. Like for example: “Do you like this?” becomes “You like this? No?”. I know it’s confusing. Similarly, when I ask Sahana – ‘Do you like this?’ – she would say “No”, and when I confirm by asking ‘So, you don’t like this’ (a statement) – she says “Yes”. I know this may not be special but thats just fascinating. I mean she understands – a question from a statement. And it took me 25 years to see the pattern in me (and other Indians) about that.

Education. I have always been fascinated by Education. I mean the whole idea of receiving knowledge from outside source. I mean a source outside of me other than my intuition and my reasoning. I don’t mean that the outside sources are bad but it’s been interesting to test out a lot of things at least for me to see how I learn better and how having better education changes things. My education made me who I am today. Escaping middle class in India. But I did had a crazy education. I was part of the boarding schools which competed on how long can you keep a student awake and make him sit in front of a book. They would make us get up like 4 am and would not sleep till 12am. Those were some crazy 7 years of my life.

But what made me stand out from the crowd during the period was how I was internalizing my learning and how I was spitting out a completely different notion of what I was learning. For example – they would teach us from 2-3 text books for a subject and we are supposed to write up what we understand. Instead of just filling up all the junk from remembering, I would draw stuff and make comparisons which was at least new to my teachers and they loved it.

Anyhow, when coming to American education – I am excited about how I would participate in Sahana’s learning and have my say in it. Only last year I learned the school system here and picking up on a lot of information from what Sangita tells me. I think I want Sahana to learn 3 things:

1. Mathematics – Whether or not if it’s a queen of sciences – Math is definitely needed not for calculating stuff but to expand ones imagination. I mean math is a science about perfect world. It proposes an alternative reality, one better than what we experience – but in a sense it’s perfect. I believe Math would teach Sahana how to imagine better and see things in her mind’s eye. I want to introduce Math as an art form and let her deduce her own things. Learn by exploring.

2. Science – If Math expands imagination, Science expands reasoning, causation. Science is cool because there is no BS in it. It doesn’t fool around. Whether it’s there or it isn’t. I want to teach her the curiosity through science. I want to strengthen her rational thinking through Science.

3. Computation РI think computation is nothing but problem solving. The tools, utilities and reminiscents are actual physical computers, programming languages etc. But where else would you get a world for yourself to create, craft and test out solutions for problems. Computation is tightly packed with Math and Science. Math gives one a liberty to imagine things and craft an ideal solution, Science builds limits and makes it more creative to solve it within the limits.

I know I am missing a lot of stuff in the list. The above 3 are the ones I am most excited about. I am having a second childhood experience through Sahana and what’s coming up for her. Super exited!