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Coronavirus: In millions of homes, children have questions about coronavirus, and some lessons for adults

Children play Tambola during lockdown at Ghatkopar in Mumbai on April 5, 2020.

Children play Tambola during lockdown at Ghatkopar in Mumbai on April 5, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Journalists across India share experiences and conversations with children aged 2 to 13, which range from cute to poignant and heart-wrenching to humorous, and some with sagacity far beyond their age

How do you explain to a child the science of something that is neither living nor dead? How do you tell her that something invisible can kill people. What answer does a father have when his son asks whether he will be able to celebrate his birthday in June. Then there is the kid who competes with his parents for TV time — cartoons or grim news programmes? And perhaps not surprisingly many want to beat up China.

Full coverage on coronavirus

Parents across the country, and the world, are grappling with an unprecedented challenge of dealing with their children who are too old to be shushed or placated and too young to understand the inexplicable situation the world has found itself in.

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PTI journalists across India shared experiences and conversations with their children aged 2 to 13, which ranged from cute to poignant and heart-wrenching to humorous, and some with sagacity far beyond their age.

Here are some of the experiences from around the country:

Niheer Waghmare, all of 2 years 4 months, is a diehard fan of his father Aditya’s Royal Enfield motorcycle. A short ride around Aurangabad is mandatory every day. When the lockdown started, this practice stopped. Now the bike engine is started every morning for him to sit on its petrol tank and drink his milk.

His mother told him, “There is a threat called corona on roads outside. It will attack and injure us.” He understood it’s something dangerous.

He said, ‘once corona ends, I will go to the hills’. “For now, I show the hills to him from the roof of my house,” said Ms. Waghmare.

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Three-year-old Ira was never too keen to go to playschool. But since the lockdown she’s been insisting on being with her playgroup. So her mother, Arundhati Pattabhiraman, dresses up Ira every morning and lines up her toys to create an environment similar to her playschool.

“To make her understand about coronavirus, we made it into a story that it is a monster which will catch her if she steps out of the house or if she doesn’t wash her hands. So now every time she speaks to her grandparents, she ends the conversation with ‘wash your hands or coronavirus will get you’.”

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Anvay Deshmukh, 4, believes he can beat the Corona-demon in a fist fight. He also checks out the main gate of the house a couple of times in a day, thinking he may spot the demon so that he can fight with him.

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“We have informed him that he is not supposed to touch him and keep his hands clean so that coronavirus will not recognise him. He has started joyously clapping every time after washing his hands,” said his father Nikhil Deshmukh in Mumbai.

“We had to come up with a story of Corona-demon who is on the loose and is wandering on the streets,” said Mr. Deshmukh. “He at times believes that.”

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Ananya Jaiswal, who is 5, used to go on a horse cart ride every weekend, followed by her favourite cheese dosa and watermelon juice. “Accepting that the horse cart ride is not possible now, she has found an alternative — her soft toy, a huge Winnie the Pooh, on which she sits and pretends to be on a horse. As for the cheese dosa, we try to make her happy by making her favourite delicacies,” said her mother Komal Panchamatia in Mumbai.

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“The other day, she chose to wear her party dress and got ready with matching accessories. She wore it throughout the day,” said Ms. Panchamatia, who like everyone else is working from home. Ananya has by now understood that I have a teacher and I have been given homework to do every day.

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¨I both love and hate coronavirus. It is making my mummy and daddy stay home, and I love that. But I hate that this time no one can come home for my birthday. I won’t even get gifts,” said Shahana Datta who will turn eight on April 7.

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“I told her that coronavirus is a disease that could make people die while coughing. The idea was to keep her off ice creams and cold drinks,” said her mother Ananya Sengupta. “I realised my mistake when she started pointing out to people who were coughing or even yawning loudly and asking me in hushed tones if that person was going to die soon.”

“Then she asked me if it was okay to kiss mamma goodnight. I told her it was okay as long as we didn’t have a cold.”

Children of migrant workers wear protective masks inside a sports complex turned into a shelter, in New Delhi on April 4, 2020.

Children of migrant workers wear protective masks inside a sports complex turned into a shelter, in New Delhi on April 4, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Shahana has been deeply affected by the visusls of the mass exodus of migrants.

¨I think this is a bad disease if people have to leave their homes like this. Can we not keep them with us?” she asked. Ms. Ananya had no answer so she made Shahana write a 10-line essay on coronavirus.

Shahana wrote it obediently. Her last line was, “They all deaded.”

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Shaalvi Kolhatkar in Pune turned three on March 20 and celebrated her birthday without a party or friends. She insisted on going out but her parents keep her at home by engaging her in producing colourful decoration, cake baking and photo sessions. “Her non-stop chatter keeps us refreshed and motivated in this hard time,” said her father Sandip Kolhatkar.

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Airah Zaidi, 7, whose school in Ghaziabad broke for the two-week recess on March 9 before the start of new session, is bored to death and now longs to go to school. So what does she miss most about school? “Seeing teachers get angry and students being naughty,” said Airah.

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She tells her dad that Chinese people should not be eating “bats and insects” which she believes is the reason for the spread of coronavirus. “Chinese people should spread whatever disease they want in their country but not in India.” “I want to hit the Chinese people on their head,” says her brother, Wali Zaidi, 4.

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It has been difficult for Sanjay Ganjoo in Chandigarh to restrict his younger son Saiyam, 8, indoors. A family trip to Mumbai planned for March 23 was cancelled and Saiyam doesn’t understand why. Mr. Ganjoo has no answer when Saiyam asked him, “Will the lockdown last till June and will I not be able to celebrate my birthday?”

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On March 15 when the Maharashtra government ordered all schools to shut, five-year-old Arjun Tiwari was excited, no questions asked. Now his only concern is will normalcy return before his sixth birthday in June.

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Alya Srivastava, 13, is sad that the celebration of her best friend’s birthday on Monday, has been cancelled. “Why are we being deprived of this little fun and enjoyment. Why there is no cure for the disease? When will I be able to go to school?”

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Sathana, aged 6, has been given a matter-of-fact explanation of the coronavirus, and told that it attacks the children and elderly, to keep her indoors.

Although her main concerns are candies and snacks, whose stocks are dwindling, she also misses going out with her father Sathish Anand, on what is called as “round” in the local parlance, in his two-wheeler.

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So, her ‘after this is over’ list includes our regular visits to the nearby huge temple tank brimming with water, said Mr. Anand.

“Until then, it is clear who is in charge at home, at least as far as the control over the TV remote goes, she decides when the cartoon channel will be and when news channel will be on.”

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Kara Nofil, 10, has penned a message for her family and friends. In a beautifully handwritten note she says, “Life is very tough at the moment because of this very unfortunate virus, as you all know. But you don’t have to get too impatient and I’ll tell you what the good thing is that you get to spend time with your wonderful family. Lots of scientists are trying to come up with a cure for this dangerous virus and I believe that they can do it and I won’t put my hopes down, and all of you shouldn’t too. Be patient, kind and positive to fight CORONA.”

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Children carry their sick dog on a makeshift stretcher and walk home after visiting the vet, during lockdown in Kohima, Nagaland on March 25, 2020.

Children carry their sick dog on a makeshift stretcher and walk home after visiting the vet, during lockdown in Kohima, Nagaland on March 25, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Sudipto Chowdhury’s 5-year-old daughter Adrija Chowdhury reminds him and her grandparents everyday to wear mask and wash hands. She pronounces corona as “carono” and has put up a small piece of cloth around the face of her favourite doll to protect it from COVID-19.

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In Patna, Anand Raj’s 8-year-old son Abhigyan Pratap Singh is upset that IPL 2020 is not taking place, and he blames China. Banjop Mukhim’s 5-year-old son Mayan Nongbri in Shillong is livid over missing school and football, all because of coronavirus. But, he is happy to have his mother at home with him. He has decided to break his piggy bank and donate coins to the CM Relief Fund to fight COVID-19.

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Ten-year-old Kartik Mehra, a student of Gyan Bharti School in New Delhi has clear ideas about coronavirus. “Coronavirus is made in China. I have seen in news, it got leaked when people were shot in a market in China. I know it is dangerous so I don’t go anywhere.”

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For Dahliya Tyagi, 13, being with parents at a stretch for days is new to her as she is used to one of them being absent. Her mother Richa Tyagi has been keeping her and her brother Kayan, 10, busy by making them take care of their clothes and their rooms clean. Initially they rebelled and accused the mother of tormenting them, but have gradually come around.

Now, Dahliya says she is really thankful for what the domestic help does in normal times.

“I was happy that she has started valuing people around her and has learnt to show gratitude. I even heard her telling her brother, ‘We will read all about this [coronavirus] in history books one day’,” said Ms. Tyagi.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 11:38:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-in-millions-of-homes-children-have-questions-about-coronavirus-and-some-lessons-for-adults/article31263526.ece

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