'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Some Children's Stories

Once upon a time, in Kerala, there was a very popular Children's Magazine called 'Balarama' (maybe it is still active; it was/is from the 'Manorama' stable of publications). Several of the stories it published affected me very profoundly in my childhood. Let me record the gist of a few from memory; I dedicate this post to those of my generation who felt their 'impact'.

1. Baiju is a curious little boy; one sunny morning, he is at play in his garden when he suddently gets the idea of planting a rose cut. He persistently asks his dad for help. Daddy is resting in the patio - he is diabetic and has been told by the doctor to take rest but Baiju desperately wants his help. Daddy relents, walks over to a neighbor and returns with a rose branch with a blood-red flower still on it. Now is the bother of planting. Daddy fetches a spade and they set to work.

Suddenly, Mummy comes upon the scene and scolds Daddy: "Hey, you, what is this?working in the sun! Shall I go and tell the Doc?". Daddy looks up guiltily at Mummy, suddenly, his face goes ashen and he presses his chest and sinks to the ground. Mummy frantically calls for help...

The next thing little Baiju remembers is people lifting Daddy into a car and a sobbing Mummy getting in too and they driving off. He does not know what is going on but he cries anyways...

Later in the evening, a white van drives up and someone helps Mummy out; she is nearly unconscious and Daddy lies in the van, seemingly fast asleep. A terrible night passes; the next day Baiju is taken to the churchyard where his Daddy is being packed in a big black box and lowered into a pit. Again, nobody tells him what is going on.

That night, Baiju goes up to Mummy who is still sobbing and asks: "Why did they plant Daddy? Will he sprout and there will be many Daddies?". Mummy hugs him tight with a loud wail; he does not know why she is crying so much but he feels strangely sad so he too cries...

2. Appu is a little boy who lives with his mother and maternal grandmother. He sometimes asks them about father. Then his grandmother sometimes weeps but his mother never cries; well, she often says: "I have no tears left".

One day, a letter arrives. His grandmother is terribly upset over it; mother does not say anything for a while but then says: "let me take some rest; got a terrible headache!"

Sometime later, Appu sees his mother say: "The headache is not going away; let me take some medicine!". He watches as she swallows tablet after tablet. Why should she take so many of them, he wonders. Well, maybe she is big so her pain is also big and so she may need many of those little tablets. Having taken the medicine, mother retires to her room.

A little later, Appu goes in and sees his mother sleeping peacefully. He calls her but she does not respond. And why has she turned so cold, like ice-candy?

Grandmother comes in, holds mother's hand, then touches her nose, then screams aloud: "Oh, my poor daughter!". She bursts into hysterical weeping. Appu watches helplessly then he feels bad for grandmother and his tears begin to flow as well...

3. A little girl wanders the streets of an indifferent city, looking for food. As long as she can remember, she has been among some people who used to make her beg for money, give her some scraps to eat and beat her often. Today, she has lost them in a crowd.

She is hungry and her feet are blistered; nobody seems concerned. She knocks at a door and they set a dog on her. She begs at a shop and is slapped...

By sunset, she staggers onto the beach. There are many children and their parents and they are all having a good time, playing and munching on various goodies; and they all shoo her away.

Night falls, and the darkness creeps into her heart as well; she steps into the calm sea; the waves gently lap at her feet, as if softly calling her to come in. She says: "At least here, I am welcome" and wades into the deeper waters, farther and farther away from the unkind city...


  • At 7:16 AM, Blogger Mee Ananya said…

    This sounds so AGHORI if the stories are meant to be for children.This also reminded me of SATYAKATHA used to be published in marathi but they were for elders and I could never digest them.

  • At 8:04 AM, Blogger bujgavne said…

    I think these are stories 'of children' rather than 'for children'. It reminds me of 'Little Match Girl'.

  • At 2:20 PM, Blogger pippala leaf said…

    After seeing old Malayalam movies of 1970’s, 80’s and early 90’s, I often wonder the way malayalies are so obsessed with tragedy. Most of our films, novels and stories are so “tragedy” oriented. Why this obsession with negative feelings? Most of the TV sitcoms in Malayalam that attracts women (men also) are neck deep with tears (like Sthree, Sthree Janmam for instance). What do we find so comforting in sadness? Any idea?

  • At 4:50 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks ananya. yes, these stories appeared in a proper children's magazine. indeed it was several years later that i figured out that appu's mother (from the second story) had actually committed suicide.

    thanks bujgavne. yes, even some of the western child stories can be rather unsettling to kids. i remember being quite shaken by 'the selfish giant'. but *these* stories can get even adults depressed, i guess.

    thanks pippala leaf.
    yes, some of those weepy-waily movies can be sickening (especially in b/w; modern serials are nowhere near so bad). movies like 'tulabharam', god! and once upon a time, the 7th standard malayalam language textbook had a lesson: "vidavaangal", on prince siddhartha's leaving royal riches. it was not much more comforting than those stories i quoted.

    but from a slightly broader perspective, it is part of every child's education to know about death, just as he/she ought to discover sex. somewhere the realization has to hit.

  • At 10:13 PM, Blogger rahul said…

    I do agree with mee ananya that the stories are aghori to say the least.

    How come the parents let children read such things.

  • At 7:23 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks rahul, for visiting.

    yes, i do feel that reading such stories could be very traumatic - they were, for me. but then, how long can one hide from/ be protected from the realities of life?

  • At 12:55 AM, Blogger me said…

    I was an avid and regular reader of balarama/poompatta and most of the kids magazines..I dont think these stories posted here belongs to them. I have read them for almost 12 years and these kind of horrifying stories never came in them. All we had was entertaining as well stories with good morals.please dont publish these horror stories claiming they are for children.

  • At 4:57 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks 'me' for visiting.

    i am afraid i am much older than you. each of these stories - and dozens more of such stories - were certainly published in 'balarama' in the 1970s. then towards 1980, 'poompatta' came along - with 'kapish', 'kalulu', 'amarchitra kathas' etc.. and seriously ate into balarama's sales. and yes, poompatta had no horror stories at all.

    of course, 'balarama' learned its lesson fast, then used its financial muscle to poach the cream of 'poompatta's staff and even the 'amarchitra' contract and easily went on to beat poompatta at its own game but all that happened in the mid to late 1980's.

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  • At 8:19 AM, Blogger nidhin said…

    such a waste of time


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