My childhood is unimaginable without my Grandmother in the picture because she lived with my family. Growing up with my Grandma also meant that she narrated a lot of stories, which annoyed me as a child because I felt that I had a lot of other important things to do (like play with my friends) than to listen to her narrate stories of the past.
One story I distinctly remember her narrating time and again was this:
My Grandma would also say things like,
‘Being a widow stripped me of all social dignity and status. Back in the day, no husband was equivalent to having no roof over my house, and I had to endure it all.’
What she said made no sense to me as a child–I simply thought she was blowing her trumpet to make herself sound ‘cool’.
THE FORGOTTEN FOLKLORE PROJECT for Early Childhood Development in Meghalaya
Are folktales or cultural and traditional practises forgotten in Meghalaya? Definitely not! Such stories are very much a part of the Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia communities today; cultural and traditional practises are still observed in all the respective regions of the State, and they have been documented too.
But when it comes to contextualising aspects like folklore, culture and traditions, or the environment for early childhood development in the State (especially for children in the remote areas), so little has been done or almost ‘forgotten’. There is a huge void in the contents that are localised in communities that are remote and disconnected. The National Curriculum Framework for Foundational Stage 2022 lays emphasis on how the first eight years of a child’s life is critical and that ‘over 85% of an individual’s brain development occurs by the age of 6, indicating the critical importance of appropriate care and stimulation in a child’s early years to promote sustained and healthy brain development and growth.’
Children in the remote areas and the anganwadi centres across the State have access to content in English or Hindi with no cultural or contextual relevance to their nature, surroundings, and roots. Having contextualised stories, activities, rhymes, read alongs, etc. could help boost early childhood development for children; contextualised content in local languages can also be taught by parents to their children at home because such elements are familiar to the parents as well.
If children can sing and learn about the London Bridge falling down some eight thousand kilometres away, why not the Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya? Meghalaya has so much to offer with its rich culture, heritage, and topography, which can be utilised to educate and enhance early childhood development. This will not only boost learning but also preserve the rich heritage of the State.
The Forgotten Folklore Project is an initiative of the Sauramandala Foundation (SMF), supported by the Department of Arts and Culture, Government of Meghalaya, to bridge the gap of the lack of contextualised content for children. The project aims to produce 45 local and contextualised storybooks, Read Alongs, Audiovisual media, and activities to be used in the anganwadi centres across the State.
Through SMF’s Centre For Accelerated Development (CFAD), the SMF team along with locals from the State will be on the ground to identify local storytellers from the indigenous communities in the Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia regions. The team will document stories, which will then be converted to children friendly educational focused content in Khasi, Garo, Pnar, and English. This will not only boost learning and the preservation of the culture and heritage of Meghalaya, these books and AV content could also be translated into other languages across India to encourage cross-cultural learning between students in the country.
THE POWER OF STORIES
Stories are powerful.
Today, as I look back on the stories that were narrated to me by my Grandmother, I am also not sure why I vividly remember this particular story about her being widowed; but consciously or subconsciously it has been ingrained in my mind, and I can only imagine the courage and endurance it took to survive for someone born in 1908, probably married at the age of 16 or 18, and widowed with six children to feed. Maybe it is because of such stories that were narrated to me as a child that I am passionate about storytelling today, or that I was taught about the concept of being independent and resilient in the face of adversities even before I got to learn about such concepts.
You see, stories we hear as children stay with us, shape us, and in a lot of ways impact our understanding of our roots and concepts like family, bond, identity, and values.
The 45 stories that will be curated under The Forgotten Folklore Project aims to achieve some form of impact in the life of a child. Will all the 45 stories have an impact on every child? Definitely not! But, even if one story were to make an impact in a child’s life, it is an investment worth making.
By Lanuangla Tsudir, Program Lead, The Forgotten Folklore Project (Early Childhood Development).