Every new academic year (in India it starts in June), I go through what is often termed as ‘starting trouble’.
I work as a resource teacher at a Montessori school, telling stories from mythology to elementary age group children.
My job involves linking topics that are part of the curriculum or current events, to mythological stories and folktales from around the world.
I absolutely love my job.
I love the fact that I learn so much through the research I need to do for each story, the imagination and creativity I need to exercise to present foreign mythology to kids aged 6-11 and the fact that I get to sing with them….story-songs, songs in other languages…..tops it all.
Yet every year, before I begin, I always wonder whether I really want to continue.
But just one class with the kids is enough to convince me that, I do.
I love their reactions, the interactions, their honesty and guilelessness.
They never fail to make me smile. It’s always a day well spent.
When I wrote the Pizza post…..‘The Need to Knead’, I remembered the most wonderful story that I tell my school kids.
This one comes from West Africa:
Nyame the sky God was sitting bored up in the sky. So he took a basket, a big round basket, filled it with leaves and plants and trees.
He cut a curved hole in the sky so that he could push the basket out through it and he hung this basket from a cloud.
To see the basket better, he cut out a few jagged holes in the the sky.
The curved hole was the moon and the jagged ones the stars.
He enjoyed watching the blades of grass dance in the breeze, the leaves change their colour and the creepers wind their way around other plants.
But after a while this too was boring. So he took another basket and filled it with all kinds of wonderful creatures. Birds, animals, fish …..some soft and fluffy, others colorful, some huge, others minuscule, some fierce, others gentler.
He poured the contents of this basket out through the curved hole, into the first basket, The Earth.
He loved to watch the animals frolic through the cutouts in the sky.
Inside Nyame there lived two little spirit creatures. They loved to creep up to the edge of Nyame’s mouth or nose and look out onto the earth along with him.
One day while they were all watching the animals on the earth, Nyame sneezed…..a humongous Sky God sneeze!
Out tumbled the spirit man and woman, out through Nyame’s nose, through the holes in the sky and down into the earth.
Once they reached the earth they found it so different from the warmth and darkness of Nyame’s body. But soon they began to enjoy it. They loved walking on the soft grass and relaxing under the shade of a tree. They learnt to eat what they could find on the trees and bushes.
The spirit man began to make a few weapons and soon he was off hunting animals for their food, leaving behind the spirit lady in their cave home.
The spirit lady was very lonely as the spirit man never ever took her hunting.
She got a brilliant idea and told the spirit man that they should make little clay creatures that looked exactly like them. They could bake them in a fire, blow on them and make them come to life. They would be able to move and talk just like the spirit man and lady. They could be our children, she said.
The spirit man liked the idea and began to build a fire while the spirit lady moulded the clay children.
As they put the first few clay dolls into the fire and sat back to wait and see how they would come out, they heard Nyame come thundering through the trees. The spirit man and lady quickly pulled out the clay children, wrapped them in leaves and hid them under the bushes.
Nyame had just dropped by to check what the spirit people thought of the wonderful earth he had created. Then he stomped out the way he came in.
The spirit man and woman quickly made some more clay children……but as they put them in the fire, Nyame was back and they had no time to even pull them out of the fire.
‘Why are you sitting by a fire?’ asked Nyame. They mumbled something about how they were feeling cold, but as the sun was shining bright, Nyame did’nt seem convinced. As soon as Nyame left they pulled them out and wrapped them in leaves.
Every time they put more clay children into the fire, Nyame would unexpectedly pop by to check on them on some silly pretext or the other.
Finally, Nyame got hungry and went back up, to the sky.
The spirit man and woman unwrapped all the little clay children they had made. Such a variety of colours!! Some were in the fire for a very short time and so were very pale. Others had been there for too long and were dark, almost black. Then there were a whole range of different colours like yellow-brown, rosy pink, red-brown and plenty in between.
The spirit man and woman blew on these clay children and they all began to stretch out their legs and move….running around the earth.
Now the spirit lady was no longer lonely when the spirit man went hunting, her children kept her occupied.
The spirit lady would hug them all, loving each one equally.
The spirit lady is called Iyadola, which means ‘Earth Mother.’
I love this story, which explains how there are so many different skin colours in the world and the allegory that we were all baked……for different times…..but essentially all the same…..just clay, with a common Mother!!
Picture credits: http://dickinsg.intrasun.tcnj.edu/Docs/iyadola/iyadola.html