Special Correspondent

Thiruvananthapuram: From the utility of a pencil to the genocide by Hitler, a volley of questions drew varied responses from children attending the ‘Nalekoottam’ camp on creativity organised in connection with the Thiruvananthapuram Book Fair here on Friday.

IT expert and director of the Centre for Bioinformatics Achuthsankar S. Nair was the chief guest on Christmas day. His question on the various uses of the pencil drew a range of interesting answers. While one child said it could be bitten to express one’s anger, another said it could be used to burst a balloon. A third argued that pencils could be bunched to create a chair. Another said it could be eaten to ward off hunger.

Making his point, Mr. Nair observed that children were capable of thinking independently. By encouraging them to think, they can be helped to develop themselves, he said.

That is when one child asked, “Is there creativity in the different methods adopted by Hitler to eliminate his opponents?” Mr. Nair said even creativity could harbour evil. “The ingenious methods adopted by Hitler for genocide will have to be described as creative.”

Mr. Nair explained, “Creative persons attract attention for being different. There is creativity in finding the Malayalam equivalents of words in English.” While children from Kannur used the word ‘veerpa’ to describe a balloon, others came up with the word ‘veerpanthu.’ Mr. Nair said he would prefer the word ‘anachi’ to switch.

Warns children

He warned the children that spending too much time before the television or the computer could seriously impair one’s creative faculties.

“If the genes of a dog and that of a hen are mixed and cloned, will the resulting organism lay eggs?” came the next question. “No one can predict these things. One first has to dream of such an objective and then carry out focussed research to achieve the desired result,” Mr. Nair said. “One does not have to attend a professional course to be creative; even making things out of a palm frond could be creative. Also one has to think of where creativity meets practicality.”

To the question of how to adopt a creative approach to a problem, he replied, “Let go of the problem and think of something else.”

Mr. Nair also had a few words of advice for the audience. “One can come up only in a job that one enjoys. There is no point in following others’ footsteps. None of the great leaders have followed the beaten track. They have chosen to plough a lonely furrow. Indians should stop migrating to the U.S. for jobs and attract westerners here instead by coming up with new inventions.”

The children participating in the camp were taught origami on Friday.

The curtains come down on the 11-day Nalekoottam on Sunday.