a zoology lesson

April 5, 2016

When I grow up, I want to be a little boy.

— Joseph Heller, Something Happened (1974)

It is quite possible that in that family:

  • Gandhi was discussed as a matter of routine, because the adults in the family respected him – or his ideas may have been floating around at home, getting discussed, debated, questioned, admired…


  • The picture of Gandhi was always there (as his toothless smiling image is always embossed on most of the currency denominations in India) hanging around in the foreground & background, perhaps because the family was obsessed with money or was busy worshiping it.

It does not matter how the impressionable little sponge of a primary child (=in Montessoriese, a child in the ~2.5-6.0 age band)  in that family,  completely internalized the fact that the ubiquitous Gandhi was a person to be respected and/or worshipped.

And, this little child starts leafing through small booklets at home, in the school library and other lending libraries – there must have been some presentations at the school, of course –  and gets some basic ideas about the fascinating universe that life is. Big Bang, Planets, Our Earth, the works

Eventually, it comes to know about the coming of life, evolution, kingdoms and phyla… The five great stories of Montessori, if you will – though these stories are presented only to the elementary children (=in Montessoriese, a child in the ~6.0-12.0 age band).

…And so, the child develops a personal map of the nature of life and the classification schema…  It finally stumbles on to the idea called Mammalia.

Now the connection happened rather suddenly and beautifully. Lyrical, if one is mushy.

And oh, it suddenly dawned on the child that Gandhi was a human being and in an excitedly feverish torrent of words, loudly proclaims, in my dear Tamil,  “Oh, Gandhi thaaththaa was a mammal!

I happened to be around when the child realized this gloriously fantastic mapping. However, I do/did not know the immediate context or the proximate cause for this serendipitous discovery of the child.

He also asked us in an excited tone, whether he is therefore related to that thaththaa… and I said:  yes, of course!


I have known Bapuji as ‘Historical Gandhi’ and ‘Civilizational Gandhi‘ and admire him and respect him etc etc. But, I feel sad and inadequate that I never thought of Gandhi as belonging to a category of mammals.

I wonder whether, the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam has been internalized by the child and so has been succinctly expressed in terms of classification of life or what… Or was it a point discovery and an incidental mapping?

I am fascinated by the way children effortlessly map, contextualize, connect & learn. I envy admire them.

There is so much that one can learn from them, if only we are willing…


JournalEntry# December 16, 2010

5 Responses to “a zoology lesson”

  1. mahesh Says:

    That was wonderful..! It would have been like a shooting star that somehow can make a busy sky livelier.
    – Mahesh.

  2. Nithila Says:

    How lovely :)
    (sorry for randomly cropping up out of the blue)

    • Yo! How you doin’ young lady?

      You know what, you should learn Tamil.

      Not because you can read all the random stuff that I write, but there is so much treasure in there written by very capable folks, and it is a great language to learn from and bask in the reflected glory – if not anything else.

      Lots of love, affection and hugs:


      • Nithila Says:

        I would love to learn Tamil. My grandfather started teaching me a long time ago…sadly my knowledge has reduced to knowing only the first 4 vowels (even those I can’t be completely sure of). Actually, reading the random stuff you write here would be a decent incentive.
        My Kannada is much better than my Tamil, though, and I plan to improve upon it.

      • Great! :-) Happy learning!!



மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

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