Smart young kids hark back on Kipling at a reading

“The camel's hump is an ugly lump/ Which well you may see at the zoo; / But uglier yet is the hump we get/ From having too little to do.”

I can remember my second grade classroom and Mrs. D'mello's stern, Anglican accent like it was yesterday. The average age in the room was 10, and I sat with the children listening to Ranjan Mehta tell us “How The Camel Got It's Hump”, and “How The Whale Got His Throat”. I had to make a conscious effort to keep from raising my hand and yelling, “Pick me, pick me!”

At the “Just So Kipling” book reading, a reading of “Just So Stories” written by Rudyard Kipling, at the British Library, Ranjan asked, “Should I read another one?” and the children chorused, “No!” I am embarrassed to admit I was disappointed; I wanted him to continue, and tell us “How The Cheetah Got His Spots”.

Rudyard Kipling's childhood in India comes across in his choice of words like sloka, punchayet and Dravidian. It could be the media, Internet or maybe just good genes, but children these days are much smarter than we were back in the 90's. When asked who Dravidians were, a child promptly replied, “The indigenous tribe of South India.”

How did she know who a Dravidian was, or for that matter what indigenous meant?

The rest of the morning flew past with Ranjan Mehta telling us about the rhinoceros – who had no manners then, and no manners now and will never have any manners – and how he got his skin. And the children were sent home reciting the Parsee man's sloka, “Them that takes cakes/ Which the Parsee-man bakes/ Makes dreadful mistakes.”

Keywords: book reading