A book on Yoga, by children for children

So this one is a pandemic story that ticks all the parenting and child development boxes in letter and spirit. It’s about two little sisters – eight-year-old twins, Devayani and Shivaranjani Bharadwaj – who have arguably become the youngest self-published wellness co-authors in the country with the release of their debut book, Sun Salutations. The sisters have written and illustrated the book on yoga, which was officially released on June 16, ahead of World Yoga Day (June 21). The book is the latest in an impressive list of achievements notched by the twins who are Grade 4 students of the Sri Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar School of Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

They have a strong Pune connection – roots in fact. They were born in Pune. Their mother, IAS officer Smita Bharadwaj, is Pune born and bred. Currently serving as the Managing Director of Madhya Pradesh Financial Corporation, Smita studied in Central School Lohegaon, then at Nowrosjee Wadia College before completing her graduation in microbiology from Abasaheb Garware College. Subsequently she did her MA Sociology from Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth and was also on deputation as Registrar at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).

The pre-release preview of the book has received appreciation from none other than his holiness the Dalai Lama, Aziz Premji of Wipro, and endorsed by Amish Tripathi (Director of the Nehru Centre in London and author of the Shiva trilogy). The book is unique not just for the subject but the refreshing children’s perspective that reflects in the illustrations – there is quirky humour, and uniquely creative imagination in this digital age viewpoint to the age-old practice of yoga. Which is not surprising because Devayani and Shivranjani actually do practice yoga.

But what does this have to do with the pandemic or parenting? For starters, the project was initiated in 2020 and was completed last month. Further, Smita integrated her professional focus on child development with her parenting approach at home. Apart from her regular government duties, she has been involved in project Udaan, a CSR activity for orphans and underprivileged children, wherein children are taught general knowledge and spoken English. She is personally involved in the teachers training and in development of the modules for this program. Her approach towards education of children is to make them research oriented and curious to ask questions. The Sun Salutations project could be considered a proof-of-the-pudding output on the personal parenting front. In March 2020, when the nationwide school closure was announced due to the ongoing pandemic, Smita looked at it as an opportunity to mentor her daughters and employ the youngsters’ unique interests and talents. The idea was to keep the girls away from digital media such as computers and television and mobiles. Smita believes that heavy exposure to digital media has left the children disturbed in general. Many children all over the world have suffered from anxiety, depression, boredom, lack of peer interaction, loneliness, aggression and general feeling of helplessness.

“I am really proud of my daughters who have become illustrators and authors at a tender age of 8. During this lockdown as a family, we not only spent time exercising, playing and doing household chores together but also devoted time to read, illustrate, paint and have interesting conversations. The idea was to entertain the children with maximum creative content into the fun and magical world of their imagination. We created our own universe which was bright, positive and full of new ideas. Additionally, I encouraged regular physical exercise and Yoga became an integral part of our lives. I feel that all schools and yoga practitioners could use this book as a tool to get the young ones initiated into yoga.”

When I first heard of the book a month ago, I figured it was an interesting art and writing project. But when I received the copies I had pre-ordered and saw the bar code and the quality of illustration, I realised that it was an end-to-end endeavour in value creation. It’s also not an adult-driven book concept, but a parent-children collaboration. The book has crisp bits of information, Sanskrit shloks and mantras and notes on meanings and importance of different words, random but relevant references to different cultures, a Quiz, a Sufi story and a Tag-the-Flag activity – all related to the sun.

Writing and drawing and story-telling for adult-prescribed topics can be a good start but the novelty eventually wears off for children. Taking a book from collaborative concept, to creation to release and subsequent sales and market reception under the guidance of a watchful parent is a lifeskill development exercise – it will afford the children practical, real-life experience in going through a vast repertoire of learning and application of learning and evaluation of their learning.

There are quite a few parents I know who are making such decisive interventions in the education of their children while juggling work and responsibilities. Stay tuned, I shall keep you posted as and when some of these projects come to critical milestones.

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