Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Our Interactive Golu

This was the second year we were going to celebrate Navarathri with our dolls display/ Golu. Raghav had already planned what he wanted to do for this year's display, months ago. But he started getting off to actually making stuff and building things only the week before Navarathri! What he envisioned was quite a mammoth effort....but doable according to him!

"Amma, this time I want the Golu to be a playable one!", he told me. "Otherwise, the children who come home will be bored, and so will we will have nothing to do but see things." And that was how his idea of an interactive Golu was born!

His theme for this year was an Interactive Golu - partly built with his LEGO blocks - where he wanted to make a Brazilian beachside and another part where he wanted an erupting volcano model that we had explored on Youtube sometime ago. So that was the task we had at hand! Brazil is his current favourite country and so he wanted to make name boards and stuff all related to that. Even the volcano was to be in Brazil!

Hours of researching Brazil on Google Earth, looking at other facts in the Picture Atlas that he possesses (landmarks, food, animals, forests, crops etc.), and playing his favourite game on the iPad culminated to create this idea in his head. If I want to look at what he learned and how, there are many ways that I can do that to satisfy myself. But I find myself constantly fighting this battle inside of me consciously, only because time and again my son has taught me to celebrate every moment and surprised me with the kind of connections he made, that put my teaching background truly in the background! It was a joy to partake in the wonder and one-point determination with which he created his dream with his hands.

There were times when he got tired of building with his Lego and took on the role of director - egging me on to create what he had in mind......and there were other times when he donned the role of a teacher, showing me how to use his blocks or encouraging me to think of something creative.....and some other times, when he wanted me to just sit with him and listen to the loud music playing all day long while he created things with his hands.....or dole out ideas for little details for the scene he was creating. It was both exhilarating and tiring for me to create and watch without much of a break......but Raghav's passion and determination inspired me to go on till we finished. And whew! Was it a mammoth task!

Some of the things we created were:
a lego mountain
a huge house with furniture inside (including a kambha!)
a train track with a remote controlled train
station (with details of people carrying baggage, water fountain etc.)
a level crossing that could open and close
some people dancing the Brazilian Samba on an open air stage in the middle of nowhere!
a harbour with an operable crane, conveyor belt
a lighthouse with a revolving light
a beach side with the following details (mind-boggling!)
- people lying down on mats and reading books- a family(ours!) with a dad (who is left-handed!) digging with a spade, a mom holding a balloon (that he is scared of!), and a kid building a sand castle
- another person flying a kite
- a person picking up shells and collecting them in a sack on his back!
- a robber hiding in the bushes
- someone standing in the water
- people swimming, one person wind-surfing!
- a whale with its tail sticking out!
- a man fishing on the pier
- a man walking his dog
- people selling things on carts like corn, ice cream
- a paper mache mountain
and loads of other things that I cannot even remember!

We made the model of the volcano with homemade play dough. He stuck in some pebbles, stones and twigs from his stone and branch collection, to make it look realistic and as if the lava had burnt the vegetation. He also painted the volcano black and brown for the same effect. Inside the crater, we put in a small long-necked bottle into which the household chemicals were added. A mixture of cooking soda, dish-washing soap solution and food colour and vinegar resulted in a "violent eruption" according to Raghav! :) He learned mostly by doing - he realised that he needed labels on the containers for the chemicals with the names and the amounts to be added, so that he could remember and not go wrong. So we made labels and stuck them on. Then he figured out how he could control the eruption by controlling the speed with which he poured the vinegar, as also the amount of chemicals to be added!....all in a matter of a few minutes, without any demonstration or guidance. He was his own teacher.

Here are some pictures of our Golu:

Although I loved and went with his idea of having an interactive Golu, I was a bit apprehensive as I was holding on to some things in the past. Last year, we had called very few people, and although Raghav enjoyed having everyone come to see it, he was not ready to share any of his things especially Lego, with any other child, as he did not trust them and their way of handling the blocks. He is very particular about that. So this time, when he decided to build it all with Lego and make it such that kids who came over could play with it, I was both surprised and scared. Once again, it was my son who led the way and showed me that he was ready, because the need and the idea came from him.

So we made a big list this time and divided the list into small groups of twos and threes everyday. He made sure that there were not too many small kids and kids of his age everyday! ( a lesson learned from last time!) He told me that he could not handle more than that on one day! And the kids who came home had fun playing with our Golu! Yes, there were times when he flew off the handle, times when I did not know what to say or do, but he was still okay for them to continue to play after he fixed what was broken or after he had calmed down......for me, that was a huge step! I was both proud and content with my son's effort to see and understand another person's point of view, relate and interact with people and kids he had never met before, take and work on ideas from kids about what other things his city should have and so on. Some of the learning happened before, some during the interactions, and a lot happened later when he reflected on everything himself. I am also sure that there would be many things that he has learned, that I would perhaps not get to know of at all! He learned whatever he had learned because it came from him - the motive, the effort, the feedback - were all from within HIM.

The other thing that I learned from him again was that everything and everyone changes with time. I don't know if others do this, but I sometimes forget this and assume that just because he said or did something sometime ago, he would be the same way now......I still find myself holding onto the past in many things. Like, for instance, when he was building the Lego Taj Mahal set (with 5700 odd pieces) that we had bought him last year, he was very involved with the process more than the end. His objective for that was to find out whether he could do it and have fun while doing it. It was a huge challenge that he took on himself and finished putting it together in just 3 days time! Everyone commended him about his achievement, but he just brushed it all aside and said that he had done what he wanted to and was happy with that. While my father asked if we should call people home and he would talk about it and so on, he just refused! Now I was still holding on to that experience and assumed that he only wanted to build the city and have fun - nothing more. And so, I did not even think of asking him something like that this time! But my neighbour, who he invited for the Golu, kept telling me to send a write-up to the local community newspaper and encourage him. I smiled and didn't really give it much thought. However, later I asked Raghav in passing as to whether he would like to share about his work and the Golu in a newspaper and he said "Why not?! I would love to!" I stood baffled as I was holding on to the past and was not really clued into the present moment. Just a few weeks ago, he was playing games on the computer and printing out prizes and certificates for himself! He made me realise that he had grown and changed as a person and was perhaps ready now to share and feel acknowledged or recognised somewhere.

And yet again my belief in the Universe and waiting for the moment of readiness was renewed......because it all fell into place so magically without much neighbour suggested something.....I asked Raghav and he said that he wanted to do it......I called up the editor (something I would never have done with ease earlier) and wrote to them.....and there was a small write-up along with his photo, a few days later! He was thrilled and so were we!

A quick look at the paper, a beaming smile, and that was it......he was off planning what to create for our next year's Golu already! That was all he had wanted - some recognition and acknowledgement. There was no showing off to family and others later about this. He had moved on.....


  1. lovely!!!

    Amazing participation, involvement and initiative

    love the ideas


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