And Ajji knew so many stories of puranas, bringing to life all the gods, goddesses, rakshasas, etc. And the children would believe the miracles, accept the strange twists, without any questions whatsoever. But with the demystification of the lovable Santa Claus in the West, things have changed in the East as well. Wide exposure has made our kids so smart that the Ajjis and their stories often find themselves in awkward spots.
Recently, when all the Ajjis of the building(including me ) found themselves stranded in the lift due to power-failure, I had the pleasure of hearing them exchange notes.
One grandmother recounted, shocked how a little girl asked her, “Ajji,why didn’t Seetha divorce Rama on grounds of cruelty when she had to jump into the fire, and on top of it, was sent away, alone, to the forest?”
The little fire-brand demanded to know this soon after hearing the abridged version of the Ramayana.
Another Ajji interjected, “My granddaughter’s opinion is even more drastic !” Far from getting shocked or perplexed by Draupadi marrying all the five pandavas, she shouted, “ I will marry 50 husbands! What fun seeing them quarrel with each other!”
Exclaimed another Ajji, “These precocious little girls love the idea of Swayamvara! They wonder why they can’t have it in this day and age and some of them want to organise their own Swayamvaras when they grow up! And then their parents blame us for giving them them silly ideas. That’s why I have now stopped telling stories at all.’’
Listening to these travails, I felt it was safer to stick to the usual prince and giant stories.
They are far more interesting, and there will be nothing in them for the kids to be provoked or excited by. Or so I thought. So the next time the children pestered me for a good story, I began, “Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess..” I proceeded confidently as the group edged closer, listening with rapt attention. I told them about the bad giant who carried the princess away, about the prince who rushed on a white steed to kill him but could not because the giant’s life was...”
Before I could say the usual, “seven seas away, seven hills above, on a tree high, within the big bird on the topmost branch, ” the group shouted, “In his computer’s hard-disk, Ajji !”