This blog is for adults and I would love to hear your thoughts on the content. Let’s face it ancient Hindu stories are not just about happily ever afters, restoring the balance of good and evil and saving the world. The more I am speaking with my guru Sagarbhai a Hindu priest, reading and researching the more I am learning. One of the reasons I created these books was when my son’s inquisitive mind aged 3 started to question me about the statues in our mandir at home. The only resources and knowledge I had to hand; were the stories that my grandparents and parents told me. When I was 9 years old I was given some comics, years later when I got them out for Syon (age 4) he was afraid of the images and the death and destruction. Looking back maybe he was too young for that particular comic.
Many Hindu stories from the scriptures are brimming with demons and Asuras, who are strong, powerful and evil, full of darkness and despair to gain power and destroy the world. They seem to always want the boon of immortality, but the gods being one step ahead they never win. They are not the best to look at, some of the descriptions from the scriptures of how the demons, looked and behaved are horrific, and quite violent.
The Jai Jais aim is to bring these ancient stories to life, and continue on through generations, so these epic tales are never forgotten. When you look at the scriptures how do we teach children from a young age? This is where I have used my knowledge as a speech and language therapist to transfer the universals of speech and language development into the books. We have twenty titles. The baby Jai Jais teach very young children core vocabulary with the Baby Jai Jais board book series, as your child grows our collection grows. James our illustrator has made the characters younger and more visually pleasing and relatable in this modern age. The text and stories are longer and the imagery mature, in the legends series to match the themes and extension of the stories appropriate for the child’s age.
When we look at some of the stories…. Like when Ganesh got his elephants head; Lord Shiva cut his head off, and then cut an elephants head off (even though the baby elephant was unwell), we look at the story of Praladha in the Holi story and his own father tried to kill him many ways…the greed for power. The mighty Avatar of Lord Vishnu Narasimha then coming to basically rip Hiranyakashipu’s insides out! The rampage of Parashurama killing the Kshatriya clan. There are so many stories of mass killings and battles with the demons. The epic Ramayana is also full of battles with some mighty demons and in the end good always prevails.
I then took time to reflect on what are children are exposed to in regular books, in films, TV and gaming. I remember watching the news once and my 4 year old son asking me, “What does stabbing mean?”. Obviously what we expose our children too is very age dependent, but there is also the real world and listening to the news. It seems that children’s book should be filled with unicorns, superheroes and happily ever afters. There are good guys, bad guys battles and conflict, so how much also does the imagery relate? When I watch and read the Harry Potter books the story line and characters develop into a more darker theme, but yet our children still read and watch these. I watched the old Mahabharata as a child and remember spinning chakras and arrows killing people.
Then we look at the world of gaming, children playing Fortnight, Roadblocks, again it makes me questions why is it acceptable in this context and not children’s books? I think a lot of these questions do not have a straight forward answer. With a lot of my approach to parenting I never compare. Each family, each child each unit is so individual. My little one is 4 years old and loves the images in my Legends series Ramayana which are more vivid, and have a more mature theme. He takes the approach that the Jai Jais will always save the day so we never need to worry!.... also I guess its mummy’s books so he is super proud, which he tells me! Some children have found the Holi book, and Ramayana a little scary. We do have suggested ages for readers. Also a lot depends on the dialogue the adults have with the child, around the story the history and the final positive outcome of the stories, and why some of this destruction had taken place. The demons can reflect and represent our own inner greed. It is also very dependent on the individual child and how they internalise what they are exposed too, and what their fears maybe.
What are we protecting our children from? Is it the truth of the stories? Is it the imagery? Is it the horror? What do our children need to learn? These stories are graphic and can be quite violent, but the stories have not been written by The Jai Jais they are scriptures that are thousands of years old, which we want to live on through generations. It has been lovely having some testimonials of parents who say we have a great balance with the text and imager and the ages and stages of the books. It been wonderful receiving picture of children from 2 year old who are no 7 years old growing up with the books.
So what is the balance of what we expose out children too? I would love to hear your thoughts on what you think, and how these stories, and imagery can be brought in to the modern age to keep these amazing stories alive.