Nurture a fantasy!

Human life is unique and special. We are the only beings that have the ability to perceive beauty in the things that surround us; we are the only beings capable of being moved.

It is within our minds that the rain is enchanting. It is in our minds that a poem is beautiful. We alone have the ability to be fascinated by a child’s play. We alone have the ability to see the beauty in an individual’s personality. 

This ability to perceive the aesthetic quality of the world we live in, is unique to human beings.
However, though we are born with this potential, it lies dormant within us and must be awakened in the early years of our life. Childhood therefore plays a key role in our ability to see the aesthetics in life.

Childhood has witnessed considerable transformation with the passage of time. When I think of my childhood, the song that comes to my mind is ‘Kannam thumbi poramo’ from the film, ‘Kakothikkavile Appooppan Thaadikal’.

 

 

The song captures the magic of a childhood spent in the proximity of nature. A childhood that was about freedom and the outdoors, with no goals to chase. A childhood that was about reveling in the magic of sight, sound, fragrance, flavour and touch- about endless stimulation of the senses.

A childhood that taught us to fall in love with the touch-me-nots that cowered under our touch, the moist earth on which we walked barefooted, the lanes fragrant with the scent of the chempakam and pala flowers, the rustling of the coconut palms, the lullaby of the rain and the croaking frogs that put us to sleep, the sand castles we built and the mud cakes we pretended to bake, the mysterious glow worms that lit up the darkness of moonless monsoon nights, the howling of foxes that cut through the silence of the night, the little fish that we tried to catch in the canals, the taste of the steaming hot pancakes with their coconut-jaggery stuffing that melted in our mouths, and so much more.

Our childhood was a paradise. Nature awakened our senses to the infinite beauty in the world and taught us the art of using our senses to perceive this beauty.

Apart from nature, our childhood was also shaped by stories– the stories that our grandparents narrated to us. Sometimes, to distract us enough so that we would eat our food absent-mindedly. Sometimes, to put us to sleep. And then, when we were old enough to read, there were the stories we read in books. Beautiful books that had pictures in them.

stories

In the stories we grew up with, there were forests and rivers, there were animals and birds, there were human beings, Gods and demons. They were portrayed as beings that felt, thought and dreamt like human beings. I was enchanted by their secret lives- a life that was not visible to us human beings. It was as if the stories let me into their secrets. A secret that I became part of.

As children, we believe in fantasies. As we grow older, we gradually lose this ability. A child must therefore be exposed to fantasy. Only then is the fantasy firmly rooted in our minds.

These stories helped me see fantasies in the world I lived in. To my young mind, the trees, stars, river, animals and birds had a secret language- a language that was not about words. I learned to talk to them, and to listen to them in my mind. As a child, this was my little secret- the ability to silently converse with the universe. That ability is rooted in me. To this day, I can hold silent conversations with the universe, and perceive the beauty of this phenomenon. It lights up my soul on the darkest of days.

Childhood must therefore gift us two things:

Sensory stimulation, awakening our senses to the immense beauty in this world

Create a fantasy world in our minds, built from the reality of the world we live in. Only stories can accomplish this.

The film ‘Kakothikkavile Appooppan Thaadikal’ is unique in that it is woven around a childhood fantasy. Murali, an orphan, is abused by his caretakers. His young mind is fascinated by the story of Kakothi– a legendary female character who kills her tormentor in an ultimate act of courage. Perhaps, Murali’s young mind finds liberation from the torments in his own life through the legend. When Murali encounters Lakshmi (Revathi), humming a tune on the harmonium, wearing a stone beaded necklace, his young mind fantasises her as Kakothi. This fantasy forms the basis for his adoration of her and the deep-rooted bonding that develops between them eventually. To Murali’s young mind that believes in the fantasy of Kakothi, there is nothing more joyful than this fantasy turning into reality.

kakothi

If we were to closely analyze the role models we choose and the relationships we form in life, we would realize that most are to do with our unconscious fantasies- these people often represent fragments of what we dream of being ourselves.

So why is fantasy so important?

First and foremost, fantasy fosters imagination. If we give our children beautiful fantasies to believe in, they will always see immense possibility in life. No matter what adversity surrounds them as adults, they always have a fantasy to come back to. That defines their motivation. This is beautifully illustrated in the above-mentioned film where both Murali and Lakshmi are surrounded by adverse circumstances, but they live their lives with much zeal, optimism and happiness. To them, every day is rich with possibility. They find creative ways of dealing with people and with challenges. Their mischief and pranks are expressions of their creative potential. They transform every day into a perpetual celebration.

In life, imagination is a more valuable tool than intelligence. Only if you have the ability to fantasise, are you alive until you are really dead.

Secondly, it is this fantasy that teaches us to dream. If we are moved enough by a fantasy, we transform this fantasy into our reality. We thus define a dream.

The happiest adults are those who have kept their childhood fantasies alive and transformed them into reality.

Perhaps, there is nobody in the world who is not familiar with the characters of Mickey and Donald. Almost a century after its creation, these Disney characters continue to be loved by children and adults, worldwide. Walt Disney found the inspiration for these characters in his childhood fantasy.

His most famous creation, Mickey Mouse, is a universally recognized cultural icon. And his numerous films celebrating the triumph of the little guy and the simple charms of small-town life captured the imaginations and fueled the dreams of six generations.

Walt Disney’s childhood was anything but idyllic. His father was a strict disciplinarian who thought nothing of taking a switch to Walt and his brother Roy to administer “corrective” beatings that became a part of their daily routine. Young Walt found an escape from his father’s brutality through drawing. With pen and ink, he created his own little fantasy world where life was always beautiful, people were always happy, and, most important, he was always in control.

Disney hit upon the idea of creating a new cartoon character based on a mouse that had lived in his office in Kansas City. As Disney liked to tell it, “Mice gathered in my wastebasket when I worked late at night. One of them was my particular friend.”

There are numerous examples of such people. People who define happiness. Some celebrated, and others uncelebrated. The ones who have kept the fantasy alive. The ones with the ability to fly on the wings of their imagination…

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9 thoughts on “Nurture a fantasy!

  1. “The happiest adults are those who have kept their childhood fantasies alive and transformed them into reality.” Very well said. I’m so reminded of Pablo Picasso’s words: ‘All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.’ Somehow, the grip on magic loosens with time…

    1. Mini, this post and the previous one were components of my talk on literature and mental health. I am trying to bridge art colleges and medical colleges through this campaign. I feel alarmed by the numbness and depression that is unmasked when I take psychology sessions for medical students. Most of this numbness/depression is the outcome of their entrance coaching. I find it criminal. I am hoping that these coaching centers will be banned. After two years of life at these centers, our children permanently lose the ability to feel and fantasise. How can they find happiness then?

    1. Yes, Mini. I feel sad that parents and teachers- the ones meant to guide children towards a fulfilling life, are unable to grasp the damage that is caused by such systems. I feel sad that writers and artists are only speaking/writing about values and mental health, but very little is being done. In art colleges, we have children who no longer know the value of the art they create. In Science colleges, we have children who can no longer benefit from the art that is created. It is a grave situation, and I am surprised that very little is being done to save our children. When I think of your writing, what strikes me is the rhythm- your words have infinite space between them- spaces where one feels. Unhurried words that slow down the reader’s chaotic mind, until it pauses, takes a deep breath and suddenly begins to notice those little things it had stopped noticing. And then the abrupt warmth- the sudden ability to see and feel beauty in the things that surround us. But imagine a scenario where people could no longer feel this? That is what is happening to our children. More so, in India. The most in our entrance coaching centers and medical colleges.

      1. I know exactly what you mean. And I truly appreciate what you are trying to do – a profoundly noble cause.

        I love teaching, Vidya. In my own very small way, each weekend I try to draw from my little group what I know is in there somewhere – the ability to think, feel… the capacity for wonderment and joy… My big dream is to one day run a library-cum-learning centre where there is story-telling and poetry reading and all such things happen…

      2. Mini, that is a beautiful dream to have. Here in India, the teachers who teach their students to feel, to think, and to be moved, are alienated and also targeted. One has to fight so hard because even the ones who can recognise the necessity of these acts, want to play safe. Some days, I feel optimistic. But sometimes, I feel uncertain, low and exhausted.

      3. The reason I could not continue teaching in a school. I love teaching, my students, my colleagues… But I can’t stand the system. One that has made education into a corporate, profit-making entity/concept. Can’t bear to be a part of it any longer. At least, not now.

      4. I understand, Mini. Many a time, I feel tempted to leave the system. But I deeply love the subject I teach, and if I left, I wouldn’t have an alternative platform to teach, considering it is a medical subject. Praying that I endure; one needs to be impossibly resilient to stay within the system and bring about a transformation!

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