Aparna Chandra, Pune Newsline, India: “Karagre vasate Lakshmi, kar madhye tu Saraswati, kar mulye tu Govindam, prabhate kar darshanam,” nine-year old Aditi Nanawre recites effortlessly before turning away with a shy smile. She learnt that at the sanskar varg (scripture class) she attends every evening at Somwar Peth. “This shlok is to be recited every morning,” Aditi says and adds, “I like coming here, especially to listen to the stories of Durga.”
Aditi is joined by at least 35 others, aged between 3 to 12. She could have been at home watching television, pastime for most children nowadays. ‘‘That’s one reason, in fact, why parents bring their children to these classes,’’ says Vaishali Bapat who has been running them for the past year. The hourly-sessions here include a mix of meditation, introduction to Indian customs and traditions, learning of shlokas and patriotic songs, and a module on mythological stories, Indian fables and parables. All of this is made more engaging with a bit of play as well.
What Bapat lists as reasons for popularity of the classes, particularly during the vacations are perhaps good indicators of our times. ‘‘Too much television, lack of playgrounds, a decreasing knowledge of our cultural heritage. A sanskar varg, the parents feel will remedy that as also provide a good blend of evening play and learning,’’ she says.
At the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Bhakt Prahlad School, meant especially for children, they are running out of teachers to keep up with the number of children signing up. With weekend neighbourhood classes and two vacation-time camps held, at ISKCON, the children go through the meaning of values in life and spirituality with the help of slide shows, art and craft and group discussions.
Interestingly, despite common presumptions on how such talk may not exactly engage children between five to 15, repeat registrations are several. Says school co-ordinator, Radhamadhav Das, ‘‘It’s easier telling children about matter of spirituality because they have fewer mind blocks. Such classes are the need of the hour.’’
In Vishrantwadi, Nitin Deshpande who along with a team of eight to ten other teachers runs Saksham, for the duration of vacations, vouches for that. Five years ago when they started with their brand of sanskar varg that includes personality development sessions along with exercise and learning, they had 75 students on their list. Today at 140 they turn away children, due to lack of space. ‘‘We often run a survey among our participants and one common factor has emerged—nuclear families and single children— need the support system that these classes provide.’’