SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Citizenship – (responsibility towards the country) – Savitribhai Bhai Phule

Citizenship - To strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity.  Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life 

Vocabulary to be used : 

Story is suitable for children above 7 years. Some parts can be edited out as is required by your audience.

(pencil sketch by Sangeeta Kamath - inspired by the story!) 

Hear the story by clicking on this sound cloud link:

Go, Get Education
Be self-reliant, be industrious
Work, gather wisdom and riches,
All gets lost without knowledge
We become animal without wisdom,
Sit idle no more, go, get education
End misery of the oppressed and forsaken,
You’ve got a golden chance to learn
So learn and break the chains of caste.
Throw away the Brahman’s scriptures fast.
— Poem by Savitribai Phule

This is a poem written by my Guru, my teacher and you can even say someone I considered as dear as my mother.
 I am Mukta and I am 14 years old, I belong to the Matang community of Maharashtra. My community was considered very backward and no one thought that we should go to school, study or even learn.  I was lucky that my dear teacher Savitribai broke this thinking and stepped out of her house along with her husband Sri Jyotirao Phule and started a school for us in the year 1851. I was one of the first students to join, we were just 8 of us at the beginning but soon this increased as more girls joined the school and we were soon more than 48 students!

But I must tell you it was not easy for my dear teacher. She herself was taught English & Marathi by her husband secretly, because if anyone came to know that a girl was studying then she would get thrashed. But my teacher’s husband was a wonderful man who believed improvement in a child comes through the mother and a country will progress only when women are educated.

When she got married and came to Jyotiba’s house she had brought a book along with her, and seeing her interest in reading he started teaching her. She was 9 years and he was 13 years! Soon Jyotiba (Tatya as we called him) told his father that his wife could read and write, but they were just thrown out of the house for this reason.

But Jyotiba did not fear, he trained my dear Savitribai to become a teacher (she was just 18 years and the first Indian Woman teacher) and they started a school for the Dalits ( Mahars and Mangs) and especially enrolled the girls who till then were treated worse than animals. Oh Yes. You may be surprised I am using such a strong word. But we Dalits were treated very badly by the so called upper class Brahmans who kept us to do all the very dirty work and believed we were not intelligent enough to study.

But we proved them wrong; in our first board exam that was held a few months after the school started, we passed all our papers with flying colours. In fact our mothers used to complain to the Headmistress that we were always studying late into the night.
I remember one of my little friends even got a prize for getting top marks and when she went to collect the prize she boldly asked the Chief Guest not to give her any gifts of toys and goodies  but to give the school a library of books!*

Not only did Savitribai Aai (ma) teach us, she guided us in many other ways also. She was so upset with the way Brahmin widows were being treated, that she opened an orphanage for pregnant and widowed women in her own home in Pune and started taking care of them and the babies that were born. We called it the “Home for the prevention of Infanticide”. If you knew how these poor women were treated you will feel lucky to be born at a time when such things are banned.

The purpose of education according to Savitraibai Aai was to give us the ability to know the difference between right & wrong and make the right choice between truth & untruth.
So I too decided to voice my opinion on what I thought was wrong, I wrote an essay in Marathi in which I spoke strongly about the laddukhau (laddu eating) Brahmins and questioned God on his unfair practise of allowing only some people to read the Vedas. I asked God what religion I should follow to be allowed to read the Vedas (as the Brahmins were not allowing us). The Editor of Dyanodaya newspaper was so impressed with my strong essay, he even published it. I was thrilled and decided I will continue to speak up about equal rights and human rights from then on.

Poor Savitribai Aai, she was not even getting paid salary for her work, but she continued her teaching as she considered it her sacred task. That is not all, sometimes small minded men would be waiting around corners or at the street end and throw cow dung, mud and stones at her. But she did not bat an eyelid, and continued her work with determination and courage, keeping two sarees in the school, so that she could change out of her soiled saree. Can you imagine being treated like this almost every day?!

She was  compassionate, calm and so giving! She would cook for anyone who went home, and even give away clothes and things for those who went to her, saying “What am I going to take with me, when I am gone”.  Watching Savitribai Aai and Tatya talk to each other was delightful. So much of respect and love, I was in awe of them and their relationship.
Savitribai ma also gifted me a collection of her poems called Kavya Phule that has forty one poems written in Marathi about social issues, nature and history. I keep this with me as my most prized possession.

Everybody knows about Rani Lakshmi bhai of Jhansi but not many know of my dear beloved Savitribai Phule of Pune.  She is my role model, who showed me that education is most important for all regardless of caste, community or economic status and gender and that everyone must learn to stand up for themselves. She is a true Citizen of this nation.

~ original story written by Sowmya Srinivasan. Please feel free to use the story. But please do give me some credit! Credit also the original texts;
facts collected from various sources:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

BRAVERY - Emotional Strength of Courage

1.       COURAGE – Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal  

Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right even if there is opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it  
copy write - VIA

Vocabulary that can be used : 

I have not used the word Fearless / Intrepid which means that fear doesn't exist in a person. I believe Being Brave implies overcoming fear and not a lack of it.
Here being Brave implies a courage required not only to set out to do difficult tasks such as mountain climbing but it is also the same strength required to step into a new class.

1.       STORY SOURCE: CBT publications. Adapted by me. 
              Name: Mohini & Bhasmasura
            Suitable for Ages: 5 years upwards

Every one in the village was frightened of Bhasmasura. He was a demon who lived in a cave in the forest. He had long pointed teeth and black curved horns. His ears were like baskets and his face was covered with thick hair.
This wouldn’t matter if Bhasmasura had been friendly, but he was quite the opposite.
He delighted in frightening people, and when he was hungry he just gobbled them up.
That was not all, he also had magical powers, and that was the real reason people were terrified of him. If he put his hand on someone’s head, the person would turn into “bhasma”, a handful of ash!
People fled on seeing him and he laughed seeing them run. “Ha, Ha Ho, Ho!! There is no one equal to me in the world,” he boasted.
Everyone was scared, except Mohini. She shook her head and thought deeply, “I’m sure there’s a way out of this. I’m very sure, if only we could find it.”
All around people told horrific stories about Bhasmasura. “You don’t know him. He is as old as these mountains. He has magical powers. He has to just put his hands over your head and that’s the end for you, you will become ash…ash!” They said in hushed tones.
Mohini had an old grandmother whom she visited every day. “Tell me about Bhasmasura, Ajji.”
“He lives in a dark cave on top of that big mountain. He walks up and down the countryside, uprooting trees, trampling fields. He brings destruction wherever he goes and has the power of twenty elephants. Along with his magical powers he is invincible! Every one is frightened of him.” Said grandmother.
“I’m not!” Said Mohini
“I’m not frightened of Bhasmasura. There must be a way to destroy this Rakshasa. We mustn’t give up. I won’t give up,” she told the villagers.
You are a foolish girl; you don’t know what you are saying. He will gobble you up, he will turn you to ash, and we don’t know which is worse.
Some of our brave warriors have died trying, said others
But Mohini was quite a stubborn young lady.
After thinking deeply and with much advice from her grandmother, the wise old lady.
She went to the village headman and told him she wanted to destroy Bhasmasura.
They asked her to stop being silly, and stop joking!
The Headman asked her how she planned to destroy this monster
“I’ll dance,” said Mohini simply
Dance! They shouted together. Are you mad?
“No. But please give me a pair of tinkling anklets and your blessings for my successful return” said Mohini with due respect.
At first the headman refused, but then Mohini begged and begged (you know she was stubborn!!)
Finally she set off. She travelled many miles, walking most of the distance, some times taking a ride on a bullock cart, at other times a donkey. Once she even had to cross the river on a raft. Everywhere people spoke about the wickedness of Bhasmasura and his magical powers.
“You can’t defeat him,” said a few, “He is too powerful,” said others.
“It doesn’t help to sit around and do nothing, At least I can give it a try” said Mohini
The people were impressed with her fearless attitude.
At last she reached the cave in the mountains where Bhasmasura lived. She knew this was where he lived as there were rotting flesh and bones lying around.
Mohini stood at the entrance and for the first time felt frightened. It was very silent.
Oh dear, what’s going to happen now. What if the villagers were right? The demon will turn me into ash and then, that will be the end for me. May be I shouldn’t have come.
But the other part of her was telling to take a peep, having come so far at least she wanted to see how he looked.
Let me peep inside. Does he really have two horns? She thought.
She tiptoed near the cave and peeped inside, still she couldn’t see any thing. Maybe there is no Rakshasa(demon), its all imagination…
Suddenly, she heard a great big roar and a thud!
Bhasmasura stood behind her; he had just come back from one of his killing spree.
The monster roared horribly, but Mohini knew there was no escape now and so stood her ground
“Who are you?” bellowed the monster
“My name is Mohini”
“How dare you come to my cave?”
“Oh I heard you are a strong, brave, and intelligent monster, so I came to see you” she said
Now that was a very clever thing to say. Bhasmasura was very happy and he grinned showing his big dirty teeth.
This girl is pretty, she will make a worthy wife, he thought
“Will you marry me Mohini?”
Mohini stared at the demon, and then said, “Yes I will marry you, but on one condition, you must dance with me. Follow my every step. Even if you miss one step, I wont marry you”.
“Ha Ha, that’s not difficult”, he said and got ready to follow her every move.
Mohini fluttered her eyes; Bhasmasura too fluttered his!
Mohini cupped her hand to make a lotus and so did he!
She swayed like an elephant and so did he.
Mohini flitted like a butterfly and he also flitted.
She touched her chin, he touched his.
She touched her toes, so did he.
She whirled, hopped and skipped, and he too did the same.
She put her hand on her head and he put his hand on his head…
The next minute there was no Bhasmasura; there was only a heap of ash where the demon stood.
I better get back home as quickly as I can, other wise grand mother will be worried she thought
Happily she skipped her way back to the village
Seeing her safe and sound, the whole village rushed to greet and rejoice with her
“Jai Mohini Jai, Brave Courageous Mohini”, they shouted, and carried her on their shoulders all over the village.
The end

Jai Mohini Jai Jai
She never gave up
She kept on trying
Till Bhasmasuran was
Tricked into dying

SOULTales - Stories,Character Strengths,Vocabulary

Welcome to a new muse for my Soul. Stories that act as triggers to talk about character strengths in children and us. Simple, yet profound. These stories have been told over the ages by many. But I aim to provide fresh perspective while telling them in this new space I have created.
Words are powerful tools for growth and stories create a garland of words that are strung together for us to wear and celebrate.
I am inspired by a Coursera Mooc that I did.
Here is a link if you are interested.

Character Strengths came out of a study by famous Wellness Psychologist Martin Seligman.  His journey through this is field comes with a legendary story. He invented the word Positive Psychology, but a question raised by one of his students on such a uni-dimensional nomenclature of happiness led to an entire new and larger, grander umbrella of study called Wellness Psychology. 
He then went on to identify and classify the character strengths that one requires to lead a happy life. This has been the muse for many Teachers, Psychologists and Educationists who have taken his study into the classroom and work space.

The Character Strengths are broadly classified into 5

wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence 

I will put together Stories and Vocabulary that will help develop these character strengths. The stories need to be told and a conversation, discussion, role play or active expression of thoughts post story to be facilitated.

Stories are sourced by me.These stories will be pan India - Asia as far as possible.
All information about Character Strengths is sourced from VIA

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