When the lockdown started last year and the main park in the locality was closed, we wandered to the end of our small township in Assam and my kids discovered bamboo scaffolding, possibly used for tents in better days. For the next 15 days, they would go there every day and climb the structure—sometimes, even foraging for wood apples from a nearby tree. With our three kids in the house—eight-year-old daughter and five year-old twin sons—there is never a lack of bizarre ideas for self-entertainment. The lockdown meant that house-helps were not allowed. The kids were told to help clean up. The elder one assumed the role of Cinderalla, touching the floor just so lightly with her broom and the younger ones ran trains in the room with their wet ‘pocha’. This would infuriate my adult mind that just wanted to get over with the job. But leisure is a hallmark of their lives. Pursuing things at their own pace, undisturbed by the hustle and bustle around them. Over the years, we parents have recognised leisure as a privilege few can afford in the present day and have come to relish these fursat ke raat din.
My kids are learning without school—there is no curriculum that educates them, they themselves do. The common term used for this is homeschooling, but there are as many approaches to it as the number of people practicing it. When we first thought of not sending our kids to school, two things strengthened our resolve—nurturing the children in freedom and their happiness in the present moment—not in some distant future where it depends on the money they earn. An externally imposed routine by the school would mean rushing them into things from morning till night, with little option to wake up at 3 am to watch a meteor shower or to spend hours collecting tamarind from a nearby tree. And then make tamarind candies or a jungle jalebi smoothie.